“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness-secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”
— Isaiah 45:3
For many years, I lived in darkness. It was the darkness of uncertainty : Uncertain where my husband was, uncertain where my next dollar was coming from or when it was coming, not knowing how to navigate this perilous journey through a loved one’s serious mental illness…There are not too many words to describe how it feels to live under that kind of chronic stress. I had no one in my life who had “been there done that” to help me. I was in uncharted territory. I spent so many days, just groping my way through, barely holding on, with no bearings at all, not knowing where the next step would lead.
Twice over the course of our marriage, because of complications from his bipolar disorder, Scott disappeared. The first time, he was gone for almost exactly one year. The second time, he was gone for 4.5 years!
During both seasons, life was quite challenging. The future was uncertain, the present was hard, and the past was confusing. I was solo parenting, juggling various jobs, graduate school, childcare and finances, not knowing if Scott was dead or alive, or safe, or ever coming back. We had virtually no communication. It wasn’t like he was dead, or deployed, or away on a trip, or in prison. It was like he didn’t even exist. There was no closure.
And yet somehow, I managed to make it through those seasons, with my own mental health and sanity intact. Somehow, I got my daughter through that time…and even managed to accomplish quite a bit along the way, like getting a Master’s Degree!
Well, the simple answer to that is…one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. And tons of God’s grace!!
Something about being responsible for another human being motivated me. Taking care of her, making sure she had what she needed, making sure she was happy and thriving…that was therapeutic for me, and a happy distraction.
Being a musician saved me as well. Listening to music is a proven tool of healing, but playing music is on another level altogether. There is the amazing brain work of playing the instrument, the beauty of the music itself, the wonderful people that music brings into one’s life through collaboration, and the beauty brought to others through music…all of those things helped me immensely. I feel so blessed that making music is my profession! I think that if I were not a mother or a musician, I would not have been able to handle Scott’s absence and illness as well as I did.
But there is a deeper answer to the question of “how did you do it?” Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
When you are stumbling in the dark, sometimes the only thing you have is faith. That’s what gives us light for the next step. God has proven His faithfulness to me over and over again, and it is in Him I have placed my trust!! HE is the light, illuminating the darkness!
I spent many nights, many hours, pouring my heart out to the Lord. The best way for me to connect with God is through journaling. When I bare my soul onto the page, I know God hears the cries of my heart. I am much better able to articulate my thoughts through writing…one of the many special traits of an INFP…and writing my prayers is the way I pray. I may not pick up my violin for days, but I can rarely go a day without journaling. It’s a habit I formed back when I was 13 years old, inspired by Anne Frank. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s better than drink, drugs, or other destructive behaviors, that’s for sure!
Through those intimate times with my Heavenly Father, I learned how to keep my eyes on HIM. Like David and his Psalms, many times I might start out complaining or venting…but by the end, God has calmed my heart and brought my focus back to praising Him in the midst. I also found direction. Through God’s leading, and good counsel, I was able to hear His voice and discern my next steps, whether it be moving out of state (which I did), or whether or not to reach out to Scott.
“I will give you treasures in darkness…”
In those intimate times, I also found what I call “treasures in the darkness”. This is sort of like developing an “attitude of gratitude”, but that’s only part of it.
In the midst of the darkness, the Lord taught me how to “look for the treasures”. Think about it…some things are best enjoyed in the dark. Stargazing, for example. You can’t see the beauty of constellations and planets and stars, unless it’s dark out. When we go to the movie theater, or to a show, they always dim the houselights so that the light can best shine on the screen, or the stage. Fireworks are no fun in broad daylight.
Even though it was dark in a pretty major area of my life, my marriage, God had a way of illuminating other areas, and drawing my attention there.
Here are a few treasures God gave me in the midst of very trying circumstances:
1. A healthy, active, vibrant daughter who exuded joy and zest for life…enjoying the world through her eyes lifted my spirits immensely
2. Opportunities to grow…for example, academically and getting a higher degree. Musically, by preparing for that degree. A trip to Italy, to enhance my studies for that degree.
3. An amazing support system…a mother who has bent over backwards to make sure we as a family have what we need, as much as she is able. Friends who spoke life over the 3 of us, and always supported all of us, even Scott, while he was gone.
4. Not just any friends, either…but fellow believers who would pray for me and give me encouragement in the Lord, just when I needed it. Or were available to listen, whether it be via email, phone, or in person chats.
5. Plenty of happy distractions so that I was not constantly consumed with my husband’s absence, or obsessing over if he would ever come back. God gave me a supernatural ability to release Scott into His hands…even if I had to do that several times in one day, I can say that I did not wallow in in the self-pity his absence could have brought about. I was too busy!
Jesus promised us in His Word, that in this world, we absolutely would have tribulation. It’s inevitable. In a sense, this entire existence on this planet is like stumbling around in the dark. You never know what life will bring. Blessing, sorrow, joy, pain. We don’t know everything. We can’t predict the future, we can’t figure out the past, we can’t control another person’s actions…life is uncertain. But Jesus also exhorted us to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. He gives us beauty for ashes, and Light for our darkness!
If you are in a dark season of life today, look for the treasures!!