Fetal Positions and Faith
Deb fell on the bed and shrank into the familiar fetal position. She curled up and embraced its comfort like a toddler clinging to the frayed edges of a favorite blanket. The latest news regarding her prodigal son had not just nudged her, but dropkicked her back to this place of darkness.
She was tired of the phone calls from hospitals, jail, and mental health workers; the grief and depression, the memories of twenty years of parenting and homeschooling seemingly shredded by four years of her son’s rebellion, hardheartedness and sin.
“How long, oh Lord, how long?”
She pulled her knees closer, shut her eyes and prayed for sleep. But sleep eluded her. If only she could escape into its blessed relief. Perhaps tonight would be the night of Christ’s return and she would wake up in heaven, wounded no more. The longing ache to see her Savior’s face spilled over into tears, and she marveled that she could still produce tears, had not somehow run dry. You’d think the soul would eventually get used to a “new kind of normal”. Why did the pain seem so shockingly new every time?
Deb sighed, sat up in bed and turned on the light. She glanced at her journal and Bible on the shelf beneath her nightstand, and grimaced. How many months had it been since she’d read God’s Word, or written in her journal? She couldn’t even remember. When had she begun to close her heart’s door, so no words could enter or exit? Deep down inside, she knew that God’s Word offered her comfort, hope and truth that had the ability to transform her thinking and emotions. Why had she not reached for it for so long now? She wondered, also, when her own stream of words had ceased to flow onto the pages of her journal? Maybe she just didn’t have much to say anymore, had finally run out of words.
She thought of Mercy Me’s song lyrics: “I’m finding myself at a loss for words, and the funny thing is, it’s okay. The last thing I need is to be heard, but to hear what You would say.”
Digging through a pile of books, Deb took hold of her Bible and ran her hand over its cover. She clenched her teeth and opened its pages, wincing at her attitude of practically challenging God to breathe life into her languishing spirit.
She opened to John 16:20-22 and read:
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Her mind grabbed hold of the words, the promise. Jesus said that grief would be a part of her experience here in this broken world, but that it would not last forever. There would come a day when her grief would become joy and mourning would transform into gladness. One day a God-given joy would both eclipse and redeem her suffering.
Deb opened her journal and flipped through the pages that had chronicled her journey through the years of pain. She stumbled across a quote by Martin Luther, who also struggled with frequent bouts of depression:
“I still constantly find that when I am without the Word, Christ is gone, yes, and so are joy and the Spirit. But as soon as I look at a psalm or a passage of Scripture, it so shines and burns into my heart that I gain a different spirit and mind … We must not judge by what we feel or by what we see before us … the Word must be believed even when we feel and experience what differs entirely from the Word. Feeling must follow, but faith, apart from all feeling, must be there first.”
Martin Luther understood the connection between the mind, the emotions and the power of God’s Word to transform them both. And once again, Deb did too. She didn’t break forth into song, or even smile. But she did sit up a little straighter, and then opened her Bible to the Psalms.
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