I am one in a circle of friends crouching by a bright, crackling bonfire. Eyes sparkle and songs ring in the chilly air.
But I have no sparkle, no bubbling song. While my mouth joins in their songs, it is only a façade. I must keep my mouth moving. They must not suspect. It is not ok to not be ok.
Behind me lies dense blackness. Its coldness already touches the back of my neck and makes me shiver. When I stretch my hand behind me, the darkness engulfs, freezes, devours it. I snatch my hand back into the light in fear that the cold darkness will destroy all of me.
As long as I watch the fire and wrap my arms around myself, not reaching backwards, I stay warm and cheered. But the dark is waiting to swallow me as soon as I move. My fear of the darkness terrifies me as much as its coldness. My fear scares me. Everything scares me.
Depression. Have its icy fingers touched you? Have you crouched beside the bonfire, fearing the darkness that lay behind you?
I have. I know the fear, the helplessness, the tears.
I also know there is Someone greater than the menacing darkness. He has taken me from that cold night to the light of mid-day. The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness or shadow, is kind and inviting, gentle and patient. May I share with you some things I learned in my journey to His light?
Stop and look for God. Where is He when you are crying? Does He approve of the things you are doing to gain His favor? He created you to be whole, free, and singing, a mirror of His own beautiful character. When you are harried and confused, ask Him to show you what is keeping you from reflecting His beauty. He knows the human heart is prone to wander, blind without His light. He wants to bring you to brightness: He created you for that! Look for Him. You will find Him holding your hand, weeping with you, leading you to light.
Recognize beauty, even in the smallest places. One morning when darkness enveloped my soul, I saw fairy-like sketches of frost on the car windows. Just a little thing, but that moment of wonder is still with me. When you search for evidence of His presence, you will be surprised at His creativity. He may bring back the light in your eyes by sending someone to come along-side you, listen and pray. Maybe it will be a book, a song, or bright pansies that will give your day a sparkle. Those moments of brightness come from your God who is Light!
Thank God for one thing every day. Usually, we see what we look for. Watch for moments of light, and write them down so you don’t forget them. Your memory can be sketchy in the dark, so writing things down helps give concrete evidence of what you saw. It is a decisive act to look at the light, and it is necessary especially when you don’t feel like it.
Once, I thought there was nothing to be thankful for but I looked outside and saw blue sky. I feebly thanked God for eyes to see the blue sky. It was a baby step on the path toward thankfulness. Looking toward the light, how ever far away it seems, is far better than bemoaning the dark. More than any other discipline, keeping my daily Thanks List has changed my life.
Admit your pain. Do you live with constant physical pain from an injury or illness? Maybe you’ve been bereaved, or had deep trust betrayed, and the loss threatens to suffocate you. Perhaps the sin of another—or of your own—feels like poison strong enough to kill you. Admit your pain, even if it hurts to talk about it. Everything seems magnified when you’re hurting physically or emotionally. Acknowledge pain instead of fighting or denying it. After all, what doctor could help his sick patient who insists there’s nothing wrong?
Pay attention to your body. Your grandmother was right—take your vitamins! Supplementing your diet especially with C and B vitamins can help you cope better with stress. In winter months, get all the sunshine and exercise you can. Even getting more sleep can help you feel not so overwhelmed. Our bodies, with their fluctuating hormones and blood sugar levels, often entwine with our emotions, thus a healthy body is better equipped to deal with soul-deep darkness.
Never lose the wonder of wholeness. One day, in your normal routine, you will suddenly find yourself humming. God has given back your song! Some time, you will look out the window and marvel at how bright the sun is. God is opening your eyes to beauty again! The darkness was not forever!
Although God’s character is one of light and joy, life after Eden does not perfectly reflect God’s design for His creation. In some way, the darkness that lies behind you will always be with you. Part of wholeness is to admit brokenness, to recognize that things are not as they should be. But even in that brokenness, your debilitation will be gone. The darkness is still back there somewhere, but not as menacing as before. You may still weep, but your heart will be whole instead of fractured.
In your search for brightness, you will someday find, as I have, the Shepherd-King who remembers we are dust and calls us by name to walk with Him in His glorious light. He gives us every reason to sing and turn our faces toward tomorrow.