Christine Duncan

Precepts & Life Preservers

Tag: Victory (page 2 of 2)

That’s A Lot Of Pressure

A month ago a dear reader told me that the blog is the first thing he looks at every day. That it’s the only thing right now that gets him through.

And all I could think was, “Okay, wow. That’s a lot of pressure.”

Until he informed me he flies planes. In Afghanistan. For the U.S.

And then all I could say was, “Okay. Wow. THAT’S a lot of pressure!”

The pressure he faces, getting supplies in and out for the people restarting their lives, laying his life on the line, honouring the call… totally eclipses my puny desire to encourage the odd reader along with a few words and my personal world view.

And yet, because he reads, and because I write, we’re connected.

And if he’s reading today, I salute you sir, and would tell you not to cave today under your myriad of pressures, but to stand in the midst of them and know you’re part of something amazing, something only you are equipped for, and on the days where it doesn’t feel like it, you have Someone bigger than any war-torn country, at your side.

Pressure. The pressure to perform, the pressure to pretend you’re fine, the pressure to bow to public opinion.

The pressure to look like you’re all together. The pressure to pass judgement on those who don’t. To reach for the top, to hustle others out of the way, and to be the person everyone looks at and says, “Wow. She’s invincible. Be more like her!”

Sometimes pressure is placed on us in the form of responsibility, like my new friend overseas, but more often than not the pressures of life keep running at us, settling over us, and we just allow it. And I get it! When you live with chronic depression for 29 years, you learn to try to avoid life to avoid the pressure life brings. Vicious cycle. And it robs you.

Can I tell you today, that any pressure to live as part of the status quo that stresses you out, brings you down and keeps you there, or reinforces the belief that you’ll never rise above or amount to anything, needs to be eradicated. Before you crumble under the weight of it.

You’re ready to crumble right now, some of you. The pressure from work, from family, from peers, from society, from various religions, it’s becoming too heavy, too much to keep living up to, or living for.

You know by now how I’m going to tell you how to relieve the pressure, right? That you have a God who is waiting for you to not just lean on Him to get you through your difficult moments, but who is waiting for you to lean INTO Him. PRESS yourself into His side, rest there, where His presence can envelope, cover, and protect.

He’s shelter enough. You cry out, you invite, and He rushes in, into every broken, scratched, seared, and bruised space. Press INTO Him where you can stand again, instead of bowing to the pressures that keep you down. He’s the Saviour who has a reputation for building up the good, and tearing down the bad. A reputation for victory.

And that’s a lot of pressure. But He can handle it.

The Psalmist David understood pressure. He had royal connections, he had important family connections, people were always wanting to take his life, and he was about to step into a huge divine plan from a huge divine God. No wonder we hear this prayer, this desperate cry in the middle of all the pressure, and we could pretty much pray it ourselves, word for word, right now. It was a harried cry for the shelter of Almighty. David was running hard, ready to press in. To find his Refuge.
To find release.

Psalm 31:1-5

 A psalm of David.

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
    be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Commit yourself to Him. Ask for the guidance He always has ready for you. Make your requests. Pour out your heart. It can be messy and needy and desperate. He inclines His ear, He moves in, He rescues.

The only real pressure on you now, is just to believe it. To trust it. To lean into it and into Him. To wait. To be.

The rest is Him. I’ll say it to myself, I’ll say it to who ever listens.

He’s answer enough. He’s shelter enough. There are good and perfect things waiting on the other side of this.

No more pressure.

Only pressing in.

And for each of you who do, and are reading this today, I say this;

“I salute you. And would tell you not to cave today under your myriad of pressures, but to stand in the midst of them but within the shelter of His wings, and know you’re part of something amazing, something only you are equipped for, and on the days where it doesn’t feel like it, you have Someone bigger than any war-torn country, or any situation you are faced with and carrying the weight of, at your side.”

There’s a lot of pressure. But it no longer has to own you. You know where to take it, and who to take it too.

Starting Your Day Defeated

Can you keep a secret?

I’ve been guilty of starting my mornings on default. It happens all the time.

We all know the feeling, I’m sure. You tumble out of bed on auto pilot. Going through the routine, you do all the things you always do, making the same coffee you always make, throwing yourself into the car and driving the same route you always drive… all before you’ve really even woken up.

It’s second nature. It’s totally ingrained. Pure habit.

But I have to be honest with you. That’s not the kind of default I’ve been starting some of my mornings with.

Mine is a more dangerous kind of auto pilot. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

Sometimes my default is defeat.

This realization, and the denial that followed, and then the acceptance of this bizarre truth occurred one day when I was out on my deck, one of my places of refuge for when I want to be outside and still work on research or write for the blog.

I’ll admit it threw me at first. But it started with an innocent enough question from a reader who wondered about living with chronic depression. They asked how I know the difference between having dysthymic tendencies, and whether I’m just having a bad day.

In my head my answer looked like “Cause it’s almost always depression, that’s how…”

But that answer didn’t sit well.

And I started thinking, how often DO I just assume it’s my chronic D and not just the normal negative reactions to a bad day? How many times has my day started out wrong, simply because some days start with a glitch, and instead I immediately went looking for those familiar feelings of doom, thought I would predict how much it would fail, and went back to bed without even testing the waters further, and seeing if I could go back to navigating whatever came my way?

It was a question that caused me some concern.

And then another thought occurred to me as well.

How often am I starting out my day defeated?

Think about this for a second with me. If for 28 years, you’ve suffered from constant lows, not severe enough to destroy you but constant enough that it feels like it’s always just waiting under the surface to cripple your day in some way, shape, or form, then you begin to expect most days to become more of the same.

And when that happens, you start to wait for the inevitable. For the anxiety. For the inadequacy. For the loneliness. For the failure that is surely coming.

For immediate defeat before you’ve even begun.

I cringe to think of all the days I might have lost to depression that weren’t necessarily bouts of my disorder at all… but were just days that I needed to deal with. Where I totally gave up before I’d even started, simply because I assumed it’d be the same old, same old.

My default looked like defeat, pure and simple. Without so much as a second thought, I was abandoning hope, tossing faith aside, and camping out in surrender cause I thought I knew what I was surrendering to.

Yikes, right?

Look, it’s okay to be realistic. It’s good to know what your illness or situation or whatever you’re dealing with, looks and acts like. Learning what I can about Dysthymic Disorder means I can also learn about how to cope with it, live with it, treat it, and beat it.

But there’s a big difference between being aware, and letting it own you!

And boy, are there days where depression seems like it owns you, because your cognitive functions and reasoning are held hostage. But the rest of the time, you’d be surprised how changing how you define your day can help you start it without the possibility of defeat hanging over you. And that’s so important to living with this disorder. And I dare say it applies to so many things that crowd into our lives.

Who wants to start their day defeated? Not I. We need to be careful, friends, to start our day with something healthier, with something that will give you a solid footing, first off.
And on days when that doesn’t seem doable for you, and your spirit is too broken and exhausted, there’s One who will do it for you if you ask Him. After all, He created mornings. They’re meant to be a new beginning, a routine turning point, a fresh start with no sign of yesterday lingering.

I’m reminded of a verse in the Bible where it says;

Yet THIS I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are NOT consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are NEW EVERY MORNING; great is your faithfulness, oh Lord. (Lamentations 3:21-23, NIV)

We do not have to be consumed with our situation. We do not have to be consumed BY our situation. His compassion for us, His great love, the hope we have, means He’s supplying and providing. It means He never fails to give us the choice…. the choice to wallow in the same old, same old… or to look for something better. Every morning is a new chance to hope and live instead of assume it’s more suffering and failure.

It means I do not need to start out my day defeated, there’s something better to experience! I’d rather choose the better things He has for me. And on the days where my depression really does hit, I know He holds me close, and rides it out with me… He KNOWS a new morning is just around the corner, even if I don’t.

So, where are you this morning? Are you already accepting unnecessary defeat? Are you on auto pilot in a bad way? Is it possible there’s something better for you this morning?

Never give up hope. Never give up faith. Never give up.

I’d hate for us to start our day defeated.

 

 

 

You’re A Survivor

...image by Christine Duncan

…image by Christine Duncan

Yesterday I posted about not allowing our situations, whatever they may be, to define us in a negative way.
That we are so much more than that one definitive item that we feel like we’re constantly grappling with, day in and day out.

The phrase was “You don’t have to let this define you!”

And I hope it rang true with whatever you’re up against.

So I got thinking about all this later in the day, and a new thought popped into the ol’ noggin. That if my chronic depression (or insert your situation here__________ ) doesn’t have to define me, then how should I look at it? It’s not like I can ignore it. But maybe there’s a way to embrace the things it’s bringing my way, without allowing it to dictate who I am at the very core?

Hmmm… someone facing insurmountable odds, who decides that their present circumstance will not win out, and embraces the new lessons found there, so that they persevere at the end of the day… there’s a name for that… oh yes!

A survivor.

And the way I see it, there is no shame in being a survivor. None at all.  But in order for us to see the truth in that, maybe we need to clear up a few misconceptions that seem to come hand in hand with the word “survivor”.

First, it’s sometimes implied that to be a survivor you weren’t very brave… that you just waited it out, or that someone else had to come to your rescue. That there’s shame attached to that somewhere, and so once again, we wind up with our problem defining us.

But it takes a bigger person to recognize that the bravery is happening in the smaller triumphs, and that it’s not very often that we ever conquer things all on our own. Society has trained us to put on this invincible front, to act like nothing can touch us. And then when it’s evident we need to ask for help, or change our attitude from conquering to surviving,  we go it alone, hoping no one will notice our ongoing battle scars and defeat!

Secondly, we seem to think there should be a definite end to our battles in order for it to be said that we survived. This was my own very recent misconception. Never mind the title “master warrior”, I just wanted it to be said that I would survive!

But I already WAS. And you already ARE.

I got up today and posted this because I survived yesterday. I posted yesterday because I made it through the day before that. I started this blog, period, because I survived the last 28 years with Chronic D.

You’re reading this today because you survived yesterday. And the day before that. And the month before that. And the year before… well… you know.

Take a moment to acknowledge this. I’m serious. It’s great news. You’re a survivor!
It didn’t knock you out. It only knocked you down. Ask any prize fighter, and he or she will tell you there’s a big difference between the two. The first takes you completely out of the game. The second means you just have to get back up to get back in it. You survive to fight the next round.

So, after you acknowledge it, get ready to do one more thing…

Keep going.

Don’t stay stuck there. Don’t backtrack. Don’t let yourself lose momentum. Don’t remain in… well, uh… the remains.

KEEP GOING.

A nice sentiment Christine, but how? How do I keep going when it feels like the next day might be my last? When it feels like the next small victory won’t mean a hill of beans next to how hard this thing decides to pound me into the mat when that bell goes?

Well, my next question for you then is… who do you have in your corner?

Who do you have in your corner championing you on? Cheering and coaching?
Who do you have to step in and take the burden from you, to pick up where the last round left off? Do you have someone to step into that ring, and change the very definition of “Round 2”?

If you don’t, I have someone who’s been training hard, dying to take your place.

Funny I should even phrase it that way, cause He already did. He beat death to the punch ages ago…

Romans 8:31-32

New International Version (NIV)

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will He not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

 

If you read ahead of these verses, near the beginning of Romans chapter 7, starting at verse 7, you’ll see that the writer, Paul,  has been describing his own struggle, his own match, against sin, and it was ready to take him down. He admits he’s confused, struggling, and ineffectual. Sound like anyone you know today?
I know I can relate.

But then we get a glimpse of the the heavy weight he’s got in his corner in chapter 8. And in fact there’s a promise for the survivor if you look closely. He graciously gives us ALL things.

Will you let Him supply what you need to get through. And will you not count out the possibility that He is able to simply remove the threat for good, if that’s what will be in your best interest. And will you trust Him to know the difference between the two things?

And in the meantime, find a way to celebrate!

After all….  You continue to be a survivor.

And tomorrow is already on it’s way.

 

Faith & The Big D, Part 2

We spoke yesterday about the confusion and truths around believers and depression. And we explored the truth that faith can reside and grow in the midst of the most turbulent waters.

This is something I’m still learning, and it’s a slow, slow journey. But I’m learning not to become so easily discouraged, and as I start looking back on my (some what clueless) 28 years with Chronic D, I see truths and life lessons that were waiting to be unearthed, biding their time till I was ready to use them to build up my faith, and manage my mental disorder better than I had ever hoped. In the words of depression survivor and author/speaker/singer Sheila Walsh,

“In the ashes of my former life I discovered a life worth living, based on nothing I brought to the table, but on the fiery relentless love of God.”

Not that this has become easy all of a sudden, but because I’ve realized, as the old hymn says, “my Anchor holds”. Out of love He keeps me tethered to His side in the midst of the storms whether I’m aware or not.

My faith is my declaration that He will get me through.  What ever that looks like. Could look like complete healing, could look like a long recovery while He keeps me in the palm of His hand. And I’m learning we really don’t get to dictate the outcome, just trust in His timing. But in a world of instant access to everything, the instant access concept also slops over into our “belief systems” and our theology. Sometimes we need reminded of who holds our future.

So on to Part 2 of this post… and we come to a question that we could discuss for ever.

Question #2: Does one have the ability to cancel out the other for a believer? Or better yet, let’s ask it this way. Can one completely render the other ineffective? Faith vs. Depression and vice versa.

Well, it’d be safe to say yes. On both counts. But be careful, what are our expectations for the answer to such a question?
A belief that God can stretch out His mighty hand and save you from the very pit depression keeps you in, IS the very act of faith. It IS safe to place that expectation on Him. He is bigger than that pit, than that ocean of turbulent water, than that circumstance, and that tragedy. Scripture says;

Isaiah 40:28-31, ESV Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does NOT faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Go ahead, loved ones, you can claim that. But how and when He does that, as a result of that faith,  may not line up with your expectations. Are you prepared for that? Do you see how this circles around and around to faith and the journey it might take you on? To trusting and anticipating. And not jumping ahead. And not giving up at the first obstacle in your way?

Gosh, we’re so fragile, so fickle, so shaken, so weak sometimes. But that’s okay. Faith acknowledges that we alone can’t possibly be capable of winning every victory. Because we can never have all the answers, faith is that one thing that declares “Then He alone must be answer enough!”

Hmmm. Are we willing? To be content that for the time being He IS the only answer that counts? That HE will be enough? If ever a picture was painted of faith at work, that would be it.

Why are we terrified by the fact that we might not always understand why things happen, or don’t happen? Where did we get the idea that we’re eligible to know absolutely everything all the time?
Didn’t I struggle with this very concept for years, unable to come to terms for why life felt so hard for me? And later, for why He allowed it to go on for so long without even a name for it till recently? I have an answer. But you may not like it. I know I didn’t at first, but as I kept searching it became clearer.

The answers we ask of God are directly tied to our levels of spiritual maturity. Spiritual. Maturity.  Oh…. that.

Sigh. I wrestled with this one. Please hear me. You may not be in a place in your life that you’d be capable of complete understanding were He to lay it all out for you. Or benefit from the truth in that moment. Only the Father knows just how much He should respond to our “why’s” and “how’s”, based on where your heart, and your head is at. Where you are in your spiritual walk.
You’ll understand this concept if you’ve ever had a small child ask you a difficult and rather grown-up question starting with “why?” As a parent, you know what kind of answer, and what type of information your child can handle, depending on their level of maturity at their age. And what has every parent ever said after too many “why’s?”
“Because I know what’s best, trust me!”

Do you hear it in your heart? Can we use our faith and see what happens within the big picture? Can we trust that He’s got this, whatever THIS is? That helps us answer our original question today, doesn’t it?

You know, I hate to end on a difficult note, so I won’t belabor this part. But…. sometimes it feels like depression, or hard circumstances, win. That in the end it trumped faith. That it trumped God even. That we missed the victory. Mental illness has taken lives from families. It has destroyed homes and marriages. Cries for help went unheard. Hard things still happen.

What do we do with that? I can’t give you some rehearsed line or catchphrase. I wouldn’t insult you like that.

The hard answer? Back at the beginning, when He gave us the freedom and ability of choice, and then equipped us completely with everything we’d ever need to trust and delight in only Him, and then waited to reward that same free decision by never leaving us and always being by our sides, we chose instead to walk away.

We walked away from the garden.
We walked away from paradise.
We walked away from perfect communion with the Creator King, and decided there must be more.
Picturing it all suddenly makes me aware of how much anguish this would have caused Him. The first loss. The Creator of the vast universe wasn’t enough for them!
We got greedy. And He honored that. It was our choice to make. So epic was that first wrong choice, that the ripples still continue. Nice move Adam and Eve.
This is a flawed existence. The only guarantee that all will be righted one day is placing what? Our FAITH in the One who wrote a happy ending that can be ours if we make a better choice now. A victory for you that came at a steep price. He didn’t hold a grudge, He held you up, and dusted you off, and said, “I have something for you, no matter what. It just won’t be the way I originally intended, my child”

Oh, He knows loss all too well. First in the garden as His beloved creation turned their backs on Him. Then at Calvary where He lost His perfect Son to pay a debt from way back in that garden, that we could never pay. So that one day, no matter what this tarnished world throws at us, we can once again have a perfect communion with the Father, whose done nothing but wait it out with us, and restore life where life was once taken.

What DOES God’s Word say about all of this? I can only end with this declaration:

Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new  every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I know the depression is hard, that it steals things from you. I know the trauma is hard to get back up from. But you DO NOT have to be alone. It’s your promise, your reward,  for having even the tiniest bit of faith.
Will He be enough? Only you can find out for yourself.

.... image christine duncan....

…. image christine duncan….

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