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My Journey to the Light: Lessons Learned in the Dark

Also appeared in Persevering Hope, October 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mention of suicide.

 On April 9, 1999, I had penned these words, ““I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at that point, that month was one of the lowest for me.   I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I was going through.  School was very stressful for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who was verbally abusive to me and others.  Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.

I continued struggling through depression through my college years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years ago!  In the deep darkness of my battle, I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are close to the end of their ropes.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to the light:

  1. Never give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love, never let me get that far.  I remember having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old.  When you are battling something that seems chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end.  For instance, when I was the most depressed, I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through. I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my life.  Thankfully, God eventually took a hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others.  Never would have thought then, that I would be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have today. I am truly blessed.  Had I taken my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me today.
  2. Be compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if there was any hope left in my life.  I find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of encouragement.  Nothing irritates me more than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
  3. I learned that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well.  However, when I am able to see the big picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help others who needed hope as well.  Had I not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV), where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort others.

So, as I continue to apply and review the lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God did not allow me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me, the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope, and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some pain in order to be able to fulfill it.  Do you feel aimless or in despair?  There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in their pain if you don’t give up.  There is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament to that fact!

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How God Has Blessed Me This Year

I don’t want to list my blessings in order to parade them before other people in pride and pomp, but to highlight how good God is and continues to be, not only to me, but to all of us.  Sometimes, we fall on difficult times and we forget about the good times because we are so focused on the stressful situation at hand. I get that, and unfortunately, I do that, too.  However, I hope, with this list of blessings (not all inclusive, that would take literally days and weeks), that each one of you will think about how you have been blessed this year and how God has helped you through some tough times, as He has to me:

  1. I got to see my relatives this summer, some of who I hadn’t seen in 8 years! They live very far away (as in I couldn’t even drive there to go see them!), and I had such a great time getting to know them and their families, as most of my cousins are married with children now.  I also got to see many sites and eat delicious food.  I even travelled with some of them to other cities within the area.  Even though some of us got sick, God really protected my family and me from any strife and anger.
  2. When I was faced with the prospect of spending Christmas alone, God put in my heart to try to request off from work so that my parents, my brother, and I could all spend Christmas together. I did, thinking there was no harm to try even if I didn’t get the days off. I had talked with my manager Elizabeth* about this and she said she’d let me know the next week. Well, the next day (It was a Saturday that same week), I checked to see what the status of my request for days off were, and they were already approved! Immediately, I texted my brother, who bought plane tickets for us to go to Texas.  I am so happy that, as of this writing, I will get to not only spend Christmas with my family, but also get to see the area where my brother now lives! God is good!
  3. I really got to know my friend Allison* this year, and we have become close.  I realized that she and I have a lot in common, and we are able to encourage each other and give each other hope on the tough days.  I am blessed to be able to know her and I look forward to seeing her each day at work, when we are both working.
  4. My manager Elizabeth*, not only gave me the days off that I wanted, but also has helped and mentored me to become a better associate and person.  She also has encouraged me not to be so self-deprecating (as I am quite the perfectionist,:\ )  by telling me how much she appreciated my character and my work. She always tells me that I’m amazing, but I really think she’s amazing, as both a manager and a person. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago (as of this writing) was her last day at the company, but I have been so blessed to have known her.
  5. God sent one of my other managers, Chris,* to save my physical life by discouraging me from working for him when there was a snowstorm ensuing outside. I wanted to work a double shift for him because I felt bad when there were hardly any associates to help him, since most had called off due to the storm. However, he said that he cared about his associates, and did not want me to have an accident due to fatigue + a snowstorm, especially since I lived more than a few minutes from work.  I ended up listening to him, and going home at a decent time. I even had to call off the next day because the storm was so bad.  Had I worked for him and had he not said anything to me, I don’t know if I would be alive today.
  6. God has provided us with a new pastor when our current one had announced that he was leaving. Though I love our current pastor, it is clear from God that he is going to be on a different journey. However, even through all that, our upcoming new pastor is not only familiar with the congregants (He grew up at my current church), but it seems that he will continue the legacy that the pastor that is leaving has worked so hard to build.
  7. God has continued to use my blog and my writing to be able to bless and encourage others. He has even provided an opportunity for me to join a writing group in order to improve my writing skills and to reach and minister to even more people through the lessons (or, whisperings) that God has taught me.  

These are just a few of the blessing that God has bestowed on me, in His goodness and love, this year. How has God blessed you this year? What has He done to help you see His love and grace in your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

*=Names changed, in order to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned