Will The Stolen Years Be Restored?

Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash

I share this post as an example of some of the thoughts I’ve dealt with over the course of my burnout-depression. I deal with them less frequently now that my physical health is improved and I am finally able to heal from my burnout, but I still deal with them. Mental health is something we need to do a better job in handling as a society and in the Church. So this is written towards bringing more awareness and understanding to this issue.

Will the stolen years be restored? It’s a question I find myself asking quite frequently these days. I wish I didn’t have to ask the question. I wish I could say that they had been eaten by locusts; that the last 7 years have been so difficult because I was being disobedient all this time. I wish I had the sense of guilt that I have heard so many people mention they had when they went in a direction that was different from the one they knew God was calling them in. At least then it would be easier for me to process the events of the last few years because then I could point to a cause. Or so I think anyway. But there is no sense of disobedience. There is no sense that I am following the way of Jonah.

The way of Jonah makes sense as a reason for suffering. It’s easy to compute and process that things are going so terribly wrong because you are not being obedient. It might not be easy to admit to yourself that you are not being obedient to what God called you to do. And then once you’ve admitted it actually stopping your disobedience and being obedient might be harder still. But at least you’re not left wondering why you’re suffering.

That’s the one question I wish I had an answer for: Why? Why were the last 7 years or so basically stolen from me? Why was I basically playing wack-a-mole with severely detrimental health issues in seminary? Why did I never get the chance to show to myself and others what I was capable of because my health was so bad? Why did I never get the rest I wanted when I moved back home after graduation? Why did I even have to move back home in the first place? Why did it take 6 months to get a referral to the correct doctor? Why has it taken over a year-and-a-half since graduating for my health to start to recover? Why am I not yet married and promoted to Real Christian™ so I can actually feel like I belong at a church? Why has all the time, effort, and money I spent following where I believe God called me to go so far turned out to be a waste? Why, for that matter, have all my previous educational-career endeavors also turned out to be a waste? Why do past failures weigh so heavily in my thoughts that I am afraid to even start a career direction because I think something beyond my control is going to come in and ruin my efforts once again? Why does it feel like I am not only behind in the race of life, but that I haven’t even crossed the starting line?

In truth I feel like I am following the way of Job. Like Job, I feel like I have not only done nothing wrong, but have even done things correctly. I haven’t disobeyed God or strayed from following His commands. Yet for whatever reason I am still going through a great ordeal of suffering. It’s easy to read the story of Job and be hopeful because we know how it ends. We know that God restores Job and all that He allowed The Adversary to take from him. So when we read the story of Job we read it in light of the ending and we know that everything is going to work out just fine. But when it is your own life that is following the story of Job it is much more difficult to be hopeful because you don’t know how it will end. Sure there is the ultimate eschatological hope of the new heavens and new earth and eternity with God, but for me this hope is not on my mind or prominent in my daily thoughts. What’s on my mind and prominent in my daily thoughts is the why question. Why has my life turned out this way? Why have all these years been stolen from me?

If there is a bright spot in all of this it is that I have some pretty good experience of myself being tired and depressed. In hindsight now I realize that I have underestimated how bad my health actually was at certain points over the past few years. So maybe the answer to all of these questions is: “You’re just tired Tom. Take some time and rest and you’ll feel better and these questions won’t even matter in a few months.” Maybe all these questions are just lingering remnants of my burnout-depression. But maybe not.

So will the stolen years be restored? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. But I really hope they will be.


3 thoughts on “Will The Stolen Years Be Restored?

  1. forworldscience

    I get this. So much of my time is spent on “unproductive” stuff. But, is that our call? You’re still accumulating experiences as long as you’re alive… who’s to say it’s not going to lead to the salvation of one person down the road? Some people would say “it’s always darkest before the dawn” but I think that’s BS; however, there is always hope.

    And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. 500 years from now, those handful of years will be nothing, if we continue to seek God anyway.

    Are you sure you were being disobedient? I don’t want to lead you into “oh we are just a product of our environment and have no free will” but I think sometimes hindsight is not 20/20. We spend 9/10ths of our time thinking we are on the right path, and 1/10th of our time thinking we aren’t, and then remember that 1/10th.

    And, is it even a productive question? Myself, I’m now on the strategy of redirecting my mental focus to “push dirt over that crap and move on.” We can physically weaken or strengthen our neural connections by choosing to think/not think about something.

    1. SRQTom Post author

      Disobedience is always a possibility yes. I could perhaps not be doing what God wants me to do. So God has made these last few years so hard to get my attention.

      The point I am trying to make in the post though is that I am not conscious of any disobedience. Many people who I’ve heard stories of disobedience from will mention a clear call from God to do something or go in a certain direction, but they decided not to do that for whatever reason and end up experiencing some suffering as a result. Eventually they admit that they are being disobedient and go where God called them however long ago and their suffering is eased. Very similar to the story of Jonah.

      So, yes, disobedience on my part is a possibility. However I am not conscious of it at this point. In the future perhaps I will be, but as of right now I am not.

      I don’t really think about this a whole lot though. This post, and some of the recent ones, are just a form of therapy for me. I’ve found that expressing these feelings is helpful for me and so I do it.

      Also, I think I’ve figured out why I am not getting notified of comments. So hopefully in the future you won’t need to wait 5 days for a response.

      Merry Christmas!

      1. forworldscience

        Oops, I misunderstood, then. I thought you thought it was due to disobedience. Good to hear.

        No worries on the response time. I myself and pretty negligent about things that are not at the top of the priorities list right now.

        Merry Christmas to you too!

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