On Memorial Day of this year, I gave birth to my second son, Declan. He is a joy and an answer to prayer. He is six weeks old (at the time this was written), and although I am deeply grateful for him, I am also struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.
I have been reading through Proverbs one chapter at a time with a group of friends. We have actually gone through it twice in a row because there is so much to absorb. This verse has stuck to me:
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
Proverbs 13:4 ESV
My experience of depression and anxiety comes with a lot of self-hating and condemning (which I know is from the enemy, but that’s a discussion for another time), so my first inclination is to identify with the sluggard. “That’s me. Lazy. Sluggard. Good for nothing… I’m definitely not diligent, so I will never be richly supplied or satisfied or prosperous.” On the whole, my experience of this verse was pretty spirit-crushing.
Until I read it the second time. I asked the Spirit to show me what truth God has for me in Proverbs because I know all this condemnation isn’t from Him.
“The soul [of the sluggard] craves and gets nothing…”
The soul craves, and gets nothing.
That’s how my soul felt. Longing, desperate for satisfaction and entirely empty. I recognize that I have so much to be grateful for; my caring and patient husband, my two amazing sons, my supportive family and church, my salvation. What more could I want? What more could satisfy me?
Sunday morning found me lying in bed, trying to will myself to get up, and unable to do so. I needed to go pump breastmilk for my baby. I needed to relieve my husband of the newborn night shift. I needed to take a shower and get ready for church.
I didn’t care to do any of it, and I didn’t care that I didn’t care.
Then God broke through all the lies, I felt so powerless to resist with this thought: “Being a sluggard will not fill my desolate soul, but diligence could. What is diligence?”
Diligence is persistent and careful work toward a goal. It is tied to the idea of perseverance, of not giving up, of making progress no matter how small or slow it may seem at the time.
I don’t remember where I heard or read it from, but God reminded me of this statement: “Just do the next helpful thing.”
I rolled out of bed and pumped milk for my baby. I told myself I could go back to bed after that if I still wanted to. While I was pumping, I read my chapter of Proverbs for the day (because pumping is boring and I’d spent so much time on social media that there wasn’t anything new on my feeds). Then I saw my gratitude journal and devotional on the table next to where I pump. So I wrote down 3 things I was thankful for from the previous day (because that’s my minimum per day and I’ve been doing it for 3 years now so it’s a habit that is easy and helpful). I still had lots of time left on the pump so I read my devotion. When I finished pumping all my guys were, miraculously, still asleep. I decided to take a shower. Then I ate breakfast, and took my vitamins and medications. I was moving.
“What is the next helpful thing?” became my prayer of the day. Through church and lunch and the afternoon and evening with family God gave me just one step at a time. At the end of the day, my soul was more satisfied and content than it had been in several weeks.
And it wasn’t about white-knuckling or working harder or guilting myself into moving. It was obedience and freedom and self-care and serving others, and it was powered by having a conversation with God about His Word. It was diligence.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
James 1:12 NIV
God has given me his Spirit, so “sluggard” is not part of my identity. Diligence is, and so is perseverance in obedience to him.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:9 ESV
God has given me his Spirit, and with His Spirit comes the energy and motivation to not give up on doing good for others.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
God loves me. He is diligent in his love for me. He perseveres in his love for me. He does not give up on me.
This season of simultaneous beauty and struggle isn’t over, and I don’t know how long it will last.
But I know I will last, because God’s love for me is everlasting.