Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Depression’

Part 3 – Trust and Disappointment

Again, if you’re reading this article without reading parts one and two, you won’t understand the context of this exchange.  Please take time to read the previous postings.

After I wrote the long letter empathizing with Ellie, she sent me this sweet response.

hey Lowell…

     i wanted to thank you for your words of real empathy and encouragement… it helps to know that you have experienced the depth of despair that drives one to long for (and seriously consider or attempt) what seems like the only escape in death, and not only survived, but are stronger… and it seems, have gained a closer relationship with god as a result. that is honestly what my heart desires, what i trying to accomplish, and on a good day, what i seem to have a tiny taste of.

    “it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go”…  yes, this seems to one of my biggest sticking points as well. especially the trust issue. when i am completely honest, at my core, i do not trust god. i do not trust him to protect me, not to hurt me, to love me… and i know much of this distrust is a result of the abuse in my past. and in acknowledging, and seeking to overcome that lack of trust, you would think that eventually, it would be a barrier i would have conquered. no such luck as of yet… still working on that one. but i do know that this is the key to true freedom in my life.

    it seems, for me, such a difficult task to cry out to god with anything more than a desperate “please lord, just make it stop… quiet my head, my heart, my past” in those moments, and while i know this is simply what i am feeling on a heart level, and what i yearn for… i do so wish that he would answer. at least in some way that “didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.”

    i do not want to waste my life (as John Piper so eloquently warns against)… in suicide, or in simply existing, chained to my pain and my past, allowing my fetters to prevent me from having that promised abundant life, and bringing glory to god in living that life. i just want torment to end… and sadly, cashing in my chips so often seems to be the best and only option.

    Lowell… i believe in your sincerity and honesty, and i deeply appreciate your transparency and willingness to share some of your story with me. i am going to keep listening for his voice…

thanks for your prayers,

ellie

Then, just a few hours later, she sent this post script:

here is my P.S. note … how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?

Ellie

I felt like a fire was lit under me!  I did my best to explain how I’ve approached trust issues in my life, and some conclusions I have arrived at.

Dear Ellie,

I’ve tried to wrap my mind around the question you asked, “how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?”   I’ve been trying to do that for years now, and I’ve got some opinions.  Here are a few:

I believe to understand “trust” one must understand “disappointment.”  (I’m speaking of trusting people, God, etc., versus being disappointed in or by people, God, etc.)  That is, in your case and mine, because we’ve been so hurt, to understand the positive (trust) one must try to understand the negative first (disappointment).  In my search for answers I went to “disappointment” first because I believed, and still believe, that trust is destroyed/damaged/weakened when we are disappointed, so … how can I ever trust if I don’t know how trust was broken in the first place.

Let me explain disappointment this way, and I think you’ll get where I’m coming from.  To me, disappointment comes from unmet expectations.  If I have an expectation of God, or any other person for that matter, and He/they do not meet my expectation(s), I will be disappointed.  And to guard my heart from the pain of repeated disappointments I will not trust.  I won’t be vulnerable again to that person.

I’m trying to do these word gymnastics  (God, people), so for my sake and yours I’ll just go with the “trusting God” thing.

In our minds (young and old) we have a picture of how God should behave.  When we’re children we have a finite understanding of just how big God is, but we get the part that says, “He can do anything because He’s super-powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … etc.”  When we’re older, we tend to limit God.  We’re more successful putting Him in a much smaller box, i.e., “He might not be able to do everything, and He may not be the most loving Person in the Universe.”  That “adult” point of view comes from repeated disappointments in our life experiences:  that is, we were not protected when we thought He (God) would protect us; He did not “love” me by giving me what I wanted, when I wanted it.  You know what I mean.

So … when a young girl such as yourself experiences abuse, you would naturally think, “If God is all-powerful, and the most loving Person in the Universe, how could He have let this awful thing happen to me.”  Right?  We are disappointed.  Our disappointment comes from our understanding of how God works, or how we think He should work/behave.  And He did not meet our expectations.

The fascinating thing is – Yes, God is all powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … and because He is both of those things, He’s a gift giver.  If He can’t give His enormous love away, He can’t be a Lover!  Some people think – “UNFORTUNATELY, God gave the gift of choice to mankind … and because He stupidly gave that gift to us, selfish people use that gift to satisfy their lust(s) for money, aberrant sex, etc., and because God gave away CONTROL when He gave mankind choice, I have been hurt, injured, damaged.  Stupid God!  How could He have been so unloving, as to give people the power to inflict pain upon me????”

Hang with me.  I’m going somewhere with this … I’m just getting real wordy.

God’s dilemma?  How does the consummate Lover give and receive love?  God gives love when He gives us the “power” to make a choice to return love to Him.  The risk?  That the loved one (that’s you and me and the whole world) might choose to love our selves more than Him, and do our own thing, and in turn do our own thing to innocent little girls like you.  God could have created mankind as little playthings.  He could have created a perfect world (He did) and then controlled every aspect of life in that world (He did NOT).  Instead of creating a cosmic doll house, and spending His time moving furniture from one room to the next, and move little puppet people around, God breathed LIFE into man, and said, “I love you, and I want you to love Me.  I won’t make you love Me.  I want you to choose to do it of your own free will.  You are not puppets or robots.  You are like the angels.  You can worship me or not.  Your choice.”

NOTE:  You and I can relate to God’s desire for love returned from a person with a free will because that’s what we long for.  We don’t want anyone to love us because they have to, but because they want to.

As I delved deeper into why God made the world the way He did, and then gave us human beings the gift of choice, it dawned on me, “God risked not being loved.”  Wow!  The most powerful being in the Universe exercised His awesome power to choose by LIMITING His power over us.  He decided not to make us love Him, but to let us love Him if we wanted to.  He limited His control.

And I love Him for it most of the time.  But from time to time I have hated Him for giving mankind that gift.  We are so selfish, we choose to go to war rather than go to the peace conference.  We are so selfish, we choose to abuse little girls rather than value them by saying NO to our immoral desires.  Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a man because so many men use their power to choose to do what’s been done to you.  I hope you will forgive me for being “one of those!”  One of those monsters – those evil, selfish, sexually deviant types.  And sometimes I’m ashamed to be a human being – because we humans are so … so … inhumane.  Ellie, please forgive me.  Please forgive us.

When I look at the Cross where Jesus died, what I see there is the epitome of wicked, inhumane behavior, and I pray, “Oh, God … we chose to KILL You rather than embrace You.  And we didn’t just choose to put a gun to Your head and pull the trigger so You would instantly die.  We chose to torture You to death … to make Your dying last as long as possible so that our hatred for You could be more fully expressed.  At the Cross we chose ‘freedom’ from Your Lordship over our lives so that we could do whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it.  God, forgive us.  God … forgive me.”

Dear Ellie, in order for me to trust God, I had to go where I just took you.  It was a painful process … and it took a while.  I had to address my disappointment in God.  I had to identify my expectations, and decide if they were based on truth or fiction, God’s word or my best guess.  It was a humiliating process, but I finally came to the following conclusions, and if my pain-filled life experiences can help you, then I have a greater appreciation for all the shit I’ve been through.  Oh, and let me say, right now I’m living a wonderful life.  It’s based on truth, not fantasy.  I’ve come to grips with my childish thoughts, and rather than keep God in a small box, I’ve let Him out to be GOD!

Conclusions for Lowell:

1.  God so loved the world … you and me and the billions … that He wanted to give gifts (a lover wants to love and be loved, and a giver wants to give), and God’s gifts included the gift of life, the gift of this planet, the gift of others (so we wouldnt’ be alone), the gift of sex, the gift of choice, and the gift of His Son, Jesus.

2.  We selfish human beings have taken all of His gifts, and for the most part we have used them to satisfy our desires.  (There are notable exceptions – Mother Teresa comes to mind immediately!)

3.  FACT:  It was NEVER God’s intention for mankind to abuse His gifts, His love, or each other.  He said so many times and in many ways.  One way was to give us the Ten Commandments.  They were limitations God put on selfish behavior.  His desire was always that we would choose Him, and that we would choose to love others like He loves us … to not hurt other people.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God, and the second would follow … we would love our neighbors.

4.  So … while it may be hard to trust people (and it has been) because “they” are self centered, I can trust God because He is actually “ME centered” – that is, He has decided that I’m worth ALL He’s ever given.  And He never wanted me hurt.  He always wanted me to enjoy all He has to offer.  (I put “they” in quotes because “I” am never selfish.  Ha!)

5.  And so … to trust Him requires that I changed my view of God.  That’s hard.  That’s the hardest part.  You may have a view of God so entrenched in your mind that you may have to have a transplant.  (Paul said in Romans 12 that we needed a transformation.)  We’ve got to deal with ideas like “God doesn’t care that I’ve been hurt”  and other real disappointments based on unrealistic expectations that we might have.  We need to understand that we live on a fallen planet.)

Just how do you view God?  And what is that view based upon?  Is your view The Truth?  Have you believed any lies about God?

Sorry!  I got a little preachy there.  I’ve shared a lot of my “journey,” and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you.  Personally, I think you probably “know” everything I’ve told you at an intellectual level … but for me anyway, until all this stuff went from my head to my heart (the core of my being), I didn’t experience any change that brought freedom from my past and my pain.

Just after I press the “send” button I’m going to get down on my knees and thank God again for His wonderful gifts.  I’m going to worship Him for who He really is, and for all that He has done for me.  And I’m going to lift your name up to Him, and ask Him to smother you with kisses, and warm your heart with His presence.  My wife and I will continue to pray for you.  Live, Ellie!  You have a story to tell and a life to live that will have meaning beyond your imagination.  And don’t take my word for it.  Take His.  In Jeremiah 29, I think it’s verses 11-14 … “I know the plans I have for you (Ellie) … plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Amen!

Blessings, and Aloha!

Lowell

Part 2 – Trust and Disappointment

I hope you didn’t skip part one of the Trust and Disappointment series.  If you did, go back and read it.  It’ll give you the context of this, my part two.

Ten days later Ellie wrote this article entitled “The Bailout”:

the bailout

     here we go again… trapped in endless early morning hours, unable to quiet that within me that cries out for acknowledgement… a measure of comfort… release. this nameless, faceless, sea of anxiety that refuses to cease… and all the benadryl, relaxation techniques, night strolls, and desperate pleading in the world will not silence this beast. 

     and the exceedingly painful reality is that i know what will. i possess knowledge of one the tried and true remedy… something that works each and every time. every cell in my body, with every breath, and every ounce of strength in my being begs for the blade… and the blood….

     and the bailout. 

     but i cannot allow this disquiet to consume me… devouring me, and swallowing alongside… my progress and positive steps forward. there still must exist the light at the end of the tunnel, even if fear chokes its glow for these few hours.

     and so i wait… in hungry expectation for the gift of sleep, or the brilliance of morning, satisfied with whichever comes first.

I wrote my friend the following comment:

Hey Ellie,

I felt your pain today … literally felt it. I related. I empathized. My gut tightened as I remembered the times I wrestled with acute depression – the kind that “begs for the blade.” My heart goes out to you this morning.

One day I was so desperate I imagined how I could make driving my car into a bridge abutment look like an accident – and it shook me up so much I pulled over to the side of the road and started crying. The tears made it impossible for me to drive. And I cried out, “I don’t want to die.” And I heard, inside my head, some words so filled with hope it startled me. It shocked me out of my crying binge, it was so abrupt and real. “Cast all your cares upon Me … I care for you!” I didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.

I said, out loud, “I’ve heard that somewhere, but where.” I broke my appointment, drove home, and started scrounging around until I found it.

It was in such an obscure place … but I found it. It was in the Bible, in the New Testament, and it actually didn’t say, “Cast your cares upon Me … ” but it was “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (King James language, like Shakespeare) I looked it up on an easier version to understand and I got this from 1 Peter 5:6-8: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

I realized I had a real enemy, and that there was nothing more the devil wanted than for me to die … but I was so prideful. I couldn’t admit that I was in such desperate need to anyone who knew me. I had to maintain this “front.” And the front was going to kill me.

So I cried out to God. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done. I had used people over and over again to “bail me out” of trouble, and I had used people to vent my frustrations … hoping they would have THE answer for my pain. Or I had turned to gifted counselors and doctors, and they helped me tremendously … but there was still this “hole” in me that no expert or professional could fill.

So … I just prayed, “Okay God, I am going to humble myself and ask YOU to bail me out this time. I’m going to give my worries and my pain to You. Please quiet the lies satan is telling me about quick fixes … or NO fixes … and untangle all the lies that I’ve been telling myself … calm the fears and ese the pain in my mind and in my being.”

That prayer was the beginning. I really sensed “someone” heard me. It wasn’t long before I felt better. And I thought, “This crying-out-to-God thing might lead to some real freedom and healing.”

I know that it sounds like I’m suggesting, “Here, take this ‘Bible pill,’ and it’ll all be better,” or “This is what I did. If you do what I did, you’ll have the same result (and then I can write a book about my ‘formula’ for dealing with depression).” I know how it sounds. I’m hearing it, too. But I can’t do much about that. I don’t think if you pray MY prayer, you’ll be healed … and over your pain. What I am suggesting (and hoping) is that you’ll go to God in your own way, in your own time, on your own terms, and use your own language.

And then … the hardest thing of all. At least for me, it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go. I had to continue to listen for that whispering “voice” that was different than my self-talk. It was “God-talk,” and I could tell the difference. I began to hear the calming and healing voice of God. He’d say, “That’s a lie” if I started telling myself a lie, and then He’d offer something like, “Go for a walk, and I’ll talk to you for a while,” or “Call this person and tell them …” or “Read this,” or “Go to sleep now, and I’ll hold you in My arms and on My lap.”

Ellie. I’m praying for you right now. I don’t have a formula or THE “answer” for your pain. But my heart is breaking for you. I’m hoping you’ll go to the ONE who has your answer, and the key that will unlock your chains and open your cell. And when that happens, I’m hoping you’ll courageously walk into the light of freedom.

Your friend, Lowell

PS. For anyone (including you, Ellie) who might see this, and think skeptically, “This guy has got an agenda … blah, blah, blah.” You don’t know me. And there’s probably no convincing you that I’m sincere and honest. So I won’t try. But if not God, then what? What’s your answer for Ellie. Ellie, what have you tried? I’m just asked you to give God a go.