Sep 30, 2017

Light Dawns in the Darkness…

It was a cool September morning this past Friday; the twenty ninth of the month, to be exact… and I was driving to work at 6:50 in the morning and I thought to myself; “When did it get to be so dark out? How did I not see the cloud of darkness coming?"

“Just last week at this exact time it was sunny!”; I reason with myself…pondering a bit more I asked; “Or was it just this past Monday?”

When did it get to be so dark at 6:50 in the morning? How had the summer skies given way to the impending darkness that would be my normality for the next five or six months? 

Gone were the morning drive times filled with sunshine and bright skies.

Gone were the sunny mornings that greeted me and made my drive from my home in St. Paul to my office in Minneapolis.

Really; “When did it get to be so dark out? When did this darkness creep up and slowly descend upon me? How had I not seen it coming?"

Recently, I realized that another cloud of darkness came upon me as well.  At first glance it seemed that it had come with the same sudden and unforeseen entrance as the shifting of the time for sunrise had been this past week.

It came up slowly, almost methodically and even when it was fully encapsulating me I didn’t see at; not at first anyway.

In fact, it wasn’t until my wife Cathy brought it to my attention that I, too, saw that a cloud of darkness had settled over my life and pondered; “When did it get to be so dark out?” When did this darkness creep up and slowly descend upon me? How had I not seen it coming?

But as I have looked back over the previous months I realized that the signs had been there all along; in fact, others also saw them and some had asked Cathy what was going on with me…

I had been persistently sad, anxious, and feeling "empty". I felt hopeless, pessimistic, guilty, worthless, helpless… and times I was irritable.

Some days I had difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. I was restless and instead of working less, I pressed in and doubled up my efforts, and worked more! Even that I was blind to, as most workaholics are…

At a couple of times, I dodged thoughts of suicide; which were easily dismissed as I thought about my family and didn’t want to inflict pain upon them; so I pushed the thoughts away.

At times I had a loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including spending time with my wife. I had decreased energy, fatigue, felt slowed down. I struggled with both a low appetite and other times overeating and weight gain.

At times I had insomnia and frequently woke up early in the morning and then couldn’t get back to sleep.

The worst part for me is that nothing seemed to really satisfy my soul; I couldn’t “hear” God speaking to me. I am a follower of Jesus Christ; a Christian. And one of my daily rituals is spending time reading the Bible, and for two solid months the words were dead to me; no revelation or life.

During this time, attending church was merely a religious activity that I did each week as I desperately longed for a real encounter with the living God.

Worship was dry and even the distant memories of times of refreshing added to my sadness as I remembered them and compared them to my present “reality”.

Yes, I was grateful for times spent with my wife and family and friends; but deep in my soul my heart was dying for life!
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When did it get to be so dark in my life? How had the “sunny days” given way to the impending darkness that would be my normality for the next few months? 

It wasn’t something I planned or wanted (or as I soon discovered) was able to talk myself out of. And because I don’t struggle with depression, I didn’t realize what was happening.

Yes, I have highs and lows, but not depression. In fact, this, to my knowledge, was only the second time in my life that I was in a cloud of darkness called “depression”.

It had enveloped me and became a “second skin” that I was aware of, but not cognitive to the point where I did anything more that try to shake it off. I thought that I was just having a “bad day” …

I was deep in a darkness that had so become my normality, that even the reality of all that was good in my life still didn’t shake my sadness.

Telling myself to work harder and longer didn’t help either because anxiety and depression is just plain rotten and its effects tore apart my very soul! 

As I looked back over several months, I concluded that I had some unresolved pain or trauma or issues that I had not dealt with and my body, soul, mind, and spirit were crying out for me to pay attention; something was wrong!

And I needed to be OK with not being able to pull it all together and charge ahead. I needed to be OK with letting others know that I wasn’t “fine” and that I needed their help.

I will admit that it can seem to be so embarrassing to say “HELP, I NEED CARE!”  But we all do, you know.  Burnout is serious. Depression is serious. Not being able to get free is serious. Being so deep in it that I was blind to the cloud is serious!

It’s hard for me to take off the mask and admit that I am hurting; especially when I wasn’t aware that I had been running on auto pilot and was very low on fuel.

I came to realize that it is God’s desire to point this out to me (and to others who love me and whom He will also use to revive my soul). Restoring me takes first place on His agenda; He really wants me to be whole.  

I needed to be OK with stepping out of the traffic and taking a long, loving look at God and to be still, knowing that He is God (see Psalm 46:10)

I needed God to remind me that I was a part of something bigger than me; I am a member of the Body of Christ. He had others who needed me to get healthy, but not me trying to figure out how to do it or putting on a mask of appearing to be healthy.

I needed to just be who I was at that movement; someone who was hurting and be OK with that. NO MASKS!  Most of all, forgive myself for mistakes of the past.  God has never cut me off from His love.  I needed to take it!  I AM LOVED!

I am happy to write that in time, worship and revelation in His Word returned to me. My heart knows God wants to fill the broken places with His Spirit! Bible reading and church are life giving once again! And songs of worship once again greeted me as I awakened each day new day.

I wish that I could write this today and share with you that everything is OK; but it is not…my metaphorical batteries still need recharging (or replacing) and my fuel tanks are still low.

I am realizing that I still can be set off and become discharged very easily…I still need rest and recuperation throughout my day, evening, and (especially) throughout the night.

But I am aware and I do feel and I am starting to see light breaking into my life replacing the cloud that has been my “reality.

And I need to still be OK with the process of God to bring complete healing to me. But that His job and I need to be good with letting Him do it as He sees fit; after all, it is not only His job; it is all about Him and His namesake.

Dear reader, I am not sure where you are at today or why you chose to read this longer than usual blog. I didn’t write it to draw attention to myself or to come across as one who had any real answers. I simply wrote to make some sense of my life as my distorted mind tries to play games with me.
 
But if you, too, are struggling with depression, I do feel great compassion and concern for you, because you too need rest and recuperation.

Is God’s voice pretty silent right now?  I imagine it is for you (and in some areas, it still is for me). In that place it’s hard to hear encouragement and I understand.

My exhortation is that you simply let God come and rescue you. Let Him take you to where you need to go.

Let God be the One who removes the darkness and brings light back to your shattered world.

Let God bring the healing and relief that you so desperately long for. Hope is not beyond your reach; but let Him do the work.

Your part is to simply cooperate with what He tells you to do; He is asking you to trust Him.

So, let go my soul and trust in Him; the wind and waves still know His Name

If you find yourself today in a similar state of mind and you are trying to push through in your own strength, my exhortation to you is to STOP…and REST!

Jesus longs for you to call out to Him today.

He is waiting for you to respond to His mercy and grace that has already been extended to you through Jesus Christ. And you can; today. And it can make all the difference in the world as you look for hope in your present world. Let Him bring you REST.

Need further help? Someone is waiting to talk with you. Call either: 1-888-NEED HIM or 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426).

"Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous." (Psalm 112:4 ESV)

      Pastor Tommy Oestreich 
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