I sometimes find myself struggling with depression, thankfully it has been in increasingly rare occurrence in my life but when it comes to rest on me and try to tightly wrap me in it’s cold, wet blanket of despond it can always be a bit of a surprise as I always hope that I have beaten it once and for all.
Right now I find myself facing down the “black dog” once more…
If you don;t know what I mean, for reference, a certain Mr W. Churchill was sometimes attacked by the same animal.
I suspect that I must firstly regulate my sleeping pattern, getting to bed earlier and getting more good rest as I know that fatigue can be a trigger. I can get fatigued quite easily as a result of a chronic illness (Rheumatoid Arthritis) that still wears away at my physical frame but I am rarely prepared to give in to such things and consider myself blessed to have got to about 30 years with the condition and still be relatively mobile.
I actually went onto remission once but then it came back “BAM” and I ended up hospitalised for a week. That was a week I (rather oddly) remember quite fondly as the combination of steroids pumping through my body and a stream of visitors come to pray for me and rest massively increased my sense of well-being and worth.
I am a gifted encourager and generally a person who sees and comes alongside people in trouble so that they can be helped back onto their feet or at least to the door of appropriate help if necessary.
But who encourages the encourager when a black-dog is gnawing at his ankle? As a rule I find that it is rare to be “come alongside” with an offer of help…which is probably my fault as I talk the talk with a happy tied on smile as I try to quietly face into the background where I then seem to disappear for a while.
This annoys my wife as when I have seen off the black-dog I am as I was before the attack, fully encouraging, praying and loving people, often the people who seem content for me to disappear like the “Alisonian” Cheshire Cat without a care unless they have a problem requiring ministry support. But it is not about keeping score or seeking plaudits in this world, it is just about loving as Jesus does without strings, meeting people at their point of need and I think the thing that annoys me the most when the black-dog comes a barking is that it tries to stop me being the man God who I believe God called me to be. I can even find myself holding a resentful thought or two about folk while I swan around in my pity party, which only tries to make me feel worse as I think about beating myself up for such thoughts.
Stupid, stupid, stupid…
The point of writing this though, is not to elicit pity or helpful suggestions for diets or deliverance or other helpful and kind suggestions to get me healed.
I am writing to express my thankfulness and wonder at the kindness of God, who really has never ceased to surprise me by His loving grace.
At the office where I work as my main location (I travel between offices from time to time), I have supported a small Christian fellowship group which means that there are times when I am giving spiritual support to one person or another and that is a blessing to me most of the time.
One of the group is a lovely person but is, for whatever reason, emotionally stunted. I don’t mean that they lack emotion but that they are more like a self-absorbed teenager trapped in the body of a sixty-year old. I have been blessed and called to walk alongside them during an intensely difficult phase of their life, seeing them decide against self-harm and suicide, seeing this person return to Jesus and fall love with the church again.
This person can (and does) alternate from being a huge blessing to a huge pain for as much as I try, a nominal form of co-dependence on me seems to have formed (not full blown thankfully as I took steps to head this off at the pass) which result in me sometimes crying out (on the inside) for a lunch-break without having to listen to the current basket of troubles/gadgets/wacky ideas that have been stored up to make my “Grande Americano without milk but with an extra shot” sometimes taste stale.
Yesterday, I was not on top of my game, I was fed-up and tired and down but agreed to go for a coffee at lunchtime (I seem to have trouble with the word “no”) and sure enough he had “things” that he wanted to go through with me for advice – sigh…
As we walked into the coffee shop we saw women with whom we had shared a table a few weeks before Christmas. I found out that she had been training as Reiki healer but had to give it up due to health issues and this fully opened a door to talk spiritual things, which led us to Jesus. We shared the gospel, ended up pointing her to a good church in the town where she lived and I left my friend with her as I had to get back to the office.
Anyway, she smiled widely at us and said that she wanted to talk to us about some things, so we all sat down and she shared more about her life. We ended up praying for her for various issues and I pray that the three of us shall meet again when I will hear about her decision for Jesus.
So even though I was struggling to lift my nose of a full blown grumpy old man crash-dive, my Father still used me for his purpose even as I was coming to believe that I was unusable.
Today, I knew my troubled colleague would want another go at lunch to talk about him but I had an appointment with a couple who had heard me speak at a Christian business event in November just gone and it had taken that long to get a date we could agree upon.
As I was preparing to leave for my lunch another member of our fellowship group dropped by for some advice and prayer about an important decision. No problem, it was a blessing and I am still surprised at how the Holy Spirit turned up to bless as we prayed, given that inside I was still struggling with the joy-stick to get out of this emotional nose-dive that seems to threaten. This person has also been such a blessing to me as I have seen him move from nominal in his walk with Jesus to testing the call of God on this life to become a minister.
God is so good.
Anyway, we headed our separate directions (I admit to being anxious to not bump into my troubled friend) and I headed out.
I found myself in the suburbs of Birmingham, having lunch with the most Spirit filled octogenarian husband & wife who have celebrated their 60th year of marriage, both shining for Jesus after both encountering the Holy Spirit many years ago whilst they were Christadelphians, which resulted in them being kicked out and leading to many wonderful adventures which I am yet to learn at future lunches.
I really don’t know where this is going or really why I even went. But they felt a connection to me in God and wanted to explore it – that was good enough for me and I think that they are right. It seems that our Father still weaves His tapestry of life and every so often two or three strands of the golden cord intersects golden chord that He uses intersects and it shines with added brilliance.
Today was such a moment and I look forward to more.
As we prayed just before I headed back to the office, they prayed out something for me that I really needed to hear that broke tore back the tightness of the cold, wet, blanket, warming my grateful heart and bringing tears to my eyes.
So is there a point to all this?
All these words strung together?
You and me trying to make sense out of the thing I am trying to say?
Amongst the rambling, wondering if I am ever going to get to the point?
Well yes, I think so.
I think I have a point to make.
I find myself thinking that I had missed a point and been wrong in this idea that I disappeared and no-one cared enough to encourage the encourager or come alongside the “alongsider” [new word I just created, good, eh?].
God cares though.
Even though it is obvious and I should always know and live in this truth…
I sort of mislaid it…
Forgot about it…
Somehow I must have awoken a couple of days ago and decided to believe the liar of the ages who only wants to tear and destroy.
What a dope, huh?
Even as I tried to seek Him in His word and prayer those mornings, sensing the warmth of His closeness, it’s as if the black-dog barked and I forgot the truth of who I am and who He is.
He is God.
He is not a man that He should lie.
He cares enough to put people in front of me who are stood at the door of heaven because He cares to use me. Who am I to think that I am useless if the creator of all things proves I am not?
He cares enough to tell me through the mouth of folk who do not know me things that I need to hear.
God is my encourager and so what or who more do I need?
I can be such a dope sometimes…
But do you know what?
He loves me anyway and won’t let me fall.