November 17th. On this evening a dark weight fell on my shoulders. Anxiety gripped my mind. Despair gripped my heart. It was unexplainable. I chalk it up to spiritual warfare. For weeks after that night, I felt like my life was emptied of joy. I was going through the motions at work and in my family, but light was hard for me to see. I had no appetite and no energy. For a stretch it was painful to eat. When the enemy has me weakened, he brings his A-game. This year it was being stuck at home for Thanksgiving, stuck at home for my birthday. Nothing but days on end of me and my thoughts. I kept circling deeper and deeper into the spiritual darkness. I needed help. I told Jamie just that after I couldn’t control my breathing in the kitchen on one particularly difficult afternoon.
This has happened one other time in my life. Spring of 2017. I was living in Phoenix and a darkness came attacking. I did nothing to fight it. I didn’t get into the Word often, nor did I pray often. I laid in bed. I avoided people. I neglected responsibilities.
This time I purposed to do things differently (I was by no means perfect, and sin wasn’t absent in my processing of this pain).
I journaled like crazy (that thing needs to be burned, but I’ll hold onto it for the next spiritual attack). I did my best to get into the Word every single day. I prayed. I kept going to work. I talked to a pastor friend. I talked to a counselor. I kept staying near Gracie and Jamie. I brought in trusted friends into the depths of what I was feeling. One drove forty-five minutes just to sit with me in my living room. I felt like God was destroying me. Taking me down. Stealing from me. Hurting me. (It’s okay to be this honest. Read the Psalms if you don’t believe me).
Doing all of those things didn’t lessen the blows I felt from the enemy.
Spiritual warfare is real.
I still felt like I was going through the ringer.
I still broke down in tears at church when a friend asked how I was doing at the conclusion of the service.
I still woke up each day struggling to find the joy of the Lord, feeling empty instead.
Food didn’t taste good still.
Laughter was far from me.
But I kept hoping.
Hoping God would show me what He was doing.
Hoping God would take away my pain.
Hoping God would defend me from the attacks of the enemy.
Hoping God would provide clarity.
Hoping God would provide direction.
Hope is powerful. Hope is what keeps people moving forward. Hope in Christ is what kept me moving forward. Now, I may not have been able to articulate it in a way that is clear, but the only thing helping me pursue the spiritual disciplines was the hope that Christ would speak and move through them.
We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3
The church in Thessalonica was facing persecution for their faith. Spiritual warfare had spread from the mental and ethereal to the physical and dangerous. And yet, the people of God in Thessalonica persevered. They endured. Because they hoped in Christ. No matter what happened to them on earth, their future was secured. So they kept loving others in their labor, kept working out their faith. Hope is a quality that is considered to be something unseen. But hope shows itself in endurance.
The greatest encouragement to me outside of Scripture during the weeks of darkness was the pastor mentor of mine who is decades older than me. He told me over the phone that he had been through similar seasons. And now he was on the other side of them. He endured. He persevered. Because he hoped in Jesus.
So I kept trying to do just that. Some days I would see the light start to break through. Other days I felt like my life was devoid of all good. It was a war. But I kept moving forward.
Last Saturday morning, December 11th, Jamie’s parents were in town. While they made breakfast, I took some time to pray and journal in my room. As suddenly as it had come, the darkness left. No circumstances changed. No insane act of God took place in the physical realm. But God was no less at work. For the first time in four weeks, I laughed and loved and didn’t dread. He answered my prayers.
Although I’m above the darkness now, I can still sense the powers of evil near, trying to draw me back down into the pit of anxiety and despair. I want to win against them and I want to endure. Today I read Romans 5 in my quiet time.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
I suffered this past month.
But it produced a little more endurance in me.
And that endurance brought a little more character.
And that character brought a little more hope.
And that hope is what will move me forward the next time the waves hit.
Where is my hope?
In the One who loved me so much He died for me.
Where is my proof of His love?
The cross in the past and the Spirit in the present.
I don’t know where you find yourself today. Maybe what I described is something you can’t conceptualize. Or maybe you’re in such a season right now.
My prayer is that you would stay tethered to your anchor in the storm.
My prayer is that you would have hope.
It’s a beautiful thing.
In His Name,