Faith

Lord of the Valley

I woke this morning with a broken heart.  It wasn’t the first time. On rare occasions there was a genuine trigger; a jolt of some sort – divorce, death, financial disaster. But if I’m being honest, more often than not my heart has been broken over nothing at all.

Depression: definitely not an entry in the dictionary of my upbringing. Neither did it ever show up on the functional vocabulary of my “can do” childhood experience. Sure I heard of it— but only in the context of other self-imposed maladies like obesity, addiction, laziness, and allergies. (Yes, allergies too are the result of a weakness of character. Just ask my mother.)

So imagine my surprise when depression turned up, entirely uninvited, in my own life.

To me the experience of depression is pretty well depicted, though not by design, in the movie Gravity (the astronaut movie starring Sandra Bullock). One moment I am living a normal ‘connected’ life and then, often without even a hint of foreshadowing, suddenly come untethered. Life becomes disoriented as I am sent spinning and drifting aimlessly. Terra Firma is within sight but I am unable to anchor to it.

Looking back on those seasons, it seems I was sleep-walking through my own life. To those who have never struggled with depression it is probably hard to understand. Perhaps even more difficult is trying to muster genuine compassion, or patience, for the person grappling with depression. I don’t get it either.

However, I think it fair to say that no-one goes looking for depression. When it hits life can devolve quickly from full to vacuous; seemingly void of meaning or purpose, as though the volume-knob on life had somehow gotten turned down.

In the gray and murky mist, focus and clarity are easily lost and there are days when it is difficult to remember the feeling of the sun shining on your face.

But there is another side to my story: the important side. I can testify that even though I have passed through that valley more than once, I did not remain there.  Even when the sun’s light was completely enveloped in clouds, I was never truly alone in the darkness of that place.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:7-12

 

I pray that I will pass quickly through this present shadow.  Even now I am doing everything in my power to climb the banks to higher ground. Nevertheless because He is Lord, even of the valley, I have the comfort of knowing that He is beside me no matter how deep this path may take me. He remains my joy and my strength. Even at this moment His light shines into the brokenness of my heart.

Of my own accord, I would never have invited depression to walk through my door. Yet the truth is I believe my life is richer for the valleys that have separated the mountain peaks. I have had the priceless experience of seeing God’s face in even the most unlikely places. His presence has shined in the darkest of my nights, and has never failed to guide me safely back into the daylight.

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