Psalm 23:4: Even though I walk through the darkest valley…

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

In my post about my summer plans I mentioned that I felt a little lost when I returned from Tanzania.  That was a bit of an understatement but I’ve been struggling with the idea of posting about it.  What I’m about to share is very personal but I think it’s necessary to tell you about it.
My whole life I’ve been a hardcore perfectionist and hate letting people see when I mess up or am upset.  College has pretty much cured me of that though and I’m learning how important it is to let other people see my scars and tears.  This newfound openness was put to the test this past year.
As I’m sure you can tell from my posts about Tanzania, I had an incredible experience of God there.  His presence has never been more tangible than it was for those two months.  My relationship with Him became effortless and my faith grew in leaps and bounds.  When I returned home it felt like I had left God in Tanzania and my life was suddenly void of any meaning.
About a week after I returned to the states I wrote this:

I felt so much closer to God when I was living simply in Africa.  I wasn’t surrounded by possessions and my days had a pretty simple routine.  It was easy to connect with God.  But God doesn’t want our faithfulness only in the easy times or only when we’re in trouble.  He wants our love and devotion all of the time.  Carrying over what I learned in Tanzania is the real test.

I am not proud of the person I became during the period of time between coming back and returning to school.  The sudden lack of structured routine and responsibilities drove me to extreme laziness and a complete lack of God.  Once I got back to school this got better:

I’m finally back at school and I feel like I’m alive again.  I have a purpose and a role here.  My break from God is over. I hate that it happened at all but all that’s left to do is forgive myself and try harder.

Then around November, when all my work started piling up, I found myself missing Tanzania more than ever.  I became apathetic and depressed; I no longer cared about what I was doing and lost sight of what God needed me to be doing.
Here’s some excerpts from my journal at that time:

My energy is entirely spent; I have given everything I have.  It takes so much energy just to smile and pretend everything is okay.  My walls are falling down and my mask is starting to crack.  I don’t have the energy to care about anything anymore.  I just want to shut down and forget about everything, pretend the world doesn’t exist.  People are expecting things of me and I have nothing left to give.

A sorrow has seeped into my soul and I don’t know where it came from.  Simple conversations, smiling, takes more energy than I can muster, but I have to do it because I can’t let anyone see my weakness.  I am eternally cheerful – this just doesn’t happen to me.  How can I fight something I can’t name?

Soon after this, the cycle started all over again with Guatemala.  I wallowed in my sadness rather than trying to get help (because I didn’t want to admit that something was wrong) or fight it in any way.   Finally God gave me the kick in the pants I needed:

Last night I was genuinely and completely happy for the first time in months.  The fact that the feeling was completely foreign to me finally made me realize that I have a problem.

A song called “Sunrise” by Brandon Heath helped get me through this period of time.  That moment was definitely my sunrise.
Everything turned around after that.  Anytime I felt sadness overwhelming me, I prayed fervently for God to lift the darkness.  And He did!  As soon as I identified the root of my apathy (missing Africa and a distance from God) it was much easier to fight it with Jesus’s help.
I should add a disclaimer to this post and say that I also suspect that I suffer slightly from SAD(Seasonal Affective Disorder) which probably contributed to my depression occurring during the winter.
While it is unfortunate that this happened, I am absolutely sure that it has made my faith stronger.  In fact many Saints and holy people, such as Mother Teresa, went through periods of darkness and we admire their faith.  I’ve been falling deeper in love with God every day and am trying to learn as much as possible about His incredible love for us.
A while ago I wrote about the dangers of apathy and now I have experienced those firsthand.  It is complacency that will be the downfall of Christians, not horrendous sinfulness.  Take a moment today to really think about the incredible things God has done for you and the wonder that should be your response to that.  Becoming numb and ignorant to the world around me created a chasm between God and myself; don’t let the same happen to you.

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