Have you ever been so distraught that you literally cried before God? Most of us have probably experienced that type of anguish. Maybe our first instinct is to turn to God in our hurt. Maybe it is our last resort.
God loves us so much that His heart is moved in our distress. He hurts with us, and He longs to comfort us. Throughout the last few years, I have had many opportunities to simply sit in God’s presence and weep. The result is always the same: I experience His love and comfort and walk away renewed and refreshed.
In the Old Testament, we read the story of Hannah. Hannah was childless, and her heart was broken. Her depression was so severe that she would not even eat. Every year, she made the journey to Shiloh with her husband to worship and offer sacrifices. During one such trip, Hannah sat at the entrance of the tabernacle, pouring out her sorrows to God.
Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”
As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”
“Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”
“In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”
“Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad (1 Samuel 1:9-18, NLT).
I love that after Hannah prayed, she went away and was no longer sad. She laid her hurt and anguish at the feet of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and she went away with a new outlook on life. Her depression was lifted once and for all. She fully trusted that God had heard her prayer–and that He would act on her behalf.
Too often, I pour out my heart to God and go away with my burden lightened. However, all too quickly, I choose to pick up that burden again–causing myself to be sad again. It seems that I hear God’s voice…He reassures me that He is in control…and then instead of walking away with confidence, I lose my faith in what I have heard from God.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes (Psalm 37:4-7, NLT)
I have had this passage taped to my bathroom mirror for most of the last three years. I have repeated these words to myself over and over. I do my best to delight myself in God; therefore, I expect God to give me the desires of my heart. I had never noticed, however, that verse 7 clearly says, “Wait patiently for God.” I want the desire of my heart, and I want it now!
There are several things that must be noted here. I don’t believe that God just gives us whatever we want. I think that when we delight ourselves in Him, He takes our desires and changes them to reflect His desires for us. We no longer have fleshly desires, things that we can spend on ourselves (James 4:3); our desires begin to look like God.
We all have desires, and sometimes it is difficult to discern exactly which ones are fleshly and which ones are not. God will make that clear as we delight ourselves in Him. Hannah’s desire was to have a baby. God blessed her and gave her heart’s desire.
My desire is to have a husband. I never wanted to be single, and I certainly never dreamed that I would be single again. I have struggled with this desire over the last three years, but God has very clearly said to me that it is OK to desire a husband. He has told me without any doubt that He is preparing that for me, that He will repay the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25), that He is doing something new in my life (Isaiah 43:18). You would think that with all of God’s assurance that I could go away and no longer be sad like Hannah. The truth is, I haven’t reached that point yet.
Most days, I am very happy and content with my life, just trusting God for the future. But there are times when I get very sad and depressed. I have just come through one such period where—like Hannah—I was even unable to eat. God was so kind and loving during this time. I repeatedly heard Him say, “Just trust me…I’ve got this!”
Even with God’s constant reassurance, I had a hard time getting out of this depression. I prayed, read my Bible, focused on my kids, and tried to praise God. It has been a tough period. But, I believe I am beginning to see the light at the other end.
I truly wish that I could be more like Hannah, walking away with my sadness lifted once and for all. How do we achieve that type of faith? The ingredients I mentioned above—prayer, praise, Bible, gratitude—are all key ingredients. Philippians 4:8 tells us to fix [our] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
The key to contentment is to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). It might look a little different for you, but for me there are some very practical things that I try to do.
- Focus on all of my blessings. I have three amazing kids, a loving family, a great job, a roof over my head, and so much more. All of these blessings have been given to me by my Heavenly Father. He wants nothing but good for me (Jeremiah 29:11)!
- Meditate on the Word. He has promised us that not one of His good promises has ever failed (Joshua 23:14). He promises that all things work for good (Romans 8:28). He has told us that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). There are so many promises that can help us through difficult times.
- Praise Him. It is often difficult to praise in the midst of our pain, but it is the best way to lift our spirits. We have a Christian radio station that plays in our house 24/7. My radio in my car is always set to a Christian station. Listening to positive music always has an encouraging effect on our spirits.
- Repeat God’s promises to me. Over and over I have said back to God, “OK, God. I trust you…I know you’ve got this.” Those are His words to me, and I repeat them back to Him. I also rehearse all of the promises in the Bible, review God’s faithfulness to me over the years. When I look back over my life, I know that He cares for me beyond my greatest imagination. He certainly won’t stop now.
- Find ways to focus on others. Whether it is your children or someone less fortunate, giving of yourself to others is a great way to change your attitude. Nothing lifts my spirits like being able to do for someone else.
- Rest. As a single mom, my time is filled. Yesterday, I worked all day and came home to run kids to various activities. I never stepped through the door of my home until 7:00 pm. It seems that we have activities every night of the week. I am learning to try to arrange my schedule so that I have some “down” time each week. Sometimes that means going to church on Saturday night so that my Sunday is available. Sometimes it means the kids have to give up an activity. Whatever it takes, God ordained rest. In our hectic lives, it is tough to do. But, when we allow ourselves to get run-down, depression can be a natural side-effect. Give yourself permission to relax.
I am also reassured by the number of friends and family who are constantly petitioning God on my behalf. My precious daughter has been praying right along with me. Each night, she asks God to bring a Godly, athletic, sexy, rich, smart, involved man who will love us all very much. (She also asks for 7,000,000,000 daughters and no sons, but I just kind of skip that part! I will love that man’s children whether boy or girl!) Recently I told her that I was no longer asking God for that man. Instead, we have begun to thank God for that man! He has given me multiple reassurances that He has heard and answered my prayer (Daniel 9:23 and Psalm 138:3). Therefore, it is time to simply start thanking God for answered prayer!
God came to give us abundant life and promises that the fruit of the spirit is joy and peace. Sadness is a part of life, but it shouldn’t be a controlling emotion. God promises abundant life! Lay claim to that abundance today and enjoy the fruit of resting in His care!
Remember, as the plaque in my living room says, “Faith is not believing that God can, It is knowing that He will!”