After the doctors shocking diagnosis, I said, “OK, Lord, I am going to trust in you. Show me what to do next.”
Immediately Hebrews 12:1-17 came to mind. This was one of the chapters that Bill Gotthard had recommended for meditation and had entitled it, “Difficulties: where they come from and what to do with them.” I got out my Bible and began to memorize it in preparation to meditating on it.
Almost from the beginning of this process, answers began to pop out from the page for me. The first major point was that this depression was proof that God loved me! That was a major worldview shift!
Verses 5 and 6 said, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves…” His discipline, allowing this depression, proved He loved and cared for me. He know what I needed to take the next step up.
That was certainly a new thought, upside down from what is natural—or better put, what is natural is upside down and God’s thoughts are right side up! Clearly, if God loves me, He’d want to confront me on issues that need to be corrected.
Then as I continued memorizing, three important insights emerged that helped me grasp exactly what God is doing in disciplining His children.
The first was from Hebrews 12:9. “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!”
This word “live” stood out to me–I was barely existing in this depression, not living at all. I looked up the Greek word in a concordance: it means to “live, to be lively, to be quickened.” A commentary I looked in said it meant to “really live.”
Clearly, “really living” was not what I was doing, but just as clearly it is what God wanted for me. As I thought and prayed about this, it became clear that one purpose of God’s discipline was to show me what was keeping me from really living, what was keeping me from the rich, positive life He had for me, and every other believer.
A second insight was in the next verse, Heb 12:10 “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.”
So God’s discipline is wise, it is for our good, and it is to share His holiness with us in some practical way. That’s an astounding thought! He is in some way seeking to help me to live out His holiness in my life.
“Maybe,” I thought, “in helping me to really live, He’s also pointing out what is keeping me from living out His holiness. In this depression God wants to free me to live in the way He has planned for me.” That made things look very different.
Then came a third insight in Hebrews 12:11, my favorite one, for it showed me that God understood how I felt in this ugly depression. It says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” I liked that: God wasn’t unfeeling, unknowing or uncaring, but understood fully what I was experiencing.
The verse went on, “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
So the Lord had peace for me, something I did not have at the moment. And it was clear that this peace didn’t come from just experiencing discipline, or just going through it, but from intentionally learning from it.
As I lay in bed that night, I prayed, “OK, Lord, what do I need to learn from this? What is keeping me from really living? What do I need to do to cooperate with you?”
The next two verses that I’d memorized gave me direction on how to move ahead. Hebrews 12:12-13 say, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
“OK, Lord, I will gather up my feeble arms and weak knees, get up and go back to work, trusting You to show me how to proceed.”
The next morning I got out of bed and had to literally pry my eyes open with my fingers, my eyelids were so heavy. I got dressed and trudged out to my father’s tire shop, prepared to return to work, trusting God to show me the next step.
Picture: outside the tire shop at the time of my depression