“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
Our pastor preached a message about being poor (empty) of spirit back in January. It really touched me. You see, I spent the fall and winter in the midst of a fierce bout with my depression-the worst it’s been in more than 20 years. I can pinpoint a few triggers, none that by themselves were strong enough to send me into the pit, but together they were powerful enough to launch me off the happy mountain into the dark, exhausting valley.
At the time, I wondered if maybe God was testing me like He allowed Job to be tested. Maybe He was trying my resolve to follow through on my promise to go on the mission trip. Maybe He was molding me into something stronger by making me weak.
It wasn’t until Cody fed us this amazing message I realized God wasn’t testing me, He was allowing me to become empty so that He could fill me with the things I would need on the mission trip. I am a fiercely independent, headstrong, determined woman. Sometimes this is good. Other times I’m reminded that God would like to fill those roles for me.
The mission trip is a bigger thing, to me, than I’ve ever done for Him. It involves leaving my babies for nearly two weeks, traveling outside of a country I’ve never left before, venturing to a poverty-stricken, disease-carrying-mosquito populated tropical location, and teaching children who may or may not speak English. Looking back on my fall and winter at the times when all I wanted to do was stay in bed all day, went days without laughing, and ate more sugary foods than a body should inhale, all the while I know God was holding my hand. He was walking me through the valley of dry bones, thoroughly emptying me of my pride, my self-reliance, my everything so that He could truly prepare my heart for this trip.
Yes, it was difficult. Yes, it hurt. Yes, I was scared. But I see now the value of being empty, completely, utterly empty. The only way I got through those several months was by relying on God for every breath, every minute that ticked by. When I was at my darkest, He was the light I could see.
Standing on this side of this particular fight with my depression, I feel empowered, ready, stronger than before, yet more aware that my power, readiness, and strength come not from some deep well within me. They come only from His presence in my life. At the time, I had a hard time finding any sense in it. Good things were happening to me, but I had no happiness in them. Now I can see God’s wisdom working through all of it. When I was giving up, I had nothing left of me to give. God had to carry me, and I had to let Him because I was too weak to carry myself. All of it was another step in preparing my heart.
It sounds strange to say that I am thankful for depression. Many people may not understand that sentiment at all. But it’s the truth. I am thankful that God made me exactly the way I am. If I changed a thing, I wouldn’t be me. Now, that being said, I am also incredibly thankful to be standing in the light of day again. I’ve missed the sunshine. I’ve missed the laughter. I’ve missed the joy of being exactly who I am. I’m ready to go, to serve, to love complete strangers on the other side of the world. I’ve been emptied of myself so God could fill me.