Almost every night I get up in the middle of the night. I am not sure if it is my age or that I have always struggled with sleep. When I wake up, I usually go downstairs and get a drink. There are two things I never do when this happens: I do not turn on the lights and I do not open my eyes. I do this because, in my crazy reasoning process, I think it will help me go back to sleep quicker.
Although my house is familiar in the dark, it is inevitable that I step on a dog bone left behind, I turn before I should for the steps, or I “hulk” stomp the last step thinking that there is one more. No matter what, I move cautiously, hesitantly, and quietly. I do the same thing in life when the darkness overcomes me.
Because I have always struggled with anxiety and fought depression periodically in life, the darkness is not new to me. I have learned several lessons in the darkness and if you are there, I hope that it can give you some hope.
Sometimes the darkness comes because it is situational. Something spurs it on and although you think you are processing it and handling it well…all of a sudden you are not. It catches you off guard and there you are in the darkness sometimes spiraling and sometimes it is a slow fade. At this stage of my life, I brace for it and it STILL takes me by surprise. ( I am okay, I am okay…NO, I am not.)
The other way darkness can engulf me is based on really no rhyme or reason, I just become stuck. I know it is most often chemical and I have to reach out for the help needed to get me through those times, too. Post-partum with both girls was no joke. My eating disorder was never ending. So what does one do when they are in the darkness? You do not have to say what you do. I will go first.
I can’t see. I get scared. I have doubts.
Shewwwww….that wasn’t so bad.
I doubt my abilities. I doubt my emotions. I doubt my past. I doubt my present. I doubt my future. I doubt my relationships. I doubt where God is in the situation. I doubt my decisions. When I am in the darkness I doubt the big and small things. I know we do not talk about this kind of thing. But we should. You are not alone and there is hope.
Recently, someone that thinks they know me well questioned where I was in my faith. I thought it was very bold of them since we have never had a real life conversation but they read my blog. That is the reality that exists if you put yourself out there. I want to share what I have learned and it has grown me.
When I have doubts where God is in my present situation, I feel guilty. I think, “I must not be good enough. I should be a better Christian than that. I am horrible.” I slowly pull away from what I know because of guilt and shame. Guilt is an emotion that I deal with often and it dances in my life with doubt, anxiety, and depression. It is quite the four-person dance team that plays quite the illusion.
I have recently been looking at the time right before Jesus was hung on the cross. We like to skip to the part of the resurrection and celebrate the good but we often forget the darkness that occurred before that. In the garden he struggled with what he was asked to do. He knew the reason and what was ahead, he would pay for all sins by being separated from God so we would not. We need to remember the darkness before the light. And in our darkness, God is still there, even in my doubts.
I have learned that I must be an active participant. I do not know why life is so hard. I do not always know the reason for the darkness. When I can’t see God, I look for Him. I have been angry with God many times in my life and asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” It is so easy to blame God for not caring. I pull away from God. I turn my back. Many times I have stopped praying because I feel He doesn’t hear or care about my prayers. In my broken human condition, I doubt God’s love.
As I trudge through the darkness I walk cautiously, hesitantly, and quietly, but I do walk. I do look. When I do not see anything, I still hope. I hope because in my past darkness, I have always found the light. It may not have been how I wanted it to happen. It never is. The struggle in the journey is not about appreciating happiness. The struggle is about growing in wisdom. Every time I fight my way through the darkness, I come out stronger and wiser. I am more appreciative of everyone’s struggle. I love better.
God has my heart and because He does, He seems to chase me down. It always comes back to God. I have said it before and I will say it again….I do not speak Christianese. I simply know that God has transformed me slowly in the past 25 years despite my doubt, anxiety, fear, and lack of faith. God uses broken imperfect people to accomplish His purpose. Never in the Bible did Jesus scan the room for the most spiritual person and say, “Hey you! You are so perfect! Good job, now I can use you!!” God uses all parts of us…the good and the bad. He will use your strengths, your failings, and failures. Your mess will always be your message. And that is what I know in the darkness. I know I will learn. I know my heart will grow. And I know that God will use the struggle to understand the life I have been given better and help me connect to others in a new way.