4 Secrets to turn God's "No." into my "Yes!"
I just had one request on my birthday: “This year, Lord, please remove the depression, heal my mind, and set me free from this plague of darkness." As the days melted away, I stood expectant that God would deliver. After all, it was my year of jubilee, a year of freedom and restitution. But as the sun kissed the day goodbye 365 days later, the darkness of the evening mocked the darkness closing in on my mind. I wasn't healed. Depression was still a part of me. God had said, "No."
The Apostle Paul was familiar with God saying, “No." In 2 Corinthians 12:7-8, he wrote,
"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.”
I'm not claiming my depression is from Satan, but it sure does torment me.
- It trips me in my upward momentum.
- It isolates me in a crowd of joyful people.
- It mocks me at the slightest seemed offense.
- it... ugh, the list drones on.
"Why, Lord? You can do anything. I know You love me. Why would You, in your great kindness, choose not to heal me?"
After I finished pouting, my heart softened. My "woe is me" turned to "Show me, Lord!" I craved to live abundantly with this "thorn in my flesh." I asked. He answered. Help arrived. God’s words to Paul became my lifeline, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Two phrases serve as handholds on this lifeline.
1. My Grace - Grace in the Greek is “charis” meaning that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness. I think of babies laughing, lambs skipping, and all other gifts in life that are bright and beautiful. These are just a small taste compared to the abundant grace God lavishes upon us. Therefore, when my soul is downcast with “woe is me,” God’s grace penetrates the dark with joy and delight and sweetness.
2. My Power - Power translated from the Greek is “dynamis" which is my favorite Greek word. Your mind probably pictured dynamite as you read it. Not only does it mean strength power and ability, it also means power for performing miracles! Chew on that, my friend, the power for performing miracles! Glory bumps!!
Just imagine any stronghold which shackles us from living the abundant life. Like dynamite blasts thru mountains of rock, so it is with God's power. It blasts thru any stronghold holding us captive! Yes! If that doesn't make you want to cheer, check your pulse!
So even though God said, "No." to taking away the depression, He was inviting me to say, “Yes!” when dealing with the depression. “When Tammy is weak, then God is strong.”
We sing and listen to sermons of God's grace and power on Sunday mornings, but how does that translate to the nitty gritty of life by Sunday afternoon? Oh, my friend, it is by applying God's Word. This is how we "Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear." Philippians 2:12.
Here are 4 Scriptural Truths on thankfulness which we can apply to help depression!
1.Thankfulness Beckons Me: “Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18
It's His will for me to be thankful because He knows that thankfulness is life-giving! Thankfulness alters the flow of my thoughts from darkness to light!
2. Thankfulness Protects Me: “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
All dark and negative thoughts are cheating me of the abundant life Christ died and rose again for. This verse pictures criminal thoughts being handcuffed and thrown into prison to protect my mind from their folly.
3. Thankfulness Frees Me: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5
Experts say worry and worship can’t occupy the same space. How kind of God! He knows when I’m focused on thankfulness, I’m allowing joy to bloom in the desert places of my heart and mind.
4. Thankfulness Empowers Me: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
Depression is equivalent to a crushed or sad spirit. Yet, God, in His kindness, supplied us with the answer! His antidote? A joyful heart! A joyful heart hones in on thankfulness! A follow-up post will demonstate this link between thanfulness and joy. Thankfulness empowers me to choose joy in the darkest times. Thank you, Lord!
Bouts of depression are like the onslaught of seasonal colds. They come and go at will. When I have a cold, I take medicine formulated for my symptoms. So it is with depression. When it swoops down on me, I apply these 4 Secrets to shine the light in the dark. Is it easy? No. I have to bully my flesh. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely! Why? Thankfulness helps heal depression.
While I didn't receive my birthday request, I received something so much better: God inviting me to trust Him. I have turned God's gentle "No" of a miraculous healing to a life-preserving "Yes!" by taking Him at His Word.
Truly Paul's words have now become my mantra, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses...for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Soon, I'll share some of the cool science proving these 4 Secrets work! Until then, my friend, how have you beaten depression? I'd love to hear! If you're currently in a dark season, I'm sorry. That's hard. I get it. You're not alone. Let me know if you're struggling. I'd love to pray with you.
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Confidante. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, deep talks, lively laughter, and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
How a Year of Thanking God For Everything Has Changed Me
As 2016 wound to a close and anticipation for 2017 filled my heart, I began asking the Lord to give me a new word for the New Year. The word of the year is my theme for the upcoming year; an area where the Lord is directing my focus in order to grow me spiritually. This practice has proven to be far more effective than making any well-intended yet short-lived New Year’s resolutions.
I was hoping for a strong word like COURAGEOUS or FEARLESS. That didn’t happen. Instead of giving me my preference, the Holy Spirit impressed a word upon me that I was not so eager to claim: THANKFUL.
Umm, can we have a redo?
It seemed too vanilla and unexciting to me. I pretty much told the Lord, “Any word but that word!”
Certain that I had gotten it wrong, I persisted in prayer and hoped that a new word would soon emerge. But, nothing else came. It took me weeks to accept that – like it or not – THANKFUL was indeed the Lord’s intended word for me for 2017.
Claiming the verse to accompany my new word was much easier than claiming the word itself. The Lord started sowing this verse into my heart earlier in the summer when I read The Hiding Place, a book about Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. This book had me hooked. I found myself laughing, crying, gasping, and wanting to jump into the pages and change the course of history. Its message of unflinching faith in the face of extreme adversity stuck to me in the weeks ahead. Also, tucked inside its pages was a simple yet profound story that taught me about the transforming power of thankfulness. In unbearable circumstances, Corrie’s sister, Betsie, showed Corrie how to thank God for everything, even the perceivably bad things. It reads:
It will be better, everyone assured everyone else, when we move into permanent barracks. We’ll have a blanket apiece. A bed of our own. Each of us painted into the picture her own greatest need.
The move to permanent quarters came the second week in October. Betsie and I followed a prisoner-guide through the door at the right. Our noses told us, first, that the place was filthy: somewhere plumbing had backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid. Then as our eyes adjusted to the gloom we saw that there were no individual beds at all, but great square piers stacked three high, and wedged side by side.
At last she pointed to a second tier in the center of a large block. To reach it we had to stand on the bottom level, haul ourselves up, and then crawl across three other straw-covered platforms to reach the one that we would share with – how many? The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw.
Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.
“Fleas!” I cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them!”
We scrambled across the intervening platforms and edged our way to a patch of light.
“Here! And here another one!” I wailed. “Betsie, how can we live in such a place?”
“Show us. Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!”
I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. “It was First Thessalonians,” I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen. In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is…‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus – ‘”
“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“Such as?” I said.
“Such as being assigned here together.”
I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”
“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.”
I looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”
“Yes,” said Betsie. “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re placed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded.
“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”
“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for – “
The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“’Give thanks in all circumstances,’” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
Like Corrie, I often imagine a better life ahead. I paint a picture where my greatest needs are met, desires are fulfilled, and life is comfortable and happy. I say, "It will be better when..." And, when that doesn’t happen, I wallow in depression. I get anxious. I fear the unknown. I feel weary. I focus too intently on the fleas, the minor nuisances, and make them bigger than what they really are. Worst of all, I never thank God for any of it. None. What would be the reason?
So, here I am with perhaps one of the hardest verses in the Bible to live out, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances,” as my verse for 2017.
Why that word? What that verse? Why?
Yet, I knew why. The Lord wanted to cultivate in me a spirit of thankfulness. And, if that’s what He desired for me, I could trust that there was a good reason for it.
Being a born procrastinator, I wanted to put off the task. But, very quickly into the New Year, the Lord decided it was time for us to get busy. It started with my middle child. His health history is long. Our journey with this child has been a decade in the making and not one stage has been easy. I have lamented SO MANY times to the Lord and pleaded for Him to make my job as his mother easier. The beginning of 2017 found me doing more of the same. But, instead of listening to my lamenting, the Lord would say, “Tell me 3 things you are thankful for right now.” What I really wanted to do was continue on with my whine, let my imagination about the “what if’s” run wild, and shout, “Help me Lord!!”
Yet, the Lord wanted me to give thanks instead.
Like Corrie, I would squabble with Him at first. But, ever so slowly, it would happen. I would push pause on my anxious thoughts and search for something positive in the whole situation. With diligent focus, something good would start to come into view.
“Oh, yes, Lord, thank you for ___________.”
“Oh, and thank you for ___________.”
Sometimes I listed three things. Sometimes five. Sometimes seven.
Here’s what happened – my mindset shifted. My mood shifted. My attitude shifted. My worries became praises. My exasperated moans and groans became intelligible words of life.
The same thing happened with my older son. He was struggling to make new friends in his new school. My heart has never been so burdened for him! It produced an anxious spirit within me that kept me up at night. I silently transposed my own childhood fears of rejection onto him which proved to be a surefire way to crank my anxiety up even higher.
“Thank me,” the Spirit would whisper.
And, pushing pause on my anxiety, I would do just that:
“Thank you Lord that you are a man well-acquainted with rejection for you know how he feels.” Isaiah 53:3
“Thank you Lord for the one friend that he has at school. He would be so lonely without her.”
“Thank you Lord that he doesn’t sit alone at lunchtime.”
Was this easy? No. My heart cried while my tongue thanked. But, wrapped up in my thanksgiving was peace in knowing that my burdens were safe at my Savior’s feet. Having placed them there, I could begin to see all the ways that the Lord was working in that situation. And, by faith, I believed that He would weave it into a greater purpose.
These two situations have continued to come up throughout this past year along with some others. Each time, with a racing heart and “what-ifs” bubbling to the surface of my mind, I have begun to go into autopilot and start my thanksgiving. And, do you know what? My anxieties are gone!
This discipline has shown me that the antidote for anxiety is thanksgiving! An anxious mind cannot co-exist with a thankful heart. They operate on two completely different wavelengths. It’s as if you have to flip the anxious switch off in order to flip the thanksgiving switch on. What a discovery!
Corrie and Betsie’s story goes on to tell us what happened in those flea-infested barracks:
Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” There were services like no others. Betsie or I would open the Bible. Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text, we would translate aloud in German. And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, back into Dutch. There were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the lightbulb. I would know again that in darkness God’s truth shines most clear.
At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.
Over one thousand women crammed into that tight, putrid space where the Gospel was shared night after night in six different languages. All of this was done with no disruption whatsoever from the ever-watchful eyes of the Nazi guards. But how?
Corrie and Betsie later found out that the guards wouldn’t come into their dormitory because “that place is crawling with fleas!’”
And, to think that Corrie was sure the fleas had no good purpose. Imagine if she had refused to be thankful for them?
Why do we have to walk through difficult circumstances? Why has this past year been hard? This past week? I don’t know why. But, I can say this…the fleas have a purpose. Each one can draw us closer to the Lord. He wouldn’t allow them if it weren’t so.
2 Corinthians 4:17: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
You can thank the Lord for your light and momentary troubles today. And, you can thank Him for them tomorrow. And, the next day. And the next. Day after day you can thank Him until thanksgiving is an automatic response that spontaneously erupts from your lips. Your troubles may not change, but, I can guarantee you, you will.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural, an even 50/50 split of introvert/extrovert, and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
What are you thankful for today? We are thankful for you!!
Some days/situations are more difficult than others to find things to be thankful for. But we’ve all been abundantly blessed. Take some time today to make a mental list of reasons you have to be thankful!
Cowboys Football - Audra's pick
Our extended family has been pretty spread out over the past 17 years that Jordan and I have been married. And there are three sibling families that we have to consider as well. Needless to say, every Thanksgiving looks very different for us. But the one thing, no matter which family members we are with, that never changes, is that the Dallas Cowboys, “Our Team”, always play on Thanksgiving! We even plan our big meal around the game. Last year, we were so blessed to have someone invite our entire family, both sides, to the actual game. It was a Thanksgiving memory for the books!
Thankfulness - Laura's pick
Since my brother has been married, Thanksgiving on my side of the family has always been shared with my sister-in-law's family as well. As our two families join together at my brother's house, my sister-in-law has always allowed for a special time of thankfulness. She puts so much thought into the way we will share, it's always fun to see what she comes up with every year. I remember one year she gave each of us a little bag with three seeds and we were to tell three things we were thankful for. In our family's bag there were four! She added the fourth because our family had been praying that the Lord would give us another child and that was our reminder. I still have that seed and God did move that mountain! From joining hands in a circle and each of us telling something we are thankful for from the previous year, to tying paper leaves onto a tree limb where we write our thankfulness down, to my favorite...strips of fabric that you can purchase that have discussion questions about what you are thankful for, it's a very special tradition that has been created. I love Thanksgiving because of the simplicity of it; just family, food and fellowship.
Family Board Games - Rebecca's pick
My mom decided many years ago when our family started expanding with in-laws and grandchildren that we would have a set date for celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. For Thanksgiving, it's always on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And, for Christmas, it's always on the Sunday after Christmas (so the NINETEEN of us can all go to church together). This was a stroke of genius because it has eliminated any hassle of juggling travel schedules and multi-family events. I especially like Thanksgiving because 1.) we eat yummy food and 2.) we always play board games after the meal. Some of the cousins play games upstairs while a few more cousins play with the adults downstairs. It's a sweet time of laughing and connecting. I absolutely love it!
Leftover Turkey & Stuffing Panini - Tammy's pick
Growing up, the meal after the meal was one of the highlights of the day for us kids. All the leftovers would be pulled out of the fridge and placed on the kitchen counter. A loaf of bread would be added and then the piling would begin! Two pieces of bread, a spread of mayo, some turkey meat, a slab of Mom's homemade dressing (stuffing), and a healthy spread of cranberry sauce. Thanksgiving meal all in one bite! Yum!
Family Recipes - Rhonda's pick
My family's thanksgiving tradition is truly a T R A D I T I O N. Meaning it's been done this way forEVER. Before Daddy died, it was always Daddy, Mother, me and my family, sister Libby and her family, sister Lisa and her family and sometimes even another random brother-in-law or visiting college student. We gathered at my house for many years and then we started going to Mom's or one of my sons' house. Two years ago Mother was having problems getting around so we had our noon meal at her house so we wouldn't have to try to transport her somewhere else. This year she's in a nursing home so we have decided, once again, to have it at her house. Someone will bring her home for the day and we can have Thanksgiving at least one more time as we did in the past. Mother always cooked the dressing but last year, and I suppose from now on, that task will fall to me. Unless a daughter-in-law or niece wants to take over, and I will gladly pass the mixing spoon to her.
I am including my crock pot dressing recipe. This has been reprinted in several local church cookbooks but mine came from Old Friendship Baptist Church in Chester County.
CrockPot Chicken and Dressing
1 stick butter
2 eggs well beaten
2 C onion, chopped
1 can golden mushroom soup
2 C celery chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 large skillet of cornbread
2 C chicken broth
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp sage, or to taste
1 tsp salt
2 C cooked chicken
1/2 tsp black pepper
Saute onion and celery in 1/2 the butter. Crumble cornbread and mix all ingredients in crockpot, adding chicken last. Cook in crockpot on high for 45 minutes. Stir and continue to cook on low for 4 hours.
Note: I have found its much easier to mix all this in a very large mixing bowl, and I'll be honest with you - I use my hands! Then, pour it in crockpot. Very moist dressing! Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste.