Harnessing the Power of the Past

Harnessing the Power of the Past
Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
"I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." (Psalm 40:1-2, NIV)

Friend To Friend
Florida is famous for its sinkholes. I personally find them fascinating since I grew up in Texas where most holes are made intentionally. As I studied these overnight wonders, an interesting explanation emerged. Scientists assert that sinkholes occur when the underground resources gradually dry up, causing the surface soil to lose its underlying support. Everything simply caves in - forming an ugly pit.

Depression and sinkholes have a lot in common. Depression seems to overwhelm with a vicious suddenness when it is actually the result of a malignant and constant process. Inner resources are slowly depleted until one day there is nothing left. The world caves in and darkness reigns.

Depression is America's number one health problem. Someone once called it "a dark tunnel without a ray of light" while cartoonists portray it as "a little black cloud hovering overhead." I have a friend who says, "Some days you're the bug. Some days you're the windshield." Many believe that depression is simply a spiritual problem while others insist it is an emotional and physical disorder. They are all right. Studies indicate that over half of all women and one out of three men struggle with depression on a regular basis. Because no one is immune to the darkness, we must learn to face it honestly and with emotional and spiritual integrity.

That moment came for me in the spring of 1995 when my world fell apart. I was empty and completely exhausted. It seemed as if I had been living in the fast and furious lane forever. Overwhelmed, I sat down and mentally listed the demands on my life:

Serving as Pastor's wife in a large and fast-growing church
Raising two young children
Maintaining a hectic speaking schedule
Directing the Women's Ministry of our church
Teaching a weekly and monthly Bible study
Counseling women in crisis
Playing the piano for three worship services
Teaching twenty piano and voice students
No wonder I was struggling. I was just plain tired. Being a perfectionist, I had always been very strong and driven to excel with little sympathy for weak people. Now I, the strong one, couldn't get out of bed. Getting dressed by the time my children returned from school meant it was a good day. The simplest decisions sent me into a panic and the thought of facing crowds was overwhelming. Many times, I walked to the front door of the church but couldn't go in. I felt guilty missing services but couldn't handle the sympathetic looks and questioning stares as I stood, weeping uncontrollably. I was paralyzed, imprisoned in a bottomless pit where loneliness and despair reigned, wreaking emotional havoc from their throne of darkness. I had no idea how I had gotten there and what was even more frightening was the fact that I had no idea how to escape! I did the only thing I could do. I cried out to God.

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand" (Psalm 40:1-2, NIV).

With that single heart cry, my journey from darkness into light began. The first step was to recognize the factors that can trigger depression; a lack of replenishing relationships, various chemical imbalances, and a poor self-image, just to name a few. One of the most common and deadly factors is failure to deal with the past. The "mire" mentioned in Psalm 40:2 means "sediment at the bottom." When our children were small, we frequented the beach. Wading out into the ocean, they took turns pushing a beach ball under water and counting to see who could hold the ball under water the longest. Eventually their arms would tire, or the ball would escape their control, popping to the surface. The "mire" in our lives is like that beach ball. The "sediment" or "junk" that we have never dealt with settles at the bottom of our souls, randomly popping up until we run out of energy to keep it submerged. Eventually, this mire works its way to the surface, spilling ugliness and darkness into our life.

"Mire" comes in all shapes and sizes - buried pain, unresolved anger, hidden sin or a great loss. I had never really dealt with my mother's death or faced some very painful parts of my past. As I looked back over my life a startling realization came - I had painted a picture in my heart and mind of how I wanted my childhood to be instead of how it really was. I had spent my whole life running from the past by filling the present with frenzied activity. In the following weeks and months, the Lord and I sifted through the enormous pile of "mire" that had settled into my spirit and life. Together we faced experiences that I had carefully locked away until they slammed into my heart and mind with breathtaking force and fresh pain; an alcoholic father, the trusted family doctor who molested me, times of loneliness and rejection, haunting failures, unreasonable fears that were never spoken. It seemed as if the flood of polluted memories would never end.

But God is good - providing a defense mechanism for those experiences that are beyond our ability to face. He gently tucks them away until we are ready. When we bury pain alive, it keeps popping up at unexpected moments. Pain must be dealt with and buried...dead. Freedom from the pit of darkness demands a confrontation of our past, straining every experience through the truth that "all" things work together for our good. The will of God admits no defeat and penalizes no one. We can allow our past to defeat us or empower us. Harnessing the power of the past is a compelling weapon in the war against darkness.

Let's Pray
Father, I am so tired of the darkness that greets me every morning when I open my eyes and stares me down at night when I try to sleep. I am no longer willing to be a prisoner of my past. Show me the sins I need to confess and turn away from. Heal the wounds that have hurt for so long. I lay my past at Your feet and ask You to make it a cornerstone for the new life I can have in You.

In Jesus' name,


Now It's Your Turn
Take a few minutes to think back over your life. Make a list of the "mire" that has settled in your heart and soul. Be specific. It may be a sin you need to confess or the pain of a broken relationship that needs to be healed. Ask God to show you the things in your past that have become footholds of darkness in your life today. Face each one. Deal with it and let it go.

Read Romans 8:28. What good things has God brought out of the pain in your past? Is your faith stronger? Have you been able to encourage others who have experienced that same pain?

More From The Girlfriends
If you or someone you love is dealing with depression, I encourage you to check out these FREE resources on my website. My book, Hope in the Midst of Depression, is a practical guide for anyone dealing with depression and will help you learn how t

· Change a negative thought life into positive, healthy thought patterns.

· Control and use the power of emotions to avoid erratic mood swings.

· Enjoy better relationships by establishing replenishing friendships and managing draining ones.

· Re-set priorities to have a more balanced life

Looking for a Bible Study? Enroll in Mary's weekly online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. The current topic is
How to Handle Hurt. We will experience pain and hurt but we can learn how to handle the hurt in a way that honors God and assures a life of victory.

Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106


God is beauty
God is love
God is understanding,
God is quiteness and rest,
God is peace. God is the song of ecstasy, that burst in the springtime;
God is the blue of a calm day in summer.
God is the faith that comes where there is no reason for faith.
God is the voice of a bell, the peal of a trumpet.
God is timeless, spaceless.
God is all heights and all depths.
God is law and the maker of law,
God is beyond all and in all.
God is simplicity, enveloped by us in complexity.
God is perfection among imperfections.
God is a perfect poem,
God is God.
-- Catherine Cate Coblentz

The Right Motivation
Bayless Conley

In yesterday's devotional, we saw how we should not give just to get. That should not be our sole motivation. So the question is, "What is the right motivation?"

All we need to do is look at what motivated God to give. It is found in John 3:16,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God so loved that He gave. And, yes, God certainly did reap a harvest when He gave His Son. He reaped a harvest of sons and daughters.

You should give out of love and devotion for God. Give because you do not want people to go into an eternity without God, because you love humanity, because you have mercy and compassion for broken, dying people.

That is the right motivation for giving. When you give with that motivation, your reward will be great. God will see that it comes back to you multiplied.

That is a far cry from what many emphasize when it comes to giving today. It appears to me that a lot of people, when they teach on giving, are just pushing people's greed buttons. It seems that the main motivation that some leaders are teaching for people to give is, "Hey, give because God will bless you." And there is no doubt that God blesses those who give. The scriptural promises are clear.

But what about the weightier matters? Remember how Jesus rebuked the Jewish leadership in Matthew 23:23 because they, "Neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith"?

God looks at the heart. Our hearts ought to be like that of our heavenly Father, who is merciful, kind, loving, and generous, even to the most thankless and evil among us. That is the right motivation.

Visit the Answers with
Bayless Conley website for more ways to Connect with God

Can you hear the prayer of the children
on bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room?
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry
turning heavenward toward the light.

Crying," Jesus, help me
to see the morning light of one more day,
but if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take."

Can you feel the hearts of the children
aching for home, for something of their very own.
Reaching hands with nothing to hold onto
but hope for a better day, a better day.

Crying," Jesus, help me
to feel the love again in my own land,
but if unknown roads lead away from home,
give me loving arms, away from harm."

Can you hear the voice of the children
softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
blood of the innocent on their hands.

Crying," Jesus, help me
to feel the sun again upon my face?
For when darkness clears, I know you're near,
bringing peace again."


"Prayer is the sweat of the soul." Martin Luther

"Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of himself." Mother Teresa

"Consequently he is able to for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25

"Prayer is the rope that pulls God and man together. But it doesn't pull God down to us it pulls us up to him." William Franklin (Billy) Graham

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

"Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude." 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

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