I love being productive.
I love productivity tools. I’m geeky that way. I like things to be in order, I like to-do lists, I like filing systems, I love my Label Machine.
But there is a disunity, a disconnection, a dissonance between productivity and depression.
I’m reading a fantastic book from Matt Perman right now titled “What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done”. It’s the first time that I’ve looked at productivity as a spiritual discipline as opposed to a personal discipline. He shares so many scriptures that back up his thesis that productivity is a Gospel thing, not just a good thing. I’m finding his writings to be challenging and encouraging.
I want to be productive–I want to accomplish much, and after reading some of this book, I even more so want to please God with the things I accomplish for Him. Not in a ‘works’ sort of manner, but rather in making sure I am using my time to the best of my ability so that I can do good for others.
But then I hit up against days like today. Actually, it started two days ago. A familiar, slow slide. A sinking into a depth that I loathe called depression. Oh, I’ve been doing much better lately with this old foe–I’ve fought harder and God has given me the strength to fight harder. I’ve exercised. I’ve been given more and more opportunities to serve, which helps relieve the symptoms of depression. But, much to my dismay, they are haunting me once more, especially this morning.
It’s a malaise, really–a hopelessness that overcomes the soul and shrouds it from seeing the reality of life. I know certain things now: I know this will pass. I know there is a God. I know that there are things I can and will do to fight it. But that doesn’t take away from the reality that it’s cold claws have a hold of me right now and I’m going to have to, with God’s help, shake them off once again. I don’t know what I think about such things, but I’m starting to believe it is a spiritual battle as much as it is a physical one.
What does this have to do with productivity?
Much. My mind says Go. Do. Produce. My soul and body says Stop. Why bother? Why hope? And the result is that even the very little things that must get done become overwhelming acts that take a will of force to make happen.
Take for instance this morning. I have a to-do list a mile long. So far I’ve gotten only 3 things marked off of it. I’ve mailed in an expense report for work. I’ve paid my rent. And I drove to the store for Trash Bags. I can best illustrate this by talking about the Trash Bags. It took at least 15 minutes of self-talk to get myself to get to the car. Then when I got to the intersection, I turned and went into Walgreens instead of the grocery store, because I just couldn’t make myself face Farm Fresh with all the people and food and choices. Walgreens, while more expensive, was less painful. Thus Walgreen’s it was.
Now, that might sound silly. But if you’ve ever experienced depression, this is one aspect of many. And I find this aspect one of the most frustrating disheartening ones.
So, what do I do? What do you do, if you are plagued with this battle?
- I will fight. I will fight to do the things I need to do today, in order not to exacerbate the problem with failure.
- I will serve. I will work on one of my service projects today, even if it’s only to sit here and write on my book proposal. Or I will make some phone calls to those I know need to hear from someone who cares today.
- I will pray. I will pray specifically. I will pray Psalm 86:4
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
That prayer is not a nothing prayer. Truly, even with all the self-talk and fighting I can do, it is ultimately God that I have to look to to help me—it is ultimately God to whom I lift up my soul. It is ultimately God who can gladden this dark soul. And I do want to be His servant. I do.
I write all this today selfishly to preach to myself. But maybe you need to hear it as well. Maybe you are fighting a battle against depression too. I hate it, and if I hate it, I know you hate it, too. Despise it. But, rest in this, and I will too. Surely God has not forsaken us. Surely God sees and knows. Surely there is a God. And He can gladden our souls.
Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust
When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father You are king over the flood
I will be still, know You are God