You’ve heard them all before. The simple, easy, ten-words-or-less platitudes offered by (mostly) well-meaning people when they find out you’re depressed.
“Well, keep praying!”
“Focus on what you’re thankful for.”
“Trust God more.”
“You’re just stressed; relax and take it easy.”
If only it were that easy, huh?
Not everyone will be able to walk us through our Winters. That’s why we need a companion–not just a friend or acquaintance, but someone who will stay close, embrace us, and not grow discouraged when the season lingers.
Let me be a kind of companion for you. I’ve been depressed. Very, very depressed. I’ve fallen into that pit; I’ve been cast into that sea of despair. While our journeys will never be identical, I’m sure I can relate to most, if not all of what you’re experiencing.
So to start off, here are some truths I believe about this topic, that have helped me deal with some of the myths out there (in the world and in the church).
1. As with anything, we should have a balanced, biblical view of depression.
I’m not the type of Christian who thinks it’s impossible for believers to wrestle with dark thoughts, deep grief, even the desire to die. I’ve read the Bible too much to think that. If you think godly people never experience those things, get ready for when God pulls that rug out from under your feet.
And while I’m not the type to tell you depression is only a spiritual issue (far from it!), I won’t say it is merely physical, either. As body-soul creatures, we can’t draw a solid line between the firing of our synapses and the workings of our inner spirit. Somehow God has designed those two parts to work together seamlessly, and who are we to separate the seams? We experience depression with our whole being, and we have to treat both body and soul if we want to find relief.
2. God DOES address depression in the Bible, giving us hope and strategies for perseverance.
Fact: No one in the Bible has been clinically diagnosed with depression. Also fact: the experience we call depression has existed since way before scientists, psychologists, and sociologists began to study it and put it in a box.
What’s more, the oldest book in the Scriptures, the book of Job, is focused on… what? A believer struggling with his own Winter of grief, suffering, and despair. We better believe God is familiar with depression, and has not only described it, but prescribed help for it in His Word.
Now, is the Bible the only place we can find help? No. Simple things, like sitting in a chair with a cup of tea and a cat on my lap, have helped me, too. God can use many means to assist us.
Yet ultimately, we know it is our Creator who understands us best, inside and out, and provides us with soul-transforming help in His living and active Word.
We may not be able to turn to the table of contents and find the section on depression, but we can read real-life stories from the Scriptures that depict it for us. We can meditate on passages that steady our hearts on God and His truth. I don’t mean cherry-picked verses out of context to make us feel good. I mean digging deep, wrestling with what the saints of old learned long ago–that sometimes God’s love for us is a gift wrapped in suffering and pain. And discovering the ways to fight for joy.
3. There’s no quick fix, no easy way out, if God put you in it.
For most of us, the goal is to get rid of our depression, to escape the Winter. Makes sense, right? But let me warn you, I won’t be trying to cure you through these blog posts. As though I have that kind of power! Does anyone?
Well, yes. Only… the Lord.
So if the Lord wants you to endure it, you endure it–for a season. It’s only temporary, after all. Whether it lasts for a week or years or the rest of your lifetime, it will come to an end. If you’re a Christian, your story already ends with a perfect, joyful eternity in God’s presence. While you’re still here on earth, in the midst of the Winter, you can rest assured that God has a purpose for it. A good one, too.
We won’t always believe that. And rarely will we see the good that He’s doing through it.
But regardless, we hope in His Word. He gives us strength when our hearts are sinking and our flesh is failing. We resist the urge to give up, to let the numbness take over. Even when the pain doesn’t go away, we persevere, day by day, because He loves us, and we love Him–even in the Winter.
JOIN ME ON THIS JOURNEY
Next time, we will look more deeply into Bible passages that reveal the language the saints used to express their depression. With God’s help, we’ll find comfort in knowing we’re not the only ones struggling. And we’ll learn specific strategies–what to actually do as we continue on in the journey. Bring your papers and pens and Bibles, and be prepared to pour your heart out to the Lord with me.