Chapter 3 of Piper’s little book, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, is entitled, “Fold Not the Arms of Action.” Piper writes, “Waiting for the Lord in a season of darkness should not be a time of inactivity. We should do what we can do. And doing is often God’s appointed remedy for despair.” He quotes one of my favorite Puritan pastors, Richard Baxter:
Be sure that you live not idly, but in some constant business of a lawful calling, so far as you have bodily strength. Idleness is a constant sin, and labour is a duty. Idleness is but the devil’s home for temptation, and for unprofitable, distracting musings. Labour profiteth others and ourselves; both soul and body need it. Six days must thou labour, and must not eat “The bread of idleness.” (Prov. xxxi. 13-27.) God hath made it our duty, and will bless us in his appointed way. I have known grievous, despairing melancholy cured and turned into a life of godly cheerfulness, principally by setting upon constancy and diligence in the business of families and callings.
This has to be the hardest thing for me to do when I’m feeling depressed. The last thing I want to do is get up and get busy. I tend to prefer to wallow in my self-pity for a little bit. If I wanted to be really honest, then I’d admit that I may even enjoy feeling sorry for myself sometimes. I am thankful that I am beginning to hate this about myself. I know that it is just a twisted form of pride, so I’m on my way to understanding how to fight it, to not allow those feelings to control me, to preach the truth to myself when my feelings are wanting to take over, and seek genuine repentance.
Of what am I repenting? I can think of several things: laziness, joylessness, pride in the form of self-pity, prayerlessness (many times I realize I haven’t prayed as I ought for a couple of days), discontentment, and all their synonyms.
What should I preach to myself in that critical moment of decision between rolling over and getting up? Maybe something like this:
Listen, girl…you know you’re heading for a dark pit and you don’t really want to go there. You know this feeling…and that’s all it is…a feeling. Don’t let it rule you! Don’t allow the enemy one more moment of your day–he’s out to steal the whole thing! Don’t let him. Start praying now! What do you mean, “You don’t feel like it?” It is right for you to pray to your Heavenly Father. It is right for you to want to, so if you don’t want to, then you need to pray all the harder. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help–for the right feelings, for joy, for love for Jesus, for desire for God. Pray for your “want to” to match up with what is good for you and what is true of you. Confess your sins and apply God’s grace and forgiveness, provided for you by nothing less than the sacrifice of Jesus. You are His child. You are a new creation, and with His help, you’re going to live like it today. You’ve got no reason to be gloomy!
It is good and right for you to want to read His Word, so pull that book from the table and start reading whatever is scheduled for today, whether you feel like it or not, then read a little more because you need it. Write down something important for today that you want to remember. And let your thanksgiving start! Say it out loud so your ears can hear. Giving thanks will radically change your attitude and your feelings. If you persist, then pretty soon you’ll really be feeling joyful. It’s OK to fight through the feelings in order to get to joy in the Lord on the other side. You know it’s there–you’ve tasted it before! Seek Him earnestly and He will reward you.
Next, I have to tell you to get in the shower (and don’t forget to sing Him some praise), get dressed to your shoes, and fix your hair and face. Put a smile on and start serving your family. You can’t wallow in self-pity if you’re dead, which is exactly how you must consider yourself today. You’re dead, but Christ is alive in you…so, let death work in you that life may work in Karl and the kids. The gospel is a mighty high calling…don’t despair…His Spirit provides all the energy, grace, and power you need for today…so work at it with all your might and do all you can to live up to the call. Don’t think about tomorrow! Just try to make it til naptime, then repeat this lecture! Your labor for the Lord is not in vain. He is and will be your joy! Press on!
Well, it has done me a world of spiritual good to type that out! I feel joyful and thankful and like working hard already, and I haven’t even taken my advice yet! Just reviewing the truth is a tremendous help to lifting the darkness.