I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. (Psalm 118:17 NIV)
When I was in the toughest stretch of my battle against depression and anxiety I dreaded the night. I could manage, if only barely, the days, but I hated going to sleep because I knew that 2 a.m. wake-up was coming and that cloud of doom would be overhead. If you’ve been there, you know the feeling. The walls feel like they’re closing in and the darkness seems suffocating.
What’s worse is that after a few weeks you really start to think you’re losing your mind. You think you’re going crazy.
While it may be true there is “crazy” in the equation (mental, emotional or chemical instability that is resulting in erratic behavior or symptoms), it’s important for you to know that you’re not crazy. What’s more, you’re not the only one walking through what you are experiencing right now.
The Enemy wants you to think the opposite. He wants you to feel like you are the only person alive who is in this bubble of darkness. He wants you to believe there’s no way out. No end to this misery. He’s trying to convince you right now that you will never be normal again.
A big break for me was hearing from a friend about a pastor I very much respected sharing a message about his battle with depression. At the time, I had never heard of anyone who was dealing with a situation like mine. I didn’t realize what I would soon discover as I battled depression and anxiety—namely that practically everyone I knew either was on an antidepressant of some kind or knew someone in their family or close circle of friends who was. I honestly didn’t know that our nation was living in an emergency state of crippling anxiety. I thought I was a unique struggler trapped in a world of my own.
When I did watch the message recommended by my friend, and realized this other pastor had similar initial symptoms to mine (“crazy” physical symptoms), a layer of hope was deposited into my heart. Though things didn’t change instantly, I knew someone had survived to tell about it, and I was comforted to realize I wasn’t alone.
That’s the main message for today—you are not crazy, and you are not alone!
As David writes Psalm 23 he is facing life-threatening danger, but he is confident in his Shepherd. He describes it like this, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v.4 ESV).
Two lines in this verse are calling out to you with hope. 1. For you are with me. No matter how deep the pit, nor how dark the night, you are not in this all by yourself. God Almighty is right there with you. I get that you may not be able to sense or see him. But no darkness can hide his presence from you. In another psalm David writes: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7,11-12 NIV)
2. Even though I walk through the valley. God is not leading you TO the valley you’re in. He promises to lead you THROUGH it. This place of struggle will not be the end of you. If you had told me years ago when I was in the grip of depression that I would be writing devotions about putting the “X” in anxiety…that I’d be in my right mind, functioning in my gifts, filled with the light of Jesus and the wind of the Spirit, encouraging others that they can come back from the brink of despair…I would have thought you were the crazy one. Yet, here I am. By the grace of God I stand. I say that to boast in Jesus, believing it will inject a dose of hope into your night.
I didn’t have an instant turn-around. But I did come out of the night and into the light of day. My bout was incapacitating for months and afterwards my anxiety didn’t permanently go away. In fact, to be transparent, that lingering sense of anxiety still lurks over my left shoulder about sixty miles away. The difference now is I now know what it is and I know it’s not going to take me out.
And, in the power of Jesus’ name, it’s not going to take you out either. The Devil may be prowling around, roaring like a lion, seeking someone to devour. But Jesus is actually THE LION KING, and he is with you in the valley called the shadow of death. Call out to Jesus even now. Call on his mighty name. Thank him that he is with you. Tell him you believe he can lead you to the light again.
If you’d allow me, I’d like to speak that over your life today: Father, I lift up my friend who is reading this right now, especially the one who feels like there is no where else to turn. I speak the powerful name of Jesus of Nazareth. Please shine truth into the cobwebs of despair and allow them to see you with them in the darkness. I thank you that you promise to lead them to the other side if they will put their trust in you. Jesus, you are greater than whatever is trying to take them out. Preserve. Protect. Awaken. Restore. For your great glory, amen.