Saturday, September 28, 2013

Persevere in His Grace

I just walked in from outside. And I was overcome with how much I love this time of year. especially this year. Maybe that sounds surprising after I wrote in my last post about struggling with postpartum depression again. But, as I walked in the house tonight, I caught myself thinking about how thankful I am for this life, my husband, kids in beanie hats, the fresh clean fall air in the rain, Duck football, the zoo in the rain, a warm home, changing leaves, boots with skinny jeans, kids crawling into cozy beds when it is dark outside, cocoa and apple cider donuts, piles of pumpkins at the grocery store, and a sweet, fat baby who oozes joy and fell asleep nursing tonight (which never happens!). As I caught myself in these thoughts, I knew. I knew that the depression is lifting, that I will be okay again.

Thankfully, my depression has been improving, slowly but surely, over the past couple of months. And, strange as it sounds, the change in the weather back to rain is helping. Summer with a baby is more difficult in some ways. Morrow is a super easy baby, but he weighs 23 pounds at 6 months old (yes, you read that right). Lugging him around in the summertime heat was exhausting. And, I swear, his sweet baby self is a vampire of some sort. He does not love the sunlight or the heat, at all. So, life is a little easier inside. Where he can crawl like a maniac, not have to endure his siblings' swimming lessons, and everyone is inside to play with him.

It's funny, the way that God provides the little things to accomplish, in His timing, what seems impossible, like overcoming depression when it's dark and heavy. It is not always a miraculous overnight healing! But, He gives us what we need to keep on going. When it's really hard, He gives us everything we need to persevere. 

A common saying is that "God never gives you more than you can handle." Have you ever had anyone say to you, "Wow, you must be really strong, or God wouldn't have given you all of that. He knew you were strong enough to handle that." The truth is . . . those sayings are just not true. Search the Scriptures and there is absolutely no verse which says those words. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:13, the verse people have derived this saying from. That verse has everything to do with temptation, and nothing to do with suffering.

What God does say about suffering is evident in 2 Corinthians 12. I've had my Bible open to this chapter on my kitchen counter for most of this week.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Weakness allows the power of Christ to rest upon me. So, like Paul, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, my trials, my hardships, the calamities in my life...For when I am weak, then I am strong." And not strong because of how awesome I am. Instead, I am strong because these places of brokenness are where God does everything.

Autumn brings the routine of school and activities back to our home. One of my children dreads the spelling portion of school. He is an amazing reader and you will often find him with his nose in a book. Yet spelling is just a struggle. This week, I was so thankful that we are at home together so that I can use the opportunity to point him to Jesus. Maybe it is hard to directly relate Jesus to spelling. But, it is simple to relate Jesus to hardships and trials. And to an elementary-school-aged mind, struggling to spell is a real trial that has to be faced every weekday.

As he was in tears and so desiring to give up, the Holy Spirit urged me to get out God's Word and see what He had to say. We found James 1:2-3: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

After a small argument discussion about the word "mature" -- requiring a dictionary to prove that Mommy did know that mature really does mean "being fully grown" and does not mean "small for your age" -- this kiddo fidgeted with the carpet and (I think) listened while I talked about steadfastness, and persevering, and the ways the Lord might use this trial to prepare them for something even harder.

Did he hear me? I hope so. Maybe a word here or there. A snippet of truth that filtered in. Maybe the truth that they can do ALL things through Jesus. That Jesus loves them even when they hate spelling and want to quit.  But really, really, the words were for me too. Isaiah 55:11 says "... so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose. and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." The Lord had something that He wanted His Word to accomplish in me as well.

I don't want y'all to be worried, thinking I am still at rock bottom. I can finally say that, most of the time, I am doing great! But the days when depression sneaks up on me, it often manifests itself in an intense desire to give up. To feel like this mothering/marriage/homemaking/homeschool gig is beyond me. That I am just not cut out for this. I just want to sit down in a pile of tears and wonder how I am supposed to do this. I found myself telling my husband that you know, there are so many things I am better at! I am better at academics, at lawyering, at being out in the world and I just want to go do what I know I'm really good at.

As the words were spilling out of my mouth to my husband, the words I had just spoken to my child about spelling started coming to mind. That the Lord is using the hard, the challenging things, to produce perseverance in us. And that the perseverance leads to us becoming mature and complete, so that we are lacking in nothing. And that when perseverance seems hard, we can still do it because we can do all things through Jesus who gives us strength.

The Lord wants me to persevere, not to run toward what is easy by human standards. And he promises maturity from it and completion, and that then I will lack nothing . . . and isn't that what I really want in the end?

At the same time, the Lord does not just leave me on my own. He does not leave me to pull myself up by my bootstraps and put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to persevere. A well-known verse is Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God." "Be still" can also be translated, "cease striving." And, I know the Lord is saying to me, "press in to Me. Yes, this is too hard for you. Yes, there are things that you are better at than what I've called you to. But, can you believe that my grace is sufficient? Can you believe that my grace is enough? Do you believe that it is enough for the places where you feel inadequate? Do you believe that it is enough for the times when you don't know what to do? Do you believe it is enough when you make a mistake, when you just flat out screw-up again, when you are acutely aware of your sinful nature?

He says that I can do all things through Him. That He strengthens me. That I can do all things through Him. Even those things that I feel incapable of. Even when I really want to collapse into a heap of tears. Even those things that are hard. And, when I am tired.

He says persevere. I will strengthen you. Cease striving. Believe that My Grace is sufficient. Boast in your weakness, instead of wishing you could do the things that are your natural strengths. My power will rest upon you. I will do in you every thing that I call you to do. Persevere. I will do the work and you will gain maturity and completion. Grace upon grace. Undeserved blessing.

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