Last year, I witnessed God’s amazing power in so many ways.
My father survived intricate bypass of his carotid artery. Then a stent placement. Then a bypass of the bypass, which had become clogged with scar tissue.
I made a commitment to healthy eating and exercise. I lost 30 pounds in 3 months and felt the best I can remember.
My step-mom pulled through a delicate spinal implant.
I was rear-ended and wound up spending 5 days in the medical-behavioral unit to address both physical and psychological needs. As a result of the injury, I have chronic neck and back pain. But it could have been much, much worse.
My 94-year old grandmother, who very much wanted to let go of the burdens of this life, passed into the next in a beautiful way, in her room, within the house she helped build. Surrounded by loved ones.
My son, who has experienced a severe regression in function over the past three years, went through an “extremely” successful removal of what the surgeon said were the largest lingual tonsils he had ever seen. He is still recovering from surgery, but there are some signs he will regain functioning. At the very least, his sleep will improve and he will get more oxygen to his brain. And, with more oxygen,… who knows?
God has answered every prayer in amazing ways. So why do I find myself in such despair? Sleeping 14 hours in a day. Eating nothing but bananas and peanut butter. Choking back tears even when ordering coffee.
Could it be a feature of my bipolar? I’ve been in such ecstatic joy, so much intense delight, I was bound to fall. Maybe. But there’s more to it than that.
I’ve speculated my dark mood might have some features of postpartum depression, though much less severe. Maybe when I faced the new life God offers us, certainly chemicals escaped me that have left me emotionally and physically drained. This could be it. But there’s more to it than that.
I believe that at its root, this malaise is spiritual. Look at the prophet Elijah.
First, in a spiritual showdown, God demonstrates through Elijah He is the only true God. What a high this must have been for Elijah. One of Biblical proportions. (see 1 Kings 18).
Elijah is at the peak of his prophetic career. We might expect he would follow this up with more miraculous appearances, perhaps even a world tour. But what does he do? He goes into hiding. His faith in God’s mighty protection is replaced by fear of Jezebel. He falls into such great despair that he longs to die:
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19.3-5)
One feature of my illness is that I can isolate myself, lock myself in my apartment where days can go by without human interaction. Today was one of those days. Alone in my attic wilderness, I took an anxiety pill and drifted off into a dreamless stupor.
When Elijah fell into his stupor, God responded with care:
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”
Get up and eat. Words that seem so commonplace, yet for someone in dark despair, they are a loving challenge to move forward in faith.
So I got up. Ate. Did the dishes. Got dressed. Now I’m doing the laundry and writing these words I hope might speak to someone who is in hiding, alone, and weary of this life.
We can’t hide from God. We are not alone. And Christ offers us new, abundant life. Get up. Eat. You’ve got a long journey ahead.