Last night my daughter Rachel and I went to visit Anna. As I shared, she had a hard day on Monday. Mandi had gone to see her that afternoon, and my mom had called her that day as well. The reports were that she was better after seeing her mom.
When I got there last night, she was all smiles and hugs. Rachel didn’t want to stop hugging her. The two of them are very close.
She listened intently to the devotion on Psalm 25 that I prepared yesterday. But she was much more interested in a letter that my friend Michelle wrote to her. Michelle has been where Anna is. This is the same Michelle I talked about in A Tale of Three Women. As I read the letter to her, I could see that Anna was becoming more and more interested as she realized that Michelle knew what thoughts had been going through her mind.
With Anna and Michelle’s permission I have included some of it here:
I know the path you’re on right now. It’s dark and scary isn’t it? You feel lost, confused and helpless. You probably deal with some pretty mean kids at school to. It’s hard growing up. God knows; I know this is true. You’re going through some tough things and they seem endless. The darkness seems to never end; I know this feeling…
…[Y]ou have to know you can’t take your own life. Satan can’t take it. It is God’s to claim when he is ready to call you home. No one knows how or when they will die, but God knows when he will call you home to be with him. If you believe anything I or your parents tell you, please believe this: the darkness has an end, and these feelings you have today will pass.
Life is a precious gift. It took trying to take my own to realize this. You know what I do every morning when I open my eyes? I thank God for another glorious day. The next thing I do is I ask if today is my last day, then please give me the strength and wisdom to live it well. I live each day now like it could be the day my heavenly Father calls me home to heaven, but inside I pray for more days beyond this one.
I ask you to consider this as well: each scar you mark yourself with will be a badge of shame. I know, I bear many of these scars. I too thought the darkness was endless, overwhelming; I wanted to die and I even tried to end my life, to play God. I’ve learned the darkness isn’t overwhelming and God is stronger than these thoughts. He can conquer all the darkness inside if you let him. But it takes time and I can’t say these feelings won’t return. What can I say?
You have really great parents who both love you deeply. Lean on them and trust them enough to talk to them. I bet your mom and even your dad has felt scared and alone before on many days. Hard to believe I know. When I was your age, I saw my dad as this larger-than-life-never-afraid-of-anything man, and my mom as the strongest person I knew. They were, and are, indeed my heroes.
But if you ask them, they are scared right now. They see you hurting and they don’t know how to help. I know the answer is they are. They may even feel a little helpless and alone too. They want to help you and they’re trying. Give them the chance, let them inside the darkness and pain. With the torch of God in hand, dad as your armor, mom as your strength, and your friends and family as your army you can beat anything. The “Legions of Anna” stand ready for battle; let us join and help.
You can let them help by talking to them. Right now you have choices to make and darkness to face, but the good news is you aren’t alone. I and many have been praying and cheering for you, and your family has been there for you. Your church is there for you. So many love you and are holding up the light hoping you’ll see them and wander from your darkness.
You’re not alone in the darkness or the pain. Those who love you are in pain watching you struggle. We are praying, cheering and hoping for your recovery. You are stronger than the darkness and when you feel weakest, remember you have everyone lending you their strength; you have an army at your command. Me, your parents, sisters, grandparents, friends, church, and most of all God. We, the Legions of Anna, all stand ready to lend as much strength as you need to win this.
You aren’t alone in the dark, you aren’t alone in the pain, you aren’t alone in this struggle, and you never will be alone. I’ve been there, and I can tell you that you aren’t alone no matter how alone you feel. No one will quit on you because you are worth the love, time, and prayers, so please don’t quit on yourself. You’ve still so much to live for and days before you. You choose: is this day God’s present, or just another day? That choice is yours to make. It’s all how you see today. Gift from God is my choice, and I’ll unwrap his present like it was Christmas morning every day I live.
Your friend always,
“Legions of Anna.” I like that. And so did she. After I finished reading it she smiled real big, took it, carefully folded it up, and tucked it into her Bible.
When we are going through struggles like this, especially things like depression that tend to make us want to withdraw and hide away, we need to know that we are not alone. Part of the healing process is in resisting the temptation to try and hide our problem from the people who love us, especially our family and church family. When we hide our struggles they fester in the dark, and inevitably begin to grow a fungus of shame about them.
These things need brought into the light. This is one of the main reasons I wrote Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty; depression, anxiety, fear of failure, guilt, and shame run rampant in the Body of Christ today, and one of the reasons this is so, is because too often we are simply unwilling to reach out for help or to respond with the love and grace of God when we see it.
God will do the healing with Anna, but He has entrusted His Body, His church, His Kingdom of Priests, to give the care. When we run from that, hide from that, and excuse ourselves from that, we are refusing to do the very work that God has ordained for us to do (Matthew 25:37-40).
It is just as important that Mandi and I know that we are not alone. And we do. We have heard from so many people who have been reading these updates thanking us for being so transparent, frank, and open about what is going on. Deciding to do things this way was a family decision, including each of the girls. We have heard from people who we have not seen in years, people who never would have known about this because of distance or time apart, but who are still friends.
Too often we are too scared to talk about these things. It is our family’s hope in being so honest and open that we will encourage others to bring their own struggles and concerns into the light, however they feel comfortable doing that, so that they know they are not alone.