I grew up in a small town where I had the freedom to go as I wanted to a park full of kids, diving into a river, exploring forest paths, hanging out at the Dairy Queen or chip wagon, stuffing our pockets with candy to see a weekly movie, making my own pizza with friends, and travelling with the family: 5 kids doling out food from a cooler in the back of a station wagon, looking forward to the next stop.
It was for a beautiful time of innocence, freedom, fun and love, followed hard by the insecurities of the teen years… do I look okay? Will anyone want to date me? Am I saying the right thing, doing the right thing? What should I do with my life? Where do I go to school? Who should my new friends be? The questions got increasingly serious…what does it all matter anyway? What does it matter if I get good marks or work hard? What does it matter what job I do? What is it all about????? I had no answers, and I felt a dull sadness, like all innocence, hope, happiness and caring had slipped away, never to return. I had never experienced depression before, but I sure felt it then. I went through the motions of going to my university classes and feeding myself, even accepting visits from family and friends, but I couldn’t raise any emotion to care. I knew I was in the wrong classes, but I couldn’t care enough about my future to decide what to do about it.
The previous summer while I was travelling out west, I attended a lunch with a new friend, Suzanne and two of her friends. Baird was discussing something John had said in his political science class: he would offer a bribe if that was what it would take to get something done in another country where bribery was common. I agreed that I would do the same thing. Baird shocked me with his response. He turned to John and advised that he consider changing his university major if it was encouraging him to think in ways that were not in keeping with his faith. I tried to keep my jaw from dropping. Who were these people who would consider what God thought as more important than how they should plan their careers? I had never thought about God caring about what I did for a living; it was what I thought that mattered.
In the midst of my depression, I remembered that lunch and how I envied people who knew what they believed and who knew that something was so important that it could drive a decision. I had no such anchor and I was for the first time in my life feeling completely lost.
For some reason I had a Bible beside my bed. I had tried to read it once, but found Genesis, the first chapter, very boring. Why I started to read it now, and why I turned to the book of John, I do not know. All I know is as I read, at some point it seemed as if the words were written for me and the message that was coming through was that Jesus was not only real and very much alive, but that He loved me. He loved me. He, the Creator of the universe, He who could see how lost and imperfect I am, loved me. He whom I had ignored, loved me. He who could spend time with anyone, was spending time with me. Oh, how beautiful He is! I couldn’t read the Bible enough. I couldn’t pray enough. Where everything had been grey and drab, the lights came on and the joy flooded in. I would think of Him on the bus, in the halls, in my apartment…everywhere I went became a beautiful place because He was there. Nothing changed – I was still in the wrong classes and still didn’t know what my career should be – but everything changed, because I had an anchor. I was loved by the one who would guide me, but right then, I didn’t really care about a career anyway, I was too busy finding out more and more and more about this wonderful Jesus. I did eventually change my university courses to ones I enjoyed. I had no idea where the courses would lead, but I knew I enjoyed them and was growing, one step at a time.
James 1:6 talks about doubt being like a wave blown and tossed in the wind. I know what it feels like to be tossed around, with no anchor and no land in sight…nothing to grab onto for direction, no solid foundation. The foundation our friends, family or circumstances can lend us isn’t permanent, and when it cracks or is ripped out from under us it can be terrifying. Jesus is a permanent foundation. He is a rock that doesn’t change. When we are His, He promises He will never leave us, and He has a plan for us that will take us with Him into eternity. He prepares a place for us. He does it all; we just have to choose to accept the gift. I remember Him giving me an invitation. It was just the simple word “Come.” He says He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, calling to each of us to come and to follow.
Genesis 27 and 28 tell of how Jacob cheated his brother and had to flee for his life. He had to sleep in the desert with a rock for his pillow. If I was depressed in my apartment wallowing in indecision but having all my needs met, how much more might Jacob have been depressed? He was exposed as a liar and a cheat, leaving behind everyone and everything he knew. In his sleep he wrestled with God. Nothing changed, he was still in the desert, but everything changed because he had an encounter with God. When he awoke he called the desert an awesome place. God the transformer can bring streams in the desert, He can exchange our sadness for joy, and it is all just a prayer away. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever we are feeling, everything can change with an encounter with God.
Verses referred to are from the New King James Version:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelations 3:20)
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 11:5-6)
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)