“You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; The word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”
(2 Samuel [22:29]-31)
I promised a full report about Saturday’s seminar, “Are You Afraid of the Dark? Face life’s difficult places with renewed spiritual strength.” I’ve never talked publicly about my private (dark) struggles with depression. But, Saturday, I did. Possibly one of my most vulnerable moments “in front of people,” I faced my fears, took a deep breath, and delivered a heartfelt, honest account of my personal pain. Rushed and nervous, to say the least, I’m not sure it was the most eloquent of presentations, but hopefully, someone was blessed. Dr. Richard Winter, author of Roots of Sorrow, calls psychological difficulties, “mental thorns.” He writes, “It’s perhaps easier to come to terms with an obvious physical disability such as being born with only one arm. You know what you have to accept and you know your limitations. But when it comes to psychological disabilities, what I would call mental thorns, they are not so easy to define and we do not know how much they will change in this life. Through our weakness, through the brokenness of our bodies and minds, God is working out his purpose of changing us into his image.” Sometimes, my outside (my countenance, my outward appearance) doesn’t match my inside (my downcast heart, my discouraged soul), but God helps turn my darkness into light. The weeping may endure for a night, but I’ve learned that joy does come. It comes.
If you weren’t able to be with us, I’ve included my notes/outline. Take a few moments this week to read through 1 Samuel 1-[2:11]. I’ve spent the last few weeks with Hannah, getting to know her better. Her responses amazed me. Enthralled me. Incited me to dig deep into the well of God’s vast love. I only had 45 minutes to share. Hardly enough to quench the thirst. It only left me thirsting for more. The subject I have avoided studying for so long, is now on the top of my list. It’s time, I suppose, and as we’ve discussed before, God is all about TIMING.
I’ve included some amazing books on the subject of anxiety, depression and waiting on God in difficult circumstances, written by the absolute best teachers on the subject. Enjoy reading excerpts of these books on www.christianbook.com. Remember to share your thoughts/comments with me! I love hearing from you. Encourage others. Post your comments here or email them to me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?
FACING AND OVERCOMING DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
Who among us hasn’t been afraid of the dark? Things look, sound and feel different in the dark. Trees look like monsters. The wind sounds like a whistling intruder. Cold spaghetti feels like wriggling worms. It’s all about perspective and somehow, when the lights go out, perspective goes out, as well. Sometimes the hardest challenge in life is facing and overcoming our own depression and anxiety.
Spiritually speaking, “What do we do when the spiritual climate in our life drastically changes? Trouble comes like a summer storm? Difficulty blows through our heart like a south wind? Pain strikes like lightning? Depression darkens the sky of our emotions? Illness freezes life like an ice storm?” Today, we will do our best to find answers to these penetrating questions. To shine light on these dark places. One little circle of light at a time.
Our Objective: The dark night of the soul has many important gifts to give and if heeded, can be a significant time of spiritual growth, deepened spiritual contentment and exhilarating spiritual freedom.
Our Promise: 2 Samuel [22:29]-31 (see scripture above)
Our Scripture Study: Psalm 88; Psalm 77:1-2, 6; Isaiah 45:3 and 1 Samuel 1-2, where we meet Hannah from Ephraim:
1. Hannah’s History
- a. Name means “grace.”
- b. One of two wives of Elkanah
- c. Barren, which brought social embarrassment and criticism
- d. Jeered, provoked, and annoyed by rival, Peninnah, year after year
- e. Poured out her heart before the Lord, year after year
- f. Thought to be drunk
- g. Battled despondency, despair and depression
2. Hannah’s Humiliation
- a. Humiliation is “to cause (a person) a painful loss of pride, self-respect, or dignity; mortify (put to death).
- b. Read 1 Samuel 1:6-7.
- c. Hannah is a woman who is “deeply troubled” (v15) and “in great anguish and grief” (v16).
- d. Hannah hit rock-bottom. Darkness was becoming her best friend.
3. Hannah’s Heart
- a. Hannah wept much and prayed to (1 Samuel [1:10]).
- b. Hannah completely surrendered. Made a heartfelt vow to the Lord.
- c. Hannah kept on praying, even though her circumstances didn’t change. She saw no visible evidence that God was listening to her cry.
- d. Hannah did not yield to the “Satanic shock wave of Satan’s temptations” to hopelessness. At least we do not see any evidence of such yielding. Oh how I wish we could read between the lines of Hannah’s life. Was there anyone she could talk to? How did she handle all the chiding by Peninnah (Peni, as I call her.)
- e. 1 Samuel [1:18] is Hannah’s turning point. “Her face was no longer downcast.” Her “suddenly” had finally come. Sometimes there are twenty years before a “suddenly.” The painful process of waiting dissolves in the seconds of a “suddenly.”
- f. Hannah worships. Hannah communes with her husband. Hannah conceives (1 Samuel [1:19]-20).
4. Hannah’s Heightened Awareness of God’s Power
- a. Read 1 Samuel 2:1-11. Here we see the profound manifestation of Hannah’s intense search for God. The result? A rich, rewarding, intense, thick, dependent relationship with her God.
- b. Hannah had learned to lean hard on God (Song of Solomon 8:5, “Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?”)
- c. Her triumphant song of praise resounds with renewed spiritual vigor.
Our Life Lesson: The Flashlight Principle
God will give the exact amount of light needed to take the next step in life. It may be one little circle of light for one little step. Or, it may be a beacon of light – enough for an entire pathway. The secret is to remain in the Light. Cry out like Hannah. Even if it is year after year. There is a Samuel on the other side of your cry. Believe God like never before. And most of all, remember our promise in 2 Samuel [22:29]-31. He will turn your darkness into light.
Our Benediction:“Sovereign Commander of the Universe, I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief, in a felt spiritual darkness. My heart if full of evil surmising and disquietude, and I cannot act faith at all. My heavenly pilot has disappeared, and I have lost my hold on the rock of ages; I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves, in horror and distress unutterable. Help me, O Lord, to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee, For better, for worse, without comfort, and all but helpless. Give me peace of soul, Confidence, enlargement of mind, Morning joy that comes after night heaviness; Water my soul richly with divine blessings.
Give me a mountaintop as high as the valley is low.” -Taken from “Valley of Vision”