Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sometimes the Dark Lasts a Long Time

Many people have very deep struggles in their lives. They see life defined as pain and defeat. They hear the term “rock bottom”, which usually is referred to as a one time life event, and consider that they have seen this so many times over, that they dwell there permanently without and end in sight.
It is a deeply agonizing and dark way to live. That once was my own life. I am 50 years old now, and most of that life for me was that kind of existence. What began as very deep social anxiety that had me hiding away, fearful of relationships or social situations, lacking productivity, grew to languish into much more. Very deep depression, intense self hatred, and then a struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was my world. It was not the quirky OCD you see with TV characters. It was debilitating. It made my life a living hell, which shut me away in torment. All I knew was anxiety, heavy desolation of heart, and this torment, along with the lifelong social anxiety and isolation. I could not function beyond it. Indeed, most never saw me, including my own family, though I lived in the same house. I lived in four walls alone.
Many years went by; each day so bad I did not want to live. My late teens and adulthood crept by. The concept of being well was foreign to me. I was on many different medicines, on a number of combinations, including one that at the time was experimental. My mom and my family did not know what to do for me. Doctors gave up on me, as I just was not getting better. I was spiraling down.
There was One who did not give up on me, however. Though I thought I knew Him when I was young, really I knew Him in the same unhealthy way I lived the rest of my life. In fact, with my OCD I had a nervous breakdown in my faith, I had such an unhealthy view of God from it. OCD is an insidious brain affliction that turns life into a lie, a torment that is nearly impossible to get out of, for some. It was for me. Some mistake it as a strange predilection or preference that we could really snap out of if we wanted to. However, it is a very real wrong inside of the brain. I was stuck in a dark place for a long time indeed.
Despite this, somehow I came out of it. Though it is bearing fruit in what are merely only a few years now - for indeed, I had struggles all my life - I now look back on it having known a great measure of healing. It was a long process God put me through. I had to be broken utterly. Much deeper than rock bottom. Then I had to be re-taught everything. I had to be taught that all I believed, all that I felt inside, my entire life's mindset were lies that were deeply hurting me. I had to learn deep within myself how much God tenderly loved me. I had to come to grips with my disability and see it for what it was, not as defining who I am. How I did not need to be ashamed that I was different – in fact, God uses the broken of the world for His strength and healing to shine through. 
As I went though this progression of healing, I saw how many lies I had so desperately believed had been true about myself, the world, and life. I hid away as a shut in most of my life, devouring myself, allowing the Enemy to tell me that I was not just worthless, I was contemptible. I can not imagine how God must have felt as I so tragically missed understanding how much He loves me in Jesus Christ. I still have some struggles now. It can still be painful. It is, however, in a way of progressive healing and growing, rather than being destroyed.
I share all this because it is a picture that our lives can be defeat and pain for very many long years that seem to have no end to them. The struggles we have can seem untouchable, beyond healing, hopeless. This is all we see, we may be crushed, but no one is beyond hope. God sees all of our suffering. He knows us intimately. He cares for us beyond anything that can be described. He is not aloof, uncaring, or capricious. His tender love in Christ is a reality we can know. 
You see, this is the truth that heals the lies we see and believe. We often let the darkness and emptiness define our truth, but we hurt ourselves by doing so. We may choose to see this way, or it may be beyond our ability due to our infirmities. The torment shapes us, molds us, and defines us in pain. Even after a lifetime the truth of God’s near, enduring, and intimate love in His Son can heal the deepest parts of ourselves. In such a way that we can look back on all of it one day and rest in His abiding love. There can be restoration even after decades of defeat, after lifetimes.
That is wonderful. It is wonderful because God is wonderful. You can see the open love of God in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Look how the father saw him afar off and ran to him to embrace him. In Jesus's day men did not run in this way, it was considered humiliating and beneath dignity to act this way for a man. That Jesus used this in a picture of God’s love has deep meaning of open, offered freely, grace that abounds in love. Now that is love indeed. The father loved so much he embraced the lost son, even after he rejected him, as he was. Not to stay that way, no. To transform even after the most terrible depths. The pure love of God redeems not only our souls in Christ, but can restore our lives in an even deeper way than before we suffered.