When our kids see the sadness

“Mommy why are you so sad?”

I have heard this from my four-year-old daughter several times.  What do we say when our kids notice that we are sad?  About the time I began to “get real” about my depression I decided it was time to stop putting on a happy face all the time for my family.  Selfish? No…at least I don’t think so.  I think our kids need to see us have emotions.  If everything is always rainbows and butterflies then how will that paint the world for them as adults?  I think that may cause unrealistic expectations.  Do I put on a happy face for my kids when I am depressed? Sure, of course I do.  I can’t be sad all the time or that is all they will ever know.  But, because of the depression I can’t be happy all of the time either.

If you have kids I know you have been here before.  I know that on the down days it’s hard to get motivated to do anything.  I know that the kids have energy and they want to laugh and play and I paste a smile on my face and try to dig that laughter out because I WANT MY KIDS TO HAVE A GOOD DAY.  Inevitably though, there comes a time when I just can’t fake it anymore.  You know what I mean right?  It gets tiring.  When I feel like I can’t go on with the “happiness” any longer, I am faced with a choice: 1) Walk away and be sad by myself 2) Be sad but stay with the kids.  Tough choices because iIwant to stay with the kids but I can’t hide the sadness anymore.  Especially if I am alone with them and someone has to watch them I have to be there.  In times like these what do I do?  Fake it until you break it? No.  I allow myself to be sad.  My kids will notice my lack of energy and my change in emotion and ask me “Why are you sad?” or something similar.

When our kids ask us something like this I believe that here is an opportunity to be honest and vulnerable with them.  Usually this is how the conversation continues:

Me: “I am just feeling sad today.”

Daughter: “Why?”

Me: “Because sometimes I feel sad and I can’t do anything to stop it.”

Daughter: “Oh, I am sorry you feel sad mommy.”

Me: “Thank you honey.  I’ll be alright in a little while.”

In this short conversation I have taught my daughter that it is okay to be sad, sometimes adults are sad too, and it is good to be honest about your emotions.  Something that may help establish honesty with your kids about depression is think about how you are going to handle these issues when you are have a “good day”, when you feel you can think clearly  about your kids and their emotions; and think about what you are going to say to them when they ask you those types of questions. There is a good balance here between knowing when to be honest with our kids about when we feel sad and when to push through the day with a smile and an upbeat attitude when we don’t feel like it.

This is hard, I know! I am not a psychologist or anything like that but I can tell you this: admitting to my kids that I am sad has not damaged them, rather it has enabled them to open up to me when they are going through a sad day.  And a sad day is something I can empathize with.

I would like to leave you with a verse that I just posted on facebook. Psalm 116: 1 & 2- “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.”

Christian friend, if you are having a down day today, I just want you to know that the Lord is rich in mercy and He hears you.  Much love.

Detours that Derail

I’m back.  I have not posted in quite some time and it was not my intention. I needed time to step away and process my sons recent Cerebral Palsy diagnosis.  Now I am ready to come back and continue to be a support for all of us dealing with depression.

You know when your driving and you come to a a “detour” sign.? What’s that feeling that hits??  Panic. Distrust.  Impatience.  Detours when driving are time consuming.  What’s more is that you really have to put your trust that the detour signs are going to put you back on the right path.  With my son’s diagnosis, I feel like I came across a detour, and like a real detour, I had to proceed in order to continue getting to where I need to be.  Only, for a time not only was I trying to navigate a detour, but it also derailed me.  I got stuck on the shoulder of the road, I got off track.  There I was on an unfamiliar road, broken down, trying to reach the right road.

At the time of Malachi’s diagnosis I remember thinking, “I don’t know what to do”.  I was also confused on how I should feel.  At first I had no feeling, I just took action.  Then, after a few days the feelings began to sink in.  What could I say to God? I couldn’t.  I could not talk to Him.  I was just so stunned.  How was I supposed to process the fact that my son, my beautiful baby boy, is disabled.  Oh I could comfort myself with a million things like: “He is so special, no matter what”, “God has a purpose and a plan for him”, “You will get through this you are so strong”. Those are GREAT things but honestly: I. DID. NOT. CARE.  What I wanted, what I really wanted, is what EVERY mom wants; a healthy, perfect,  normal child. I want to see my son sit, crawl, stand, walk, run, get married.  HOLD HIS OWN UTENSILS. Cerebral palsy is not the end of the world, but at that time, for me, it was the end of the illusion that my son would not face physical challenges.  And I was so disappointed in God.  In my minds eye, I saw Him standing over me having won the boxing match we were having.  I was defeated.  I was depressed. I was detoured and derailed.  Could I have enough faith?

In my heart of hearts I knew that God is sovereign, faithful, loving, kind, generous.  I knew He was crying and hurting with me.  I just could not bring myself to acknowledge Him.  The disappointment was like a lead foot bearing down on my heart.  All the while I knew I would get through it, I just did not know when it would happen.  I could not ignore God forever, I still loved Him, I still had faith, even though it was shaken.  So many people were praying for me and one day I got back on track.  I remembered a promise I made to God only a couple of months before.  Something happened (I can’t remember what) but it was significant enough for me to be disappointed in how I handled myself as a Christian.  I told God that when the next trial came, He would find me faithful.  God reminded me of that promise while I was processing my sons diagnosis.  More than anything I wanted to handle this trial with faith and trust in the Lord, holding His hand all the way.  And so upon the remembrance of that promise I stopped ignoring God and began to move forward in the detour.

Looking back I think I derailed because I wanted so much to stop the pain and hurt I was feeling.  I was unsuccessful.  The thing is, it made my detour even more lonely because I was broken down on the side of the road without my Great Comforter.  Depression is like that. So lonely.  Kind of like the quietest wide open space of nothingness.   It does not have to be like that.  There is the Lord, and really, he was standing with me all the time I just wasn’t talking to Him. He never left, in fact he was working hard to get my car back on the road.  And he did.  Not from my strength but from His almighty hand was I able to begin navigating again.  Thank you God.  I learned such a valuable lesson, it’s better to be stuck on the side of the road working with someone to get back on it, than stuck on the road being inactive. As humans we are bound to be derailed from time to time, but let us never forget that God is there too, willing to steer the car while we push start it.

I’m still on a detour, and as far as the “Malachi” portion of my life is concerned, I probably will always be in one.  I’m getting used to it, although it is still painful at times.  But now in my minds eye God is driving the car through the detour and I’m in the front seat.  We are drinking Coke and eating Twix and listening to Lecrae… and that is not so bad at all.

 

In the Dark there is Light- A poem

I don’t often write poems or decide to write one.  They come to me.  They are not eloquent and full of witty words but they often spill forth what I am feeling.  Last night one came to me.  My heart was overflowing with love for God, because when I think of all He has brought me through and what He is walking through with me I am so thankful. I want to share it because I know there are elements in this poem that I believe depressed people have felt before and I want you to be encouraged that the Lord IS there with you!

In the dark there is Light

O Lord I love you!

How can I fully express?

The days are sometimes so dark

But you are there, Your light spills forth in excess.

 

At times I feel I have nothing to grasp

Then I see you

I turn and you are there

I can’t describe it. You are Peace. You are Love. It is what you do.

 

How can I adequately explain the pit?

And how can I completely thank you for being there with me?

How could you go with me there?

You go so I won’t be  alone, You go to help me see.

 

You. I see you

When I am grasping and reaching and crying and clawing

It is a place I despise

And yet this dark place where you and I abide is a place of growing.

 

My heart wants to pour out thankfulness to you

Oh the grace and mercy you bestow on me each day!

The love you show me fills my heart overflowing!

And now Lord, continue in me I desperately pray!

 

The iron bolt can be unfastened

I can not take credit for any of the following goodness that is below me.  John Piper preached a sermon on Charles Spurgeon.  A particular portion of the sermon really touched my heart because it was about Spurgeon’s struggle with depression.  Charles Spurgeon, a famous preacher, who preached to about 10,000,000 people in his lifetime, suffered with depression.  I am confident that if God can use Spurgeon to reach people for him in the midst of depression then GOD CAN USE US! I think you will be able to identify GREATLY with some of the emotions he shares about his depression.  I urge you to read what I have copied in it’s entirety.  I have “highlighted” the parts that I LOVE.  If you would like to listen to or read the whole sermon you can find it here: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/biographies/charles-spurgeon-preaching-through-adversity.  I want to add a little aside that the Desiring God website is an excellent resource for Christians.

The final adversity I mention is the result of the others – Spurgeon’s recurrent battles with depression.

It is not easy to imagine the omni-competent, eloquent, brilliant, full-of-energy Spurgeon weeping like a baby for no reason that he could think of. In 1858, at age 24 it happened for the first time. He said, “My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for (see note 48).

“Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness … The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back (see note 49).”

He saw his depression as his “worst feature.” “Despondency,” he said, “is not a virtue; I believe it is a vice. I am heartily ashamed of myself for falling into it, but I am sure there is no remedy for it like a holy faith in God” (see note 50).

In spite of all these sufferings and persecutions Spurgeon endured to the end, and was able to preach mightily until his last sermon at the Tabernacle on June 7, 1891. So the question I have asked in reading this man’s life and work is,

How Did He Persevere and Preach Through This Adversity?

O, how many strategies of grace abound in the life of Spurgeon. My choices are very limited and personal. The scope of this man’s warfare, and the wisdom of his strategies were immense. Our time is short and we must be very selective. I begin with the issue of despondency and depression. If this one can be conquered, all the other forms of adversity that feet into it, will be nullified in their killing effect.

1. Spurgeon saw his depression as the design of God for the good of his ministry and the glory of Christ.

What comes through again and again is Spurgeon’s unwavering belief in the sovereignty of God in all his afflictions. More than anything else it seems, this kept him from caving in to the adversities of his life. He said,

“It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity” (see note 51).

This is exactly the opposite strategy of modern thought, even much evangelical thought, that recoils from the implications of infinity. If God is God he not only knows what is coming, but he knows it because he designs it. For Spurgeon this view of God was not first argument for debate, it was a means of survival.

Our afflictions are the health regimen of an infinitely wise Physician. He told his students,

“I dare say the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness … If some men, that I know of could only be favoured with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God’s grace mellow them marvelously” (see note 52).

He meant this mainly for himself. Though he dreaded suffering and would willingly avoid it, he said,

I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable ... Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library (see note 53).

He saw three specific purposes of God in his struggle with depression. The first is that it functioned like the apostle Paul’s thorn to keep him humble lest he be lifted up in himself. He said the Lord’s work is summed up in these words:

‘Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.‘ Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker … Those who are honoured of their Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil” (see note 54).

The second purpose of God in his despondency was the unexpected power it gave to his ministry:

“One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, ‘My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?’ and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, ‘I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.’ By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge … You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds” (see note 55).

The third design of his depression was what he called a prophetic signal for the future. This has given me much encouragement in my own situation.

“This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison” (see note 56).

I would say with Spurgeon that in the darkest hours it is the sovereign goodness of God that has given me the strength to go on—the granite promise that he rules over my circumstances and means it for good no matter what anyone else means.

God CAN use it and He will use it if you let Him! Maybe even 10,000,000 people!

 

The Preparation Process

When I went through Basic Training for the Air Force, my Grandmama sent me an excerpt from a book by Charles Swindoll.  The wisdom of the words that God gave him have stuck with me ever since.

“How does the servant of God cope when the bottom drops out?  I have found great help from two truths:

Nothing touches me that has not passed through the hands of my heavenly father.  Nothing.  Whatever occurs, God has sovereignly surveyed and approved. We may not know why (we may never know why), but we do know our pain is no accident to Him who guides our lives.

Everything I endure is designed to prepare me for serving others more effectively.  Everything.  Since my heavenly Father is committed to shaping me into the image of His Son, He knows the ultimate value of this painful experience  It is a necessary part of the preparation process.  It is being used to empty our hands of our own resources, our own sufficiency, and turn us back to Him- the faithful Provider.”

-Charles Swindoll- Improving Your Serve

As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. Psalm 103:11

Are these words difficult for you to read or encouraging?  It is sometimes hard to imagine that a loving God would knowingly have us endure hardship.  Many times I have thought “Lord what is your purpose for me being depressed?  I know you desire me to have joy.”  Or if it is not depression you can fill-in-the-blank:  abuse of any kind, death of loved ones, serious illnesses, the list is long.  Here is what I have learned GOD LOVES YOU and God is going to use what you have been through to help others if you are willing to step out on faith.  Our suffering as Christians is for a little while, soon, we will be in heaven with the Lord, Jesus Christ.  Let’s use what we have been going through for the Glory of God

 

Romans 5:3-5

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

A lonely battle no more

“Hi, how are doing?” Your friend asks you at church.  You were just in the bathroom crying, for what, you don’t know and now a pang of anxiety seems to be suffocating you, but you see your friend, and not wanting to disappoint you smile brightly and say, “I’m doing good, how are you?”  You continue in your conversation with your friend about life, family, church, ministry and all the while your heart is breaking.  In your head you are saying “If only she REALLY knew.”  The frustration mounts and you continue to have a “glossy” conversation.  It happened just last week.  It was a conversation, a thought, an insecurity, or nothing at all that triggered your depression and now you feel as if you are in a waiting room.  You are waiting for a good day; because when they come, it is oh so good.  Meanwhile this waiting room is very lonely because it is just you and you have locked the door.  You don’t let anyone see the sad day because it is embarrassing, shameful, sad etc… you fill in the blank of what it is.  “How long will it last?”, you think.  “How many more fake smiles and hidden tears? And how many more times will I ask God to take this cup from me?”. Those of us who are depressed can be surrounded by family and friends and still be so lonely, because many of us are fighting alone.

You do not have to fight alone.

Since Christmas I have been trudging with the Lord through some depression and anxiety.  Today while I was riding through the village on my bike from bible study I was reminded of a passage of scripture that I have been turning over and over in my head tonight.

John 14:27- Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This is Jesus Christ speaking to his disciples right before his arrest, and in this verse he is talking about leaving the Holy Spirit with them.  Ladies, if you are a Christ follower, you have the Holy spirit, if you have the Holy spirit then you have an overflowing reservoir of peace. A key phrase in this verse is “not as the world gives”, don’t miss this.  What things do you look for to give you “peace” in the middle of depression? Approval from others, a shopping trip, laughter? I have tried to seek peace in all of those areas.  Today the Lord reminded me that I only need the peace that the Holy Spirit can give because everything else is so unstable.  God is never changing; He is the same yesterday, today and FOREVER. This peace may not be what you expect.  Perhaps you expect your depression or anxiety to leave in an instant, it could, God CAN do that; but what if it does not?  What if God gives us peace in the midst of depression?  Wow.  What does that look like? 

One way is honesty. Honesty with family and close friends in admitting how you really feel. Honesty with the Lord. Telling God what is on your mind, He already knows. Ask for the power of His Holy Spirit to make it through the day. Honesty with yourself. It’s difficult to pretend to be happy when you are not.  It is okay to be sad sometimes, it’s an emotion.  Allow yourself moments where you can be genuine about how you feel. Here is a portion of Psalm 102 that shows this very thing:

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!

For my days pass away like smoke,
    and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
    I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
    my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
    like an owl[a] of the waste places;
I lie awake;
    I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
    those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
    and mingle tears with my drink,
1because of your indignation and anger;
    for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
My days are like an evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.

I encourage you to read the whole Psalm.  This Psalmist was honest with the Lord and with himself.

Being honest brings peace because you can finally be who you are.  You don’t have to stuff and hide.  You don’t have to fight alone.  When people know that you are struggling they can help or be sensitive.  When you run to the Lord with your struggles He will Lead [you] to the rock that is higher than [you] Psalm 62:3.  He is your refuge, your strong tower, invite Him to be that for you.  He delights in you when you hope in Him: But the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 147:11

Unlock the door to the waiting room, God wants to come in.

How does God give you peace in the midst of depression?


First thing’s first, seek Godly counsel

James 5:16- Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Ephesians 4:1-6- I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

For many years I relied on myself to get me through my depression.  At that time I did not even know that depression was what I was dealing with. I sought help here and there realizing that something was “wrong” but I never had constant, steady help.  It was only six months ago when I finally got the help I needed. WOW!  What a difference it makes!  My counselor and I meet in a rather unconventional way, through Skype.  I am a missionary overseas and so is she. Weekly we have our sessions over the computer and she is also available to me through email and even Facebook chat. I tell you this because being counseled by someone does not necessarily mean laying on a couch or a chaise lounge and pouring your heart out. Yes, that is one method, but, you have to choose a way that works for you, or else you will never do it. Get rid of the cliches and be comfortable.

It is vital that the person counseling us is a Christian. There are probably many great therapists out there that are not Christians. They give great advice, have anabundant amount of knowledge, but they lack an important ingredient: a relationship with Jesus Christ; and Jesus is who we are trying to emulate.  When everything fails to satisfy us, when we are at our lowest, Jesus is all satisfying.

2 Corinthians 6:14- Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

James 3:17-  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Does the counselor have to be a therapist? Not necessarily, it depends on your needs.  In my opinion I think it is good to seek out a professional.  When your car breaks down, you take it to the mechanic, when you get the flu you go to the doctor.  We do these things because we trust the mechanic and the doctor know what they are doing.  Same with a counselor, they are trained to handle our emotional needs and it is so nice to speak to someone outside our circle; someone who can look at our situation with fresh eyes.  Most importantly though, it MUST be someone you can trust.  I had a counselor before that I did not feel comfortable with, instead of finding a new one, I simply stopped going.  What I should have done was continue the search until I found someone I felt I could trust completely.  I now have that person.  I trust her implicitly.  I can tell her when I have hit my rock bottom or when my sin nature rears it’s ugly head. Guess what?  She still loves and accepts me for who I am.  She prays with me and points me to Jesus when the days get dark.  She rejoices with me when the Holy Spirit does a work in my life.  Through the tears and the hard times there is always time to laugh, and I do, and that is gold.

Ladies, God gave us other Christians so that we can encourage one another. Give yourself the gift of encouragement.  Take care of yourself and use Godly wisdom and counsel.

I Thessilonians 5:7- Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Galatians 6:2- Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

When joy becomes something we cling to

Have you ever felt like you are grasping for joy?  I have.  Have you ever felt guilty for feeling anxious or depressed because you are a Christian and you are not supposed to feel that way?  I have.  Are you involved in ministry in any way shape or form and love your ministry and what God has given you to do and yet sometimes feel deep sadness? I do.  In the dark moments, the times when you feel as if you just want to sit and cry for hours, is it possible to find joy in the Lord even in the midst of depression? It is. My name is Melissa Bjorgen and I struggle with depression.  I have battled depression and anxiety since I have been a little girl; although it has only been recently that I have become aware that this is something I will struggle with the rest of my life.  I am determined not to allow it to RULE my life.

This blog is for the depressed Christian woman.  You are pastors wives, women’s ministry leaders, children’s ministry coordinators, missionaries, servants in the church, stay-at-home-moms, working moms, women in the corporate world, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders.  You are women who are marked deeply by a very painful and private battle.  A battle you feel has to be fought alone because Christian women and women in ministry are not “supposed” to be depressed or anxious.  You love the Lord, you have devoted your life to Him, you seek His face, and yet, the dark days are overwhelming.  The “bad days” creep in and you scramble and pray and look and hope for a “good day”.  If you are like me you have spent much time wondering, “Why can’t I just be happy in the Lord?” “Why isn’t God enough?”.  Tough questions beloved ladies.  These are the questions that I hope to explore on this blog.

One thing I want to spread is JOY.  We can be joyful in the midst of depression.  I believe it is possible.  Not the kind of earthly joy that is so temporal, but an ever lasting joy, a joy that can only come from  the Lord.  Nehemiah 8:10b says, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  I want this blog to glorify God even when depression hits.  I want us to turn to the source of true and lasting joy, Jesus Christ.  Let’s cling to the Joy of the Lord.

How can you help?  Please suggest this blog to anyone you know that is a Christian woman who struggles with depression.  This is a place for them to come and feel refreshed and supported from someone who knows what it is to struggle with depression.  There is a place below this blog to subscribe by e-mail.  Help me get the word out!  Also, you can follow me on twitter under “joyunspeakable5″.

There is hope in Jesus!  Let’s discover it together :-).