Finding My Light

What does it say about me that when I received this month’s topic word, light, I started humming, “Let, the sun shine. Let the sunshine in, the sun shine in.” from the Fifth Dimension’s Aquarius?

Hmm. Perhaps it says I live in the gray, beautiful, rainy, Pacific Northwest, and am ready not only for light, but warmth, too. Maybe it means that I’d like to go to Maui. That’s IT! Maui is always a good answer. Because: sunshine. And because: Maui.

But seriously, though. Living in the Pacific Northwest has given me a new appreciation for light. It’s where I have really learned to appreciate the abundance of our amazingly well-lit summer evenings, and where I’m still learning to appreciate the rhythms of the seven-to-eight hour window of light in our fall/winter days. I have also grown deepest in my faith over these last nearly 16 years of living in the upper left of our nation.

In fact, as I have studied God’s Word, one of my dearest and oldest Scripture friends has “light”, right in it! Think of that. But, alas, it’s not about sunlight. It’s about the lightening of one’s load.

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Yes, I called this passage a Scripture friend, because it has been my lifeline more often than I care to remember. You see, I am a depressive person by nature. Yes, Gretch, just overshare all the way—go big or go home. As I was saying, I may look upbeat and even tend toward an anxious temperament because: reforming people pleaser, and according to my son, had I been a dog, I’d have been a Golden Retriever. But I have struggled with all kinds of depression since my twenties, and perhaps even before. I’ve had situational depression, e.g. depression associated with death of a loved one. I’ve had post-partum depression. I’ve had seasonal affective depression/disorder (SAD). I’ve had just plain, old, no reason except my brain chemistry lacks serotonin depression. Why am I sharing this? Well, for a few reasons. First, I think it’s *&%$# that mental illness is treated with so much more of a stigma and “pick yourself up by your bootstrap” mentality than physical difficulties. Got cancer? You should just get over it. Appendicitis? Take a lap. Sounds absurd, right? Well, the brain is a part of the body, and when something goes wonky within, it’s not as easy as just wishing it away. Just as I’d never tell a diabetic to go without her insulin, I’d never tell a bipolar person to stop taking her meds. Second, by my sharing, I hope that it makes someone else feel just a little less alone in her struggles, if she recognizes herself in any of my writing. And third, I believe by sharing what works for me in this battlefield of the mind, so to speak, it might help someone else. But here’s the catch: you know you best. Do what’s right for you. Let me emphasize that again: you do you. Please. But if anything I have to say helps you, may God receive all glory and honor.

You see, in finding my light again, I noticed that I’ve done best with a multi-pronged approach. And, honestly, for me, it begins and ends with God, with other stuff in the middle. I believe in exercise and eating well. I believe in my Happy Light. I believe in getting out socially. I believe in: talking therapy, meds, both singly and together, and I believe in the occasional glass of red wine and chocolate binge and a trip to somewhere sunny.  But the single thing that has tied all of this together and made me feel the best is by leaning on and into Jesus, and asking the Holy Spirit to lead me in seeking what I need when I need it—in actually visualizing Jesus’ yoke and putting it on, like some sort of invisibility cloak. In the above passage, it’s as if Jesus holds me in his lap, tenderly wipes my tears and lifts my chin, and brushes my hair out of my face. Then He tenderly helps me back onto my feet, while never letting go of my hand. This, my friends, is healing. This is where His light yoke brings me my own lightness of being. Not only do I feel lighter, I see light. I see color and texture again. I see the world with hope-filled lenses, rather than hopeless eyes. Yes, the counseling, meds, doing the right things for my body as best I can, getting together with friends, and surrounding myself with a church family who is second to none is all part of my treatment plan. And yes, I need the prayers of the saints, as well as some darn good medicine to be clear enough to be able to carry out what’s right for my health. But God. God is my Alpha and Omega. I am convinced that He is the reason these things work compatibly to keep my mind as healthy as it can be, and I’m convinced that He even allows the lows for me to reach farther and hold tighter to Him. It’s said that when you have nothing else, or nothing to lose, you tend to look to God. He knows this. He knows my nature. My wiring is simply one more way for Him to work in my life, if I will just allow it. Total surrender is scary, for sure. We’re not used to doing this as a culture. But God loves and is glorified by a surrendered heart. In fact, he blesses us for it.

Friends, if you think you might be struggling with mental issues, please, please…see a doctor. See a counselor. Talk to a trusted friend, or pastor or parent. Do one next good thing which will point you into the direction to the next good thing. But also, I encourage you to lean into the only One who knows you better than you know yourself, and who gives the best rest: Jesus.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. ~ John 1:5 (NIV)

Gee whiz. And now I’m humming, “This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine….”

Soli Deo Gloria.

Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Gretchen Hanna
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  1. Rebecca Preston on February 8, 2017 at 7:34 AM

    “My wiring is simply one more way for Him to work in my life, if I will just allow it.” This is such an encouragement to me as I also struggle in this way (see my post next week- it’s mentioned) Coming to peace with ‘this is how I am made’ and believing God will work with it makes a great deal of difference. Thanks Gretchen for writing so freely!

    • Gretchen Hanna on February 8, 2017 at 12:05 PM

      Thank you, Becky! It’s taken me almost 48 years to truly appreciate that I was wired this way for a reason, and that God allows suffering to refine and point me back to Him. xo

  2. Susan Mcmillan on February 8, 2017 at 9:36 AM

    Mathew 11:28-30 is my cushion!!!. If I were to get a tattoo (which is never), I would get this remainder. Even when I persistently or rather big headedly ( is it a word?) think that I have got things under control, God in all his Grace calls me to come to him and cast it all into him. He knows us and He knows we are weak and most definitely need him daily.Thank you for the reminder of God’s abundant love!

    • Gretchen Hanna on February 8, 2017 at 12:07 PM

      Haha. If I get a tattoo, which I might, it’ll say “abide”, I think. 🙂 Ah, big headedly…yes. Been there. Fight that often. So appreciate your words of encouragement and your reading my post.

  3. ruth m sill on February 8, 2017 at 10:09 AM

    Thank you for speaking gently and honestly into this topic which touches so many many people. I loved it all, but this phrase jumped out at me… I see light. I see color and texture again.” There is a palpalbable ‘fog’ that sets in that may intensify the darkness and heaviness that is felt in these chapters of depression. I know that I hunger for the warmth and smells of spring as well as the clarity and sense of expectation that comes with more light…I just see differently with light….. I also appreciate your giving value to the many parts (ingredients) of healing…

    • Gretchen Hanna on February 8, 2017 at 12:08 PM

      “Chapters of depression.” Yes. Love those words. These chapters are not the whole book of our lives, but they sure do give nuance and description, no? Thank you for reading, Ruth and for your kind words.

  4. Diane Karchner on February 8, 2017 at 1:31 PM

    I am forever lifted by reading your words, and the comments of our friends! The sunshine is shining in PA today, but the snowfall will be a big one tomo, cloudy and gloomy. Just like our lives, in constant change, with the steady hand that never changes, if we could but hold on tight until we see the light again. Thanks and thanks.

  5. Gretchen on February 8, 2017 at 2:14 PM

    Yes! How amazing and gratifying that the Lord and His light changes not. No matter the bumps, He is always there, ready to give me his rest. Thank you for your encouragement, Diane.

  6. SandyM on February 8, 2017 at 8:08 PM

    Amazing, as always, my sweet friend! It saddens me that SO many still do not understand the relevance of physical chemical imbalances toward mental issues. I have had so many women tell me how they have silently kept hidden any problems with depression because of the reaction of good people. The more we, who understand through experience, can share with others, the more we hopefully can reach those who do not make the connection! Jesus provides the “platform” when we totally trust Him, then gives us the privilege of ministering to others who need encouragement.

    • Gretchen on February 8, 2017 at 10:34 PM

      Thank you for your lovely encouragement. Yes! If this is a platform that God has given me, I’m nothing but grateful. If my words don’t encourage them it’s no use for me to write them. ❤

  7. Jen on February 9, 2017 at 12:59 PM

    I really appreciate this post, Gretchen. I never struggled with depression until after cancer (PTSD induced depression), and while I wasn’t a fan, it was an eye opening blessing. And how beautiful the light is when we’ve been in the darkness. Love you muchly.

  8. Gretchen on February 9, 2017 at 2:17 PM

    Yes, sometimes our dark days Anne such a blessing when we shed God’s light on them in the company of others. Love you, too.

  9. Todd Thompson on February 10, 2017 at 8:07 AM

    Thank you Gretchen…..enough said.

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