For the last few years just the thought of Christmas has thrown me into a deep depression. I dreaded the day I had to flip the calendar from November to December and tried to ignore the fact that the 25th was there, right down toward the bottom of the page. My heart was heavy and tears would frequently find their way down my cheeks as the days passed.
A few weeks ago it was really bad. I was miserable and spent my free-thinking time freely thinking miserable thoughts.
I told a few people how I felt and I got a few sympathetic hugs or words of encouragement from them. Did that help? Nope. Not a bit.
Finally, one day I woke up with tears in my eyes. The only other time I woke up weeping was the morning after my my mom had died.
I spent some time that day chatting with a friend and in the course of our chat I mentioned my depression.
"So, why are you so depressed?" my friend asked.
Ha! Now was my chance!
"Well," I replied, "Christmas carols make me feel lonely, my parents are dead, my sons have grown up, money is tight, our whole extended family lives west of the Mississippi...." on and on I babbled.
Finally I stopped and my friend said,
"Judy, are you taking drugs for your depression?"
Drugs?? For my depression??
I sat here and froze inside. I stared at the computer, startled. Have you ever seen an old movie where a hysterical female gets slapped across the face by her friend in order to stop her screaming? That is how I felt. It was the perfect slap, delivered casually, almost in passing, but boy howdy, did it stop me in my tracks.
It was one of the most convicting moments I've had in a very long time.
I just thought, Oh Jesus, I am so, so sorry. You have blessed and given and hugged me so deeply and so often- I feel like I've thrown your love and your gifts to me down in the mud and stomped on them. All I've been doing is focusing on me...focusing on the negatives...focusing on what I don't have. Please, please forgive me...."
Way back last summer I started reading a book called 1000 Gifts by Anne Voskamp. Have you read it? I won't go into all of it now, but it's a very good book. Anne challenges her readers to look for God everywhere, all day, in every circumstance and in every moment. Here is a trailer to the book on youtube. (Please, take 4 minutes and 20 seconds out of your day and watch it. It's so worth it....)
Anyway-another thing Anne challenges her readers to do is actually list the gifts you see God giving you each day by writing them down. I started doing that last summer but I quickly discovered something. I couldn't get away from the notebook I was writing in. Every single minute held something to be thankful for. I could see God's hand all over the place. I could see His hugs everywhere. I even saw Him in the hard things and the stressful things. I could not stop writing so I did stop. I had to walk away from the notebook in order to teach, or cook, or throw a load of laundry in the washer...
I spent a lot of time talking to God though; a lot of time thanking Him for the sweet gifts I was seeing in my life.
As autumn progressed I stopped reading the book and then as November turned into December I stopped looking for God as much. I wasn't focused on Him; I started focusing on me and my not-so-happy little thoughts and you saw up there the result of that.
I will confess I still have my December moments, but since that slap that's all they've been-moments. When I focus on the Lord and search for Him, I find Him all over my life. This has been the happiest, most peace-filled December I've had in at least 7 years. I've loved decorating and shopping, cleaning and planning what to bake. I've even loved the gloomy grey Indiana weather.
Let me guess. You are thinking, wow, this woman is bi-polar. I'm not though. The bible promises us that when we are focused on Him rather than self, and we thank Him for His gifts and His love, we will have joy.
A well timed slap doesn't hurt either.