The Little White Pill

Some days I loathe it. Other days I nearly weep with gratitude for it. Strange dichotomy.

Every time I look at that little white pill in my palm, I am overcome with an odd mix of emotions. pillWhen I was diagnosed with depression in 2002, I was desperate for relief from the dark shroud that had blanketed my mind and heart. A shroud I had brought on myself as I lived year after year stuck in the vicious cycle of people-pleasing and perfectionism. I had exhausted every resource to try to keep others happy, to win their approval and what I hoped would be their love. I was wrong. (This is not to say all depression stems from these issues. Depression is multi-faceted and has a wide array of causes and triggers. Check out my book Hollow Victory for a more in-depth look at depression.) hollow victory

When my doctor suggested medication to ease my physical symptoms, I balked. I was a Christian. Wasn’t medication a sign of weakness for a girl who claims to trust God? Perhaps I was still in denial. Maybe taking a pill would make the diagnosis much more real than I cared to admit. Confusion battered my mind and heart. I had heard well-meaning believers condemning others who sought medical help for their depression, throwing out their careless barbs and accusations with frightening speed.

“You should just trust God more.”

“You shouldn’t get down.”

“If you’ll read this scripture, you should feel better.

All those ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ wreaked havoc with my peace of mind. That is, until God revealed this beautiful truth to my heart: grace is greater than all the times I fall short of the ‘shoulds’. I’m a mess but I don’t have to pretend to be something other than who I am. God knew I would fail in and of myself. That’s why He sent a Savior.

god's grace is bigger

Depression is just as physical as it is emotional and spiritual. Would we dare accuse a person with bad eyesight of “not trusting God” if he chose to wear glasses before slipping behind the driver’s wheel? Do we shun and disparage the diabetic for taking insulin? Or the heart patient for using beta blockers? Depression is no different. Serotonin and other chemicals are out of whack and need to be replaced.

Do I believe in gobbling down pills as the end all and be all? No, absolutely not. Taking medication allows me to deal with the physical symptoms as I lean on the Holy Spirit to reveal any emotional or spiritual issues that have become roots of trouble. And for some, there is no discernible cause for their depression. Bodies just don’t work like they are supposed to. We are living in a broken world with frail bodies. Eyesight fails. Thyroid levels fluctuate. Skin looses its elasticity. And yes, even Christians can get depressed. (Look at Elijah, David and Job if you don’t believe me.) depression not a terrible christian

Speaking for myself, I’m glad I listened and took the medication. My husband and children needed me at my best, not mere shadows of myself. It was a God-given tool to help ease physical symptoms and replenish my body of the chemicals it needed so I could focus on the work of discovering why I was depressed. Thanks to God’s gentle love, He tenderly revealed the wounds I carried inside and healed me in profound ways. He’s healing me still.

Fast forward to the present. I am in a much better place these days. My walk with God is vibrant. I know the warning signs of depression and have a proactive plan in place to combat the cycles that once pulled me down. So why can’t I function without that little white pill?

Last week, as I was bemoaning my dependency on it, I cried out to God in frustration. “Why? Why do I still need this? Why can’t I live and laugh without it? Must I forever carry the scars of 2002 with me?”

He spoke to me swiftly, His voice a gentle whisper as He impressed this thought into my heart. What if you no longer needed this medicine? Would you forget? Would you forget what I’ve brought you through? Would you forget what that black place feels like? Would you be able to help others struggling with the same issues if your heart grows numb to the pain you once suffered? Little One, this reminds you to be dependent on me. It keeps you from repeating the mistakes you once made, living to please people instead of seeking My heart. My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness. weak and strong

I’m trying not to look at that little white pill as a chain any longer. It’s a tool, a reminder of the compassionate way He led me through the darkness to find hope and joy in Him again. Kind of like Jonah and his fish. Being swallowed by a fish wasn’t Jonah’s punishment for running away. No, that fish was grace. From the dark, sour confines of its belly, God captured Jonah’s attention and redirected his life into victory. Depression was my fish of grace.

Thank you, God, for Your mercy. For Your love. For being with me, even when I can’t feel You. I know You’re there—guiding, revealing and loving me, despite myself.

Sometimes, I still need reminding.

Have you battled a time of depression? What ‘shoulds’ have you heard about depressed Christians? How has God used something traumatic to catch your attention? What did you learn?

 

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Taking the Anger Out of Interruptions

“Mom, I need help.”

Hearing that plea several times a day is sweet. Endearing. After all, I’m Mom and that’s what I’m here for. I hesitantly confess when it becomes a continual, whiny plea of frustrated, disgruntled children, I begin to lose my cool.

I sit down to eat and my son spills his drink. I’m steadily typing away on a book project and my girls decide they cannot even fathom how to work their math problem without having me stand over their shoulder. A knock on the door during nap time. The jarring ring of the cell phone when the entire house is a tornado of barking dogs, screaming kids and burning dinner. Spills, arguments, needy people. do not disturb

I admit, some days the interruptions drive me crazy.

After a particularly trying day, I plopped down on the couch and contemplated running away, or, at least, hiding in the bathroom. I couldn’t focus on the work before me because of the continual stream of disturbances. I like having a plan. I’m a scheduled-oriented chick. I like spontaneity but only if I can scratch it into my calendar first. Despite my growing irritation, I felt a niggle of guilt at my escalating anger when I couldn’t accomplish what I’d set out to do. After all, it’s not my kids’ fault when they need help. That’s their job—learning through a process of failures.

Stretched out on that sagging couch and rubbing my aching temples, God revealed the reason for my guilt, piercing my heart in the process. Interruptions cause anger when I value the task more than the person doing the interrupting.

Yikes.

When I’m consumed with my plan, my work, my schedule and my check list, I leave no room or flexibility for God to shift me into His plans for the day.

detour

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” ~Proverbs 16:9

Every great hero of faith in God’s Word was faced with life-changing, fear-producing, bone-jarring interruptions. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Elisha, Job, Esther, Jeremiah, Jonah, Paul, the disciples and Mary—only to name a few. What if they had refused to change their schedule? What if they had stubbornly dug in their heels and rejected God’s call away from their well-ordered lives? I wince to think of the outcome.

Whenever I snap in anger to an interruption, every time I complain about the things I’m not getting done, I need to remember God has ordered my steps for that day. I might be under the illusion that I’m calling the shots, but really, He’s the one in control. I’m slowly learning to let go of my to-do lists and trade them in for a to-be list. Be like Jesus. Pour all my love and energy into those precious lives He’s entrusted to me for a season. Life is really about relationships anyway. Everything else is a bonus. interruptions

As I sit here in the airport, typing my thoughts, a crackling voice announces a message over the intercom.

“The American Airlines flight to Little Rock is now delayed.”

Irony.

Are you a planner? How do you handle interruptions? What is your reaction when life, or God, throws you an unexpected curve ball?

Plot Twist!

“Plot twist!”

It’s what I yell out in the middle of a chaotic day. It’s what I mutter to myself when I’ve blocked off writing time only to discover my three year old has found a sharpie and is chasing the cat through the house threatening to give him a new fur-do. “Plot twist” is what I choke out with a cringe when I’m scheduled to speak at an event but sense the tell-tale signs of a migraine screaming in to ruin the day. “Plot twist” is what I sigh when the checking account is too low for comfort, or when my children have a melt-down or when a loved one receives an unwelcome diagnosis.

plot twist

Life has a way of throwing our good intentions right out the window…if we let it.

For years I thought that to write, my little nest had to be in order first: the floors swept, the dishes washed, the kids quietly working on some James Dobson-approved project. When all was quiet, when all was calm, then I would be able to sit down to my laptop and pour out my heart.

It hasn’t happened yet.

Likewise, some of us say we can’t be used by God until we get our act together, until our children stop rebelling, until our finances are secure, when our health is better or when we’ve figured out the reason for our own hot-mess cycles of behaviors and mistakes.

The problem? If we wait to be used by God, to yield to him only when our life is perfect, it will never happen.

life roller coaster

The Mayberry mentality is not realistic. We may have good days here and there, days that trick us into thinking every day should flow as smoothly, but the majority of the time life throws us curve ball after curve ball. Plot twists and changes. And then what do we do? Wait for perfection before we live our life? Do we wait for everything to be rosy before we get on with kingdom work?

That’s not what God says is going to happen.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] -John 16:33 AMP

The good news is, God meets us in our chaos. When we are at our most strung-out and overwhelmed, that is when He shows himself strong.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2

Even though some days I fight against the uncomfortable sensation of being stretched, I have found I’m actually better at writing when I embrace the chaos, because that is where God takes over. Who wouldn’t want the Author of Life guiding the words flowing from heart to pen? And those days when there are so many unexpecteds that I’m scanning the horizon for a plague of locusts to arrive? God fills the gap between my weakness and my need. Not for my glory, but for His. when you pass through deep waters

“…for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My loving kindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively]in [your] weakness.” ~2 Corinthians 12:7-9 AMP

Embrace the uncomfortable. Lean in to those plot twists, for that is where God shows Himself strong. He’s not “just enough”. He’s more than enough.

Have you ever told yourself God can’t use you until _____________…? Have you been frustrated searching for the perfect day, the perfect time, or the perfect life that never arrives? How has God met you in your need and showed Himself powerful in your life?

 

Is Your Heart Stamped ‘Condemned’?

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” ~Mother Teresa

Close your eyes. I want you to picture this in your mind. You stand staring at a condemned house. Weeds and ivy have taken over the land. Broken glass litters the ground. A window in front is boarded shut with splintered wood. The windows upstairs are broken and dark. The roof is caving in and the entire structure is in shambles. Everything about the house resembles death, darkness, danger and broken dreams.

abandoned shack 4

And across the front door, a sign is hung: Keep Out.

Some might view this scene as depressing. Others may find it intriguing or even a tad romantic. What could possibly have led to such a sad sight? What was the story behind the old house?

Speaking for myself, it overwhelms my heart with sadness. It represents the death of dreams, of life, of light. A condemned house smacks of something precious that was slowly and painfully destroyed, whether intentionally or through neglect. keep out sign

Do you know what is even more upsetting? Many of us have hung a ‘condemned’ sign over our own hearts.

Condemnation Defined

According to Merriam Webster, ‘condemned’ is defined as:

*to pronounce guilty

*to adjudge unfit for use or consumption

I think the related words are even more descriptive: attackblame, criticize, faultbelittle, deprecatedoomconvictcursedetesthate, revile.

Are you overwhelmed with fear? Insecurity? Do you feel like you never measure up? Maybe you’ve struggled for years with depression, grief, people-pleasing, addiction or anxiety. Maybe you’ve been sexually or emotionally abused. Maybe there is something in your past that you know God has forgiven you for but you just can’t forgive yourself.

If you feel ‘stuck’ in this same rut of struggle and helplessness, you may have a ‘condemned’ sign hanging on your heart.

The Condemned List checklist

Have you ever told yourself any of these things?

__ Why can’t I stop these bad habits?

__ I’m a pathetic Christian.

__ I feel useless.

__ I don’t read my Bible enough or pray enough.

__ I don’t see how God could truly love me.

__ If others knew the real me, they wouldn’t love me.

__ I just need to try harder.

__ It’s easier to keep to myself than open up to others.

__ Loving people is too risky.

__ I’m not good enough.

__ Compared to ______________, I’m terrible.

Whether we realize it or not, these ‘self-talks’ can be one of the subtle forms of condemnation.

The Two Types of Condemned Houses

Condemned houses can take two different forms: the scare-away or the fake-out.

insecurityThe scare-away house is the one mentioned in the start of this section. It’s openly condemned and looks to be in shambles. Signs are plastered all over it warning people the imminent danger of approaching. In the same way, a scare-away heart is the person who feels so unworthy that they live in fear and dwell on their past mistakes or they are so terrified of opening themselves to others that they hang the ‘keep out’ sign in front. They appear cranky and unlovable as a way to protect their hearts.

The fake-out house is a little trickier. It may actually look pretty good on the outside. But the inside, oh mercy! It’s structurally unsound. There are massive holes in the dry wall. An engineer could come through and fill up an entire clipboard full of problems in every corner. However, the public and the real estate agent may miss it because of the fresh paint covering the walls and the warm cookies on the counter. perfect house

The fake-out heart bears little difference from the scare-away heart except that it keeps its pain carefully hidden, coated in pretty paint and good works but broken inside.

And when a house is condemned, what happens? It’s no longer habitable and is scheduled for destruction.

So how do we become condemned?

I think they are two sources that make us feel condemned: Satan and ourselves.

Satan is an accuser. A liar. And a gigantic pain.

“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” ~John 8:44 liar

When you learn to recognize the weeds of his lies, it will be easier to refuse them a place to grow in your heart. Satan uses accusations like ‘you are worthless and filthy’. He will tell us we are not pleasing to God. He tells us our sin is unforgivable. In fact, he will keep bringing those shameful memories up over and over again. Sometimes he even uses other people to do it.

Understand something, my friend: Jesus will never tell you what a loser you are.

When the devil condemns us let us remember he is a liar through and through (John 8:44).

I can hear the question rolling around inside you. “But, Tara, I’m not perfect. Obviously, I mess up. I’m human. God doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin. So where does that come in?” That’s why we’re going to discuss the difference between condemnation and conviction.

So what’s the difference between condemnation and conviction?

Condemnation is from the enemy. Conviction is from God. The difference can be found in the purpose between the two.

Let’s make a list to contrast them.

Condemnation                                   Conviction

Comes from Satan                              Comes from Holy Spirit

Intends to tear you down.                  Exposes with purpose of lifting up and setting free

Focuses on self                                                Focuses on God

Points out failures                                           Points out hope and forgiveness

Avoids the solution                                         Jesus: “Come to me.”

guilt, shame                                                     Godly sorrow to lead to repentance

Simply put, condemnation points out all your problems but conviction shows you the answer in love. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin but Satan attacks our worth.

The enemy wants you to wallow in despair, insecurity and unworthiness. Why? Because when you do, you are rendered ineffective for Jesus and the plans He has for your life.

B: Ourselves

Oftentimes, we heap guilt and expectations on ourselves, for no other reason than simply being a broken human. We compare ourselves to others, live in the world of ‘shoulds’ and perfectionism, only to realize we can never measure up. Even more destructive, we inadvertently condemn God because we have no idea how He could possibly love us unconditionally.

broken word

I think sometimes we focus more on what we hear about God, than what we really know about Him. The world seems to have this idea that God is constantly frowning, pointing a finger at His children, demanding we do the perfection dance to win His good graces. Nothing could be further from the truth!

If you have given your life to Christ and accepted His gift of love and redemption, you are no longer condemned in His eyes. You’re no longer a filthy beggar from the Land of Darkness. You are His.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)

You can’t do anything to win His love and you can’t do anything to lose His love. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is. God doesn’t want you feel condemned, broken or useless. In fact, His Son died so you wouldn’t feel that way any longer.

One of my favorite movies is It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey is continually baffled by the beauty his wife sees in their old, drafty, worn down home. He only sees the creaking steps and sagging trim. But Mary Bailey’s eyes light up with hope and promise as she drinks in the sight of the big, rambling house. She sees the hidden beauty just waiting to be exposed. And I believe that is exactly how God sees us.

wonderful life

Perhaps you’ve allowed the enemy to hang a ‘Condemned’ sign on your heart and you’ve almost given up  on authentic love….take your pulse. If your heart is still beating, it’s worth healing! Here’s the catch, however: God’s method of healing a condemning heart is to love it to death, then create in us a new heart…A heart filled with faith instead of fear.” (Beth Moore)

It’s time to know and rely on the unconditional, overwhelming love God has for us…for you. Sometimes our insecurities scream at us. We fear we’ll never be good enough, or smart enough, or brave enough…but the truth is, we don’t have to be. Jesus is all of those things for us.

And every time you’re tempted to hang up the ‘Condemned’ sign, remember that your name is engraved on the palm of His hands. (Isaiah 49:16) You’ve been restored.