Will your wonders be known in the dark?
or your righteousness in the country where all is forgotten?
But as for me, O Lord, I cry to you for help;
in the morning my prayer comes before you. (Psalm 88:13-14)
Many years ago, about the time that we moved to Wisconsin, I struggled through a period when I was certainly clinically depressed.
I was stuck in my head, unable to translate any plan into action. We lived in a beautiful wooded area near Lake Geneva, and I thought it would be lovely to take a walk in the morning, but I could never even make myself actually put on my shoes.
At the time I was reading Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and I was impressed by a concept he calls the “daily private victory.”
Whatever simple action or task you decide, if you accomplish it, by definition the day is won. The daily private victory is won, and you have not failed.
I remember reading that description, thinking “I will make walking my daily private victory,” and then getting up and walking through the door! As I came out into the actual sunshine, I felt I had also come out of the darkness in my mind.
The psalmist knows the interior darkness, knows what it is to live “in the country where all is forgotten.” He also knows, as I do, that coming out of the dark is not simply a matter of will.
I could never have simply willed myself out of my depression. It took an insight, a grace from outside of me, to help me take one single step.
That is the central message of our Christian faith. By ourselves we cannot save ourselves. It takes grace from outside ourselves that helps us take the first faltering steps into the sunshine. “We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Or, to put it in another way, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
The daily private victory is also a cumulative process. “In the morning my prayer comes before you,” says the psalmist, and it is the same for us. As we daily practice the basics — walking, praying, being thankful — we get stronger and stronger until one day we fear the dark no longer.