Stop Embracing the Darkness

 

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Gentle Reader,

It wasn’t my plan to spend this day curled up in bed begging God to make the stomach pains stop. And spending intimate time with the porcelain throne. Third time in four months this has happened. Probably more doctor’s visits and tests in my not-so-distant future.

Which has me thinking.

Life is really hard. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. Illness. Financial stress or outright collapse. Homes burn down in freak electrical fires. Friends move away. Jobs change. Divorce happens. Loved ones die.

It sucks.

Sucks more to stay in that place, the place you go to when the initial shock hits.

I’m just going to be blunt: We have to stop wallowing.

We have to stop embracing the darkness.

Not for nothing did I decide to kill myself three-and-a-half years ago. I get what it is to be so far down the rabbit hole of grief that you can’t even begin to imagine light or warmth. I don’t at all think that we should avoid mourning or working through our issues and feelings. I don’t believe that sorrow is tidy or linear.

I do believe that it passes. No, we don’t always “get over” something. Life will never be the same after a death in the family, the sting of betrayal or a loss of security. These kinds of things are forever-type changes that ripple through the years.

But if we’re still indulging in anger over an event years after it happened…. Still caught up in crying jags years after the death…. Still looking for someone to blame…. Searching for statuses or photos on social media from the time surrounding that hard moment and thus keep reliving it…. Still picking at the scabs, rubbing the scars raw, refusing to move forward….

That’s wrong.

It disturbs me when I read a post or an article airing grief or an offense written in such a way as to make that grief or offense sound fresh when it isn’t. It bothers me to see people stuck in mourning mode. I know what that feels like. I know the rage, the bitterness, the crippling nature of the tears. I also know that it can reach a point when the sorrow feels comfortable and even righteous. “How can anyone really expect me to move on? They don’t understand!”

Meanwhile, friendships fade and families suffer. Children are confused at best, neglected or abused at worst because Mom or Dad won’t come out of the fog. The boss wonders how to handle this newly-volatile employee. God becomes seemingly distant because we make an idol out of that which has been lost. We worship at altars of death and decay.

My friend, this should not be so.

A gentleman in my Sunday school class said something very interesting yesterday: “Every day is a holiday. You can choose to be happy.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. In the immediacy of sorrow, there’s nothing to smile about. That is for certain. But as the days pass and the heart bleeds a little less with each pump, we are faced with a choice. Do we let God do the work of healing and comfort, or do we spit in His eye and rip open the wound time and again?

I am the last person on earth who will tell you that depression or anxiety put you in the “Too Far Gone” column. I won’t tell you how to mourn. I don’t believe that feelings are sinful – but what we do with them can be. The pain should be diminishing, however slowly, as the days pass. This is a great gift from the One who overcame the world, a store of fresh mercy from the One who never promised there would be no trouble.

Embrace Him, dear one.

Let the darkness go.

Grace and peace along the way.

Five Minute Friday: Gather

Gentle Reader,

It’s that time again! Time for the friends and the fun, the Napoleon Dynamite pictures and the movement to kill cilantro with fire.

It’s Kate. It’s the FMF Party.

Go.

I’ve been staring at the screen for minutes now, trying to catch the words.

God, gathering His children together in the shelter of His arms.

Holding us close. Keeping us safe.

Indescribably precious.

I’ll let the psalmist do the talking.

I love you, God
    you make me strong.
God is bedrock under my feet,
    the castle in which I live,
    my rescuing knight.
My God—the high crag
    where I run for dear life,
    hiding behind the boulders,
    safe in the granite hideout.

I sing to God, the Praise-Lofty,
    and find myself safe and saved.

The hangman’s noose was tight at my throat;
    devil waters rushed over me.
Hell’s ropes cinched me tight;
    death traps barred every exit.

A hostile world! I call to God,
    I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
    my cry brings me right into his presence—
    a private audience!

Earth wobbles and lurches;
    huge mountains shake like leaves,
Quake like aspen leaves
    because of his rage.
His nostrils flare, bellowing smoke;
    his mouth spits fire.
Tongues of fire dart in and out;
    he lowers the sky.
He steps down;
    under his feet an abyss opens up.
He’s riding a winged creature,
    swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
    in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
    spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then God thundered out of heaven;
    the High God gave a great shout,
    spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
    He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
    the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
    let loose your hurricane anger.

But me he caught—reached all the way
    from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
    the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
    but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
    I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
    he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
    I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
    I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
    and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
    when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

The good people taste your goodness,
The whole people taste your health,
The true people taste your truth,
The bad ones can’t figure you out.
You take the side of the down-and-out,
But the stuck-up you take down a peg.

Suddenly, God, you floodlight my life;
    I’m blazing with glory, God’s glory!
I smash the bands of marauders,
    I vault the highest fences.

What a God! His road
    stretches straight and smooth.
Every God-direction is road-tested.
    Everyone who runs toward him
Makes it.

Is there any god like God?
    Are we not at bedrock?
Is not this the God who armed me,
    then aimed me in the right direction?
Now I run like a deer;
    I’m king of the mountain.
He shows me how to fight;
    I can bend a bronze bow!
You protect me with salvation-armor;
    you hold me up with a firm hand,
    caress me with your gentle ways.
You cleared the ground under me
    so my footing was firm.
When I chased my enemies I caught them;
    I didn’t let go till they were dead men.
I nailed them; they were down for good;
    then I walked all over them.
You armed me well for this fight,
    you smashed the upstarts.
You made my enemies turn tail,
    and I wiped out the haters.
They cried “uncle”
    but Uncle didn’t come;
They yelled for God
    and got no for an answer.
I ground them to dust; they gusted in the wind.
    I threw them out, like garbage in the gutter.

You rescued me from a squabbling people;
    you made me a leader of nations.
People I’d never heard of served me;
    the moment they got wind of me they listened.
The foreign devils gave up; they came
    on their bellies, crawling from their hideouts.

Live, God! Blessings from my Rock,
    my free and freeing God, towering!
This God set things right for me
    and shut up the people who talked back.
He rescued me from enemy anger,
    he pulled me from the grip of upstarts,
He saved me from the bullies.

That’s why I’m thanking you, God,
    all over the world.
That’s why I’m singing songs
    that rhyme your name.
God’s king takes the trophy;
    God’s chosen is beloved.
I mean David and all his children—
    always. – Psalm 18 (MSG)

May this be our song tonight.

Stop.

Grace and peace along the way.

Satan Doesn’t Play Fair

Gentle Reader,

In fact, he loves to hit us when we’re down.

Satan doesn’t want to just knock us to the ground, you see. He wants to drive us into it. He wants to break our spirits. Coat our minds in lies. Wound our hearts so every beat is unbearably painful. He finds our vulnerable places and grinds his heel into them, laughing as we writhe.

This has been my experience across several weeks. I am simply worn out. Two surgeries, six weeks apart, have done a number on my body. Yes, I am healing, but it’s not a quick healing. It’s not an easy healing. I’m battling insomnia. I can’t seem to get caught up on anything at work. I’m on the “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle of pain and exhaustion.

Makes me crabby. Also heightens my sense of anxiety.

So the stupid Devil has been punching me. He whispers negativity into my soul. Tempts me to despair.

He doesn’t play fair.

Thankfully, God doesn’t play fair, either.

That’s the beautiful thing about being a believer: We who have trusted Christ have the very Spirit of the Living Lord dwelling inside of us. He comes in and makes Himself right at home. Just think about that for a second. God, who made all of creation just by speaking. God, who knows the names of all the stars. God, who exists entirely outside of time and so knows the end from the beginning. God, who got up and walked out of the tomb unaided.

He lives inside of you and me.

Talk about stacking the odds! That old Serpent doesn’t stand a chance. He can keep on punching and kicking. He can get a few licks in. But the nanosecond we cry out, even whisper, for help, he’s done for. The Spirit blasts him out of the scene. The Spirit pours out comfort, guidance and strength upon us so that we can get up and move forward, hand tucked safely in His.

Perhaps you’ve got the taste of dirt in your mouth today, as I do. Perhaps your face is streaked with sweat and tears. Perhaps you’re bloodied and bruised, the shield of your faith knocked to one side. You’re feeling weak, lost, helpless. Dear one, ask. Ask God for help.

He will grant it and then some.

Grace and peace along the way.