The Struggle is R.E.A.L.

I write about the things I encounter every day in life. I write about how those things are lived out as a follower of the teachings of Christ. I started with the notion of calling my blog 365 Christianity but that didn’t feel as much me as Transparency Bloggin’. It occurred to me that too many people who claim to be Christians are living far beneath their privilege as children of God. I was hurting for a long time as I wrestled–in silence–with depression. I had always been the person to share my personal experience if I thought it would help someone else. It was my struggle with this oppressive spirit that pushed me further out and into my call to encourage others. But, before I was pushed out, I spent a number of years internally exiled, tormented and conflicted. Those who knew me only knew the extrovert, the organizer, the motivator and the sunny disposition. They knew nothing of the sad side of Suni. My mother could not reconcile or understand my spiral into despair; my family, nor my friends had any idea I was so enveloped in darkness. Yet, these were the people used to get the contractions going. It was the death of comedian Robin Williams that provided the final push. My posts will not all hinge on depression. They will, however, be written by someone who has decided to fight the despair and live out her purpose as a writer. I will speak to it because it is part of my story–it is my testimony of triumph. In fact, I lived (literally–every pun intended) to tell the story–my story–so that others might choose to fight and live, and tell their stories.

I am amazed at the degree to which I have to strain to recall one of my darkest periods of despair. Not that I want to relive that season, but I marvel at the grace of God which brought me through. I recently found myself remembering a time when I was on my knees on the stairs of my loft apartment. I was crying out and in such agony. In my prayer, I said “God, I don’t know what it is about me that You feel is strong enough for this. God, I can’t be experiencing this just because. There must be one person on the other side of this (in fact, I actually said “there had better be”—oh my); otherwise, there is no point.” I was hurting, I was angry and I was frustrated. In all of my despair, I had no idea how my struggle was affecting those who loved me. Recently, however, I was given the opportunity to be on the other side of the depression struggle. Being in a position of seemingly hopelessness to affect change in the life of a loved one comes with its own hurt, anger and frustration. It is a difficult place, and despite your prayers, you may find yourself engaged in discouragement—unable to see any way to help the hurting.

Surprisingly, my catalyst for today’s post is the beginning of daylight saving time. What does DST have to do with struggle or depression? Glad you asked! I was having a conversation with a friend about the loss of an hour and how she was going to have to strategize in order to recover that lost hour. Initially, I thought it really didn’t require a plan. Then, it dawned on me that—for her, and many others—it’s a struggle to lose sleep. As for me, I rejoice at this time of year because my “issue” demands more light in my life. The winter is a difficult season for me; therefore, I welcome spring and all that is associated with it. Bottom line: we all struggle with something; not necessarily to the same degree, and certainly not with the same issues. Nevertheless, struggle is a part of this life. Living with struggle is possible. All it requires is a strategy. By recognizing the nature of struggle, we are better able to live a productive life in spite of it. Yes, the struggle is R.E.A.L. Not only is it real, but it also serves a purpose in the life of the sufferer. To that end, here are a few thoughts regarding its nature that I believe will help us all; and, in turn, we’ll be able to spring forward regardless of the struggle.

The struggles we experience are RELEVANT to our purpose—the reason we were born and the reason we’re still in the earth. We weren’t haphazardly assigned the issues we have. Instead, they were sent with our purpose in mind. Through struggle, the enemy (satan) seeks to steal our peace, kill our effectiveness, and destroy our legacy of victory. From a Kingdom perspective, we struggle in order to build spiritual muscle, develop a testimony, and test our faith. Any declarations we make must be tested. We can say anything, but unless our words are proven and lived out they are just evaporating breath. Likewise, we cannot authentically address an issue without an association with it. Not that I couldn’t minister to an alcoholic on some level, but I could not truly address their issue with any significance unless I had some association with alcoholism—myself or my circle. There was indeed one person on the other side of my seasons of despair; in fact, there have since been several to which I’ve been assigned. I’m able to empathize, encourage and exhort when needed. I’m also able to understand the need to back off and trust the Lord for the right time to draw near. The latter requires spiritual maturity. My deliverance didn’t happen overnight, and I must be willing and mindful to respect the process. [Joh 10:10a; Gen 50:20]

Our struggles are ENCOMPASSING of every aspect of our lives. We tend to treat our issues as if they are isolated. While we may be able to keep things hidden in certain arenas or from certain associates, it is in our best interest to expose these matters. The enemy encourages us—through thought—to keep secrets. Not that we have to tell everyone (or write a blog about it), but we must recognize the need to address our issues in order to live more productive lives. It took a great deal of energy to keep my struggle to myself. Eventually, the strain of the private struggle began to ooze out—my responses were uncharacteristic, my absences were noticeable. What was once a private struggle was becoming public to my family through my little to lack of communication; public to my employer through tardiness and poor work performance; and public to the ministry through absence from corporate worship and administrative responsibilities. [1 Cor 4:5]

Our struggles become more manageable when we have someone to be ACCOUNTABLE to concerning our feelings and challenges. I was hit hard by the overdose death of Pastor Zachery Tims. I often wondered if he had shared his struggle with anyone, or if the shame kept him hiding in the shadows. As for me, when the suicidal thoughts entered my mind, I was literally scared to life! I chose someone I trusted to love me through my ugly. I talked; she listened. With her support, I entered counseling and received relief with medical intervention—for a season. I had to squash the thoughts that said this kind of help was a display of a lack of faith. I had to choose to proactively and aggressively confront the issue. By doing so, instead of displaying unbelief, I displayed my authority over the issue. Help is available to us. How far are you willing to go to get the help you need? Like the woman with the issue of blood, it may require us to crawl; or, it may just require a conversation. [Gal 6:2; Luk 4:36; Luk 9:1; Mat 9:20-22]

While some struggles are temporary, others may require a LIFETIME of adjustments. Our lifestyle choices will either perpetuate our issue or diffuse it. In the cases where our issues are not the first instance, we can benefit from the experience of others. Soon enough, we will be able to add our strategies to the list. In the meantime, we should learn all we can in order to thrive and not just survive. I had “held my breath” for a number of years before I learned how to manage my depression triggers. There was a six-month season where I chose not to fight; I gave into the despair. At the time, I did not have the strength or desire to do more than sleep, cry and isolate myself. When my mother passed away, I knew I had two choices: fight to live or allow the despair to take me out. Not that it was easy, but I choose to fight and I’m glad I did. Believe it or not, both required energy; yet, only one produced life. It takes energy to cover up and pretend. It is an energy than cannot be successfully sustained. I have stumbled and even fallen on my face while fighting. Each of those times, I got back up; I got back in the ring and I kept fighting. [2 Cor 12:8-10; Rev 12:11]

I’m stronger today than ten years ago when I identified my struggle. Although I know I experienced these periods of darkness, I will forever marvel at how hard it is—today—to recall the physical and emotional pain of those early days. On October 3, 2014 the Holy Spirit spoke in my spirit, saying: “It happened to you because I could trust you with the hurt.” Others will pass this way. Because of my struggle—and my survival, I will be able to extend a helping hand-to lead them to the other side of through. In spite of what appears to be loss or shame, my complete healing is on the way (see Luk 17:14); I will see its manifestation as I spring forward, and there will be glory…After This (J. J. Hairston & Youthful Praise)! ~WordsInPrint by Suni

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