Light into the Darkness: Journaling Through a Depressed Heart

Sitting early this morning in the coffee shop, I had just finished reading John 15:26-27. I sat in stillness at the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit jumped off the page.

The Advocate, or Comforter.

In scripture, the Psalmist calls this “selah” (stop, pause, think). And in the midst of meditating on the words of my Savior, the lyrics in my ear buds caught my attention. In Cory Asbury‘s new album “Reckless Love,” his song, “Water and Dust” spoke these words,

And when everything is falling apart, don’t lose heart.

Between what I just read and the words being sung in my ear, I set my pen to my journal to articulate what this moment was speaking to me. The words Advocate or Comforter have always been the reminder of Who has been my rescue and redemption during my bouts of depression. When I cannot see where help will come from, I look for someone to be my Advocate. When I cannot sense hope, I long for someone to be a Comforter.

I don’t know where I’d be without the Lord. Knowing that He is with me, even when I can’t detect Him with my senses, has been a huge comfort to me.

Journaling has been a place to process and express for me. It’s a safe place to work through what I’m pondering inside. I find it’s much healthier than throwing out a Facebook status empowering others to speak into my unprocessed thought while exposing my vulnerability to some that may not be equipped to help. So with ink and paper, a started scratching out a few thoughts.

From there, I began to thumb through my journal. It took me back to October when I shared with out congregation some of my journal thoughts combined with the song, “Let there be light.” Why that song? Because during a dark moment, it was my ongoing prayer to God,

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

So today, I thought I’d share those journal thoughts from that dark moment when the Comforter was not just pulling me through a tough season but was working someone deeper in me.

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

It’s the prayer of everyone who’s been hurt by disappointment
When life hits and gave us way more than expected
It’s the cry of the overwhelmed heart; the scream of a tired soul
The aching of desperation; fallen deeper into a bottomless hole
But you understand my darkness, you get the struggle of my inside
So I lift up my eyes asking you to hear my cry
You hover over my chaos ready to create with just one word
Speak Holy Spirit; I need hope in my hurt

Lord would you speak…

It’s the prayer of everyone who feels forgotten
When the devil has convinced them that they’re no longer wanted
When he’s blinded their eyes from seeing the hope of light
When their strength is drained and unable to get in the fight
I‘ve had victory on the mountain, but the valley is nothing but distress.
Lord it’s you I need. I need some hope in my darkness
I call out the only One who can reach into an unreachable place
I know I can find peace if I could just find your face

Lord I need you to speak…

To every person who thought that nobody cares
To every tired soul, bearing weights to heavy to bear
To those longing to knock but cannot find the door
To those who seek a way out and cannot take any more
Lift up your face, look beyond the valley
The sun may have set behind you but it’s not your finale
There’s a God who creates out of the depths of your chaos
Lift up your head, the Son rises to call us

“Let there be light…”

He is Immanuel; God with us. Not God “gonna be with me” or “was with me.” He is God with you. Right now. Right where you are at. And darkness cannot hide you from Him.

To those who find themselves in darkness. Proclaim what you know to be true!

You are not alone. Darkness cannot hide you from God.
You have hope. Darkness cannot stop His hand.
You can get help. Darkness cannot keep you from His rescue. There are people who are reaching out even when you cannot see or sense it.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this AND the darkness CANNOT hide you from the presence of God and His outstretched hand.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Devotionally Frustrated: 5 Habits That Helped Me with “Devotions”

I grew up in church having heard (and used) the phrasing, “doing my devotions.” This was the terminology we (my youth group) used to describe a dedicated time that included reading our bibles and spending time in prayer.

Perhaps this is just my own experience, but in the 4 decades of attending church, “devos” has been both a source of blessing and issue of guilt; a place to be fed and the cause of frustration.

Congrats. You’re not the only one to feel that way.

Like many of you, I would hear stories from the pulpit about the preacher’s devo-moments that rivaled what happened on the Mount of Transifiguration. I would get inspired from the testimonies of leadership and friends. My mind would be filled with high aspirations as I decided, “Monday, everything is going to change” as I, one more time, was going to begin a new “devotional habit.”

Perhaps we’ve approached devotions wrong. I feel we may have treated this necessary, on-going, spiritually healthy routine into nothing more than a diet fad. I see blogs and post saying something to the fact,

“If you need help, follow my prescription for spiritual health for a guaranteed outpouring of personal spiritual revival.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading plans and strategies (here’s a great place to get some reading plans). I utilize them both and they can be very effective. But I’m afraid we’ve turned devotional methods into the South Beach Diet and Atkins as the plug-and-play solution for all of our spiritual woes instead of embracing the simplicity of communion with God.  That’s what devotions are about. And when that is realized, you’ll see “devotional time” lived out in two ways.

  1. A Momentary Discipline.
    • Developing the daily habit of having time in the Word, seeking the Lord in worship and prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
  2. An Experiential Devotion.
    • “Devos” will be shallow at best if they are left in the moment and never manifested in our daily lives. We must have a dedication to living out our devotion to Christ. I struggle when people profess to know the scriptures but fail to model Christ through love, mercy, and compassion. When I read scripture, Jesus definitely spent plenty of time in personal prayer. But most of His life was engaging the world around him with the Kingdom of God.

So I thought I’d help you work through some frustrations by making this as simple as possible. As we say at Kfirst, “simple doesn’t mean easy.” Like any human relationship, your relationship with God will rise and fall on communication. You were wired that way because God created you that way. And I want to take some of the confusion out of devos by giving you, what I hope are, simple and practical steps to developing a healthy devotional life.

Find your sweet spot.
So many people are devotionally frustrated at the method, time of day, and manner for which they’re doing (or have done) devos. Find that “fit” that brings both challenge and growth without having to jam into someone else’s model. From the time of day to the translations you use, find not necessarily what’s easiest, but what facilitates spiritual health. I’m a morning person with my scriptures. When I pray, I head outside and walk the neighborhood. Periodically, I change translations. I’ll even hook up with a reading plan to guide me down a thought (topic). BUT…just because a method/location works for someone (even your spouse) doesn’t mean it’s a right fit for you.

Quality over quantity.
I love reading through books of the bible. But I found that just because I read a lot, it didn’t necessarily equate to understanding or practical living. Don’t treat your bible reading like a buffet where you gorge yourself and say, “I don’t know what I ate but I am full.” If you don’t know what you read because of the “quantity,” then have a smaller “meal.” Read a few verses a day. You’ll digest it better and exercise it in your daily life. Some preachers need to understand that principle for their sermons. 😉

Set some attainable goals.
Start small and build momentum. Set goals that will require some stretching but not so lofty that one missed day doesn’t make you call it quits. It takes time to build healthy habits. And the more you put into the habit, the deeper and wider the habit will grow. I’ve been amazed at watching people who gave God 5 devoted minutes a day developed a habit that has grown into something astronomically deeper and wider than they ever imagined.

Make time to live and listen.
When spending time in prayer, I believe one of the most missed opportunities is time in silence listening for the voice of God. But there’s a whole other side to the voice of God. When you are engaged in the Word, look and listen to God throughout the day on when/how to exercise what you read. For example: If I read John 1:14 today on how Jesus was full of grace and truth, I need to look and listen for opportunities to show grace and truth. It sounds so simple, but it’s the most pragmatic way to get our devos out of our prayer closet and into the real world.

Journal. 
I used to be intimidated by journaling and frustrated with people who excelled in it as I was envious about their writing abilities. But when I stopped comparing myself to others and decided to be my own person, it’s sparked a major passion in me. My daily entry might be just 3-4 sentences (nothing more than what I read in scripture to what God was challenging me to do). Other days, 6 pages will pour out of my heart (had a rough, emotional day yesterday). Find your “sweet spot” in your journaling. It’s become a great reference point to help me look back and be encouraged in how God has grown me as well as what He has worked through me.

I wanted to keep this simple and clean. “Devos” are not as complicated as you may have seen. Remember, they’re isn’t about getting checklist done and doing your duty for God. The goal is to meet with God, hear His heart, and letting him do something IN you and THROUGH you. “Devotions” must be more then a description of a moment but the evidence of our love for Jesus Christ.

I love you all. I belive in ya. Get into your devotions and live them out “for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…