Monday, March 23, 2009

"An Untroubled Heart," Chapter 1

Welcome to our "Yes to God Tuesdays" study. We are starting our new book "An Untroubled Heart," by Micca Campbell. If you want to join us, come on over to Lelia's site to sign up, or just to find the other blogs, and follow along with us, reading our posts. As Lelia says, you don't need to have a blog to do the study. Just leave comments on our blogs, or on Lelia's. Your insights are valuable to us all!

Chapter 1: When the Unthinkable Happens

I don't know about you, but one of the things that I have been fighting in my life is fear. I always have. Whether it was fear of rejection by loved ones or peers; fear of failure; fear of being alone; fear of intimacy; fear of fear itself (!!); fear has been a companion. I never really realized just how strong it was. At least not until more recently.

I have found that as I have tried to deal with depression, I also have a generalized anxiety that is almost a constant companion. There are times when I can push it to the back of my head. There are times when it doesn't trouble me at all, or that I am able to identify it, and rather than ignore it, deal with it, or use some of the techniques my counselor gave me to combat its effects and calm myself. There are times though when it does plague me. Anxiety build to fear, and becomes if not overwhelming, at least the main focus, rather than God.

There have been times in this past year that have overwhelmed me with fear. Times where I could barely function. Those have been pretty terrible, but usually I could identify what I was afraid of, whether it was dealing with a situation in my present, or dealing with the emotions of something from my past.

But I think the time that I can identify as being the most afraid and alone was the summer of 2007. I had been struggling with depression, but it was getting more and more severe... to the point of finally giving in and starting to try anti-depressants.

The days just got darker. I felt more isolated from others and God. It didn't help me to know that there were others who struggled with depression too. I didn't feel any better to know that there were a few people close to me who knew what I was struggling with. I was going through it, and there was no real way for someone else to join me in it.

By the end of that summer I was living in such pain.

I was so lonely.
I was so afraid.

I was so deep into the darkness.

I felt like nothing touched me; no words could reach me; no light could penetrate the suffocating blackness around me.

I had never felt such complete isolation before. I had never been so cold, and so alone, and so terrified.

My life was shredding at the seams and I didn't know how to stop it. I was losing my husband, my children, my family and my friends, and there was nothing I could do.

Looking back now, I can see God's hands all over me. I didn't see Him then. I couldn't see Him then. I couldn't hear His voice calling to me. I couldn't hear His words flooding over me. Someone would pray with me, for me, and I would briefly feel a release of peace over me, and a release of tears emotionally, but then I would be back in the deep, watching the waters close over my head. I would sink back down to the depths and just long for death to take me.

God took me instead.

Through a series of circumstances, I ended up in counseling. Early on, one of the things my counselor challenged me to do was read Psalm 139. I ended up memorizing it.

She wanted me to see my value and worth. How well known by God I was, and that if He knit me together, I was made the way He wanted me, and all His works are wonderful.

But she also wanted me to see just what Micca said here.
"No matter what our emotions or circumstances may say, the truth is there is nowhere we can go to escape God's presence. Though it might not feel like it or look like it, God is always near."

It took a long time for that to sink into me.


Even now I am tempted to look at my hard places, and start to feel that fear, the "alone-ness" of it all, and start to despair. The problems, the pain, the disappointments, the frustrations, the anger all mount up. As they mount up, I knuckle under. I falter. I fail. I fall.

Many times I end up on my face. Too many of those times I am on my face in the dirt, wallowing in depression and despair. Too many times I won't look up, even that inch, to see the tips of His fingers in my field of vision.

The tips of His fingers.
His hand.
Reaching out.

Reaching out to me, to lift me up and to carry my load.

If only in the very beginning, when the problems are starting to weigh heavy on my shoulders, I would drop everything at His feet. If only I would be able to not only know with my head, but believe in my heart that He is there. That He always will be.

It is starting to sink in, but oh, is it a slow process. I must have a thick skull, because I seem to have to keep learning the same lessons over and over and over again!

Micca said,
"It calms my uncertainties to know that God's help is at hand immediately. It isn't a future help, nor is it available only when I'm worthy of God's help. No, it is a present help. God's help is available the moment we humble ourselves and cry out to Him."

And that's it right there. My pride gets in the way. My "self" finds it very hard to ask for help, to look to assistance from someone. And when I am "forced" to, I find it so much easier to go to a friend, rather than God. Why is that?

Maybe because I have seen enough pain in my relationship with Him... (pain, by the way, caused by my own straying or the straying of others, not caused by Him, though allowed by Him) ...that pain has caused me to be less trusting of Him. I am more likely to trust someone I haven't been hurt by, so therefore I turn to someone I can see, a friend, instead.

But how backwards is that? It's another sign of the lies the enemy has been planting in my head for so long. The enemy hasn't wanted me to see that it was my sin, or the sin of others, and my bitterness that was causing me pain. He wanted me to believe it was God causing me the pain.

Slowly, a little bit at a time, I have been rooting out that lie, and many others this year or so.

A little bit at a time, I have found it easier to trust Him. A little bit at a time, I have been learning that there is a purpose for painful trials, and that I can rejoice at their eventual outcome. A purification process for me, my faith, and a deeper dependence on my God.

With Micca I am learning "that joy can be found in the midst of heartache and fearful times."

That doesn't mean that it is always easy or fun. It isn't
That doesn't mean that it will never hurt. It does.
That doesn't mean that I will be happy every day. I won't.

It does mean that if I put my focus on the right thing, I can find joy. If I stop focusing on the terrible circumstances I may be in, and instead fix my gaze on Him, the author and perfecter of my faith, there will be a difference in how I handle things.

I may still weep about the things that cause me pain. I may still find myself treading those dark waters. But instead of despairing, and fearing I will never get out of the pain; instead of taking the easy way and let the dark waters suck me down to the depths; instead I need to look to Him.

I have some choices to make, even in the midst of great pain, fear, and "alone-ness."

  1. I have to make a conscious decision to focus on God, not the circumstances or my emotions.
  2. I have to make a conscious decision to see the end result, rather than the painful beginnings.
  3. I have to make a conscious decision to cooperate with the purification process rather than hinder it.
And also very important:
  1. I have to want to be healed more than I want to live in the pit.
  2. I have to want to be mature and complete more than I want to live the easy life.

The easy life will leave me with limp arms, weak legs, and the ability of child to handle traumatic circumstances.

If I continue to choose God's path, it won't be the easy life. Look at the life Jesus led.

But, it will be a rewarding one. Even in the face of incredible loss, pain, and fear Jesus continued His terrible path to Calvary. In the end He has been glorified with His Father

I had a choice to make when I went into counseling. Was I going to work at it? Was I willing to do what it took to face the pain, to get through it so that God could help me grow and mature?

I did make that choice, and I did persevere through counseling.

Now in my daily life I need to make that choice again and again. Am I going to "do" this thing? Am I going to face the painful trials even now, the things that can hurt and wound deeply?

I think part of my scripture memory verse from 3-1-09 says it all.

Hebrews 10:36
"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."

I will close with one last quote from Micca.
"When you and I can look to the end result of what our testing is accomplishing, then we can find joy in the midst of it. Ultimately, when adversity has its way, we mature. we change from victim to victor! That, my friend, is a huge gain." (emphasis mine)


Clay Feet said...

I am so glad to read your posts every time and to have you as a friend. As I read this one I couldn't help but think of Elijah begging God to just take him out and let him die. He was so filled with fear and depression that I think it was more clear than any other example I can think of. But God instead nurtured him, fed him, re-instructed him to remind him how to listen to God effectively and then took him out in a very unexpected way - a chariot ride through space. What an end to a story about depression, huh?

Lelia Chealey said...

Hey BLOGGER!! :) Great post Heather. God has just brought you so far in the year I've known you & I am so proud of you. Keep cooperating with Him my dear friend, for He has nothing but greatness planned for you. Don't believe me? Read Jeremiah 29:11-12 & personalize it! :)
Loved what you wrote here:
If only in the very beginning, when the problems are starting to weigh heavy on my shoulders, I would drop everything at His feet. If only I would be able to not only know with my head, but believe in my heart that He is there. That He always will be.

Keep pressing forward Heather!
Thanks for being such an encouragement to me.

Paula said...

Hi Heather...a wonderful post, and, once again, a lot there that I can relate too. This journey is an amazing one, and we are blessed to now be learning to look to the joy when the trial starts. Even when we are face down in the dirt and wanting to give in, we can now do that with a smile knowing that we're about to get back up, look up, and keep moving forward. Love ya, P :-)

Carol said...

Hi Heather,

What powerful words you shared with us. I believe God is going to do some more work in us with this book as well they always seems so timely don't they.

Your lifelong companion fear really made me think, about how much we seem to cling to it. Then your openess of how you run to a friend instead of God. I love how honest you are in your posts.

When you wrote this "The enemy hasn't wanted me to see that it was my sin, or the sin of others, and my bitterness that was causing me pain. He wanted me to believe it was God causing me the pain" It really caught me, it's so true.

I'm so amazed by the way you've grown just in the short time I've known you. You are an amazing person.

Love you,

Tammy said...

Thank you for sharing your heart,what a beautiful post.
I love this:

The tips of His fingers.
His hand.
Reaching out.

Reaching out to me, to lift me up and to carry my load.

Keeping our eyes on Jesus doesn't give us time to look at our's something my mom taught me.

In His Grace,
Tammy~thanks for dropping by.

Tina said...

There is such depth to what God is doing in your life. I am amazed to see so clearly our mighty God in your life. God is using it to His glory, you are faithful and He will continue to lift you up. Because you have turned to Him I can be encouraged and lifted up as well. Please know that your pain has not been in vain, we don't always get to see the big picture but God certainly blesses us from time to time with bits and pieces of His glory as he paints. I feel privileged to be a witness to your story