I feel exasperated sometimes with the constant ups and downs that are a normal part of my life. I would surmise that ups and downs are probably a part of your life, too.
Don’t we have a knack for riding them out on something akin to a roller coaster? I have truly become a master at riding out ups and downs since my kidney transplant, but then I never really wanted a roller coaster life. So much for life plans!
Even with ups and downs, I am comforted when my faith opens up insight I have gained over the years, like not worrying about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), not leaning on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and not being anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6-7). Those stay-the-course words should surely be enough to help, shouldn’t they?
Not always! Faith and spiritual maturity and scripture are simply not enough at times to keep me from the despondency of the “downs.” That’s just the way my psyche reacts when I feel down or when a circumstance pushes me down. The trouble is, things that get me down are not always enormously critical things. Even an insignificant down moment can let depression plant itself in my spirit. That just doesn’t work for me, so I need to find a way to even out my roller coaster life and not let everything that happens be a potential for depression.
What do I want? I cannot say it simpler than this: stabilizing peace. It is not an exaggeration to say that since my transplant eighteen months ago, almost nothing has been stable. Immunosuppression medications are constantly being moved up or down; my lab numbers are constantly fluctuating; my emotions are up and down; my energy waxes and wanes; my blood sugar rises and plummets; and, on one day my kidney might be okay, but on another day, I am dealing with kidney rejection. My physical, emotional and spiritual well being rises and falls with each change.
Oh, for some stabilizing peace that stays constant through the ups and downs!
I keep going back, though, to the ultimate words that promise me the kind of constant, stabilizing peace that I so need:
Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad.
Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here.
Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.
With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God.
Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus,
God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand.
And this peace will control the way you think and feel.
Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper.
Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile
and worthy of praise.
You know the teachings I gave you,
and you know what you heard me say and saw me do.
So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you.
Philippians 4:4-9 CEV
I wage war, much of the time, with depression that continues its haunting presence. It is not the debilitating kind of depression that can knock one to the ground to the point of needing medication. It is not the kind of depression that leaves one in tears and prevents any meaningful activity. It is not even the kind of depression that affects one’s life to the point of complete stagnancy. But it is a depression that hurts the heart and leaves the spirit languishing — on some days more than others.
Yet, I am grateful for lessons learned. In my times of depression — through my ups and downs — I have learned a few helpful and hopeful lessons.
These are just a few of them:
- I must not fall into the bottomless pit of anticipatory anxiety. The things that fill me with such anxiety and worry rarely even happen.
- My spirit is resilient, much stronger than I think it will be.
- The bad things that happen to me don’t usually last forever. I can ride them out.
- It is not “pie-in-the-sky” fantasy to fall back on the faith that has always sustained me. The truth is that the God who promised to be with me, really has been with me — every time.
- My “downs” have always graced me with a fresh view of my soul and spirit, the deep places in me that fall to the dust but still manage to get up and move forward.
I admit I haven’t made peace with my ups and downs. I suspect I will have them as lifelong companions, but I have made peace with the soul of my being. I have discovered that there are some soul-things that I can never really touch unless I have gone as low as I can go. In those times, my emotions are discernible and my spirit is tender. In those times, there is a holy presence that will take my hands and lift me up. Of that, I am confident.
Debasiah Mridha wrote these words that are so true and so full of wisdom, “Life has its ups and downs. When you are up, enjoy the scenery. When you are down, touch the soul of your being and feel the beauty.”
I would like to be able to leave you with a sparkling, new solution for all of the times you go from up to down. I would like to be able to tell you in your ups, and in your downs, that you will find peace enough to sustain you. I wish I could tell you, even, that your life will be all “ups.” I wish I could believe it for myself. But there are very few things that any of us can count on. I intend to keep holding on tightly to my faith and my belief that God’s Spirit of Wisdom walks beside me. Sits next to me on that terrifying roller coaster!
I also love this thought that I stumbled upon in a most unlikely place. Brent Schlender, in his book entitled, Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, made the most lovely, comforting observation. This is what he wrote: “The sun will set and the sun will rise, and it will shine upon us tomorrow in our grief and our gratitude, and we will continue to live with purpose, memory, passion, and love.”
May the Holy One make it so. Amen