As an encourager, it is particularly hard when I get depressed. In fact, I have discovered the primary form of spiritual warfare against me is for the enemy of my soul to remind me of past failures, and whisper how stupid and worthless I am. God knows I have made some real mistakes in my life, and it appears that a real stronghold over me in particular, is to foolishly leave memories of those failures lying around on the floor for the enemy to pick up and use against me whenever he wants.
Yesterday was one of those days. The air was so thick yesterday I could barely breathe…it was halfway through the morning before I finally realized that I had slipped into depression. I pulled into the parking lot of a Barnes and Noble under a big shade tree and just sat there…being reminded by memories and the Father of Lies what a loser I was. Ever have a day like that? A day when the clouds put their heads on the ground and the grayness seeps into your soul and makes you want to go home and pull the sheets up over your head and hide in bed? That was yesterday.
As I sat in my truck, of course, being a ENFP (extrovert, intuitive, feeling perceiver) from the Myers-Briggs studies, I just began to weep. Most men don’t act like me…they just buck up and tighten that bolt or bail that hay, but not me boy…I cry like a baby. Sitting under that shade tree, I was reminded of Jonah, the prophet who became depressed after being belched out of the mouth of the great fish and sitting in the shade of the big plant that grew up next to him. I spoke to friend on the phone and felt badly that I had just thrown up all over him. He was gracious to me and we said goodbye.
I asked the Lord, “What is going on?” in a really pathetic voice. I think the Lord kind of sat there in the passenger seat of my truck and was listening compassionately, but I sensed He had that, “You’ve been here before Doug” look on His face. He asked me “So what did you do the last time you got down like this?” I didn’t want to answer Him, cause I hated the answer. Really, I hated the answer! I looked up, and said, “I sang to you”.
My relationship with God is not a normal one I think. I sense the Lord as both a Father and a friend, and this smirk kind of comes on His face and He says…”okay…so whatcha gonna do this time?’ I hated the answer…just hated it, cause I wanted… actually WANTED a pity party, and He simply wasn’t gonna throw me one. And so…
I started singing. In times like these I want to change the words of the praise song. Instead of “In my life Lord, be glorified, be glorified” I wanted to sing, “End my life Lord, here in my truck….here in my truck”. But I didn’t… I just sang simple little ditties, and old ones…”We bring the sacrifice of praise, into the house of the Lord…” “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Man, let me tell you, I felt like each word weighed a thousand pounds trying to get them out of my mouth. That’s the point of depression see…to keep you in bondage to depression by focusing on yourself instead of Jesus.
About three songs in, something happened. As my pitiful praise was rising to the Throne of God, I began to raise my hands and sang louder. A tangible presence, like something coiled around my neck loosened. The blood began to flow again throughout my body…I had done spiritual warfare and the serpent couldn’t choke me…he tried but he couldn’t do it. And then…I began to laugh. I began to laugh like a fool. Listen, don’t judge me friends…depression is a spiritual attack and I felt those coils release my throat. It was so refreshing to see the world with hopeful eyes again.
I walked into the Barnes and Noble and got some coffee, because being set free from demonic oppression and getting a good caffeine buzz go hand in hand.
As I sipped my bold coffee with a shot of espresso and enough sugar to kill a small pony, I walked through the children’s book section looking at where my children’s book would soon be on the shelf and I was singing very very softly, the same praise songs I had been singing in my truck. From behind a book shelf, a young lady’s head popped up. She had been sitting on the floor in between some shelves of books and I hadn’t noticed her.
I continued to sing softly, still looking at books and she looked up again at me and again sat down. I thought she had been reading a book to a child or something, but I was wrong.
When I came around to look at the books on her side of the bookshelves, she was sitting down with her head on her knees, and with tissues in her hand. She looked at me with tear stained eyes and just put her head back down on her knees. Of course,…being me…I spoke. “Are you okay sweetie”” (Okay, any girl my daughters age or younger, I’m calling sweetie because I was old enough to be her dad.)
She raised her eyes to me and said, “I’m sorry, I just feel so empty.” I sat down next to her, mirroring her posture. “Why do you feel that way sweetheart?” I asked. Her eyes were welling up with tears which meant I was gonna be a goner soon because I just fall to pieces when other people are crying. “I’ve had another miscarriage…and…” her words trailed off. She had come to the children’s book section to feel close to the child she had lost. She said she had wanted to be a mother ever since she was a little girl. She had so looked forward to holding her own child, reading to her or him…hearing her child laugh at funny stories.
Without fail, I teared up too. Without a moments hesitation I put my arm around her shoulders like I would my own child and hugged her. I let her cry. She leaned on my left shoulder and shook with sobs. I did too. And it was so much a God moment that He made sure we were undisturbed. I began to sing very low, the songs I had been singing in my truck…songs of hope and praise. She calmed, her breathing slowed and she sang too. It was a holy moment…and I had almost missed it. She looked at me and said, “My parents sang that song a long time ago!” I said, “Well, me too honey, me too. It’s called the “Sacrifice of Praise”. “We sing it when we don’t want to, and God shows up.” She nodded.
I stood up and so did she. She said, “My mother had miscarriages too”. I looked at her and said, “But look…here you stand a product of her prayer.” She smiled a big smile and laughed and she made me laugh too. She hugged me and said, ‘I sure didn’t expect this today…” I asked where her husband was and she told me he was at work. I asked if her mother was nearby and she nodded yes. I told her to go and to pray with her momma. To which she said “I have already, but I think I need her today.”
As I picked up my coffee and walked toward the door to leave, I happened to glance back at the counter where she was standing in line for coffee. She glanced toward the door at me, placed her hand over her heart and nodded thank you. I did the same…thanking her.
I got into my truck, and the thought came to me how the enemy of our souls wants us to focus on ourselves so that we will miss opportunities like this. I miss being a pastor. I miss loving on people and crying with them, rejoicing with them and all that comes with it. Over the years I have gotten a little more worldly than I should have and God is correcting that without stripping me of my desire for fun…God loves fun! If you are going through a depression, let me give you the one thing I have learned. Make a sacrifice of praise to the Lord and at the very moment you want to be left alone, go find someone…anyone… and be an encouragement to them. You don’t have to be smart, know a lot of scripture or anything else that’s special. Out of our need for encouragement comes the encourager. Out of sadness comes the rejoicer, out of brokenness appears the repairer of our breach. Joy is never to be subject to despair, nor can it be. It is the sun that overpowers the darkness and that vaporizes the fog. He meets us in a truck, and gives us His joy to spread to the world. Joy to the world…