During my childhood, there was a popular movie by Disney called “Pollyanna”. It was based on a 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter and was a wonderful story of a little girl named Pollyanna. After being orphaned, she goes to live with her stern, spinster aunt, who doesn’t quite know how to cope with Pollyanna’s sunny outlook on life. When bad things befall Pollyanna, she always manages to see the good in something; for instance, when her aunt sticks her in a cold and barren attic room, she raves about the beautiful view out of the high windows. When being sent to the kitchen for a dinner of bread and milk with the servant Nancy as punishment, Pollyanna thanks her aunt profusely, for she loves bread and milk and Nancy! All of my life, I’ve been what most people would term a “Pollyanna”, and this was a favorite movie of mine as a child. I usually see the good in people and am able to find some joy in most situations. On those overwhelmingly bad days, I’ve been known to say, “Things always look better in the morning.” When faced with difficult seasons, I quote my mother, “This, too, shall pass!” Almost always, after a good night’s sleep (and maybe a little chocolate!), things look better and my hope and joy are restored.
So what happens when Pollyanna gets depressed? What happens when anxiety takes over the heart and leaves her feeling helpless and discouraged? In the movie, this happens when Pollyanna is paralyzed after she is hit by a car and loses the use of her legs. She becomes depressed, and it takes the people she has affected with her sunshiny attitude to remind her that there is always blessing to be found, even in the darkest of circumstances. She is eventually restored to her previous self and returns to finding the light in the darkest places.
The last year or so has been a time of great trial for me. While walking through a difficult court battle with a young man that our family has adopted, I found myself unable to sleep at night, feeling anxious and panicky during the day, and always waiting for the next bad thing to happen. While Jesse fought for partial custody of his little girl, his ex-girlfriend put us through unimaginable hell. We found ourselves constantly looking over our shoulders, wondering what she would pull next. We had no desire to hurt her; we just wanted to share in the raising of this precious little girl, whom we all love with all our hearts. Yet every attempt we made at reconciliation was met with hostility and hatred, deceit and lies. To top that off, my health problems increased. While I was already dealing with fibromyalgia and a persistent headache (that literally never goes away) caused many years ago by an inept sinus surgeon, suddenly I was plagued with stomach difficulties and insomnia. To add to my suffering, relentless anxiety and a bit of depression became my constant companions. Suddenly, Pollyanna could no longer find the light. Every day became a struggle to just keep moving, let alone be positive. I thought this would end when the court trial was finally over, but it has persisted for many months.
During this time, my oldest daughter got married. While we absolutely love our new son-in-law, this has definitely been a difficult change for me (see last week’s post, “Of Wedding Bells and Letting Go”). Our daughter graduated from college, got married and moved an hour and a half away all within two weeks’ time. Suddenly, I felt like I was drowning.
Many prayers have been prayed, asking God to rescue me from the anxiety and chronic pain. Seemingly, He is silent. Does this mean that He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t hear me? All I can do is cling to what I know to be true…God is always good, and He always hears my cry. He will be what sustains me, no matter how bad my physical body feels, or how desperately I want to escape this anxiety that never lets up. Psalm 94:18 says, “When I said ‘My foot is slipping,’ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” While I hate what this is doing to me, and the effect it has on my family (who have been thrown off balance by the loss of Pollyanna in the house), I cling to the One who can heal me and who can enable me to be refined by this painful process. I long for the day that is foretold in Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” I know that Jesus is my ultimate Healer and that He alone has the peace and joy that I miss. For those of you struggling with the same issues, I encourage you to place your hope in Him. No matter how good or how bad life here on earth can be, we were made for something better. Living with pain, or with the inner turmoil caused by anxiety and depression, is not going to last forever. Someday, He will return for us, and take us home, where we belong. Our pain will at last be healed and our inner demons will be silenced. Our joy will be complete and our peace will be beyond all understanding. I pray that God will choose to heal me before that day, but if not, I know it WILL happen someday, and that is what I cling to on those dark days when I feel I cannot cope another minute.
And after all, maybe things WILL look better tomorrow…and maybe Pollyanna hasn’t abandoned me completely! But in the meantime, I know that I am safe in the Father’s arms, and that He will carry me when I can’t take another step.