Anna LeBaron grew up in a religious, polygamist cult. Before 12, she had experienced many middle-of-the-night, chaotic moves, inquiries by social services and law enforcement, had been dropped off in Mexico by her mother with strangers for a year, forced to sell rocks and slices of cake for money, dumpster dived for food and clothing, and a myriad of other incredibly oppressive and depressive things a child should not have to suffer. You can hear her story on this moving Feathers episode or in her fascinating memoir.
Incredibly, she escaped the cult, met Jesus, and has been on a healing journey since. As you might imagine, part of her journey included a time of depression. She shared with me a quote from Bob Hamp that helped her and has stuck with me since.
He says the opposite of depression is not happiness; the opposite of depression is expression. Anna needed to learn to grieve her trauma and losses and properly express emotions in order to heal.
I have found the same in my life. While I certainly haven’t experienced even a small percent of what Anna has, pain has not escaped me. Whether it was the loss of a family member, mishandled anger of a parent, flippant words of a boy in my formative years, the pain lodged itself in my heart. And what I’ve learned over the last few years is that stuffing the negative emotions down is not faith and it’s not healing. As Esther Fleece shared on Feathers, we have to learn to lament.
God has given us the words to learn to do just that. Esther’s first experience with lament was to cry David’s words from Psalm 77.
“I am too distressed even to pray!”
“I moan, overwhelmed with longing”
“Will he never again be kind to me?”
All of these words from a man that had experienced great pain too. A man after God’s own heart.
As Anna, Esther, and I have experienced, God wants to heal our hearts–to prune the pain from our lives–but we first must express them to him. We must cry, rant, rail, and complain to Him. It is in those moments that He comforts, perhaps gives us new perspectives, or miraculously binds up our wounded heart.
And yet, this week, even after many, many moments of doing just that, I could feel that ache. That depressive need to express. And yet, I couldn’t pinpoint any pain.
This morning that old praise song came to mind, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” I looked it up and began to sing, to cry, to praise God for all the great things He has done. I played it over and over and over until eventually, I could feel my soul relax.
And here is what I realized: sometimes the thing we need to express isn’t pain, but praise.
We can lack a spirit of joy and go into a type of depressive state when we haven’t properly praised God for all He’s done. And wouldn’t you know the Psalms are perfect for that too?
“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you”
“My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”
“I will praise you, O Lord with all my heart”
We are made to bring both our pain and praise to God. All of our expression is made for Him. In the same way He wants to prune the pain, He wants to see the beauty bloom. After our good gardener has healed us, provided for us, guided us in our pain, there is a beautiful harvest to display.
So, are you feeling down today? Is there pain you need to take to God? Are there some praises you need to bring to the altar?
How about we start here?
Lord, come in and see my heart. You know my need now before I even say it. Expose the pain I’ve experienced that I need to bring to you. Take it, heal it, and let it be used for your good and glory. Jesus, thank you for the good in my life. I’m sorry if I’ve forgotten to praise you for the good. Thank you for all the good you have done in my life. Let me forever praise you for it. Let my expression be always unto you. Take all of my life and let it sing your glory. Amen