We were designed to have fellowship with God and to experience His presence, and to dream and see those dreams come true. The path of life can lead us through great challenges in both of those areas, and when we go through a valley it really does feel like depression. The classic advice we try to give ourselves is to just suck it up and take the next step. The spiritual advice is often to praise the Lord anyway, and to think positive thoughts to improve your endorphins. I want to suggest that these are all superficial solutions, and that the most basic reality is that we don’t want to face the getting discouraged and depressed at a heart level. The key is to realize that your heart can be sick or wounded, and superficial solutions are like seeing the oil light come on in your car and putting piece of tape over it.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Prov 13:12 NIV
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Prov 18:14 KJV
Where is God? – The real reason that our hearts get wounded when things go wrong is that we expect God to take care of us and protect us. When we can’t connect the dots between what’s gone wrong and the dream God gave us… things go “tilt.”
Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Ps 143:7 NIV
Admit you’re in trouble – Here’s the reality: if you have a dream that your heart is really engaged in, and things get delayed or derailed, the discouragement is real. How could it be otherwise? The very first step is “don’t wish it away or look at it like its forever.” This might sound strange, but if you don’t admit you’re depressed then you’ll delay the recovery process to find God again. You can gloss it over with a thousand spiritual activities and prescriptions, but you’re much better off to stay depressed and really get in touch with why your heart is broken. I listen to music that matches my mood and just get in touch with my heart. Here are two examples I listen to (don’t laugh) I guess that’s why they call it the blues andA thousand miles from nowhere.
Be practical – make sure your diet, exercise and sleep are right. I had to put my exercise on hold for a month because of a magnesium deficiency. Every time I tried to jog, I pulled a muscle. Sleep can be an escape from the pain and a place to heal at the same time. Get plenty of it. Don’t be afraid to get medical help if you need it. Stay close to friends who love you and who can keep from offering shallow solutions.
Grieve – When your heart experiences loss or defeat, have a good cry and pour it out before the Lord. Crying and crying out to God are connected. Your heart needs to voice its pain before your maker. Masking that expression will actually harden your heart and put you out of touch with who you really are. That’s how personalities split. We want to be whole – one with our heart. We just can’t pretend it’s all mountain tops. Though we walk through the valley, the Lord is with us in that place. There is something you can receive in the valley that isn’t available on the mountain top. Don’t run from it.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Ps 23:4 NIV
Resurrection – You can’t have a good resurrection without a proper death – it doesn’t work. If there is something that needs to die, don’t wait for it to shrivel up and disappear, just offer it to the Lord. The precious depth in mature saints that touches the hearts of other people always has roots in brokenness. Don’t run away from this experience with Jesus. It will bear fruit in your future, and you won’t die in the process… even if it feels like you will. You may give up for while, but even if you do, Jesus will come for you like he did for Peter. He is that faithful and you are that loved and your destiny is that important.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24 NIV
Most often He will give you back your Isaac, but our God will check to see whether your dream comes before Him. The resurrection produces something much more beautiful and fruitful and majestic. Never be afraid to let go of the “old” if the Lord asks you surrender it. Offer it to him as a sacrifice from a thankful heart. We can’t make our dreams come true anyway. What He has written in our hearts is always so big that it requires His power to bring it to life. The “new” is so much sweeter.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:10-14 NIV
It’s a new day – Once we go through this death and resurrection cycle a few times, it gets into our heart that discipline, death and resurrection aren’t rejection. We take our weakness and allow him to show us the new thing. The new is always much more anointed, fun and fruitful. Letting go of the old would be really easy if we could taste the new first – there would be no sorrow at all; we wouldn’t even want it. That’s the point of faith. We have to trust a loving Father that if something has to die, the new will be totally worth it. The healing starts, and completes the minute we see the new thing that he has for us. When the wraps come off this “gift” our hearts leap. Every time the new shows its beauty and grace, there is a little tear of gratitude from deep in our heart that makes our eyes shine in a way that anyone can see… This is a King who is also a son.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Ps 147:3 NIV
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Heb 12:5-11 NIV