“God, I don't want to wake up in the morning.” For about eight months, that was my request each and every night as my head hit the pillow. God heard me but He obviously didn't answer my request.
I started to say that He didn't pay any attention to me; it sure seemed that way at the time. But looking back, He was actually paying very close attention to me. And He's paying very close attention to you.
If you are dealing with depression or any other kind of mental or emotional distress, I want to remind you that you weren't born that way. You were created in God's image and He didn't create damaged goods.
No matter how damaged you've become… no matter how damning your prognosis… God says, “Behold, I make all things new (Revelation 21:5b).” And God can deliver on His promises. His hope is not wishful thinking. He can redeem your life from the darkness. And He will—with just a little cooperation on your part.
Oh, sure… you can take medicine. It's a lot less of a hassle than having your life overhauled by the Lord. Medicine is all about coping with threats. But God is all about exposing threats and destroying them.
There's no question that altering the chemistry of the central nervous system with drugs and other treatments does work in helping those with mental distress. I just don't think it works that well.
There's a better way of getting relief, but you will have to step outside of what you can see, taste, hear, touch, smell, or feel. God is not limited to the five senses.
For My thoughts [are] not your thoughts, nor [are] your ways My ways, says the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV)
The world around us is full of extremes:
- At one extreme you have the magnificent lion and the beautiful gazelle. At the other extreme you have the one eating the other.
- At one extreme you have the young man and woman passionately in love. At the other extreme you have the cops, the handcuffs, the bruises.
- At the one extreme you have the child in the arms of loving parents. At the other extreme you have the child in the arms of a pedophile.
The world around us is full of darkness… with slavery, murder, addiction, war, hurricanes—you only need five minutes of news to quickly add to the list.
But the world around us is also full of light… with grandchildren, friends, flowers, fishing, worship.
Mental distress causes us to focus on the darkness. Each moment is lived with an expectation that the next moment will probably be worse than the last. Even in a good moment there's the inevitable expectation that the next moment won't be as good.
The only thing medication can ever do is to turn down the lights, so we can't see what's in the dark quite as clearly. And our anticipation of bad news then becomes dimmed to a manageable level. But everything in the light is also blurred. It's as if we go from Technicolor to monochrome.
The problem is not with this present moment; it's already here. You can survive almost anything for a moment. Fear does not threaten you with this present moment. You cannot be threatened with what you are already experiencing.
The problem is with your next moment. Fear threatens you with your next moment. Will it be any better? Is there any hope that it will be better?
Hope is the medicine for mental distress. I'm not talking about wishful thinking, with baseless promises like, “It's going to be all right.” I am talking about a hope that has the substance to back up its claims for a better tomorrow.
You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light [are] both alike [to You]. (Psalm 139:5-12 NKJV)
This passage in Psalms is such a wonderful description of the effect God has on the darkness. 1 John 1:5 tells us “that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” So how is it possible for the darkness and the light to be all the same to God? In His presence the darkness is transformed. It becomes nothing. It's as if you can look at all the broken junk lying in the corners of your life and say, “Was that what hurt me? Seems like nothing….”
You only need one moment in His presence to know that there's hope for your next moment. One moment in His presence will turn all the lights back on. Yes, you will be able to see the stuff of the darkness that has caused you so much pain—more clearly than you ever have—but it will no longer threaten you because His presence takes all the juice out of it.
But it's much easier to have a pill… or a drink… or an affair. It's much easier to cover up the pain with a hundred different distractions. Just find something—anything—that feels good… and do it.
It's not so easy to get into the presence of God—but it's you, not Him. He's always been available; you're the one who's had other things to do.
He's always been paying close attention to you. The challenge is for you to pay close attention to Him. The challenge is to pay close attention to what He says and then act like what He says is more important than how you feel.
Dig down deep for the strength to “… taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8a).” And I want give you a practical suggestion on how to make that happen:
Set aside at least an hour, if not more. Find someplace private and comfortable… in other words, someplace that you can cry, shout, dance, cuss, roll around… whatever. You don't need soft background music or anything else that could distract you. He'll already be there, so when you show up you're good to go. Tell Him everything… everything… everything! I will say it again, “Tell Him everything.” He already knows it anyway; the problem is that you don't. Just let Him have access to everything in your life. Let Him love you.