Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Gospel and Depression


No doubt depression is a terrifying place to be. It can be confusing , painful and even uncomfortable for some as it comes with a frustrating dilemma of trying to explain to those close to you where or how it hurts, there’s no particular spot to place an ice pack on. The most instinctive response is withdrawal, it is the easiest response I’ve come to realize.
Some experience it in bouts, intervals that could span a lifetime and for some it’s an unwanted visitor they have to put up with for almost as often as the sun goes down. I dare not attempt to list the causes of this emotional downturn or try to paint individual cases of it. But my hope is to come along side anyone who experiences this in varying intensities and share how even in this dark hour of the soul, the gospel light is able to shine. It may not always be the light of a thousand stars, sometimes it’s a lamp to one’s feet just enough to take the next step. And may I say, no experience is less than the other- in both situations, God is just as involved.

I believe there's some medically correct definition for depression but anyone who has been touched by it most likely has something unique to them. It is a state of the mind that is hardly ever easy to describe generically speaking.

Where to Go from Here ?

The most notable thing about depression is the feeling of isolation. You can be in a crowd of a thousand people and it still feels very alone which is what probably leads to withdrawal especially for people like me who wear their emotions on their faces quite glaringly- you don't want to be the one who rains on everyone's parade or deal with having to answer questions from mostly well meaning people. 

While I think withdrawal is not the solution, I believe it is not always a bad idea either. For there is time for everything and a period of isolation plays its part on the soul just as much as a time in community- getting the balance is always the tricky part. 

When Elijah was threatened by Jezebel, He ran far into the wilderness to be by himself ( 1 Kings 19: 3-5), for job he had his friends around him but they were silent for a while as he lamented ( Job 3) and our Lord and Savior in His moment of intense agony in the garden of Gethsemane took some time by Himself with the three at a distance (Matthew 26:36-46

The Bible speaks to depression so much that a great proportion of the Psalms are laments and this may be exactly where one needs to be. The best thing about the Psalms is the rawness of emotions displayed through them. They don't tell you to get over it or advice you to stuff them in - they simply tell you that the safest place to bring those emotions is before God and process them with Him. And I hope this has also dismissed the myth that a Christian should not be depressed- how can that possibly be so when our Lord himself was the"Man of sorrows well acquainted with grief" We are not shielded from pain and suffering, we are shielded IN them ( Psalm 46)

Fellow Sojourners 

I have been drawn to many stories of people who suffer(ed) great depression arising from either an ailment or life experiences and how God used them in unimaginable ways in those very situations. Learning about people like Joni Eareckson Tada, Vaneetha Rendall Risner, Charles Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael and so on; I have been greatly blessed by their testimonies of depending on the mercies of God renewed day by day. From their stories and through the help of the Holy Spirit, I have been able to slowly learn a secret which may only be found in this very state as I wrote in my journal:
There's a certain point in the valley of suffering that only people who have been there can truly understand. You get to a point where you push so hard and nothing. Crickets. You want God to come through in that very moment, take away the pain and all you hear is a resounding NO. And just after resolving to helplessness, you see God in a way you never could have experienced atop the hill. Eternity becomes more real to you and grace? - it becomes just as indispensable as the air you breathe
Does this make depression easier? - I doubt it ever will be anything but easy. However, we were never promised easy, we were only promised glory. That is, in the end, this brokenness will be fixed once and for all. I still struggle with having an eternal perspective in all situations but I am thankful that even the most hopeless situations can be turned into an instrument for growth in that direction.

Element of Surprise 

Depression is not a symptom of not being Christian enough, infact it may be the very thing that points you to Christ Himself.  One of the biggest questions I find myself asking in times of depression is: "How can I know all of these truths about God and still be depressed?" As Tim Keller puts it: As Christians, we are not only depressed but we are also depressed about being depressed, leaving us with one more burden than we are to bear" So eliminate the element of surprise if/when you ever find yourself in that situation.

Like they say- there's an 18inch gap between the head and the heart; intellectual wholeness never equates soul wholeness,this may be the very thing God wants to use to teach you the reality of His love. KNOWING that God loves you will only take you so far, EXPERIENCING that love is what really sustains the impervious joy that Christ came for us to have ( John10:10). And it is okay if it takes a lifetime to learn and relearn this truth, we have a God that never gets tired of  teaching, showing and coming along side.

I love Charles Spurgeon's way of putting it:

"As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane? Are we not all a little off the balance? Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge essential to their very individuality; of them it may be said, "Melancholy marked them for her own"- fine minds withal, and ruled by noblest principles, but yet most prone to forget the silver lining and to remember only the cloud... These infirmities may be no detriment to a man's career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. Some plants owe their medicinal qualities to the marsh in which they grow; others to the shades in which alone they flourish. Pain has, probably, in some cases developed genius, hunting out the soul which otherwise might have slept like a lion in its den... the wonder in many cases is how some keep at their work at all, and still wear a smile upon their countenances .... 'Blessed are they that mourn, ' said the Man of Sorrows, and let none account themselves otherwise when their tears are salted with grace. We have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, and if there be  flaw in the vessel here and there, let none wonder"

Accept Help

Finally, God never intended for us to lone wolf ( I am the biggest culprit here btw). Like I said,withdrawal for some time may be necessary but too much of it opens the door for the enemy to shoot arrows of lies at you. He's pretty good at showing up in our weakest moment (ask Christ). Loved ones may extend an arm of love, don't dismiss it. That may very well be God himself reaching out through them. I have found that God leaves me what I call "little notes around the house" - may be a random call from a friend who prays with me, a roommate who constantly checks in, an article that speaks directly to the situation  or even a hymn. These little notes sometimes bring the perspective you may not be able to get left by yourself and how faithful is God to know what we need and when we need it.

My biggest challenge with accepting help is not wanting to burden people especially if it's a recurring thing. But God has been gracious in blessing some of the people around me with just enough patience & grace to handle that. While there's still a chance that they won't always understand what you're going through or you may not even always have the strength to explain, just their willingness to be present is enough. Remember, It is never them who will ease the pain or give you the comfort you need ( and you should never place that burden on anyone) but God himself who uses anyone and anything as instruments for healing. Are you a friend of someone in pain and don't know how to help?- - Click here to read this article, I found it helpful.

In some cases, professional help may be necessary. Biblical counselling may be available to you at your church for you to take advantage of- this is never something to be ashamed of . Whichever way, God made community for such a time as these and don't be afraid to show to your fellow sinners just how human you are. 


"CHRIST CHARGETH ME TO BELIEVE HIS DAYLIGHT AT MIDNIGHT." - SAMUEL RUTHERFORD

2 comments:

  1. Wow! Very blessed by your post. Thank you for your insight and wisdom. Joan Eversole

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  2. Thanks for reading, Joan! And thank God for his blessings

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