Seasonal depression is a very real thing, but there is a way to get out of the darkness.
As the fall season begins to make an appearance, and usually it is just a very brief one here in Florida, do you look forward to the change? To answer that question, you need to take a moment and consider this question: “Do I embrace change, or do I brace against it?”
In my mind, which can be as scary a place as my wife’s purse, I love change. It is not the change for the sake of change but the anticipated, desired, planned-for change that helps move me from regular routines to new and improved opportunities. As a military family, we traveled all over the world and saw the various changing of the seasons — especially fall. From the exploding colors of trees in the Tennessee valley to the snow-covered mountains in the Swiss Alps, the horizons witnessed through our car’s windshield would ultimately paint the everlasting pictures of living and loving life on the canvas of our hearts.
What happens, however, when change is not as spectacular as the changing of the colors in our neck of the woods? We usually go from green to brown. Ta-da! Yep, it is underwhelming. What about the cold snaps? Friends of mine are in areas where it is now 40 degrees as the high, but here we bring out our parkas for three to four days when it gets below 70 degrees (remember, when Momma is cold, everyone is cold).
Just as the changing of the seasons around us can leave much to be desired, the changing of the seasons within us can also leave us wanting. Have you experienced those types of seasonal setbacks? They may come with the loss of a loved one and start a season of sorrow. It may suddenly appear with a report from the doctor, and a season of surgery and treatment begins. It may begin with a drum roll of an anticipated retirement and end with a thunder roll of storms within the self, full of questions and a loss of purpose.
So, what do you do when these seasons of bright change are experienced in the dark moments of our life? You keep moving forward.
This may seem like a trite answer but, in reality, it is a decision that stimulates a source of tenacity within our spirit. How can I be so optimistically sure? Because I’ve experienced every one of them.
The first was on Easter morning in 2009. While stationed in Iraq, I received a call at 3:45 AM that my brother, Mike Middlebrooks, died due to a massive heart attack and complications. In 2011, the military doctor brought the x-rays into the room and said, “Yep, you do not have a hip anymore. We can re-surface a little but ultimately, you will need a total hip replacement. I’m surprised you are not using a cane already.” In 2013, the Lord led me to turn down my next promotion, retire from a 26-year life of serving as a military chaplain and move back home to a loving family. Yet there was a question, “OK, Lord, what now? I don’t like this civilian stuff.” These were multiple times when my tree of life seemed to lose all its leaves and was a barren stalk of sticks in the gray backdrop of the sky.
That is why Isaiah 43:18-19 became a battle cry for this weary warrior during these seasons of change. Through the prophet Isaiah, God proclaims, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” The promise of a wilderness way and the barren tree that is still connected to a source of living water (Him) is that the leaves will return, and the fullness of the fruit will be experienced (also see Psalms 1).
My brother died on the most powerful day within my walk of faith: Easter. I had the opportunity to preach four resurrection sermons that day before leaving on a plane to head back to the States. Let me ask you: do you think the message was gray or was it filled with the glorious promise that I will see my Lord and my brother again?
The hip replacement changed my life for the best as I no longer had pain and could move even faster than before. I may not be able to run anymore, but I always thought that was overrated anyway. I’ll just walk now at the speed of light (and coffee).
The last was an incredible transformation from being a military chaplain for our country to becoming the chaplain that impacts thousands of first responders within our community.
A season of sorrow turned into a season of celebration. A season of surgery turned into a season of speed. A season of questions of purpose turned into a season of incredible answers and power. What season are you in right now?
Regardless of the darkening of the days due to the fall of the season, we do not have to experience forever the long dark nights of the soul if we are willing to let the light of the Lord show us that through seasons, we become “seasoned” to serve as His saints of celebration.
I love the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, just keep moving forward.” King did, I will, and I invite you to also keep moving forward, even if it is a season of crawling. Eventually, spring returns and so will the spring in your step.
Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks is the Senior Chaplain of First Call Church and the CEO/President of Chaplaincy Care, Inc.