“…lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”
II Corinthians 2:7
I’m writing this at 8:59 Monday morning. Earlier, I was thinking about two ladies who were not in my Sunday school class yesterday. They form part of the “pillars” of our church, and part of my personal “support group.” You know what I’m talking about…the ladies who always have a sweet word of encouragement, and who leave you feeling like you can make it, after all.
Both of my sweet friends “reported in” sick. And I’m sure they were. They both have serious health problems. But I believe at the root of even their physical problems lies an ailment common to most women: depression. I’m afraid when “my” ladies woke up yesterday morning, they were “swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”
Did you ever want to go to sleep and not wake up? Did you ever wake up, and (like my friend said yesterday) “don’t have the strength to sit up?” Be careful! You may be on the verge of being swallowed up.
I love teaching children. And one of my favorite stories is Jonah and the whale. You can make all kinds of dramatic effects. Just let your wild imagination carry them down into the belly of the whale…the slime, and darkness, and stink. Does that describe what you’re feeling this morning?
We’re going into the most joyous season of the year, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I’m already looking forward to having half of my children, and fifteen of my grandchildren here. I love sitting in bed early in the morning after prayer, and reading my Bible, and sipping my coffee, while planning all the things I want to do for those whom I love most of all on earth. But guess what! I’m also preparing my heart and mind to stay in tune with God. With His help, I won’t go into a fit of depression as I stand in the middle of the street, and wave to them until their Van gets out of sight.
I plan to have a lot to do after Christmas (not to mention the extra cleaning), preparing material for the publishing of a book, getting ready for a new ladies’ ministry. I don’t plan to cancel my ladies’ soul winning afternoon. Quite the contrary, I’m planning something very special for my ladies, who faithfully come out, rain, shine, cold or hot, to knock doors, or go to the park and witness and hand out tracts.
When the jaws of depression lunge toward me, I’ll shut its mouth, and refuse to be “swallowed up.”
How am I going to do this?
- I’ll determine with myself. That’s what Paul did. He may have thought about all he had suffered, beatings, imprisonment, cold, hunger, and perhaps he was tempted to go into a fit of depression. But all alone, away from everyone else, Paul said, “I determined this with myself.” David did the same thing in I Samuel 30:6 “…but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” He encouraged HIMSELF. “David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him.” When the pressures of life, and sorrows come, get alone and determine with yourself that you’re not going to forget the blessings of God. Realize that Satan is the great “discourager” of the believer. He takes it on himself to see that you forget the wonderful things that God has given you, and done for you, and he makes you focus on the negative. In order to determine with yourself, include God. Get alone every day, preferably in the morning, and open your heart to Him. Tell Him your burdens, and do like Daniel did: “Daniel purposed in his heart.” Daniel 1:8
- I won’t let my unhappy circumstances affect my mood, because my mood affects those around me. Paul said, “…I make you sorry,…” There are people whose presence brings a cloud into the room. Don’t ever think that you don’t affect others. We should bring joy into people’s lives, especially our family, those who live closest to us. Don’t let your sad mood reach those around you. Paul said he didn’t want to go to the Corinthians “in heaviness.” He knew his mood would affect others.
- I won’t stop going to church, like my friends did yesterday. In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, they repented of their sins. Sometimes our sin can be depressing. Two things that will help you more than anything else to overcome your sin, and come out of your depression are: daily Bible reading, and the preaching of the Word of God. Without those two elements in your life, it’s going to be hard to crawl out of the jaws of depression. The reason is simple: the reading of God’s Word, and its preaching are the two things that God uses to reveal our sins. Every morning before I read my Bible I pray this prayer: “Lord, speak to me through Your Word, and help me to be obedient to it. Help it to convict me, comfort me, and guide me, and show me a truth I’ve never seen before. Amen.” I pray that very same prayer when I leave my house to go to church, asking God to help the preaching of His Word to do the same thing.
It’s easy for me to be in a good mood, and to be happy when I’m feeling good, and when I have money, or when the sun comes out. But what about the day when I don’t have good health or money, or when it’s raining? I know ladies who don’t have a lovely ministry like mine. For them, it’s a privilege just to have their lost husbands give them permission to attend church, much less teach a class, or sing in the choir. They have no hope of ever having a ministry, outside ministering to their family. What can I say to those precious ladies whose children have turned their backs on God, and on everything she has taught them?
- Focus on others. You can always find someone less fortunate than you. No matter how much you’re convinced that there is no one else who suffers like you do, there is. Look for her or him. Ask God to put them in your path so that you can be a blessing to them.
- If possible, try not to associate with negative people, those who always see the bad in everything and in everyone. When I become critical and negative, it’s usually because I’ve lost my focus on the positive things God has done for me. I’m not satisfied with my work, so I blame others. Look for those people who love the Lord, and who have a purpose in life. Remember, just like depression is contagious, joy is also contagious.
- Praise the Lord. Psalm 67:3 and 5 say “Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.” Just as we love hearing our husband and children express their appreciation for us, so does God. Have you told Him today that you love Him, and are thankful for the wonderful things He’s done for you? Can’t think of anything? Has He saved you? What a wonderful Salvation is yours! Tell Him how grateful you are for His sacrifice of love.
- Don’t forget that God loves you. Do like Mrs. Cindy Schaap does, and look for ways He tells you, “I love you” every day. When you see the sunrise, tell Him, “I see Your love.” Walk out to your garden, and smell the lovely fragrance, and tell Him, “I smell Your love, Lord.” From now on, when you drink your favorite beverage, say “I taste Your love.” When you hear your private concert of birds singing in your back yard, tell Him, “I hear Your love.” When you feel the warmth of your favorite blanket, say “I feel Your love, God.” He loves you more than anyone on earth could love you. He loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins.
- “This too shall pass.” That’s not a quote from the Bible, but it’s true. Nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts forever, and neither will your situation last forever. Sometimes things, situations that God brings into our lives are to test us. Be faithful. Don’t give up. Divorce, suicide, abandoning our children or our responsibilities never, never solves anything. Quite the contrary, that can complicate life, and hinder God from getting the glory in the midst of your affliction. Trust the Lord. Everything is in His hands; He’ll carry you safely to the other side. Remember, the sun will shine again.
- Place yourself in the Divine Potter’s hands. There are times when God allows us to pass through great trials and sorrows in order to conform us to His image, to mold us, and to make us the person He wants us to be. Sometimes He sends trials so we can comfort others who will someday go through the same thing we’re suffering. Let the Great Potter mold you, so that you can be a blessing to others.