This is a tricky post to write. But if I don’t write it, I would feel dishonest. I’ve been going through a bout of depression and lots of I-don’t-wanna-be-a-mom-today moments for the last month. I said it. It’s not pretty. It sounds ungrateful. But it’s still true.
Depression is not a common enemy of mine, but I recognize it when it crops up. I don’t want to get out of bed. Smiles are forced. Daily tasks seem mountainous. My creativity is clouded and lacking. Everything seems pointless. I just want to be alone, but I never am.
I know I’m not the only one this happens to, but not many talk about it. I think we are made to feel guilty if we speak in honesty or have the fear that our friends have it all together. But here’s the truth: Someone will always have it worse than us. Someone will always have it better than us. But that doesn’t detract from our current suffering. I spend a lot of time acknowledging others’ heartaches, sympathizing and praying for them — and that is a good thing — but others’ suffering doesn’t subtract from my own heartache. It’s ok to experience and talk about and walk through our own troubles, even though someone else might be worse off.
So I will share with you that I’ve been having a hard time staying home with these three small children after five and half years. Maybe you would feel safe to open up about your troubles as well — even if it is related to something completely different. Because that’s what God wants us to do, live in a community, pray for each other, not live in isolation. In fact, isolation is exactly where our enemy wants us to stay so we feel alone and left in the dark to absorb more lies.
The beauty in trials is that when we are weak, the Lord is strong. It is through our weakness when he can do his great wonders. (2 Corinthians 12:9) How long have I been trying to do this on my own until I am broken enough to ask for help and mean it? Or maybe I did it and need to do it again. When will I open my heart to hear his voice and respond accordingly? In trying to do this on my own, without fully cooperating with him, I am sabotaging myself. Tribulation is meant to strengthen our relationship with God.
It is shocking to say you consider it an honor to go through trials, but the Bible tells us to be grateful for them so we grow in faith and become mature in our walk with God. In light of this, I’m attempting to look at this battle I have before me as an opportunity to grow in my relationship with Jesus and come out stronger, wiser and more compassionate to my neighbors.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4
However, I am taking notice there is a difference between making oneself vulnerable for the sake of sisterhood, and complaining. Complaining can take us to dangerous places, such as self pity, anger or playing the victim. So I’ll skip the whole scenario on why I’m tired because you already know it. Maybe you have a couple of stubborn kids yourself. I think you already get it.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” — Philippians 2:14-16
There is one extremely underutilized tool we have that is powerful and life-altering to us and those around us — prayer. It changes everything if you let it, if you can allow your will to align with God’s and stop trying to control everything yourself. Because, let’s face it, the things you and I can control are very limited.
My situation is not going to change, so I have to. I can’t do it on my own, I’ve tried for a long time. It has to be through God, through his son. And the way it’s going to happen is through prayer. I know this, but I think I had to realize how broken and sin-filled I am before I could move forward with Christ on this journey of motherhood. And believe me, my kids have brought out an ugly side I didn’t even know was there. They have shown me the best and worst in myself.
I’m a practical application kinda girl, so I need to see how things work out in everyday life. How can prayer change things? Well, of course, that’s a very complicated answer, but may I suggest that our God has chosen to operate through humans, and if we are asking him to do something, he will probably ask us to help.
If you’re praying for hungry children, then what are you doing to feed them? If you’re praying for a better husband, then what are you doing to be a better wife? Me, I’m praying for strong-willed children, but the answer will surely involve me changing as a mother. You see, the answer to our prayers will often require our own action as well as his.
What effective prayer does not involve are: lists of things to ask a genie, things opposing God’s word in the Bible, things outside his will, things against nature. God cannot contradict himself.
Here are some specific things God is working on with me to pull me out of this funk — not overnight, but steadily.
Make a prayer list
I’ve started a small list in my phone of things to pray for. It’s not there so I remember what to pray about, it’s there so I can see how God will answer or has answered. Because when we call he will answer, he promises this to us. (Jeremiah 33:3) Of course, it might not be the answer we expect or asked for, and that’s all the more reason to pay attention to what you have prayed — so you can see his handy work. I usually find it recognizable in hindsight.
Recognizing what God has done for you will build your faith. And faith, I’m learning, is the antidote to fear and anxiety.
Pray for your family
I might not normally suffer from depression, but I do experience anxiety frequently. I worry about my kids, about family and friends, about the world. One thing the Holy Sprit has been telling me is to quit thinking, thinking, thinking and start praying, praying, praying!
Last Christmas Marcello’s dear friend from Italy gave me five mugs with each of our initials on them, one for each family member. The kids don’t use theirs, so I do. I started my own little tradition of grabbing a cup at random and praying for that person as I drink my tea or coffee. My oldest likes it when he sees me drinking from his mug. He points to it and says “You know what you have to do now.”
At night, instead of laying in bed worrying about the kids, I walk into their rooms as they sleep, kneel beside their bed and pray with all the passion that I used to spend being anxious. Instead of trying to push my worries to the side, I acknowledge them and bring them before the Lord and oh does that feel better! I pray for their early salvation, a hunger for Jesus, sleep, health, safety, future friends, future spouse, future career …
Make a grateful list
One thing we can control in our life is our thoughts. They might get away from us time to time, but ultimately we can control them. I’ve recently learned in Priscilla Shirer’s study “Armor of God” that the brain has “the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.” It’s called neuroplasticity and this means that our positive or negative thoughts can actually change the shape of our brains! (To read more look up Dr. Caroline Leaf.)
Thoughts are powerful. A positive thought can lead to another positive thought. In fact, did you know that you cannot simultaneously think a positive thought and negative thought at the same time? You have to train yourself in this way. A negative thought process in the midst of a depression or trial is a dangerous place to be. A grateful soul can guard your heart against lies, jealousy and deception.
When I was feeling the lowest, I sat down and made a grateful list. A big, long one with all things big and small. It doesn’t matter what I feel right now, the fact is God has given me so much that I didn’t even know to ask for or deserve.
This is but a season. I will be grateful for this trial, mature from it and grow in my relationship with Christ. What trial are you experiencing right now? What do you do to keep your chin up? Can I pray for you?
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. — James 1:17