Joy In the Dark
I haven’t blogged in three months.
I would love to say that’s because we’ve been super busy. And we have been. But that’s not the real reason I haven’t blogged.
The real reason is that I have struggled with depression for the last few months.
Yes, depression. Yes, me, the girl who has the most incredible, blessed life and yet still feels a darkness and despair in the deepest places of her heart sometimes.
It’s a darkness that comes on so subtly but then won’t let go or go away. It moves in and makes itself at home, hovering over me and slowly stealing the joy in my days.
It makes me irritable toward my family. It breeds a discontentment that runs so deep no momentary high can overcome it. It immobilizes me in a way that looks so like laziness that I almost can’t tell the two apart.
Because of the subtle ways depression affects my behavior, it is difficult to immediately identify it. It’s the underground (and thus unseen) root of all these behaviors, and it takes a determined digging to the deep places of my heart to see it for what it is.
And I’ve found that I can’t just “uproot” it by sheer will power like some cliches and quotes indicate. “Choose Joy” sounds beautiful on paper, but I know from experience that it doesn’t work for depression. A mere choice will never soothe deep, lingering pain. It might work for momentary inconveniences and minor disappointments, but will power alone cannot overcome the power of the darkness, or else we would not have needed Jesus.
So what do we do when we find ourselves in deep darkness?
Psalm 30 is a song of praise for deliverance, and though deliverance was often a physical or military need in Biblical times, deliverance will always be needed because of the unchanging darkness of this world.
David said, As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I will never be moved’ (Psalm 30:6, NASB). How easy it is to proclaim joy and strength in prosperity as David did! When prosperity abounds, so does our praise.
But our praise appears hollow to the world if we never have to praise Him in the pit of darkness and despair. Pain authenticates praise, producing the purest form of joy.
And so, there are times that He allows us to be in the pit, an invitation to wait for His help. It is not because He savors our suffering. It is because He is a God who delights to deliver.
He longs to loosen our sackcloth and gird us with gladness.
He looks forward to lifting our heads from mourning and gently standing us up to dance with Him once again.
And this is why David could confidently say, Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5, NASB).
The way to find joy in the dark is to hope for the dawn.
It’s more than okay to need the Holy Spirit to produce the joy that you can’t simply choose. In fact, when you are desperately hoping for the lovingkindness of the Lord, His Word says that you are the object of His attention.
The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men;
From His dwelling place He looks out
On all the inhabitants of the earth,
He who fashions the hearts of them all,
He who understands all their works.
The king is not saved by a mighty army;
A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a false hope for victory;
Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
To deliver their soul from death
And to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart rejoices in Him,
Because we trust in His holy name.
Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,
According as we have hoped in You.
(Psalm 33:13-22, NASB)
His lovingkindness comes upon us as we hope in Him.
But it doesn’t always come right away. God didn’t make the sun rise in my heart for many months, and that’s because He was doing a specific work in me: perseverance produces character, and character, hope (Romans 5:4 NASB). Real hope. The kind that is not fleeting or wishful in nature. But the kind that endures in all circumstances and at all times.
Hope is not in a hurry. It does not need to see to believe. It does not need to feel to believe. It is convinced because it is based on the belief that God’s Word is true simply because He spoke it.
Even if we don’t find hope on this side of eternity, we can be confident we will have everything we hope for and more when the dawn of Eternal Day comes, when the Light of the World calls us home and there will be no more night, the darkness forever defeated when it dies its final death.
Hope is confident that Light will always break forth and that those who trust in the Light will be made whole in His presence.
Sweet friend, if you find that choosing joy is literally impossible due to the overwhelming darkness you are facing, release yourself from the weight of striving to manufacture joy.
Instead, place your hope in the God who produces the purest of joys in the darkest of nights. Find rest as you actively hope, confident that God will keep His promise to fill you with joy the morning.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13, NASB).
God, we praise You for You are the One who delights to deliver. We trust that Your eyes are on us as we hope for Your lovingkindess. We will not look to the false hopes in this world, instead we will look to the only Hope, the Light of the world. We know that try as it may, the darkness cannot overcome the light. As we walk in the darkness of earth, may Your Light produce the purest of joys in our hearts.
Note: It is always important to say that those who struggle with depression can and should reach out for help when necessary. One of the ways we actively hope is to seek counsel from others who are professionally trained to help us. It does not make us weak; it’s indicative of true strength.