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Encouragement 06-02-04


June 2, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Climbing Out of the Pit - Part 2
Mary Southerland - Director of Networking, author and speaker
Key Verse:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  Psalm 40:1 (NIV)

At some point in life, we all will find ourselves in some kind of pit, the darkness settling around us like a paralyzing blanket of hopelessness.  That deep, dark pit may have many names, but easily becomes a prison from which escape seems impossible.  The journey out is a process of steps uniquely planned by your Father.  He is the Guide for this step-by-step journey.   

Step One:  Wait for God. 
Step Two:  Cry out for help.
Many times, those who are imprisoned by darkness and depression look for help in the wrong places.  Let me share with you some of the right places to find help!
Turn to God
In Psalm 40:1 "cry" literally means "to summon"!  What an amazing thought!  The God of the universe, the One who created the world and flung the stars into space, waits and listens for the cry of His children.  When they cry out, He comes to them just like a mother runs to her sick child, calling through the darkness of night.  God comes to us in many ways.

 Reading His Word
Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
I lived in the book of Psalms during the two darkest years of my depression.  I could no longer study but I could meditate.  A friend had given me an instrumental tape of hymns.  Every day, I would plug in that tape, take the phone off of the hook and read psalm after psalm for hours.  They were like water to a thirsty heart, an oasis to a weary child, wandering in the dry and barren desert.  I found myself in the words that I read and took great comfort in the fact that God was totally aware of everything that I was feeling.
 Talking with Him
Peter 3:12 "For the Lord is watching his children, listening to their prayers."
The darkness called forth the most childlike prayer of my life.  Day after day, night after night, I poured out the questions I had always been afraid to ask, my deepest fears and greatest pain.  It was the most honest and powerful prayer of my life.  I began to fall in love with the One who created me in my mother's womb and set me apart for Himself.  When you spend time with Him, you will love Him and learn to know the sound of His voice above all others.
Turn to doctors and counselors
Proverbs 15: 22 "Plans go wrong with too few counselors; many counselors bring success."
Many people say that depression is only a spiritual problem and that there are only spiritual solutions.  I could not disagree more!
There was a terrible storm!  The little girl was so frightened that she cried out in fear!  Her daddy came running, gathered her up in his arms and held her tightly.  He quietly explained that she had nothing to fear because God would take care of her.  The little girl thought for a moment and then replied, "I know God will take care of me and love me, but right now, Daddy, I want someone with skin on!"
We often need "someone with skin on" to help us out of our depression.  One of those persons may be a physician.  I encourage anyone experiencing depression to get a physical as soon as possible.  Many times depression is rooted in a physical problem and may respond to medication.  After a physical and several blood tests, my doctor discovered that I had a chemical imbalance which encouraged depression and said that it had probably been present from birth.  I just thought that everyone saw life like I saw it - like a poorly developed photograph - black around the edges and closing in.  It seemed as if I had lived my whole life trying to escape one dark shadow after another.  The doctor prescribed medication that would correct the imbalance, but it would not eliminate the depression.  It simply enabled me to have the strength and energy to deal with the issues that had led me to the pit. 
Christian counseling is another valuable weapon in the battle against depression.  God gave counselors their gifts to use for Him in ministry. He must have known that we would need them and the gift of healing they bring when balancing the psychological world with the healing power of a living God.  Somewhere in your world, God has stationed one of His servants who is equipped and ready to help you.
Turn to your support team
Isaiah 42:3   "He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the dimly burning flame. He will encourage the fainthearted, those tempted to despair."
A support team is essential for anyone in the pit of depression.  My team carried me when I couldn't take another step.  They loved me when I was unlovable.  They encouraged me when I felt like giving up. I would still be in the darkness today if it weren't for my family, my church and my friends.  God worked through them in my life.
When I married into the Southerland family, I did not know that tent camping was part of the deal.  I might have reconsidered (just kidding).  I decided that I could learn to camp and maybe even enjoy it!  My first trip to Lake Greason in the foothills of the Ozarks was quite an experience.  It did not take me long to learn the routine.  Every day, Dan's mom would prepare a huge breakfast.  Afterwards, the kids did dishes while mom headed for her tent, where she changed into her swim suit, put on her sun glasses, grabbed a towel and made a bee line for the lake.  On the shore, she would grab an inner tube, position her towel in just the right spot, turn around and sit down in the tube.  Then she would float blissfully for hours.  There was a slight problem with this plan.  Lake Greason had a current that would carry mom down the lake, around the bend and into the path of ski boats.  Several times a day, someone would have to swim after her, pulling her back to the safety of the shore, where she would profusely thank them and go right back to floating.  Finally, one of the kids came up with a great idea!  Get a rope!  They grabbed a ski rope, tied one end to mom's inner tube and the other end to a wooden stake driven securely into the ground.  She could then float until the rope ran out and someone "reeled her in". 
This is exactly what the people on my support team did for me.  They rescued me over and over again.  They could see the dangers I was too weak to see.  They loaned me their energy when mine was gone.  They became a life-line that kept me from drifting toward the brink of disaster.  Has it affected their opinion of me?  Absolutely!  It has shown them that I am just like them.  I am not Superwoman!  It has given them permission to face their own weaknesses.  It has modeled authenticity and transparency for them and encouraged them to be real!  I know that some of you are thinking that there is absolutely no one who will sign up to be a member of your support team.  If you will cry out to Him and honestly seek help, He will bring your helpers.  We must cry out for help!

My prayer for today
Father, I need your help!  I turn to you first.  My heart cries out to you, asking for your hand of deliverance and restoration to touch my life.  Guide my steps to those you have equipped and chosen to help me during this dark time.  I don't see them, Lord.  But I trust you to bring them, thanking you now for what you are already doing in the midst of this pit!  Amen.

Application steps:
Read one psalm every day.  Pray, crying out for help from His hand, waiting on God and listening for His voice.

Reflection points:
Where do you usually go for help?
What do the words "cry out to God" mean to you? 
What do you have to surrender, in order to cry out to Him?

Power verses:
Psalm 34:17-18 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  (NIV)
Psalm 43:5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  (NIV)
Psalm 116:1-6 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.  The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow...when I was in great need, he saved me. (NIV)

Additional resources:
This material was taken from Coming Out of the Dark by Mary Southerland.
Dreams of a Woman by Sharon Jaynes
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst

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