I’ve shared in the past that I struggle with depression, discouragement, or if you’re feeling extra Elizabethan “fits of melancholy”. I loathe these times.
I know what it is like to live in the enjoyment of what Christ has purchased. I know what it is like to be “on fire for the Lord”. In these times I figure I see things rather clearly. I see gospel metaphors everywhere. I see the beauty of Jesus all around me. In these times I am feasting on the goodness and greatness of God. I cherish these times.
But then for some unknown (at least to me) reason the lights go out. Sometimes it is because of a stupid choice. Sometimes it is personal sin. Occasionally it will be circumstances. But many times I just wake up discouraged and I cannot seem to shake it. My head feels fuzzy, my body feels tired, my affections feel cold.
When the Light Goes Out
In these times it is as if I find myself in a really dark room where all the things that I know are real appear much different than they really are. You know that feeling that you had when you were a child and as soon as the lights went out the trees outside your window turn into monsters with long dangly arms, the dresser becomes a giant blob of death, your wardrobe is Frankenstein, and your toy chest is now a portal to the depths of the underworld. That’s what real life feels like to me sometimes.
My wife’s expression which a day before would have been rightly interpreted as love is now interpreted as disdain. The harmless jokes from my friends which I would have laughed at yesterday are now darts that rip at the very fiber of my identity. The sin that I could have dealt with yesterday, seeing it rightly covered by the blood of Christ, now seems insurmountable. The confidence that I had yesterday, the passion for writing, preaching, studying, etc. to make Christ the only boast of this generation now turns on me and convinces me that any work I do will probably bring shame upon the risen Lord. The open arms of Jesus that yesterday seemed like an invitation for loving embrace now seem like that grappling position that wrestlers have before one is thrown down to the mat.
I know my eyes (perhaps, more so my heart) are playing tricks on me. I know that any wrestling Jesus does is for my good. I know my wife loves me, my friends respect me, God uses me, and His blood is sufficient for even my thoughts in this darkness. I know that. But yet that tree sure does look like a monster.
Your counsel to me might very well be “just go turn on the lights”. I can’t. Maybe because I can’t get myself out of bed for fear that the darkness will swallow me. Maybe I can’t because for some reason the light switch is broken. Maybe I’m so disoriented that I am not even sure where the light switch is anymore. It seems as if I am in these moments at the mercy of the dawn. When morning comes then I’ll see again.
Making the Nights Better
I have not given up trying to make the night go away. Though, I’ve somewhat come to grips with the fact that this may very well be my “thorn”, my “weakness”, that the Lord will choose to show His strength through. As for now, I’m in that in between spot where I am trying to find a way to “boast in my weakness” but fight it with all the vigor I have with weaponry of Christ.
One way that I have learned to fight the darkness is to take advantage of the daytime. In those times when the lights are on I cannot throw my time away on trivial junk (though I often do). In these moments I need to prepare for the darkness. The more I become convinced of reality when the lights are on the easier it is to tell a dragon from a jukebox when the lights are out.
This is one reason why I rehearse the gospel quite often and keep things that serve as matches quite close to me. I know that when I’m in the dark I can call to mind Scripture that I’ve read, theological truths that have been implanted in my heart, help from the church (all 2,000 years of her history), and identity shaping gospel promises. These are my matches. They give me just enough light to see for a moment before the darkness overtakes them.
Perhaps God allows the night so that I long for the day. There will be a day when there are no more dark rooms and I am able to see the Lord for who He is. I’ll know then who I am too. And his outstretched arms will never be interpreted for a forthcoming throw to the mat—instead I’ll know they are love.
I’m content hanging on to my bed post in darkness praying that the darkness doesn’t overtake me, so long as I know that morning is coming. I take great encouragement from FLAME’s moving exhortation, “Hold On, He’s Strong, Hold On, He’s Strong, Our God is a Warrior”. He’s fighting the darkness. I can’t see Him but He is. And He’ll make sure that morning comes, even when it seems like the darkness may have gotten the upper hand.
I’m hanging on until morning.