Despondency

Years ago, I asked a local newspaper editor that I wrote for to write a letter of recommendation for me. He wrote, “When you read Pauline’s writing, you feel as if you are sitting down with her and sharing a cup of coffee.”

I strive for that. Today for our ‘chat,’ I’m going to tell you something that is not easy to say. I get depressed. Sometimes for long periods of time. And there is no real reason for it.

I’m confiding in you, because I believe that you might have some of the same struggles. If you are a woman, you probably do. If you are over 50, it’s almost inevitable. I thought a lot about that this weekend. I won’t bore you with what discouraged me, I’m just going to tell you what I’ve figured out and what others have figured out for me. Because maybe it will help.

The first reason I think I struggle with despondency is I’m too ‘me centered.’ By that, I mean that I wonder why my husband doesn’t always just say the right thing, or my son doesn’t treat me exactly the way I think he should. Reasoning that my friends should know how down I am, I wonder why they don’t know and reach out to me. But by the time I’ve arrived there, I really don’t care.

And it’s not that husbands shouldn’t love their wives like Christ loved the church, it’s just that I expect my husband to be Christ, and well,…he isn’t. It’s not that my son shouldn’t honor his mother, even when I’m not so honorable,…but he doesn’t always do that.

Bottom line is that my attitude is sinful and my expectations are unreasonable. Still, I fall into despair.

Another reason I am depressed is physical. I need regular exercise, good nutrition, and a healthy body to stay balanced. Too much caffeine, not enough sleep, and a hectic schedule almost assure me of melancholy. Plus, I’m over 50. My body is changing. I need to accept that and push forward. But, I don’t want to push. I want to just lie down and give up.

A third reason I fall into that pit is sin. Another way to put that is disobedience. When I choose my own way, do what I want to do without asking God, without seeking His guidance, without obeying, that leads me to despair.

I think that was part of it these last few weeks. I was desperate. I called out to God and in the middle of the night and I had an epiphany. (I’m not sure that is the right word—you tell me.) There was one particular area of my life in which I’d compromised. It affected my fellowship with God. And when you’ve had great fellowship with Him, when that fellowship is severed or shadowed—it stinks.

When I studied the life of Moses in Bible Study Fellowship, my big takeaway was that obedience brings blessing, and disobedience brings discipline. I don’t want Him to discipline me. I need to obey.

Another thing the Lord pointed out was that I try to figure God out too much. I think I should understand all that He does and doesn’t do. And then I think I should tell Him how to run the universe. As I write this I know how foolish that sounds, but I wondered if maybe just writing it might make you think that perhaps in a roundabout way, you think that, too.

I also think God made me this way. I am a writer. A communicator. When something bothers me, or encourages me, or makes me laugh, I write about it. And when I write about it, it might make you feel or think or laugh and we can both learn or laugh together. But that is no excuse to wallow in self-pity. That is just wrong. And it doesn’t help.

John Piper believes that all sin stems from unbelief. I’m beginning to believe him. He states in his book, “Battling Unbelief,” that despondency will come. He cites many examples of it throughout Scripture. He said despair is like the alarms sounding for an air raid. Those feelings will come, but we must battle them. Prepare for them. Have our hiding place ready.

And that hiding place is the Word of God. Really believing that it is true and counting on that here on earth. Like Paul did in prison. Like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Like David did in the 23rd Psalm.

Because when we run to Him like David did in the Psalms, He restores our soul. Not when we look to our spouses or children or friends or homes or alcohol or vacations. That is earth’s junk food.

Jesus said to the woman at the well, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

So, today, I’m sipping. I’m clinging. I’m resting. And He is restoring my soul.

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