Let every heart
Prepare Him room ~ Isaac Watts
I love to laugh, tease others, and delight in life—but as a rule I run a low-grade melancholic fever. I suppose it’s part of my temperament. Or it might be the lack of spiritual formation that God is still working on deep inside me. Nevertheless, I keep it in check by a daily dose of prayer, journaling, reading, exercise, and large bowls of ice cream.
We are told that Christmas, for Christians, should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report high incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season.
I must admit that occasionally, a darkness will play across my heart like cloud-shadows on a valley floor. They come suddenly, send a chill, and then are gone. They are fleeting but when they come they are rather intense. Often my thoughts go to places that I don’t like: places of inadequacies, insecurities, and fear.
When those clouds come, I have a few tools I use until the shadow moves on:
- Check my thinking.
I remind myself that I am the beloved of God. I quote John 3:16 in the first person singular. I ask myself if God has changed His mind about how much He loves me. I look at my journal to see if I’m focusing on the earthly disproportionately from the Heavenly. Where or on whom is the focus of my thinking?
- Ask for Prayer
I have always believed that Christians get in trouble in their interior life because they try to do battle there alone. We need each other to enter the fray with us. Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane. That is one of the main reasons we have brothers and sisters in Christ. Without the prayerful fellowship of the saints, we would all be less human and more hideous than we already are. I’ve never found my brothers and sisters irritated at me or think less of me when I ask for prayer for my shadowed heart.
- Keep Walking
My temptation is to stop, nurse, and coddle my sadness. As if I deserve the despair; as if the darkness is confirmation of my inadequacies. That always happens when I stop and sit down on the curb of life. So much of any success in our spiritual life is simply to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Get up and keep moving. The longer I sit the stiffer I become and soon spiritual inertia sets in and I won’t want to move again.
“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Don’t walk alone in the darkness, but keep walking and you will find the presence of the Lord with you in the With-God life.
And joy won’t be far behind.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Joy to the World, the Lord has come!