This is part 3 in a series titled, Wait For You, based off of my album of the same name released in 2005. This collection of original songs was written over a period of 10 years and were glimpses of my story up until that time. To read Part 1, click here. To read Part 2, click here.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
I sat in my cabin with journal and pen in hand. It was my free time and my cabin of girls were all out enjoying the various activities on their schedule. I was eager to spend time alone with God, to pour out my prayers to Him in my journal and really seek Him intentionally. I desired to spend that time alone with Jesus, in His Word and to pour out my life for Him. I was 16 years old and had one more year of high school left before I embarked on the next phase of life… adulthood! All I wanted was to live my life entirely for Jesus, serving Him in His church, His people, sharing the gospel, going wherever He would lead me and serving in whatever capacity He had for me. As I wrote in my journal, I prayed very specifically three key words that changed my life in very difficult and wonderful ways. I wrote and prayed the words, “Lord, break me.”
My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace;
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God
Anyone who knows the Lord Jesus knows that He is a loving and gentle Good Shepherd. Those who truly know Him, also know that He will work all things together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). This is not some trite pat answer to suffering, but the very Word of God, given to us, in love, from the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe. Its not meant to be a bandage for the wounded soul, but to actually bring healing and life and get to the heart of how we think and how we live. God’s Word is living and active. It is the healing Word.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
That summer, I worked at camp for almost six weeks with one week break. I was utterly exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually. We had prayed for campers, led activities, Bible studies, prayer times and had so much fun! But it was time for a break. In my sheer exhaustion, my moderate struggle with anxiety became overwhelming and I spiraled into a dark depression, even to the point that I thought God had left me.
I finished off the week and made it through only by God’s grace. I came home depleted and burned out. My parents wondered what had happened to their happy girl. It was hard to continue on week after week as well-meaning people sought to offer help, counseling, and encouragement. But I wasn’t getting better. This was heart-wrenching for my parents and they became my health advocates and pursued Christian counseling for me. I tried to make it through my final year of high school. It was the Lord who walked those school halls with me, as I continued to share my faith in and out of the classroom. I was determined that the enemy of my soul would not win this battle, but that all glory would be given to my Redeemer.
During that year, I experienced the darkness of depression, the dark night of my soul. Spiritually, I felt like I was living in a cloud. But there was a small glimmer of hope that I held onto. I hung on to my belief, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God exists and that He loves me. I knew that somehow He would help me overcome this depression. So I became a warrior of faith in my heart. I may have been quiet on the outside, but my faith was unshakeable. I felt a strong passion to debate atheistic teachers in my high school who expected the students not to challenge their world views. So I stood firm and unashamedly stood up and spoke truth into a spiritually dark school, confounding teachers, and causing them much frustration. I know that God was at work and I may never know the outcome of my witness until I get to Heaven. When I had the chance to speak publicly in my class, I chose to share about the love of Jesus and how He carries us in our brokenness. Students paid attention and listened. Some had tears. No matter how much I suffered from depression, I was determined that God would receive all the glory.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph speaks to his brothers of their harm toward him. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” In the same way, I am convinced that the enemy of my soul meant evil against me through this depression, and yet God who is in complete control of the circumstances of my life, meant it for good. Therefore, I have peace that God in His sovereignty uses the struggles and trials of a Christian’s life for His ultimate purpose and our ultimate good, though we may not understand the reasons at the time. This is what my mother taught me as I went through this journey of depression. This is how she pointed me to Christ through one of the hardest times of her life, because seeing your daughter go through a heart-wrenching, paralyzing and unexplainable depression is one of the hardest things a mother could possibly go through.
A year after my graduation, God had done much to rebuild and restore me. I had plunged into God’s Word in a way that I never had before. I searched the scriptures for my identity and eternal security… Christ Himself. It was then that I enrolled in a discipleship school in Texas and spent a most amazing year being saturated in God’s Word five hours a day, five days a week. It was an amazing adventure with God. We went to San Luis Potosi, Mexico for a short term missions trip. While there, we visited a potter’s house. The leader took us through the entire process, step by step to see how one piece of pottery is made and formed.
The spinning wheel moved in constant motion as the clay formed in the potter’s gentle hands. The potter was making serving bowls. Once fully formed, he gently placed it on the drying rack to harden. It must be completely dried because any hint of water will expand under the intense heat of the kiln and cause cracks or explosions. Once it was dry, the Potter moved the vessels to the kiln room, a room of bricks and intense heat. I looked into this brick furnace where broken pieces of pottery lay scattered everywhere. Here, the heat can reach such high temperatures that many pieces simply crack and burst in the pressure. Once removed from the kiln, it is strong enough to handle to glaze. The glaze is prepared very carefully using specific recipes, consistent measuring, and careful application. Each bowl is different and unique. So much care and time and thought goes into each piece. The pieces are eventually ready to be put back into the kiln. During this process, the glaze turns to glass, it is completely transformed. When the bowls come out, they are complete. Our tour guide took a beautiful bowl, held it in his hands and told us that just as this piece of clay was molded by the hands of the potter, so we are molded by God, shaped into the vessels He wants us to be. We are put into the fire to test us, to strengthen us. Then we are decorated by His beauty and His righteousness. We are put back into the fire for more strengthening and transformation. God molds us.
Then, the tour guide did something that shocked us all. He opened his hands and the exquisitely fashioned vessel fell to the ground shattering into a hundred pieces. He exclaimed, with tears in his eyes… “then God breaks us”.
I stood stunned in that little Mexican store, heart pounding. This wasn’t just a tour of a potter’s house, this was a life lesson, a parable that touched the core of who I was and what God had already done in me. I will never forget that day. His final point was that God gathers up all the shattered broken pieces and puts us back together again, reshaping us, and lovingly transforming us to be vessels for His glory!
It was also during that year at Bible school that my heart grew to desire overseas missions work, living a life of worship and ministry in the church. I was even ready to go into a jungle to share the gospel with unreached people groups or to Russia to share in a friend’s ministry. I was ready to go wherever and whenever God called me. God gave me a desire to be like Anna, the prophetess in Luke 2:36-38, who lived and ministered in the temple day and night.
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher… She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38
It was also during this time at Bible school that the hymn, Be Thou My Vision, became my life song. This hymn was word for word, my heart’s desire.
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art –
thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
thou my great Father, I thy true son;
thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my battle shield, sword for my fight;
be thou my dignity, thou my delight,
thou my soul’s shelter, thou my high tow’r;
raise thou me heav’n-ward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
thou mine inheritance, now and always:
thou and thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
~Translated from the Old Irish hymn by Mary E. Byrne
For those who have never experienced the darkness of depression, it is hard to empathize and understand what the sufferer is going through. For those who do recover, partially and even fully, it is still a battle. When my grandmother was in her elderly years, she said to me one day, “There are many battles in this life.” Her statement was profound. Her faith was strong and steadfast in her Redeemer. On the day she died, she was surrounded by her living children as they sang hymns to usher her into the arms of God.
It was in the valley where I learned to give the sacrifice of praise. I learned to worship Him in the midst of suffering. My desire was to become wholly His and His alone. It was through those difficult seasons that the Lord drew me to Himself, and restored me. With His hands to carry me and His love to heal me, my response to this was to sing in worship of Him all the days of my life.
At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.”