It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I had this wonderful idea of starting a new series to help people with the trials of faith – but then suddenly I found myself overcome with the very things I claimed to be healed from.
When I first returned to my blog, I proclaimed how God had lifted me from my anxiety and depression – wow, I don’t need a doctor or counselor or medications! It was a beautiful reprieve from my pain. I knew I was supposed to help people with anxiety and depression. I felt that was finally my chance to step up and be strong for others. But then after a series of events, it all came back worse than before. There was a sudden onset of panic in my anxiety – hyperventilation and tingling – feelings so overwhelming I thought I would faint. My body broke out in rashes. I have tension in nearly every muscle. Nightmares. Fatigue. Memory-loss. I’ve blanked out and missed whole moments of my life. Then the depression got worse. I went from thinking “I just want to sleep all the time” to hearing the word “suicide” in my mind every single time I felt even the tiniest pang of sadness.
It’s been a rough few weeks! What troubled me most is that the more I struggled, the less I felt like I could help anyone. How could I teach about God’s love and grace when I felt so far from Him? I sought Him day in and out through prayer, fasting, bible studies, prayer meetings, sermons, and trying to still help other people. My sorrows and anxieties had overburdened me to a point where I just couldn’t hear Him anymore. I wanted to die and I won’t be surprised if that thought returns again someday.
But I’m not writing this to talk about poor me and how I’ve suffered. I’m writing this because as I’ve started to hear from God again and understand His purposes, I’ve realized that God has not made me to be miraculously healed. He made me to walk beside Him on the long, painful journey of recovery so that I may walk other people to recovery, maybe alongside me, maybe someday ahead. My heart burns for people who suffer with depression and anxiety – God knows that. He put that fire there for a reason.
I want those who read my blog to understand I am not coming from some sunshine filled mountain peak. I’m in the dark valley, too. I know how hard it is. Somedays I wake up and want to fight and be strong. Other days I want to give up and find my bed in the ground. But, I want to shed some biblical truth about these subjects.
First of all, let’s talk about the guilt of depression. You might think to yourself every time you get low that you are letting God or others down. You might think God will be mad that you aren’t being more grateful, more joyful, showing more love. Why aren’t you pouring out for others? How selfish of you to think about yourself and your pain so much that you would be overcome by it! You are a Christian – depression is a bad witness.
Literally writing that stings my eyes.
I’ve thought those things and so much more almost every day in the past few weeks. Remember though, that even God feels sorrow. There’s many examples in the Bible that suggest that Jesus might have even experienced seasons of depression. Read Isaiah 53.
Repeatedly Isaiah prophesies about the servant of the Lord (Jesus) and his heavy sorrows. He calls him a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (IS. 53:3b). He states that Jesus was “oppressed” in verse 53:7. The anguish is described as reaching his very soul in verse 53:11.
What’s even more, 53:10 says this is all God’s will! God willed Jesus to suffer extreme sorrows and be crushed. This doesn’t mean God liked it – obviously God is ultimately the one who felt this deep pain. But remember again the call of a Christian is to be like Jesus – that includes suffering like Jesus at times (see 1 Peter 3:20-25).
Everything has it’s due season. Sometimes God wills us to be in utter joy and bliss. Other times He wills us to experience deep sorrows. For those with depression, that will happen more intensely and frequently than it does for others. I know I would probably want to slap myself right now, if in this very moment I was feeling that deep pain. I would think “this is dumb. Why should I be a Christian? Where is God? I thought He draws near to the brokenhearted. Why did Jesus have to feel such sorrow? Does God love us at all?”
But be encouraged! If you have depression God has selected you for a deeper relationship with Him than your jovial friends can have. He has selected you to experience Him in a different way. To testify and witness in a different way. Surely, you will have opportunities of abundance where you share the joy of God – but right now, let’s focus on what you are doing that is actually good during depression.
I read a devotional today from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman that focused on a portion of Ecclesiastes 7, about sorrow. This really spoke to me about the significance of our sorrow.
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth,” (Ecc. 7:2-3, ESV).
Here we are reading God’s word and He’s saying it’s better to feel sorrow than to laugh. Okay, wait. Seriously? God, You’d rather me mourn than feast? Frown than laugh? That doesn’t make sense. I thought God wanted His children to be happy because He loves us!
Well, here’s the deal. I love how Cowman puts this, “Accordingly, it is sorrow that causes us to take the time to think deeply and seriously. Sorrow makes us move more slowly and considerately and examine our motives and attitudes. It opens within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it makes us willing to set our capacities afloat on a limitless sea of service for God and for others… God never uses anyone to a great degree until He breaks the person completely… It takes sorrow to expand and deepen the soul.” (From Steams in the Desert)
I kept saying to myself and to God, “I’m too depressed. How can I help anyone?” and God told me, after much waiting, “I’m using your depression so that you can help others. How can you help them if you don’t know the depth of their pain? The greater your sorrow, the closer you come to me, the closer you come, the more I will expand your wisdom and the more you will experience me.”
In some strange way, this brings me joy. Who thought I’d feel joyful about being depressed. Ultimately, what this is teaching me is that sometimes God choses to miraculously heal someone of depression/anxiety. Maybe that’s their witness because He knows that is what is best, but I think most of the time, He wants to use those things to teach us more and make us stronger. Let’s put it this way: if God doesn’t miraculously heal you, it’s because He knows you are strong enough to go to the darkest depths and still come back up. He will make you wiser. He will grow your love. He will reveal things to you that other people around you may never know or experience. It might feel like a curse. It might feel like you’re being punished or that you are disappointing God, but do not become depressed about depression. Be encouraged. Recognize those seasons as growth periods. Times to slow down from the whir of life and reflect on God and His ways and His purposes. You have been chosen to experience these things for a reason and you will reap eternal benefits if you just keep trusting God and fighting with everything you have and everything He supplies you with.
Ultimately, God does want you to experience joy, peace, and abundance. Don’t ever doubt that. He loves you immensely, but His ways are not our ways. His love surpasses our understanding. God is with you whether you feel Him there or not. He is doing something within you that will ultimately bring you joy, peace, and abundance, but you have to walk through valleys of shadow. You still have to climb the mountain to reach the peak, but the Lord will sustain you and guide you. You will know Him better and feel His love more every time you take a journey like this with Him.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”(Psalm 128:5)
This is for you: “Broken Things” – Matthew West