Doubling Down on Devotional Habits
The worst part of being depressed is you don't feel like doing anything. You don't enjoy anything; you don't have energy for anything. You don't want to be alone, and you don't want to be with people. You just don't want to do anything.
At times like that it is most important that you do something. To quote Rudyard Kipling:
The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire;
For me my bible was my shovel, and my prayer book was my hoe. I also had a small group of fellow diggers.
This may not sound odd, a pastor making a point to have a daily devotional life. But, if you know me then you know I have never been consistent at anything. I don't think I have had a quiet time two days in a row since the Eighties.
But this time was different, I had to get out of this hole. I was willing to try anything.
So I prayed, and I found it very very hard. My brain seemed to stop working. All I could do was groan before the Lord. After a while, that wears thin. So my counselor recommended a prayer book. Using a prayer book is simple, just pray the words written out in front you, and you can use it up to seven times a day.
Now I grew up in the country, a million miles from the nearest liturgical church. The idea of praying someone else's words felt blasphemous. Prayer is supposed to be the outpouring of my heart. But I found as I looked at this prayer book, The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle, that those words were the outpouring of my heart. The petitions described my needs, the praises described my experiences. When I was at my lowest, I could not form words of my own, but I could pray these words. And these words, borrowed mainly from scripture, gave expression to my soul.
I also got together with my friends. Some had also been going through a time of darkness, others were great, but all of them loved me. We started studying Devotional Classics by Richard Foster. We studied devotional practices that we have never tried. Some of them felt foreign, others made us feel instantly at home. We experienced God's grace in new ways, and we experienced it together.
I found that even though I did not feel him, God was there. All my yelling, my anger, my sadness, and my despair had not run him off. He was there, and he was waiting to come in and dine with me.
I used to tell people not to waste time having a quiet time if they didn't want to. I did not want them to put their faith in a legalistic practice. I think I was wrong. If you are a Christian, your Father in heaven wants to be with you. Let him in. Especially when you do not feel like it. Let him in.