Sharing in our brokenness
BY SANDY ALLEN & BENNETT ROLAN
S andy Allen was on her knees, begging God for a way out. As a long-time BSF teaching leader, she was steeped in God’s Word and committed to seeking Him in prayer.
But Sandy knew her debilitating condition had returned, and she cried out to her Savior.
For months, she pushed through the fog. She would deliver her BSF lecture, then collapse at home in exhaustion.
Pounding thoughts would suffocate her joy and desire for living.
“Life is just too hard. …”
“Nothing is worth it. …“
“Your life is worthless. …”
“The very part of what makes you you – is worth nothing. …”
Years of Suffering
T wenty-five years earlier, Sandy was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. After medical treatment and therapy, she slowly recovered her personality and worked to restore her relationships.
“Over the years I faced the darkness many times,” Sandy said. “God has seen me through, and every time I thought, ‘Whew that is over. Surely it won’t come back again.’ ”
She was hopeful the battle was over. But those familiar thoughts returned in the fall of 2018.
“The scary part is that I couldn’t see it,” she said. “I thought I was fine until my depression started affecting others.”
Recognizing the signs, Sandy sought professional help. Today, her relationship with God is stronger, and her faith is deeper. But Sandy’s journey to this point has been difficult.
“I thought everyone had those days when they hated their lives and wanted just to die – when the living felt too hard to do,” Sandy said. “People say things like, ‘Tomorrow you will feel better, it’s just a rough patch, life can be hard sometimes.’ But I was overwhelmed and aching inside, without any real idea of how to make things better. But, boy, did I try.”
“I was overwhelmed and aching inside, without any real idea of how to make things better. But boy, did I try.”
She tried vitamins, sleep, exercise, diet, caffeine, vacation, more work, less work. Even prayer, worship, church counsel and Bible study did not alleviate the growing depression and anxiety.
“Nothing changed the way I felt deep down, about myself and my life,” she said. “Life was too hard, overwhelming. People seemed mean. I didn’t really want to do anything.
“Every day felt like I was walking through some sort of thick mud – trudging along. The tears would fall, I would think, ‘What’s the point of this life – it seems to just get harder.’ ”
Finally, a compassionate friend said, “I think you might be depressed.” After research and multiple doctor’s visits, Sandy accepted that she had a condition many of her BSF friends could not understand.
But the God who created Sandy and knew her thoughts intimately met her in the despair.
“I remember lying in bed,” Sandy said, “the tears falling, and crying out, ‘Lord I know You are God, but You feel so far away. I need You close to help me though.’ And in the darkness, I sensed His presence, remembered His words that He would ‘never leave me or forsake me,’ and I knew He would carry me through somehow.”
“I remember lying in bed,” Sandy said, “the tears falling and crying out, ‘Lord I know you are God, but you feel so far away. I need you close to help me through.’ “
After years of professional counseling, medical treatment and family support, Sandy feels compelled to share her story.
And through her honesty, we can find freedom in sharing our own struggles and moments of brokenness. Together, we can celebrate God’s faithfulness, acknowledge our weaknesses and rely on one another as we seek Christ in a fallen world.
Uniting in Trials
L ike Sandy, many of us face circumstances, diagnoses and difficult relationships that our BSF family may not understand. We walk into our BSF group each week feeling lonely and misunderstood, trying to hide the deep places that reveal our vulnerabilities.
But 2 Corinthians 12:9 promises God’s power “is made perfect in weakness.” And through our painful experiences, God strengthens the body of believers.
“… So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).
Our study of Acts and Letters of the Apostles will bring our sin, shortcomings and pain to light. Instead of hiding these moments, we can encourage group members to share how God is working in the midst of those trials.
The Power of Faithful Community
T o help us navigate these difficult topics and conversations, God’s Word gives wonderful insight into how the early Church pursued gospel-centered unity.
They committed to study, fellowship and prayer.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – Acts 2:42
Which person in your group today needs your prayers, or who needs to know you are praying for them? How will you reach out to them this week?
They put others’ needs above their own.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 2:3-5
Whose needs are your focus? How can you ask God to help you show someone else that they are valuable?
They were quick to listen and slow to anger.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19-20
Listening can be hard, but will you challenge yourself to ask more questions as you interact with those in your group?
Unity was a common goal.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:2-6
What can you do to demonstrate humility, patience and love in your relationships with others?
They sought to forgive one another.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:13-14
Who do you need to forgive, because the Lord has forgiven you? When will you take action to reach out and forgive?
Walking in the Valley
F or those who struggle with depression, or see another who is hurting, Sandy Allen shared some helpful thoughts from her experience.
God does not expect you and me to do everything.
“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ ” – Acts 6:3-4
Sometimes our trials increase because we take on extra things.
I love this truth: God’s plan is for His work to be divided among the body.
When the anxiety increases, or the depression seems worse, allow yourself to let something go. Ask the Lord, ”What are those things you are asking me to do, and what can I stop for this tough season of my life?”
Depression is a trial.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – 1 Peter 1:6-7
Depression, anxiety and living with a loved one who struggles with it is a trial.
In every trial there is an opportunity for Christ to reveal Himself. Seeking Him in the hard times proves that our faith is real and that we know He is the one to turn to.
And in these verses, we have the promise that as our faith is refined, our lives will bring praise and glory to Jesus.
So God is at work in the present hard time. Your faith is being made stronger while living with depression or with a loved one who struggles.
God’s purposes for you are prevailing.
If you see someone struggling, reach out.
“While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.” – Acts 3:11
Who among you is hurting? How can you, through prayer and God’s compassion, reach out and give them a helping hand? Let them hold onto you, and bring them to Jesus.
How can I join you in prayer?
What would encourage you?
Can I give you a ride to BSF next week?
Can I sit beside you during the lecture?
Would you like to work on the questions together this week?
When we notice someone is hurting, we do not have to fix them. That is God’s job. But we can be there, a place to hold onto, in times of weakness.