Recently I shared with you my thoughts on depression (Starless). This is not an observation but the lessons I learned from it. I hope this is a blessing to at least one person.
It's not wrong to hurt. It's not giving in to weakness to acknowledge you feel wounded. It's okay to cry...to weep until you groan and rock back and forth and let everything flow. It's not something to feel ashamed of and hide from. Depression is real and not just something “in your head”. It's physical, emotional, spiritual. It's a roller coaster. It's dark. It is a vulnerable place to be, but not a sin. Evil thoughts may come to hover over you, but the choice still remains yours whether to dwell on them, believe them and accept them, or not.
Fear is ungodly. But depression isn't necessarily. David cried out “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself”. Job also cried “...to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Oh that I might find him! That I might come even to his seat. I would order my cause before him and fill my mouth with arguments.” Job 23:2-5
And God never condemned these men's cries and pleadings.
I'm not sure that everyone deals with depression or evil haunting thoughts. But at least at some point in everyone's life they have cried themselves to sleep, or grasped desperately at peace, or felt alone and hurt. It isn't just me. C.S. Lewis said grief is like “an invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.” – A Grief Observed p. 3
Friends of mine have shared their struggles and hurts, and their private sorrows.
What to do when these plagues come? What helped me find peace?
Acceptance of the roller coaster.
Even before I felt God reaching out to me, I decided I wasn't going to dread the up and down emotions depression inevitably brings. I found an assurance in the predictability of depression. In the familiarity of it. I recognized it when it stole upon me, and I could readily accept it and not fret when it knocked on my heart's door. And surprisingly, it didn't hurt like before. My fear of it was half the pain I was experiencing. And without the fear I could face depression much more objectively and quietly. He is still Jesus when my roller coaster emotions have peaked, and when I'm at the bottom. Whether I'm struggling up the tracks or rushing down them I'll simply trust Him and be faithful.
Having someone hear me out.
One of the worst parts of depression is the discomfort of being alone. Whether it's true or not, you feel...you know, that no one cares and could possibly understand. In the midst of it I'm unsure anyone could effectively prove to me otherwise. But, I once had someone listen to me share my experience of hurt and depression. She didn't try to “fix” it. She didn't try to compare her own struggles to mine. She wasn't shocked when I admitted that death seemed comforting, but she didn't just nod and act like it was totally okay and normal. She sincerely empathized and listened, and simply told me she would pray for me. That's it. And from that moment on I was able to move forward. I was even able to see how God had used her to bring me relief...and it proved His love and mercy and allowed me to realize heaven wasn't silent after all.
Realizing joy is my strength and seeking it.
Joy can sometimes sound unappealing when I'm hurting. I guess some would think it silly that the opposite symptom to pain would be unwelcome, but in the moment it sounds unobtainable and even weaker than the heavy hurt and melancholy of depression. Joy doesn't seem real compared to how I'm feeling. Sometimes there is even a warped sense of gratification in sitting alone in my darkness. But it's then I must remind myself that the joy of the Lord is my strength. That it's there for the asking. And what follows joy is thankfulness. And what follows thankfulness is always peace. It's inevitable. With this sometimes comes a fear that He won't give me joy. And then I will be plunged into deeper depression because I dared to call and He didn't come. But then comes the next helpful thing –
Not expecting deliverance in a miraculous way.
I have come to learn that He decides when joy comes. My night of weeping may last weeks....but my morning of joy will come. Joy is but for the asking. But He gives it in His time and in His way. There will be a sunrise. But there is no protocol to joy. As well as getting out of depression. And without protocol, without any expectations, I'm left completely dependent on Him, and that is a good thing. Joy isn't a pill I can take, but simply a gift that He gives when I ask and want it. He might not come to me in some miraculous epiphany. I might not feel deliverance right away. But He will come. He has promised not to forsake us. We can cling to his promises despite our emotions. He says he understands how we feel. Hebrews 2:16-18. It has always helped me to talk and cry out to God even in defiance to my feelings. He will come.
Accepting silence as an answer.
“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of 'No answer'. It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, 'Peace, child; you don't understand.'
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that. – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p.69
My asking 'why' is not proof of sin. My grief isn't a lack of love. Crying out in pain is not evil. Neither is His silence. If He is silent it is on purpose...and most likely I'm not willing to hear Him out just yet. He will come. He will comfort. He will answer. It may just be “Peace child, you don't understand.”
Not beating myself up for being an emotional wreck.
You are not a pitiful weakling if you struggle with depression or are haunted by your past, or are burdened by your emotions. It's nothing to be guilty about. Forgive yourself. As a child of the King we don't have to stay in depression. If these are your enemies, accept that fact. Others struggle with pride, a hot temper, a critical spirit... these are their “giants”. You happen to struggle with Giant Depression, or doubt, or fear. Hiding the fact won't help you. Giving into doubt and fear is evil, but having them attack you is not your fault and nothing to grieve over. They will come, but Christ knows your personal giants and has already equipped you with armor to fight them –
The last thing you feel like is engaging depression when you are depressed. I get that. Depression may seize you without your consent. We still have a choice – give into it and wallow there, or recognize it and give it up to Jesus. Your emotions will eventually follow your choice to give it up. We can choose not to allow it to make us angry. I always have to choose to be hurt rather than to be bitter. To accept it. Not to bottle my emotions and allow them to sit pent up. We can never let go of pain sources until we are willing to face them. Pain loses a lot of it's intimidation when it's not ignored. Brings closure.
Click here for Haunted Part II
Click here for Haunted Part II