You lean against the doorpost staring out at the muted shades and blurred edges of today and wonder why did you wake to this grayed landscape. What happened to the vibrancy of yesterday? How did this curtain of loss materialize when it was not known mere hours ago. Your steps are mechanical as you go about your day, but depression has shut you down. You cannot laugh, and you dare not cry.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psalm 42:11
Depression hung heavy on me like too many layers I could not shed. It bound me whole like a burial shroud; I could not breathe. I struggled against the unholy fabric for days at a time, sometimes weeks. The sighs the only sign I was alive. But God never left me even when I couldn’t see Him through the veil. I was not left to bear this burden alone.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18
Where does this come from? This unwelcome portal to another realm with its alternate-reality viewpoint, high-gravity movements, and struggle to breathe? Is it merely circumstantial? The sandbag beating of “bad luck”? The monotony, the pervasive financial strain and unfulfilled dreams of an average life? Or is it hormonal, a biochemical stew of off-kilter proportions, a feminine curse, layers of conflicting emotions and shameful reactions that invade its host? I do not know.
But some days, even though I knew God was right beside me, and I believed in His steadfast promises, sadness engulfed me. I was imploding when all around me the explosion of God’s grace rained softly upon me.
The very air I breathe
is clotted with longing
I know has no means of relief save one:
to be held by the One.
I stretch my mind’s
eye for the answers
and come up empty and full.
I am empty:
the salve I think I need
does not exist on this plane.
I am full
with the knowledge that no ache of mine
is new; no inclination
unique to womanhood:
We all want more than we can hold.
(But can the human heart ever be filled by more of itself?)
Why is the truth we grope for
the last we believe
as we stare at the image hidden behind the mirror.
Loneliness and depression are twins hard to tell apart.
I was lonesome, but not truly alone. The One had claimed me for His own. Yet I still mourned, yearning to be known, pursued, and understood by others. But what did I think I would gain that the Almighty had not already given me?
His love is perfect. I don’t have to explain myself to Him, He knows me through and through. I don’t have to act a certain way, show my best side for fear of losing Him. I don’t have to compromise to maintain His love. I don’t have to blush with embarrassment over my tatty possessions, just blush with gratitude over His possession of me.
The truth is Christ won’t find you less than, won’t get bored with your presence, won’t inwardly cringe at your clothes or decor. You don’t need to impress, dazzle, dizzy yourself doing cartwheels to hold His attention, to keep Him near you.
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. Psalm 147:3–4
Thank you for being the God of the lonely, the God of the poor in spirit. Giving us what we can never give each other.
Christians and depression
When depression comes, do you keep it to yourself because you’re ashamed? You, who hold it together most days and know there are far more people worse off than you.
Yet, it smothers you nonetheless draped in routine and there’s no specific event that pinpoints your suffering. It just appears one day. And you watch your life like a hazy black and white film you’ve seen a hundred times.
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22
This spirit of heaviness may have nothing to do with the people in your life, or maybe it’s a glut of things piled up inside that you haven’t worked through or forgiven. Maybe you’re tired of trying to be someone else for the sake of others. Or merely tired of being yourself. Maybe you haven’t yielded to the boundaries of the God-sanctioned embrace that is your life.
Either way, you’re here. Sitting in a closed room hearing the birds call out with an eagerness that escapes you. The wildflowers wave in the breeze and the invitation evades you. Their brilliance in the sun is shaded by the weight of your grayed-out thoughts and the dryness of your lackluster bones.
You’re afraid, too, that this time, this loss of joy, this cheer-less heart will remain and that the salt has finally lost its savor.
But God is still here, dear Christian. He’s not left you to wander alone. Your depression that sprang up like a thousand weeds overnight is a season like the “hurricane” or “allergy” you don’t question, you endure.
Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? Psalm 56:8
God’s love can reach this somber plot you occupy. His penetrating love surrounds you while you go through the motions smiling, and making dinner, and talking to your friends like everything is fine while you wait for the moment you’ll actually feel that it is.
And you will. Meanwhile, inhale with intention the diffusion of God’s love as the tears fall.
The birds will sing and you’ll hear them clearly. The sun will shine and you’ll squint, and not turn away. The flowers will go to seed and next time they bloom you’ll be there to see what God has made simply for your pleasure.
King David knew
King David knew intimately about depression. He dealt with feelings of fear, defeat, and loss. He was surrounded by people (even those closest to him) who betrayed and hated him without a cause. He spent many days and nights in the throes of sadness and despair.
I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Psalm 6:6
At one of his worst moments, King David cried out, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest” (Psalm 55:6). I, too, imagined that flight, the relief, the peace that would buoy me. To watch my troubles in the valley below fade from view.
How did he get through his depression without defilement, without blame, without sin?
He always returned to the sovereignty and love of God. Even in his most harrowing moods, he never stopped praising His name.
Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Psalm 40:5
Like David, we need to trust in a God who doesn’t change, even though life does and it becomes too much. Trust in a God who always loves even when it becomes too hard to give and receive some days. Most importantly, trust in a God who has stored delight in a better life too wonderful to imagine for those of His who don’t give up.
Even if you feel lost or feel nothing at all, don’t give up. Because it will pass. This melancholy stranglehold is merely an illusion of the world we live in. A by-product of sin that does not own you or have the final say.
I know you are oh, so tired, but your trials, your poor in spirit life, may be cultivating in you the very thing another sister in Christ desperately needs—encouragement to press on no matter what. The knowledge that despite waking up to the same problems, the same family tension, the same relentless malady that strikes her body harder than most, she is not suffering alone.
Death of Scented Dreams
Years ago, I sprouted twenty-nine lavender plants from seed. Minuscule beauties of hope and promise. I could see in my mind’s eye the gorgeous blooms they would make attracting butterflies and bees, little mounds of scented heaven. But, unknowingly, I was killing them slowly with too much water. Living in a dry, dry desert, I assumed all plants would welcome constantly moist soil. But that is not the case with lavender.
I grieved the day I realized all twenty-nine lavender sprouts I had doted on—five months of dedication, effort, and care—were going to die. Each and every one. My hope for home-grown beauty in my garden—gone. To watch as one by one your hopes expire, a dull gray-brown at the edges, you can’t help but mourn.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desires cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
At first, my furious thoughts were why? Why do I work so hard at something only to have it come to nought? Why do I have to live in a place that mocks my efforts at beauty? Why do I bother getting up in the morning if all my dreams are pulled apart like dandelion puffs and blown away?
My heart was sick. I know a plant is not a person. Nor a garden spiritual life. But it hurt nonetheless.
- Sometimes, we do our best and still the result is loss.
- Sometimes, events are set in motion—through no fault of our own—we cannot stop.
- Sometimes, our ignorance, or worse, willfulness, causes a freight train of destruction barreling our way nothing can stop.
As time passed, I began to analyze my disappointment. What made the pain so sharp? Did I hold onto my desires too tightly? Elevate them above all else? Did I allow my perfectly decent desires for good to bring out an unrighteous anger at the “unfairness of it all” when they failed? To bring out self-pity, and a belief that each loss was a referendum on God’s love for me? Yes. I was idolizing physical success, opening the door for depression to appear when the idols toppled over.
The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands. Psalm 138:8
Sadness and feelings of defeat that follow our losses will come, but I don’t want to slip into the sinful territory of blanket discontent when it does, looking at everything in my life that is lacking and finding fault. I don’t want to be held hostage by my wants. I want to be held by the soothing love of God and see joy where I am incapable of seeing it on my own.
Help me, Father, to shut my eyes to what is seen—the unfinished canvas of my dreams—and fix my heart on Your flawless kingdom masterpiece instead (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Absence of a hard life
There is nothing wrong with the desire for good things. To watch our children make wise choices, hear the laughter of grandchildren, succeed in our labors, surround ourselves with beautiful things, and be free from emotional stress or physical pain. It seems many of our Christian sisters live this life.
Yet, poverty, miscarriage, cancer, loneliness, that chronic health condition that won’t go away, or the painful loss of precious family to the world’s seductive spirit has befallen us.
- How do we learn to be at peace with these events?
- Why do some Christian women suffer more trials than their sisters do?
- Is our inability to reconcile this disparity a catalyst for depression?
The Enemy loves when we compare ourselves; he loves morose self-pity. He prompts us to ask “what about her?” like Peter asked Christ on the shore. But God doesn’t play favorites. The tarrying sister is not our concern. Her outward blessings are not evidence God is pleased with her more. That’s the Enemy’s whisper.
You may not understand the long-term reason for your heart-wrenching losses and life of want, but you can trust that God has sanctioned them for your good. “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75). God knows the length and width and height and breadth of your every longing and your secret fears; He has custom tailored your life for eternal benefit you can’t imagine. God wants you with Him in His kingdom (what love!). He knows the absence of a hard life would not produce the spiritual growth you need to be fitted for His crown. Your growth in Christ is most precious to Him and all that matters.
Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Isaiah 50:10
God is the ONE BRIGHT HOPE that penetrates your weary soul when depression darkens the room, and futility leans upon the doorpost. The bright and morning Star has overcome the world with all its noise and sorrow and darkness that dares to violate your blessed victory in Him.
Keep this in mind, dear Christian, the next time you feel the stirrings of a cast-down soul. Because your recurring sadness, your woeful tears, and your carefully laid shelves of unwanted memories cannot follow you into the coming kingdom of God, for the former things shall not be remembered nor will they come to mind (Isaiah 65:17). Praise God.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen. Psalm 41:13