being lost in the desert of depression and pressing on

In the past two and a half years I've had some really dark days. I'm pretty sure I had postpartum depression after Zane was born, which turned into high anxiety that never ended until after a few months after Ivy {#6} was born last year. So it was a full two years of feeling lost in the desert, so to speak.

Many times I wondered what I had done to deserve what I felt. It was such a sad, dark place. I had asked the Lord to do anything He wanted, and two years later even though I was trying to obey the Lord in doing what He'd asked, I felt like He had abandoned me.  Like the complaining, ungrateful Israelites, I too wondered if He brought me out of slavery to leave me to die in the wilderness.

Right in the middle of my desert though, He showed me two things: that the hard time there was necessary for getting rid of idols in my life, and that He disciplines and trains those He loves. The depression wasn't a punishment by any means, but it was a dark time God used to show me where I put my hope when things went wrong.

I fought giving up so many idols in that time- I didn't want to give up x, y, or z, and I felt like it was unfair that I had to give up this or that thing when other Christians didn't. 

But the Lord gave me the words of A.W. Tozer for encouragement:

"Others may, but I cannot."

I fought it and threw fits in my heart like a child having a temper tantrum. 

I always expected maturing in Christ to be so much different. When I was younger, taking up my cross was more something I thought meant not doing the more obviously worldly things like clubbing, drinking parties, watching really bad movies, and maybe it meant possibly being in ministry of some kind. I thought it just meant giving up more of my time to serve God and to read His Word more often. Things I wouldn't have a problem doing anyway, in theory.

But life in Christ goes so much deeper, and so much farther than I ever thought.

He exposes so much more sin in my heart than I ever thought I had. And it hurts.

Why, Lord? Why go there? Can't you leave that alone?

I've learned that usually where there's an area that is riddled by sin, it's guarded carefully in my heart by the words "the Lord doesn't care about that..."

What I feel are harmless, unimportant matters, the Lord shows me are deadly to my soul.

But Lord, even most Christian leaders don't have a problem with this.

Others may, but you cannot.

But I don't want to. I can't do it. I didn't know you were going to take me here. This is too hard.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

So many times I held on with clenched fists, kicking against the goads. But as time passed, even holding on to it stopped feeling so good. My heart knew it was not for me.

I didn't even want it anymore.

I wanted fellowship with Jesus more than I wanted it.

Finally I would let it go, and give it up.

And then freedom would come, and my peace before the Lord would return.

Over and over in the last few years, I've been through this same circle of tightening then relinquishing my grip, and even more intensely in the desert places, when I felt the most tired, weary, and alone.

But though I felt alone and it seemed impossible to get out of it, I knew in my heart I was never truly alone. 

Years ago, I had asked for God to do whatever He wanted with me, and He did and has been still. It just looks nothing like what I had imagined it would. What's incredible to me is that while I was in the lowest and hardest places, He worked miracles outside that showed me how much He loved me. He brought physical manna for my eyes to see so I knew He was there, even in the darkest days. The depression and anxiety didn't magically go away because I asked Him to take it, but I knew He was with me in it and it was being used by Him to train my heart to seek after Him alone.

If you're in the desert right now, I just want to encourage you: it has a purpose in your life, and the Lord has not forsaken you. 

It's there the Lord removes the ties of the world from your soul.

It's there the Lord makes you long for Him more than anything else.

It's there you find that nothing can satisfy you like the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

If walking with the Lord is harder than you too ever imagined, just know that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus ChristYou may never understand what the Lord is doing, taking you to such desperate places you feel entirely crushed, but believe His Word: He will not leave this work incomplete.

One day {maybe even soon!} you will see the Son, and His work in you will be finished. You no longer will only see through the glass darkly, but you will see Him and know Him fully, face to face. 

And this little pressing on now will be counted as nothing in comparison. He is with you, and it is worth every moment in the desert to see His glory. 

While you are in the thick of it- don't be afraid to go where He wants you to go. Don't be stubborn {like me} and refuse to remember how His hand has delivered you from the slavery of sin in the past. Look for His manna each day, fully seek His leading and direction, and rid yourself of the old idols while you press on toward His Promised Land.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 
Romans 8:18

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

Are you in the desert right now? How can I pray for you?