I have Phoenix on my mind for two reasons. First, we’re going there. Fifteen days and counting. Second, I am one. I am a phoenix.
In Egyptian mythology the phoenix was a bird that consumed itself with fire and, after 500 years, rose renewed from its ashes. I have not been literally consumed by fire or risen from ashes after 500 years, but I feel like a phoenix. I experienced death and resurrection last year.
Last April, I was well on my way down into the darkest, scariest, loneliest pit I have ever encountered. I never want to go there again. Ever. I couldn’t write, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t pray anything except, “Help me Jesus!”
No one understands the word “depressed” unless they have been to this place personally. I understand. I know the living hell we who suffer with true depression go through and how others pretend to know but don’t. Not really. But this post isn’t about depression. (For a gut-honest travel diary through my darkest days, click here:
Today’s post, is about new life—resurrection life—life after death.
There is hope in the darkest places of life where we think no life can grow—where we think no light can reach—where we think death would be a welcome relief. There is always hope because of Christ. He is risen from the grave. He alone has the power to raise anyone, no matter how low—no matter how broken—no matter how burned—no matter how dead on the inside. Jesus can resurrect people, marriages, families, communities, nations—if only the lost would look to Him and follow Him. He is all about resurrecting the impossibly dead.
I stand here today, a new woman—a woman risen from the ashes—a woman deeper in love with Jesus than I ever thought possible—a woman thrilled to be alive—a woman thriving, not just surviving. Like spring bursting forth onto a frozen landscape, new life is everywhere—because of Christ—and I am seeing the world in full color—just like I was born again, again.
So why the decent into depression and how the rise of this phoenix? What are the particulars?
The past few years have been filled with tremendous loss, grief, and exhaustion for Todd and me. Loss of what I thought was a close friendship that could not be reconciled, even though I tried. Unbelievable hurt and changes in certain extended family relationships I thought were strong, but weren’t. Wrestling to forgive and move on. Several life dreams I had held that finally died. Feelings of isolation as we struggled and juggled to care for so many of our kids’ special needs. Educational professionals who didn’t know enough about our kids’ special needs or the law and all the subsequent stress of advocating against all odds.
But the hardest and most painful was becoming desperate enough to get gut-real with God—getting real in a way I’ve never done before and, in so doing, discovering a relationship with God I never dreamed possible. My tears and screams and literal fist-pounding-on-earth moments burned away any façade I had used to shield myself from the Almighty and I was left raw and vulnerable and completely weak—in just the right place for holy work to proceed.
What do I know now, having been in the pit and raised up?
Because God was with me so intimately in my most desperate time, I know I can weather anything now. Anything. Will I feel tremendous pain if certain storms come my way? Absolutely. But one thing I know now. No pain will annihilate me as long as I am in the hands of my heavenly Father. He won’t allow it. He won’t allow anything –ANYTHING—to destroy me. And even when peace eludes, hope does not. My hope is in God and in NOTHING and NO ONE else. All that comes my way either IS good or will be USED for good by my God who LOVES completely—NO MATTER WHAT.
HOW is He going to help me? HOW is He going to provide? I don’t know. And I don’t CARE anymore. I just know He WILL help me always. I just know He WILL provide for me always. The “hows” don’t scare me anymore. There is no freedom like this—to know God cares—that He uses ALL for good—that He WILL provide—and to let go of needing to know how or when. Because, while I wait for God . . . .
My soul finds rest in Him alone.
Out of the ash pit looking back—this is the greatest lesson of all to which I will cling the rest of my earthly life . . .
My soul finds rest in God alone. My salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 61:1-2
As He provides for the birds of the air, so He provides much more for the crown jewels of His creation—you and me. No matter what befalls us, He will carry us through and rise us up from the ashes—stronger and better and closer to Him than ever before. Of this, I no longer have any doubt. I have seen Him resurrect others and now I have seen Him resurrect me—out of the dust.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3