It felt like a fog. For weeks I had run through the joyfully monotonous routine of caring for my few-months-old baby, except there was no joy. I thought I was tired. I thought it was my hormones adjusting post pregnancy. Both of these were true, but neither of these things had the power to weigh me down like this. And that is exactly what it felt like, a weight. Like I was being dragged down to the ocean’s floor with a cinder block. Being a new mom hit me head-on, but this was much more than that. This was undiagnosed postpartum depression, and it was pulling me apart.. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalms 73:25-26 NLT
By the time I realized that I needed help, I was completely hopeless. I knew that my first and greatest resource in fighting this darkness was to cry out to God, so that’s what I did. I cried out to God everyday, even when I couldn’t hear Him. I cried out for months, even when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I cried out to God in the depth of that ocean, even on days when the weight felt heavier than the day before. I cried out with everything I had because I knew if hope was even possible for me, it would be found in complete surrender at the foot of the cross. And that is exactly where I found it.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV
While following God in ministry, Paul and Silas were imprisoned. Despite being beaten and placed in the innermost dungeon of the prison, they prayed to and praised God. In their darkest place, they chose worship, and their worship welcomed their rescue. At the midnight hour, in the midst of total darkness, they were set free. I had heard that story many times, but it took me being in my own darkness for God to open my eyes to a key detail of this passage: as they praised God in that prison, the other prisoners listened, and when God broke Paul and Silas’ chains, He also broke the chains of every witness to the praise.
“They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” Acts 16:23-26 NLT
Though it is never easy to suffer, we can freely release our trials over to God and let His strength shine through our weaknesses. The closer we are to God, even in the struggle… the more we worship Him, even in hardship… the higher we lift our hands, even in chains… the more we realize that we don’t really need freedom, we only need God. He is our true strength, and He is our only true freedom.
“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT
Some of you are in chains you’ve been fighting for years. Addictions, rejection, heartbreak, financial struggles. You’ve prayed prayers over and over, crying out to God, and right now it’s just easier to sit in and accept your present reality than to muster up any amount of crushable hope. But know this: even when we cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel, we are always joined by the Light in the tunnel.
Trusting God with my pain in the darkest time of my life not only showed me that He was with me every step of the way to my own healing and freedom, but it also opened a dialogue for me to encourage other women with the true Light in the middle of their darkness. Our chains limit our options, but limited options serve the purpose of pointing us to the only Way. When we pray to and praise God, not because of our chains, but despite them, we unlock opportunities to be used by God like never before. Praising God despite our chains holds freeing power, and sometimes that power is for more than just us. Sometimes others will find freedom in how we wear our chains.
Elle was raised in Mobile, Alabama, where she met and married her husband, Hayden. Since becoming a full-time mom to their little boy, Ethan, God has grown in her a burden for women, especially moms. Elle loves using her spiritual gifts to encourage other women, particularly in a spiritual setting.