Finding God In His Presence

Most depressed Christians don’t fully reject God as they experience their depressive symptoms, but they call out for and worship the King expecting Him be victorious for them, expecting them to rescue them from their suffering. What rarely occurs to them (or what their heart is unwilling to surrender to) is that Jesus may not desire to remove their suffering. He might want to be “Emmanuel” to them. What does Emmanuel mean? It means “God With Us.” In other words, it means God, present with us! 

The same Jesus came to offer Himself as “Emmanuel” to the Jews. He came to offer His presence among them, for the purpose of saving them in relationship rather than establishing an earthly victorious Kingship. He longed to offer them intimacy with the Godhead. He longed to offer them reconciliation with the Father. But, the Jews rejected that, thus rejected Him and what He came to offer. They wanted victory or nothing.  It was all about them and how they wanted to use God to escape their hardships.

Maybe, you experience depression but you fight it and fight it and fight it. You beg and plead for victory and for your suffering to end. Have you ever considered that your depression was intended to make you appreciate God’s loving presence in your suffering instead of your healing? Maybe, He’ll heal you; maybe He won’t! Maybe, He’ll rescue you; maybe, He won’t! Maybe, He desires you to call Him in invitation into your suffering and show you what “Immanuel” can mean to you!  This I know: “Immanuel” is one of God’s names so I can claim confidently that whatever you suffer, He wants to demonstrate “Immanuel” to you. He wants you to experience His intimacy in presence with you!

When believers can only see God as a God who always takes away suffering, who always gives us victory in our life situations, who always overcomes and destroys the things that painfully assault us or come against us, there is nothing left in their paradigm where their suffering, their disability, their sickness, their hurt, their pain, their depression, or whatever it is has been ordained by God. They miss the sweet presence of God ,and that my friends, makes Jesus weep! Because He is pushed aside for a God who will act to give them what they want, instead of embracing the God that He is, One who desires intimacy with us.

How can I claim that? Because He demonstrated this before His triumphal entry, shortly before He was rejected by the Jews, and then crucified shortly thereafter: 

Luke 19:41–44 (NIV): “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Has peace been hidden from your eyes  while you suffer because you haven’t welcomed Him into your place of suffering and experienced His tender presence, “God With You?!”

Note: The Greek words for “God’s coming to you” means: the act of watching over with special reference to BEING PRESENT, visitation, of divine activity. (BDAG)

Finding Peace With God in My Depression: Part Three

Part 1 can be found:  here!

Part 2 can be found:  here!

How Could I Ever Be Enough?

Third, God taught me that when I couldn’t reach God’s standard for righteousness, God Himself bridged the gap.

“When all you can do is all you can do, then all you can do is enough.” I call this my “Enough” principle. If on any given day, I was given the grace to behave somewhat righteously, I was HS filled, I did all the right things, I served in the church, I was kind to my family, I lived in the joy of the Lord, I still wouldn’t be able to attain the righteous holy standard of God Himself. 

But, whatever I lacked in perfect righteousness, God looked at the righteousness of Jesus on my behalf. and said, “Whatever you lacked today, I’ve got this covered. You are 100% righteous before Holy God. I am now pleased.”

Sand Illustration: 

Imagine that I am holding a bag of sand and a empty jar. In the example above, I was able to partially fill up that jar myself with my good works out of a heart for God and love for Him. So, God filled my partially filled jar of sand to overflowing. When Christ’s righteousness and your efforts are married together, that is enough to please God. Let me be clear, YOU are not enough! God multiplies and redeems your efforts and God’s work is enough!


However, when I was in the pit, I despaired, I became angry, I refused to talk to anyone, my social behavior was despicable and unacceptable, I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit and He was not in control of my thoughts. I wanted nothing to do with God. In fact, I had little to no desire for Him. I was nasty and testy, my soul felt empty, and I had NO joy! 

But the Lord looked at me and compassionately said, “Whatever you lacked today, I’ve got this covered. You are 100% righteous before Holy God. I am pleased.”


Back to our Sand Illustration:

If you looked at my jar on those tormented, depressed days, you could hardly find the few grains of sand that I could contribute to the jar. But still, God looked at what I was able to contribute and then proceeded to fill up my almost empty jar of sand to overflowing. When Christ’s righteousness and your efforts are married together, that is enough to please God.


My new relationship with Jesus was one of tenderness. It was one of compassion. It was one of Him being the Sustainer and my being the helpless one.  It changed everything for me. It took all my despair I felt for not feeling acceptable and gave me permission to stop trying to earn it. My eyes were opened to His shepherd’s heart and I fell in love with Him in a way that I had never done before. I was imperfect, but I was beloved. He was ok with my brokenness. He was ok with me, meaning my brokenness didn’t deny me His affection and love.

Paul says in I Timothy 1:15-16, “But I received MERCY for this reason, that in me, Jesus might display His perfect patience, as an example to those who were to believe in Him.”

Oh the joy that I felt when I was finally convinced that God didn’t require reciprocation for His love and kindness, compassion and ministry to me. God as my caregiver was able to love me past all my unpleasantness.

Fairness vs Grace

I felt, this can’t be! It doesn’t seem fair to let me disappoint on some days while He required others to behave? To not require me to try hard on some days? To accept less than perfection? To have mercy on my condition? To not make me bang my head over and over and over against the wall because I just couldn’t make my mind or my spirit to cooperate?

You see if you add anything to grace, it’s not really grace. It’s earning! Only grace … plus nothing … equals grace!!!!! And if there was one thing I knew God was doing to me in my depression, it was to demand that I learn that I was NOT in control. It was that He would be glorified, NOT in MY actions, but in HIS actions. Once again, He rolled me over onto my back and said, “Stay! You made a mess. Now, let me clean you up.”

Learning a New Way Of Living In My Depression

Although, I started to experience a new intimate relationship with Him when I was in the light, one of the continual affirmation that our relationship was still ok, one of being an ongoing object of mercy for anything I did that didn’t seem holy… MY depression still DIDN’T GO AWAY!!! So, that merciful feeling of peace that I’d receive when I emerged FROM the pit was still not available to me IN the pit. 

What I knew in my head, that I was an object of mercy, didn’t give me warm, fuzzy feelings IN my depression. I’d still plummet into the darkness. I’d still plummet into despair, into ugly responses, into isolation, into a place where I still couldn’t feel God or see Him, but I was learning to live in a new tension. 

Learning to Trust In The Dark

I was learning to trust a God I couldn’t feel or see. I was learning to trust in the dark what God was teaching me in the light. (Read that again! Don’t miss this!) With only my will, I learned to cling to the truths He had taught me when I COULD see Him before our sweet intimacies slipped away into oblivion. I didn’t have to feel them for them to be true. I didn’t have to mentally assert them as truth. I didn’t have to verbally agree to them. I didn’t have to emotionally connect to them. I just welcomed them into the tension and let them marinade in my soul. 

I also learned that my life could no longer be lived in “all or nothing.” I could no longer cling to a dream of living a perfect life. It wasn’t one of complete relational continuity—one of 100% faithfulness to God and obedience in every area, but more like a series of little moments.

This was new to me. Only a hypocrite thinks one thing then turns around and does another! I fought the self-accusation of hypocrisy! “I couldn’t count on tomorrow! I couldn’t even count on the next five minutes!” But when God opened a window and peeked in, and I caught just a glimpse of His smiling face, I welcomed the intimate moment with Him (even though I knew it was fleeting). But fleeting as it was, I chose to welcome moments freely, worship Him freely, embrace Him warmly! And then, over and over, the moment would be gone. The despair would remain. 

The Locket Of Trust

But I chose to put God’s truth in a locket and hung it around my neck. (This is a reference to Matt Hammit’s song, “Trust.”) My locket contained the truths I’d come to learn about God and about myself that I had discovered in the light. However, these truths, while life-changing, didn’t change my current circumstances and they didn’t change my depressed illness. But I still hung them around my neck in confidence that God was calling me to trust Him and have confidence in something OUTSIDE of what I could do and could feel.

When I went into the darkness, I clung to God’s Truths safely stored in my locket which hung around my neck. While I was in there, it was too dark to see them or feel them, but I held onto the locket determined that I was still ok. And when I emerged from that darkness, I opened the locket and all the memories of God’s promises and faithfulness came flooding back. 

While I studied the foundational truths of God in His word in the light, I began to feel layers and layers and layers of guilt-motivated, good-intentioned,  performance-based righteousness fall away. I felt like Jesus was lifting weight after weight after weight off my shoulders reminding me: “Heidi, it is already finished! Done! You are redeemed, yesterday, today, forever! There is nothing you have done, are doing or will do that isn’t covered by My love, My mercy and My grace!

You no longer need to strive to earn My favor! In fact, you never did! Simply look to Me, the Author and Perfecter of your faith! I’m just waiting for you to stop trying to run your own world and let Me have control. Let me give. Let me take. Let Me shower my love and grace on you! Stop striving after the wind! It’s exhausting and it’s defeating! My grace is sufficient for you and is made perfect in weakness!” 

Wow! I thought, if we are saved by grace, why is it so hard to remember we must also live by grace!? I prayed, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears You. Teach to me embrace grace in this tumultuous affliction You’ve ordained for me to endure. 

These are those truths I learned and clung to:

I remembered The Lord is my shepherd. I remembered The Lord is my Redeemer.
My soul was at peace even when my spirit was not. My peace didn’t COME from the darkness, but it is FROM within that dark place that I was forced to trust in the all-sufficiency of Jesus to make our relationship right.

I remembered that only God was holy. God and God alone. Although I knew that He was holy, and that although His longing was for that day in glory when I would finally lay aside this sinful shell, I trusted that He alone could present me to the Father as righteous and acceptable.

I was convinced that God Himself was asserting His sovereignty and His authority every time He allowed me to be subdued by depression. I learned sooner and sooner to just surrender to His hand. I cried out: “Lord, I don’t want to go back in there. It’s so dark and lonely.” “I know,” He said, “but I’m always right beside you even when you don’t feel Me there.”

I came to trust that while I was in the darkness, He carried me like a wounded lamb. I was unable to feel Him or see Him. I couldn’t reach out and feel that He was still beside me, carrying me, His wounded little lamb. But, I learned to not fight Him to stand on my own. In my weakened condition, it was always safer to just let Him carry me.

I was convinced that He knew my heart was one that ultimately desired to please Him, but was weakened by my affliction that held me captive to my depravity. I didn’t need to PRETEND to be holy to please God, something I was NEVER capable of doing in the first place.

I trusted God to be able to handle my authenticity. I’d spend many hours lamenting and expressing my sorrow. I came to trust His compassionate heart and came to depend on His mercy and grace as I opened up the wounds of my soul for Him to tenderly clean up. 

I was convinced that there was nothing I could do to earn His favor, but I still believed it was because of His intimate favor that He Himself had wounded me – not to punish me but simply so that he could show me His mercy and ongoing love. 

He reminded me, “This thorn in your flesh, I gave it to you to keep you from exalting yourself.” And though I begged the Lord too many times to count to take it away, He told me, “My grace is sufficient for you. MY power is made complete in YOUR weakness.”

I was convinced that the cross of Calvary had settled it all and that God had credited the righteousness of Jesus to me, making me righteous in His eyes.

And when the darkness passed, my relationship with Jesus came right back. He looked into my eyes and I looked into His, and He said, “I know that was hard. I know that was scary. Are you ok now? Are we good?” I’d say, “It was scary, Lord. And it was so hard. But I never felt your condemnation. I only sensed your mercy. I never felt you were angry at me. I only sensed your compassion. Ya… we’re good.” 

Can you see that as difficult as the struggle was for me, how necessary it was for me to live in that desperate place of tension, all in order to get me to the intimacy on the other side? I needed to give myself permission to search my own heart and ask God some really hard questions. I had to live in the struggle of some really hard theological tensions. I had to challenge my whole foundational belief system as to what it means to “please God.”

I had to own the utter helplessness of my own depravity and my desperateness for someone other than myself to save me. I had to see myself from God’s perspective. His relational intimacy with me was MORE PLEASING TO HIM than my thoughts or good deeds were to Him. But this I know, He needed to remove my strength before I would accept His mercy.    (to be continued tomorrow here)

Finding Peace With God In My Depression: Part One

When I first started my journey in depression, I felt like a mess. There was nothing in my Christian paradigm wherein God called a believer to spiritual weakness. You see, before depression, I could usually rely on MY motivation and MY will power to be the catalyst to help me please God.

After depression, my motivation and my heart’s desire were NOT enough and the depression took away any self-control. Before depression, my emotions (feelings of fellowship) would dictate to me whether I believed God loved me or was pleased with me. During depression, there were no feelings of fellowship. I couldn’t see God in my depression.

Before depression came into my life, I’d come to God: “Look, Lord, look what I’ve done or You! And look how righteous I am becoming for you!”  So, it was a huge struggle to find a way to come to God at ALL in the state of depression. My upcoming book will fill in the gaps between finding myself in that awful pit to finding peace in the smile of my Savior.


The most difficult thing I’d struggle with for years, was my culpability in my depression. Was I guilty for the way I thought and behaved in my depression or was I a victim of it? Was I just a bad person or was this an illness? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was sick with a true medical, physiological disorder and that it caused me to act unspritual but could I be culpable for things I did as a result of a depressed condition?

I struggled a long time in this tension, earnestly searching my heart, then fiercely defending my heart, then questioning my heart again. Was it even possible for a child of God who was walking with the Lord, filled with His Spirit, able to become depressed? Didn’t it challenge the very idea that the Holy Spirit, if yielded to Him, would NOT allow me, a believer, to become depressed? Didn’t He promise that His Spirit would always be available to ME both for comfort and for control?

I didn’t find the same tension in the idea of Him allowing me to get sick, or allowing me be killed… but there was something about the connection between the mind and the will …it was nearly unconscionable that the Holy Spirit could not and would not supersede my will by protecting my brain health? Although I recognized His sovereignty in everything else that could ever happen to me, how could He be sovereignly be putting my will and emotions in conflict with His commands, His law, and His desire for my sanctification? What I forgot to realize was that my will and emotions were already at odds with the holiness of God. My righteousness, as good as I had attempted it to be, was still only as good as a filthy rag.

I wrestled with the heart of a God that would require me to do something, (remain yielded to the Spirit, be filled with the fruits of the Spirit, obey all of His commands in His word), then cruelly take from me the very tools that I needed to do what He asked.  At times, God felt like a bully who took my homework and held it above my head, and taunted me with my inability to get it back.


Then, I wrestled with His authority. His authority was in direct relation to His ownership of me. But then, I remembered my commitment I had made to Him. “Though He slay me, still I will follow…”…Did I really mean that?  Was I really willing to let Him slay me? I felt like Isaac…Yes, I was the sacrifice. God, inconsiderate of how much it would hurt me or the suffering it would cause me, had demanded my life. Would I let go, let my Father bind me and lay me on the altar?

I felt like Job. I wrestled with the tension of Satan possibly being the one to afflict, yet God being the One who signed the permission slip. Don’t you think that if Job was standing within earshot of that heavenly conversation, Job might have leaned over to God and said, “Let’s not bait him. Please, don’t taunt him.” So, was I a victim of Satan, or of God who was trying to prove something that I didn’t understand?

If I was a victim of Satan, what was in my toolbox wherein I could defeat Satan? If it was Satan, then there MUST be something I could do to defeat him. What armor could I fight him with? What was the “trick” to winning this battle against this formidable enemy? However, I despaired as I was incapable of doing anything to fight this.

As I wrestled, I came to the conclusion that although spiritual warfare might be at play, I was NOT, in fact, a victim of Satan. My God did not suddenly become limited. His hand had not become shortened or weak because of this. If I was being afflicted, it was because GOD chose to allow it to happen to me. The choice for me was the same as for Job. I could moan and groan and agonize over my condition, but I WOULD NOT curse God in it. I was His to do with as He pleased, either directly or indirectly.

Unable To Please God

While I was in the “victim of God” mode, I wrestled with whether it was in God’s character to choose to allow anything left me without protection from my own depravity?  Was He to blame for making me unrighteous? If obedience to all His commands was what pleased God, then… NOT obeying all His commands MUST mean that my life didn’t please God.  Was it kind or good of God to take from me the very thing I needed for ME to please Him? That seemed to me to be the most personally cruel. Yet, the fact remained… whether cruel or not, I was helpless to use this “self-control” tool that had always been mine to use my whole life.

In the past, I knew what I was supposed to do. I determined to do it. I worked hard to do it. And I dug down deep and used self control to make myself do it. When I did what I knew was good and right (“righteous”), I was convinced I pleased God.

But now, I couldn’t do what I thought, in my heart, was good and righteous because I had no self control. I couldn’t work hard at anything. My brain could not just “determine” anything. My brain was numb, lifeless, defenseless. So, I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do. So, I concluded, “I’d never be able to please God again.”

IF this depression was unrighteousness, was I culpable? Was I guilty then or was I a simply a helpless victim in the things I did? Or, could it possibly be that God Himself was culpable for making me unrighteous by taking away His spirit who gave out the gift of self control that I NEEDED to please Him. The moment I’d entertain God being the one to blame, I made a mental decision that I could never entertain that thought anymore! God COULD NOT be capable of causing evil.  I was distraught somewhere in between God being culpable and me being culpable.

Heidi, Meet Your Sin Nature Who Lives Inside You!

But God, in His gentle and wise kindness showed me what I was missing. Yes, I was a sinful person. Yes, I had horrible thoughts. Yes, I could behave in despicable ways. But, even though God signed the permission slip for all of it, God wasn’t at fault for what I did. Something inside of me was.

While I didn’t think it was fair that the blame should fall back on me, I still believed,“though You slay me, STILL … I WILL follow.” I could either fight God for what I believed was fair, or I could choose to surrender under the mighty hand of God.

God’s Sovereignty

God can do whatever He wants and isn’t limited by anything. I knew there was nothing I could do to change His plans for me. I remembered that God owned me. That was easy to remember when I was in victory mode, but when I was in defeat mode, it was a LOT harder. But, the fact remain, God could take from me whatever He wanted and whenever He wanted, even if it left me drowning in defeat and even when it exposed the unrighteousness in my depraved heart.

Self Control Was Just My Self-righteous Rag

I think that is when God reminded me that although I believed that I had been doing pretty good at this righteousness thing on my own, that, even before my depression, my righteousness was NO more impressive than filthy rags. Ouch! What I had, in fact, BEFORE depression, was a way I thought covered my unrighteousness. My self control was the rag which I believed covered my filth. It was the brakes that slowed down the out of control downward slide. I came to understand that what I was coming to grips with was my own utter depravity. 

In fact, as a child of God, wasn’t I at His mercy anyway to have been granted my past self-control in the first place? Hadn’t my self-control, in fact, been His kindness to me rather than MY kindness to Him? Although I was a still a sinner who still sinned, it was only by His grace that I could do anything good for God unless He first gave it to me to be good with. And didn’t He have the authority and the sovereignty to withhold any of His gifts from me, whenever, however, and to whatever extent He chose, ESPECIALLY if I thought those gifts were coming from MY self-righteous heart? 

Who Is Left For Me To Trust?

So, that left me staring down the barrel of an utterly depraved mind with utterly depraved thoughts and utterly depraved behavior and my God who was holding the shotgun which was aimed straight at me. He held me captive to my situation by His authority and His sovereignty. It finally dawned on me that my only hope would be His mercy! I had nothing to offer Him! Would He accept me in mercy or turn me away?

Without any other options, that’s when I finally gave in; it would be the mercy of God or I was destined to always be a disappointment to my God. My heart finally screamed, “Jump!  Jump into the arms of God.” I didn’t know where it’d land me. I wasn’t sure I’d be safe on the other side. I knew IF my righteousness was what would make him accept me, I was without hope. But what other alternative did I have but to just surrender HIM? Ana Laura sings it this way, speaking from the heart of God,  “If you ever fall, just fall into my arms. I would never hurt you. If you’re ever going to trust This heart, I will be there to catch you when you fall.”

Alpha Training

What is the first and most important lesson a dog trainer teaches a new puppy or a dog in training? Their first lesson should be teaching the new puppy that there is an alpha in the house and it is you. God was teaching me who was going to be Alpha in His pack. God rolled me onto my back, placed me into a submissive position, put His hand firmly on my chest, pointed His finger at me and said, “Stay!…. Now wait!….”

My eyes searched about my world, “Wait for what? What are we waiting for? What do you want me to do?”  With my tail between my legs, I wondered what I POSSIBLY did to make my Master mad at me to inflict me with so much pain. I wrestled in the tension a LONG time, I thought there MUST be something I am supposed to be doing but I couldn’t figure out what I could do. He had already taken the only thing I had that was able to please Him, you know, my self-control. What in the world could I do now, if I couldn’t negotiate with Him, if I couldn’t make Him relent? I couldn’t figure out how to be good FOR Him so I how could I make Him happy?

And yet, while I was in that most desperate position of submission, looking helplessly up at my Master, there was something in the kindness of his eyes. I expected to fear Him. But I didn’t. I found myself hopeful that my obedience in surrendering  was, in fact, what He wanted of me. Rolling me onto my back wasn’t one of anger or aggression or bullying, it was one of kindness where He smiled and just gently but firmly held me there in a position of submission. 

This was God teaching me to BE STILL! It’s so hard to just “be still” when you feel like you are in a fight for your life. He told me “don’t fight back.” He wanted me to succumb to His firm hand. Being still, with no resolution. Being still, with no peace and comfort. Being still and waiting IN the darkness is frightening. Being patient and humbly surrendering to God’s fiery furnace is excruciating.

And then with each depressive episode that tormented me, He’d do it over and over and over again, week after week, month after month. He’d roll me over onto my back in my already desperate state and say “stay.. now wait.”  I’d surrender to His firm hand. I’d look into His eyes to see if He was angry but never saw any anger.

I didn’t understand what He was doing, or why He would not relent from doing this. But, He wasn’t hurting me; He was just pinning me down. He was NOT disciplining me for anything I had done, He was resetting the foundation for our relationship. He was boss. I was not. Our relationship would only work if I remembered this most important lesson.

Then, over and over, each time my depression would slowly dissipate, I’d feel him release me and I’d stand back up and tried to go about my life. But, all the while, never understanding what all that, “surrender and wait” stuff was all about.
(to be continued)

Living IN The Struggle

This may be the first time that some of you will learn that I lived with severe, chronic depression for twelve years. Though the illness is now gone, at the time it was a desperate darkness that left me completely lost in every possible way. You see, before depression and for so many years, living my life to please God revolved around MY ability to self-control. I believed that anyone who had the raw grit and will-power to keep from sinning could please God with their holy living. So, I became addicted to spiritual performance because I mistakingly believed that God required that of me.

I spent years in this wilderness before God completely disassembled the crumbling foundations upon which I built my life. In their place, He rebuilt my life with Him as the Cornerstone, the Giver of all good things, and me as the undeserved recipient of His lavish mercies. Although a believer, it was quite uncommon to me for see God’s awesomeness rather than my own achievements. But in my depression, I finally came to realize that God wanted to use the incapacity of my illness (which I actually believe God Himself gave me) to teach me about Himself and HIS glory.

The following is probably the most important practical thing I learned (and the most practical advice I could share). If you live with chronic depression and are a child of God, I pray that God will use what I learned to help free you from the oppression of spiritual performance.

Don’t Bury It, Live In It!

One of the most helpful choices I made in my depression, wasn’t really a choice but more of a resignation. Depression leaves you feeling absolutely helpless: the lack of being in control of your faculties anymore; the loss of your normally healthy thoughts and behaviors which used to be your natural responses; the broken-heartedness of being a victim instead of being a victor; the never-ending confrontation of your sinfulness over and over; the heaviness of the grief for being not only a disappointment to yourself but to everyone else in your life (including God); the utter defeat of becoming the very epitome of what some have condemned you for; and the constant reminder that nothing you ever do or achieve in your depression will satisfy those high demands others feel you should satisfy, etc. (there are others….)

In depression, you are imprisoned by all these haunting, self-defeating accusations. If you try to ignore them, deny them, or put the bandaid of a forced smile or good behavior over the top of them, an overwhelming sense of contradiction and deception will eat at your soul. Deep within, you know the darkness that lurks in your heart and no amount of chanting positive mantras will make it go away.

If you choose to deny the reality of what you’re feeling, you will feel a sense of betrayal of all that is real and true. This will only serve to intensify your turmoil. The truth is you can only find inner peace when face the reality of your situation head on, wholeheartedly accepting it and owning it. While you may not like the feelings that churn around in your unsettled heart, authenticity is the framework by which you can find freedom to live in that horrible place in which God has called you to live.

Authenticity is the framework by which you can find freedom to live in that horrible place in which God has called you to live.

God Will Meet You There

Once you resign yourself to this uncomfortable place, I believe God will meet you there. Only when you say, “God, there is nothing good in me,” will you be able to hear God say, “but I still love you just as you are.” Only when you say, “I am not worth anything,” will you be able to hear Him say, “but you are worth something to Me.”

Only when you say, “I’m not worthy of forgiveness for something I constantly repeat,” will you hear Him say, “what you do is not (and will never be) greater than the complete forgiveness I gave you on the cross and that I continue to grant you every time you fall short of any of My commands.”

Only when you say, “I cannot justify all these things that I feel helpless to repeat and I know in the depths of my heart that they cannot be labeled righteous,” will you hear Him say, “silly child, you’ve always been incapable of meeting My holy standard of righteousness, even when you were well and thought you could please Me with your deeds.”

Only when you live in the feelings of disappointment when you fail to meet the Bible’s or anyone else’s standards or expectations, will you hear God assure you, “I already know your deepest thoughts. I know what you can control and what you can’t. Only I, and I alone, know what I have required of you in this life. You will never fail My expectations because I see your deeds far in advance of when you feel them and do them. Don’t fret. Whatever is not holy will one day get burned away, and the good things you have done for Me will remain. But there is nothing you can do today that I have not seen in eternal perspective. I am present today, yesterday and tomorrow.”

Once you resign yourself to this uncomfortable place, I believe God will meet you there.

He also reminds us, “One day, I will make you new. I will make you as white as snow when you finally shed this earthly body in heaven’s glory. I will make you to be perfect in the future, but I already see you on that day, clothed in the righteousness of the perfect spotless Lamb.”

Only when you embrace the guilt of your inability to be holy will you be surprised by the amazing grace of God delighting to have an intimate relationship with you. Only when you come face to face with the shame you carry for all the deeds you wish you didn’t continue to do, can you bask in the beauty of God’s mercy which takes away the shame and clothes you in His righteousness.

Only when you live in the destitute condition of your soul will you hear God remind you of your position as sons and daughters of the King, adopted into His family. Only then will you enjoy the richness of having God Almighty also be your dear Heavenly Father who only desires good for you.

Though God is both holy and just, He paid a great price to prove to you that both His holiness and His justice have already been satisfied. He longs for you to cling to that as your lifeline. His Son, the Lamb of God, paid the penalty for all your sins, those you meant to commit and those your sinful nature and depression symbiotically caused you to commit.

Only when you realize that had it not been for the salvation of your soul, you might indeed feel the wrath of God. But now, because of your salvation, God is no longer angry at you. His wrath was fully appeased when Jesus hung on the cross and you have now become a friend of God.

Only when you identify with the miserable bondage of being trapped in this mortal body of decay where our sinful nature is living on borrowed time, soon to be eradicated when God returns to take us home, can you sense the hope and joyful expectation that even this, however painful, is temporary. Like a woman in childbirth, the labor will one day be over.

Don’t Miss It

Do you see what you miss when you push through each episode and pretend to live victoriously when you know deep in your heart that you aren’t? You miss God’s sufficiency for your insufficiency! You exchange God’s perfect righteousness for your filthy, sinful nature’s imperfect attempts to be righteous. When you claim to still be righteous in your own goodness, you miss the treasure of God smothering out the power of your sin nature with His perfect righteousness.

You miss God’s extravagant one-directional love and compassion when you cling to your own worth and merit. You miss the incredible sense of gentleness and compassion that is so meaningful when you act as if you don’t need His mercy. You can only find comfort and peace in this place of darkness when you realize that you live and breathe only because of the incredible undeserved mercies of God.

The Church’s Self-Improvement Agenda

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard preachers tell people in the church to ‘push past’ all the misery. They say, “struggle to ‘climb over’ the hurdle. ‘Push past’ the blockade. ‘Go around it’ by denying its power in your life. Just ‘choose to’ live obediently and victoriously. ‘Forget’ the depression and ‘believe’ in this not-yet felt restoration. ‘Deny’ the sadness! Instead, embrace joy! ‘Fight’ for victory!”

They tell you that God is unhappy with you because of your negative feelings, so you should just transform them into good ones. They might even tell you your very depression is sin and that if you simply confess and repent of it, that your mood and outlook will change and you will finally feel freedom. They challenge you to use positive affirmation prayers to soak in the reality of complete healing in this life as if it were a token evidence you give God to prove your wholehearted faith and sincere desire to please Him.

They tell you to claim some verse in the Bible (usually completely out of context) and tell you to use it as God’s personal promise to you. They tell you that if you will simply meditate on good thoughts, it will transform your dreary thoughts into good ones.

They may challenge you to follow in the footsteps of a biblical character. What they conveniently forget to add is that between the identified problem and the resolution of that character’s struggles, there might have been days, months, or even years of struggle. Consider the 40 years Moses spent wandering where God taught him so much about Himself or Noah’s struggle over 100 years to continue to believe God in the face of adversity. You see, the Bible isn’t just a moral rule book; it is a complete story of God’s redeeming grace offered to mankind throughout history.

Consider Job in his extreme period of suffering. We see him struggle within the context of his pain and turmoil (and God specifically leaves him there in the struggle to wrestle it out), but then, in the Almighty’s perfect timing, God returns to address Job and reminds him who He is. Job later returns to bless the Lord and thanks Him for the struggle. But don’t miss this point: Job fully acknowledges that only by way of the suffering had he come to know God in a more personal, intimate way, saying,

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5 NIV

Although we aren’t specifically told this in Scripture, have you ever wondered at the complete contrast of the desperateness in the beginnings of some of David’s Psalms and the glorious endings wherein David remembers God’s continued goodness and faithfulness? I believe a lot of his psalms were started IN the struggle and completed after he had lived for some time in that struggle, especially after he had come face to face with God, and after he had communed with Him. The struggle was where God revealed to him what He wanted David to learn. Only by living IN the tension of a lack of a positive resolution did God become his only hope and salvation.

When today’s preachers forget the importance of the valley, and in essence, tell their people to do whatever they can to escape the struggle and therein find God’s blessing and pleasure, I cringe and my heart is crushed. In my Spirit, I want to jump up and shout, “NOOOOO! Don’t do it!” Why? Because the healing comes from inside the struggle! It doesn’t come from minimizing the situation or hastening the struggle to come to a resolution. For without the struggle, you deprive yourself of the healing.

The healing comes from inside the struggle!

Sure, you might experience some temporary relief if you follow their advice but you’ll be right back there again, feeling lost and abandoned. Why? Because you need to experience that desperate place of brokenness in order for God to show you His heart in the matter. And you can’t put God in a box or give Him a deadline. It might take years of tension in a particular struggle to sense God’s heart about it and experience His peace in it.

The Beauty Is In The Ashes

The truth is that the beauty is truly found in the ashes of your life. You can’t come to own the mercies of God without realizing how much you need His mercy. You can’t come to cherish the love of God until you realize how much you don’t deserve His love. You can’t fully fathom the incredible grace of God until you fully embrace that there is nothing you can do to earn His grace.

You can’t stand confidently in the presence of Holy God until you realize that your guilt should deny you that right but instead God has removed your guilt thus removing any future punishment necessary to make you right with Him. You cannot be satisfied with His righteousness already granted to you until you realize that your own attempts to please God by your own efforts will always fall short and be completely unfulfilling. You will never be satisfied with God’s substitution on your behalf until you realize that all your own deeds, even those you attempt to do in holiness, are filthy rags.

The honest truth is that there is no life in itself that can fully please God. God says that if we fall short in one instance, we fall short of the entirety of His law and commands. By one man’s sin (Adam’s) we all became sinners guilty of all God’s laws, but by one Man’s righteousness (Jesus’), we all can become righteous. You can’t fully saturate your soul with the peace that you are now friends of God until you fully realize how much your sinful nature is at odds with God.

Lay Aside The Facade Of Victory And Live In The Glorious Ruin

You probably recognize Christian rhetoric that says, “I’m a child of the king. I choose not to allow Satan win. I beat my flesh into submission until it pleases God. By faith, I claim victory!” And then … you sin, or you suffer, or you experience sickness and defeat. You just kick yourself when the words you had attempted to utter in faith believing just ‘didn’t work’ like you’d hoped.

Friends, I bow my head with grief, if this is still you and you suffer depression. I implore you to set aside the facade of this victory rhetoric and resign yourself to live in the struggle of what your soul says is true about yourself and what you know to be true of God. Your soul is set free when you refuse to pretend, “I’m fine.” Rather than the defeat you are afraid of, you will find a strange surprising peace. You’ll find yourself longing for someone more than yourself. It is true that you may feel suffocated by the rawness and heaviness of this realization, but only then will you see that the hero of your story isn’t you after all.

Your story needs a Hero! His name is Jesus!

The hero in your story is Jesus. Your life is God’s story of redemption of the human race. He came to redeem you from the curse of the law. And I’m here to tell you, depression and sickness are part of that awful curse that we now experience because Adam initially broke God’s law.

Why settle for the cheapness of your endless striving? You aren’t enough to present yourself faultless before the Father. What your story really needs is the real deal, the perfect One, the propitiation, the settlement of a debt too great for you, and the justification by a Holy God for our pathetic, unholy lives.

Only Jesus is enough to do all that!

So, if you are struggling with what to do when you are brought low in depression, don’t be afraid to live in the struggle for a while. Don’t try to escape it too quickly. Don’t be afraid to wrestle it out. Be willing to wait in the silence. Be willing to live in the tension of the questions. God can handle it; He is waiting to interact with you. Don’t move until God releases you to do so.

Realize that there is One greater than you in there with you, constantly washing you clean. Let that give you comfort. He has so much beauty (outside of yourself) that He longs for you to experience and embrace. He is the ‘Great I Am,’ the Savior of your soul. While you are in darkness with nothing good to offer Him, cling to all that Christ has already done to make you right with Him, right here, right now.

Heidi Austel, Author

Here is a song to listen to for reflection. “I need a Hero” by Chris Rice.

My Psalm of Lament … Or My song of Surrender

Doesn’t it just figure? A little more than two months ago, I felt led to start a blog to write down what God was teaching me, the insights that I was receiving especially during my morning walks when my mind was clear and the blood was vigorously pumping through my brain. Since I am now aging at a seemingly very high rate of speed, my mind is often foggy. Walking, for me, is like a whole new world opens up to me… Remember the movie, “Limitless”? When the main character is given a new test drug, he can instantly see and wisely act upon situations which come up in life with so much clarity and insight, learning at incredible speeds, understanding depths of what he never could have possibly fathomed before. It changed his life as long as he kept taking the drug.

However, since the week AFTER I published my first two-part blog, the ability to get out and walk was ripped away. In fact, my ability to get out of the house and get off the couch was ripped away. So, as I stare at that “write a new blog” icon on my desktop every morning from my ‘prison’ on this couch, I am so frustrated that I am soooo lost for ANYTHING to say. My world has been turned upside down and what little tiny victories I may have begun to experience in a 12 year season of incredible emotional and often physical torment, my mind, my will, my emotions are slogging through mire and muck that has left me devoid of knowing what the heck God is trying to teach me during this season in which the physical pain and emotional discouragement have been ramped up ten-fold.

So, I’m not here to share anything profound today. I’m simply here to say, “I’m feeling lost.” What little speck of the peace of God that He had graciously given me (well, let’s say what he allowed me to accept and surrender to as I began to see God’s hand in things) has now been taken away, too. Trial upon trial, sadness upon sadness, ongoing helplessness, but instead of allowing it to ease up, God has sovereignly added all the more. And I just don’t understand it. So, I’m still here but I’m not sure what I can say right now. I’m waiting to see a glimmer of insight that God might be willing to shed on my situation so that I know in what context I should seek to find out what God wants to teach me and show me about Himself. And, to be truthful, I guess I’m a little afraid that if I blog out any answers, insights or little victories, the next day will prove how naive I was and how weak I really am.

But today as I have finished reading through the book of Psalms (this past month), I’m reminded of the quote that while you are in the hallway of God’s will for you (waiting for doors to open and close), “praise Him in the hallway”. That one I get. One does not have to read the psalms for more than a few minutes to find the psalmists’ cries for help in the midst of dire circumstances and yet they finalize their psalm with “God is still good. God is still faithful. God knows us and loves us. Therefore, I will still sing to Him and still praise Him.” They don’t put stipulations on that praise; they just choose to praise Him regardless! Period! I’ve tried to exercise that power of choice during this period.

Because of the last twelve years of God’s classroom for me, I have wrestled through similar times of trying to figure out what God wants me to learn. I have learned and now even counsel others, “what good could possibly come from fighting with the Lord, from resisting Him, from becoming angry with Him, from trying to retake back your former life which He has taken away?” We, my friends, are NOT in control down here on earth, no matter what you may otherwise convince yourself of. “Resistance is futile.”

So what have I counseled in the past, then? Fall back into the torrential river of God’s sovereign will for you. Stop floundering and grasping for every twig and log and life-preserver and any other potential lifesaving object that you think you could save YOURSELF with. If God has willed it, you will never escape it if He has divinely determined that it will happen this way. Oh sure, you may feel like you are accomplishing something, that you are “doing your part,” that you are doing spiritual warfare even and taking the bull by the horns and shouting cursings at Satan for attacking your life. But I ask you, as in the case of Job, if Satan is restricted by God Himself, then to whom are you really shouting cursings? What I am really struggling to discern is, at what point does that human/divine cooperation become a fist in the face of a loving, sovereign God who has purposely pushed you so far over the bank of that mighty rushing river that you could not possibly stand or even rescue yourself?

The only thing I have learned in the last 12 years is to choose to surrender to God’s hand. That is something I am struggling to do right now though because I’m not sure what it is I am surrendering to this time. 😦 Frankly, as I have become accustomed to practicing this in one arena of my life (after many years of resisting-at times kicking and screaming), this particular situation has left me bewildered, not really knowing what surrender looks like in this situation.

My challenge to others has become: Do the trust exercise so many group team-building programs do: back up to the Lord Who stands behind, before, beside, above and below you, and fall backwards in an act of trust and surrender. He WILL CATCH YOU, one way or another! What that looks like is not for you to know. Surrender to the rushing torrential river! He is God! If He carries you downstream and leaves you terribly bruised and scarred, He is God. It is His right. If He snatches you right out of danger, He is all-powerful God. It is His right. If He puts you in the safety of a raft and let’s you ride it out down the frightening river but safe from all harm, it is His prerogative. He is God.

But to stand on the banks and argue and wrestle with God?!?!?! That, my friends, is foolishness. I believe the greatest act of worship is SURRENDER to Almighty God! Win, lose or fail? It’s not under our control, but in the hands of the One who holds us in His hands. Yep, we may be the one who has to suffer the repercussions of surrender but no less than the one who chooses to not surrender. So, why fight and argue with Him? It is arrogant and self-reliant. It is useless.

So, where does that leave me today as I continue to suffer with a medical condition that leaves me anxious, fearful, not knowing what the cost will be this time…? I don’t know! 😦 Do I pray more? Do I plead for His mercy? Do I ask in faith for His healing? For twelve years I have sought the Lord to remove from me my “thorn in the flesh” (the pre-existing one) and He has chosen to NOT remove it (I’ve stopped asking knowing that God knows my heart for healing but my spirit tells me to choose to echo, “My grace is sufficient for you.”) It has taken a long time to accept this thorn and weave it into my daily life allowing it to be turned around for the glory of the Lord. Do I dare ask Him to take this one away? Is my lesson, to always accept the Lord’s thorns in the flesh? Is my lesson, this time, to ask Him in faith for healing as He really does want to heal me this time? Is this lesson, it isn’t about me, it is about God’s glory? Is this lesson, it really is about God’s glory and He wants to heal Me but wants me to ask Him to? Is it about joining my Christian brothers and sisters together around me to exercise theirs and my faith in our Healing God, woven into the body of Christ, submitting myself to their intercession on my behalf because that is the way God designed the church to work? Is this a lesson about patience and waiting in the dark? Is it about “being still” when humanly I want to struggle free?

I don’t know the purpose of this trial right now. And each morning and all through the day, I anxiously try to discern and submit to the hand of God, yet also asking for wisdom to wisely decide which decisions and paths to choose. Talk about win, lose or draw… My emotions wildly throw me into a tornado of thoughts and choices and outcomes all day long. At any given moment, I may be at peace or in panic? I may be decisive or feel lost in choices that I am completely unqualified to make. I may be surrendered or I may be clawing for the shore. I may trust that God is the Greatest Physician or I may be fearful of all the physicians out there “practicing medicine and screwing up people’s lives and bodies.” I may be asking for God to take away excruciating pain or simply be asking the Lord to comfort me in all my afflictions.

Do you see why I feel like I have nothing to say? I feel lost!!! I want to do what God wants me to do! I want to trust that no matter what happens to me God will have accomplished His perfect will! I want to be found faithful in my trials and tribulations! I want the Lord to be able to say, “well done my good and faithful servant, enter into my peace.” I want to be faithful in bringing my requests before Him with thanksgiving and leaving them at the foot of the Master, no matter the outcome. Yet, I’m a poor example of that when I can’t stay in one frame of mind for more than 15 minutes sometimes. I confess, I’m just lost right now.

There! That is my blog entry! A big honest mess of questions and inner struggles. May the God of all comfort and peace grant me the courage and perseverance to stay the course and wait on Him to deliver or not. I challenge myself today, “Be still and wait in on the Lord.”