I don’t care what triggers it or exactly how it happens, we all face it from time to time. Maybe for some of you it is often, very often. Funk. The discouraging cloud descending upon us, forcing it’s way over us and into our thoughts. The mood which tells us it won’t get better and we should just give up. The dim, dark filter which pushes us to despair and wants us to stay there.
First, a disclaimer: If you are dealing with signs of depression please talk to your doctor, counselor, or a trusted friend to help you determine if you need medication or therapy to assist you. This post is not meant to take the place of any of those things which may be necessary for you. These thoughts and practices could be a supplement.
One of the ways my funk manifests itself is in dramatic statements, usually proclaimed to my husband.
It started off small, “I am struggling today.” He looked up from whatever he was doing. But it quickly progressed to, “Just look at my calendar. It has nothing. Nothing. I have nothing to do.”
BTW, this is not entirely true, haha! I am a mom of six with plenty on her to-do list. I also am currently serving in two short-term capacities. But overall, I am in a waiting, discovery period not sure of clear, next steps with regard to job and professional development. (See this previous post- http://wordpress.com/post/jennifermarysmith.com/356 )
My husband has been learning how to listen to me and not give a fix-it solution too quickly, or at all. Poor guy, I have requested so many kinds of responses from him, he never knows which I am in the mood for! He also gets gun-shy because there have been times when he is sincerely trying and no response he gives is adequate for my finicky desires. Often whatever he says or does only makes me more angry. Can I get a witness? Marriage is for the long haul, guys, the long, stinkin’ haul. Stay at it. Stay engaged.
He did listen today. He did offer a possible action step, which he knows I am currently ready to hear. I was able to receive it because he was informed about where I was and what I was feeling because we covered it in a previous conversation last week. He is beginning to more clearly understand where I am. Also, right before he left for work, he said, “I’m sorry,” and kissed my head. Tears filled then and roll now as I recall the tenderness he gave. He stepped down into my place of sadness and discouragement and did not yank me up in an attempt to make it better. I stay engaged and did not fly off the handle and put up a wall. As he acknowledged me, he allowed me to be right where I am, yet offered a small measure of hope at the same time. After 24 years of marriage we are still learning!
Conversations and connection with my husband. Check. To be continued. A good marriage is a one long conversation over time. I will say it again, stay engaged.
Now, onto God. As I felt myself ready to spiral, I was like, “nope.” I became determined not to let the funk win. Sometimes my process is to simply open up my Bible and ask God to speak. Where I go in the Bible just depends. Today I started with John, wandered my way to 2 Corinthians and landed in Isaiah.
What I discovered compelled me to pull out this computer and get to you, my readers.
We are surrounded by darkness. Hopelessness can easily take hold. We do not have to look far to see darkness around us and in us. Murders. Hate. Disunity. Disparity. Injustice. Darkness surrounds. And it also rises in our hearts threatening our minds. Jealousy. Unforgiveness. Judgement. Withholding. Resentment. In the first chapter of the book of John, in the Bible, we get some insight,
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:5)
And speaking about the coming light, Jesus, John writes,
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10)
This light that has come into the darkness of our world. The light that has come into my darkness. The light who is life and power and everything is Jesus. Jesus. When the darkness of my thoughts threaten I need these two things to happen. I need to understand the light and I need to recognize Jesus.
Understanding the Light
The word for “understand” in verse 5 is “katalambano” in the Greek which means “to apprehend, to find.” Somehow those words shift something in my brain. Apprehend. Find. The light is something I can have in my hands. Immediately, I think of times I say to myself, “I just can’t handle it!” Those times when I can’t get a grip: when I struggle to connect and find common ground with one of my teenagers, when I completely lose patience with my 8-year-old boys, when I look at bills and income and needs (and wants) of our family, and when I just can’t seem to see how I will find the right job for myself. Or as I look at the world around me when I can’t handle the headlines. I can’t find hope. I can’t understand what I see. How is it this dark? How are we this far off from what is good and honorable?
With the word picture painting a way through, I hear,
“Don’t be discouraged because you feel overwhelmed. Don’t feel like a failure because you can’t handle things. Come to me to grab tight to what I have for you in the dark. I will give you something to grip and hold onto that will not disappoint. And don’t give up on the work to be done in this world.”
As I pray,
“Help me understand the light shining in the darkness,”
the Spirit of God descends down into the dark with me lighting just the smallest bit of my mind and heart.
“This is actually how it is, broken and dark. You are in this broken world but I am here, too.”
It’s why Jesus came. To be with us in the dark. To light the way. To light your way. To lead us to show light and life to others.
But, as verse 10 is clear, we need help recognizing him. If you look across the story of the Bible you will notice a theme for us humans. We are prone not to recognize the work of God and the presence of Jesus. Just like today, across our country and across the globe, we, humans, need help recognizing the light and life of Jesus. We need help seeing the image of God in others.
“Jesus, let us recognize you in our world. Let us look for you. By your Spirit, help us see and experience you, especially today as we, those of us who live in the U.S., vote and hope for all that is good. Wake us up to you, Jesus.”
The word “recognize” is “ginosko” in the Greek, meaning “to know, come to know, experience.” Oh, man, here is where it is getting to me. You and I can experience Jesus here and now in our darkness, whatever it looks like. My heart and mind perk up, literally, my soul starts to rise up from the dying, dark place and begins to look and hope and see.
I don’t have all the answers for what threatens to bring me down. I don’t know exactly how I will get to where I want to go. I don’t see the exact provision God will provide. But I know where I am looking. I am experiencing Jesus here and now in the middle of my funk. He has not left me.
I don’t know what hope will rise out of these elections today. But I do know I have seen light and hope in some of the candidates. I do know there are people who love God and are fighting for justice in the realms of politics and non-profits. I see glimpses of upheaval of long-standing biases and systems. I do know God is still here pursuing people and working to this very day for people to grab hold of and see the light, myself included.
My hope in the dark is Jesus. What my weary, grubby hands can get a handle on is Jesus. He is giving me eyes to see and the ability to experience him today. May it be for you as well. Light and life intersect with our discouraged hearts.
Where is it dark for you? How are you beginning to see the light?
Jesus, in our funk, we lean into your light. You will not let us down.
If you have ways you deal with funk, share in the comments. I would love to hear.