Spiritual Fear

I’ve been writing a lot about fear recently.  It fascinates me.  It scares me.  But in the end, it has defined me in so many ways.  I’ve come to embrace it and make it my own.

There have been several instances in my life that I have truly been afraid.  But there is one that has been remained with me the longest.

In the summer of 2009, I ventured over to Uganda.  There, I experienced things that changed my life.  I witnessed both life and death, hope and healing.  I saw community members fighting for one another, loving to the fullest.  I saw hope in each new sunrise and the darkest of nights set over the land.

The fear that I want to talk about now is a fear that so many people do not like to talk about.  The night that I fell ill with Malaria (and yes, I was taking anti-malaria pills), I felt the physical presence of darkness.  This is the fear that I want to talk about.  The nothingness that consumes.  And the demons that fill our hearts with emptiness.  Hopelessness.

The opposite of love is not hate.  It is indifference.  And the opposite of faith (and the joy that comes with it) is emptiness.

We’ve all experienced it in small ways.  When life doesn’t feel like it satisfies anymore.  It’s more than the shadow of doubt, but a darkness that tries to convince us that everything we do is hopeless.  There is no one coming to save you.

I felt it.  I’ve felt it before.  And too many Christians write it off as not praying enough.  Not spending enough time with God.  Not doing enough to satisfy our hearts.  It’s a taboo that nobody wants to talk about.  It is the darkness of depression.

I’ve struggled with it before.  For years I hid it in the darkness of my heart as it threatened to consume everything that I am.  I still struggle with it.  And for so long, I thought that if I could only work my way closer to God, then it would go away.  If I could get close enough to Him, I could be touched and it would all disappear.  If only I could reach His robes.

That night in Uganda, I could feel the demons reaching out to me yet again.  It was more than spiritual warfare.  It was an attack by the power of darkness that resides all around us.  The pain and fear were present in that room.  And there was a presence, a power that could not be explained.

That presence, which I fear, was nothingness.  Emptiness.  The thought of spending eternity alone.

This is a spiritual fear that we all possess.  It wont go away when you pray.  It will only get stronger.

The thing is, every time you take a step closer to God, the stronger the forces of Satan will attack.

After serving in response to Joplin, I felt that same fear.  That darkness returned.  It tried to convince me that I could have done more.  I should have been able to save, comfort, protect more people.  That my service was not enough.  And when I spoke about it, one of my teammates asked me what ore could I have done?

We live our lives thinking that if we could just do more, be better, then we could make more of a difference.  If we could only love more.

But what we so often overlook when trying to do more is how much we have already done through our lives.  How many lives were affected and changed because we loved, served to our greatest ability.

It’s never going to get easier.  So get ready for war.

Do I believe that this struggle (depression) is a spiritual battle?  Of course I do.  BUT at the same time, it is a medical condition.  An imbalance in the chemicals within us.  I’m not a medical professional, so I don’t know all the details (nor will I claim that I do).  If this is a struggle that you face on a daily basis, I pray that you take courage and seek medical help.  I feel that God has given us this option, so it would be more hurtful to refuse professional help.

I still struggle with this darkness in my heart.  Some days it’s more powerful than others, but I have surrounded myself with family and friends that love without question.  I have changed the way I love, work, and live so that my focus is constantly on the things that matter (God, community, and joy).  It hasn’t all been rainbows and sunshine.  It’s been rough.  But I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

I’ve always been told that light will burn out the darkness, but at the same time, where there is great light, there is where you can find the darkest shadows.  We can’t make it through this journey alone.  I know that without warriors surrounding me, I would not be able to stand where I am today.

– P.S.:  I know we as a society do not like to talk about depression, but it is a conversation that needs to happen.  I know to many people who choose to ignore it, who try to fight it alone.  I have been told one to many times that I just need to pray more, serve more, be more active in faith.  Maybe I do.  But that is not going to make this darkness that I feel go away.  I’ve learned to live with it, to embrace it as part of who I am, but it is not that simple for everyone.




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