Sunday, 23 June 2013

NOTE:  This is a topic about which I nearly never post.  In part this is out of respect for my family, not because the topic actually says anything negative about them, but because it’s the sort which frequently makes associated families mistakenly think negative things about themselves.  The rest is because the topic is difficult and confusing.

9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Psalm 42:9-11 (ESV)

For longer than I can remember, I’ve been depressed to the point of being suicidal. My mom has a story I wrote when I was in first or second grade.  It describes a bicycle that purposefully rolls into traffic so that it can stop being sad.  I don’t remember writing it, but I’m not surprised that I did.  In my six-year-old fashion, I pretty effectively summarized the next three decades of mental illness.

Before I explain any more, let me include a pair of anticipations.  First, I’m not trying to compete with anyone in terms of hardships, so don’t interpret any of this as a claim that my sufferings were worse than everyone’s.  I’ll even stipulate that my sufferings weren’t worse than anyone’s.  I’m also not trying to evoke pity.  I won’t go so far as Nietzsche and say that pity is evil, but I certainly neither need it from my readers nor enjoy it particularly.  All of this is simply my awkward attempt to explain something beautiful, or, as Jesus said to the man healed from demonic possession, to “declare how much God has done” (Luke 8:39, ESV).

Depression is a misunderstood nightmare.  People who are sad talk about being depressed even though they aren’t, but people who are depressed talk about being sad because they have no other words.  If I try to explain depression to those who have no experience with it, people who need the explanation might miss it because they think they do have experience with it, having been around sad people.  I don’t want to belittle the pain of sadness, but depression is a different beast altogether.

The best way I can figure to proceed is this: imagine a worse and more exhausting hopelessness than you’ve ever felt or ever watched someone else feel.  If you have successfully imagined anything, than you have no experience with depression.  The critical thing about depression is that, once you’ve been there, you realize that you can’t imagine anything worse.  You’re as tired as you can imagine being, as sad as you can imagine being, as hopeless as you can imagine being, as rejected as you can imagine being, as empty in your bones of any will to live as you can ever imagine being.  And you’re like that all the time.  It’s like the feeling at the end of the worst day of your entire life, except it’s the start of each day in your entire life.

Well, some days are better than others, but I suspect you get my point.  Everything about humanity is complicated.  For example, depressed people are not infrequently gifted with an ironically strong capacity for mirth.  A lot of stand-up comedians are depressed; I like to imagine that I’m funny every once in awhile too.  Nevertheless, I stand by my description: that’s what depression is like.

That’s what my life has been like for at least as long as I can remember.  I’ve been counseled and medicated, but here I am.  More importantly, I’ve prayed with as earnest and desperate a faith as I can muster that God take this from me, but here I am.

I’m old, weak, tired, and hurting.  Every day I’m reminded of how much I’ve wasted because I couldn’t bring myself to try.  Every day I’m reminded of how many people are counting on me to do better.  Every day I’m reminded that I can’t.  I’m trapped, and failing, and lost.

Now I wish I could show you this Psalm through my eyes.

9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”

This is the cry of my heart.  Why make me this way?  Why leave me this way?  Why, when I need him so badly in the arena, do I feel so all alone in it?

10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

This is the world filling God’s silence.  Every time I fall down under the weight of depression, which is far too often to be respectable, this is the whisper.  I like how the psalmist puts it: “a deadly wound in my bones.”  Killing me from the inside.

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

As much as Christianity is a religion of peace, it is the most ferocious peace.  I read this and some part of me bucks up.  If my tired little heart had fists it would clench them, not in anger but in determination to make it one more day, because there’s hope.  I suppose I could view the second part of verse eleven as an injunction to praise God in spite of one’s circumstances, but I’m inclined to view it eschatologically.  (For those who aren’t nerds or who aren’t the right kind of nerds, that means I think of it as relating to the end of all things.)

Someday this burden too will end, but my life won’t, because my God is my salvation.  Someday I will have joy, and peace, and life, because my God is my salvation.  All I have to do is hold on tight.  I may never understand why he doesn’t solve my problem now, but I can trust that he has solved my problem eternally.  Maybe he won’t give me healing tomorrow, but I can trust that he has given me healing forever.

When all is said and done, I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

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87 thoughts on “Sunday, 23 June 2013

  1. “Someday this burden too will end, but my life won’t, because my God is my salvation. Someday I will have joy, and peace, and life, because my God is my salvation. All I have to do is hold on tight. I may never understand why he doesn’t solve my problem now, but I can trust that he has solved my problem eternally. Maybe he won’t give me healing tomorrow, but I can trust that he has given me healing forever.”

    I believe that what you wrote here is the answer to all problems. Whether the earthly problems are large or small, in the grand scheme of eternity, they are really not a concern for man as our faith and grace from God has solved these problems. Don’t fret because our earthly problems are solved beyond this physical world of now where evil attempts to break us every step of the way.

    Although I may not understand fully what depression’s effects are on people, I do see the positive that you have done with your life. I believe the ultimate goal after having been given the breath of life from God, is to bring more people into His embrace. Gather more souls into His kingdom as best as you know how. I can see that you are doing that with your daughter through the stories you tell and the life you are trying to live. I live life with the knowledge that at the end of the day, good does triumph over evil and we can rest in God’s love for us.

    • Yes thank you! I have clinical depression and have had it since childhood. It does not invalidate my faith but makes it stronger. After being told my depression was a sin I nearly gave up. God may not see fit to relieve me of it in this life, but I know He will remove it someday!

  2. thank you for writing this post. I’ve ‘liked’ it… but only because there isn’t a ‘fix’ button or more truthfully a ‘sit down beside you for 3hrs and just talk about all kinds of stuff without trying to fix anything’ button… I know my psych-profile makes me want to try and mend everything for everyone, and I know I’m too optimistic for most people to cope with, which probably means 3hrs of my company would be a nightmare for you, but I hope you can appreciate what I’m failing to articulate.

    I’ve always felt that the Psalms, along with Ecclesiastes and Job are some of the most human parts of the Bible, because you can read them and find passages that express pretty much the whole gamut of emotions.

    I’ve known a number of friends over the years who have mental disorders that come under the general ‘depression’ field- from bipolar to chronic to perpetual. I can’t say I know what your talking about, but I have sat and drunk cups of tea in the same space. Thank you for your words. I hope and pray that you can keep on keeping on,
    peace and blessings.

  3. What you have written is beautiful and informative. I hope, until God rescues us, neuroscientists continue to search for a remedy better than the ones we have today.

  4. The irony is that your message is filled with so much hope and optimism. It’s a very encouraging read. It says never give up. Keep fighting. Keep hoping. Keep persevering. There is hope and eternity at the end of this road …

  5. I have fought depression as well. I often look around this world and ask why are we so messed up. But then I remind myself that this world is not my home and I am so grateful for that. I can’t wait for the day when we are in a place with no more tears.

  6. I would describe my worst depression as feeling as if I had my skin on inside out. Everything hurt. Lying under the covers hurt only slightly less than being up and about. When the alarm rang, I had to force myself to open my eyes to look at the relentlessly new day. Medication helps. But the love of my Father helps most of all.

  7. I, too, struggle with depression. It’s difficult to remember God’s love, to have that joy and peace knowing that He will never leave me.

    However, it is encouraging to read another believer who is able to find peace and hope in the Lord…it gives me hope that I will find that peace, as well.

  8. Faith is a guiding light in hard times. I hope the light shines for you strongly, and you one day become free of the hair shirt of continual torment that is depression.

  9. @ Someday I will have joy, and peace, and life, because my God is my salvation. All I have to do is hold on tight. …>> This is an amazing & wonderful write in its very own right! You perfectly created a picture of what depression is and feels like..Like an artist drawing a picture on a canvass. Your canvass is the life you live; and your feelings are the paintbrush. The part I’ve quoted you on? WILL happen. I’m as sure of it as I’m sitting here..When one has faith one has to also have the strength to hold on for faith to come through..I’ve also waited in what seemed like long barren years for “my time” to come..And when it did come? Its come after a spiritual awakening SO vivid to me; and clear as day. The blessings will come to you also & it will blow your mind. Guaranteed…Your read will touch many that need to be touched..Congrats for that! I look forward to reading more of your thoughts..Stay UPlifted & blessed…Sending big virtual hugs!

  10. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 38: And When It’s Time To Go To Bed, I’m Still Awake Inside My Head | A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  11. Illness are never by God. Christianity isn’t a religion but a relationship with Jesus. He loves you and wants you to be well, He is willing to heal. He wants you to rest in Him 🙂 for you are His beloved 🙂

  12. It is Christians like you with so much passion for the Lord and hope that is inspiring. I may not fully understand your situation or feeling but i believe God is helping you through it. You are sending a powerful message out to others who are suffering from depression, inspiring others and showing the true power of our religion. I believe God has given you the strength you need as you are optimistically continuing everyday. Thank you for the post and God Bless

  13. I stand in agreement with your full earthly healing. May you be reminded every precious second, you are not alone, He never leaves nor forsakes. Peace, love, joy and a renewed mind! You’re a fantastic writer, press on friend.

  14. Even though your post is about depression, but somehow I see positiveness in your words. They speak out positivity that gets one going in life. It’s commendable! 😀

  15. You write beautifully. When reading this, I remembered the black cave I lived in for at least two years. I called it “big door syndrome”, because it felt like the door to my flat was the size of a Cathedral and I couldn’t bring myself to go through it. I tried medication but it only made things worse. I eventually sat down and made a list of the things I wanted for myself, for my life in the future and worked towards it. I also took all the little good things that happened in my life and paid attention to them, thanking God for his generosity towards me. I tried something not unlike this, featured in a Netflix TedTalks: Life Hack. http://movies.netflix.com/WiPlayer?movieid=70270742&trkid=50172553&sod=search-autocomplete

    Good luck to you. Alanna x

  16. All isn’t lost. That optimism and sense of hope you have – please hold on strongly to it as they will go a long way in helping you heal. I pray that you find yourself down the path to healing soon.

  17. amazingly your words shine of hope , as a believer in god sometimes i ask the same questions in difficult times and i have been there for a long long time that it felt as i’m being punished for something i don’t know what . but at the end of the day i remember his mercy and that he created me for a purpose, and what he has stored for me and when i’m getting to the other side where i’ll be happier not known as he will decide that , to be honest i don’t feel sorry for you because you don’t need it your words discover a faithful , strong optimistic person ,please keep that spirit and keep on sharing .
    regards
    zara M.

  18. One day at a time…one laugh, one tear at a time. You are right…it is difficult to understand the hopelessness and despair that depression brings daily unless you’ve been there. Your post helps people to understand what living with depression is like…one day at a time.

  19. Often life is not pleasant in any way. Many of God’s children suffer in one way or another, some very deeply and some not so deeply. It is one of the reasons we are called to praise God, the one who can lift us up in all things. Not an easy thing to do and not lightly said. It is because I go through a lot of troubles, not of depression, but other things. When I take my eyes off Jesus I find myself once again in the pit needing to call on Jesus to lift me out of this pit.
    Not to make light of your plight either, my heart goes out to you and my prayer is that God will answer the deeper questions that only He can answer in any life. I love the Psalms and I love Job. They are restful and bring a peace when nothing else will do. Yet there is very much of God’s Word that as we read it, even the parts we do not understand, we gain the insight as the Holy Spirit reveals it. Be healed in the name of Christ Jesus.
    Love you brother,
    MLane

    • I meant that there were two chief reasons for my general silence on the topic: (1) respect for my family and (2) the general difficulty of the subject itself. It may not be difficult for others to think about and talk about, but I find it has always been that for me. It just seems prudent to refrain from saying permanent public things until I’m sure about my thoughts and confident in how to express them. (I sacrificed prudence for faithfulness when writing this post, however.)

  20. I think God knew He could trust you with this and you would be a light that shined brightly for Him as you battled against it! Thank you Jesus for your death on the cross that cut covenant with the Father that our sins may be forgiven and we can live for eternity with you without all the suffering!

  21. As a new blogger I am glad to see Christains wright about their hardships some people percieve that were perfect because we have God which is so untrue

  22. Thank you for your honesty. I have mental health issues as well, and am also a recovering addict. I understand the need to rely on our spiritual strengths to keep us going or at least give us the willingness to wait and not do anything to make it worse.

  23. This is beautiful, not just in the words you have chosen to express yourself, but because it expresses a resolved hope. There is a sense of peace that comes in resting in God’s salvation, which nothing and no one can take away. I thank God for your continued faith, and thank Him more that He will never let go of you. When its all said and done, He will answer all our questions. Thank you for writing this.

  24. An honest and beautiful post. I have a daughter who suffers from depression and as I watch, I suffer too.
    “As much as Christianity is a religion of peace, it is the most ferocious peace. I read this and some part of me bucks up. If my tired little heart had fists it would clench them, not in anger but in determination to make it one more day, because there’s hope.”
    Thank you for this beautiful line that gives me hope as well. I now see this psalm in a new light.
    God bless you.

  25. In the times of your worst travail, when you feel your prayers go unanswered and even God has abandoned you, it is then that you cultivate hope beyond reason and you develop faith that an unseen answer, one which will make all things new again, exists–even though it goes against all that you believe and feel. It is the only thing that you can do during those days. However, ever so slowly, you learn the wiles of the adversary, and in time, you become the master over darkness.

    ~Manfred
    http://knightsfeather.wordpress.com/

  26. I have a friend who suffers from depression and it breaks my heart to watch her go through this. I have shared your story with her this morning in hopes that she use your words to help her claw her way out of her deep dark pit of despair. THANK YOU for sharing. You may just save a life!

  27. I can so identify with you. I have been diagnosed as “clinically depressed” as well. Doctors said the chemicals in my brain were out of whack and I would have to rely upon medication for the rest of my life just to be able to function “normally.” Several years ago, after my second breakdown, my pastor recommended I read the Bible from cover-to-cover but start with Job. One chapter into Job I was horrified. I could not understand why reading about Job’s challenges would help me with my depression. However, once I finished the book I understood. Many years later I have read the Bible cover to cover many times, in different orders sometimes but usually all within a year. Little by little I learned to praise the Lord even in the tough times. I have been off all anti-depressant medication for over 10 years now. I am not free of depression. I am not free of the days where I want nothing more than to end it all. But I am free to lean into Christ as my Lord and Savior and recognize that He is my Great Physician. Like you, I know I will be fully healed when I finally stand before the Throne. Until then, I struggle on. Like you, I trust that He has given me healing forever. Thank you for this post. My biggest struggle is the feelings of isolation, the feelings that I am the only person struggling with this. You put another chink in the wall of that arguement.

  28. Your words are beautiful. The depth of your experience shines through.

    Last year I discovered something called Access Bars and after my first powerful experience of a session I learned how to do it myself and so far two friends have told me that they came off anti-depressants after one session. Here are some details http://goo.gl/o4KCD.
    I hope you find peace and happiness.

  29. The WONDERFUL thing about GOD’S LOVE is that it is boundless and that we are here only for a little while. I know what it means to be sad and I know what it means to be depressed…the world is empty and dark and void…there is nothing but God’s light begging to shine a light on your feet so that you can see them again to walk. What you have clung to is the best of what God has to offer…which is your faith and that is what binds us to him…that is what maintains our sanity…as it is certain that true happiness lies within His love and mercy…no man was ever more provileged to hold his affections so…I pray that you walk in his light until you are called to it…and allow your words to tell him in praise how you adore the simple truth that continues to save your life everyday…God Bless and I’ll be following…S.

  30. Wow! As a psychologist and a Christian I can tell you- I admire you. I have been struggling with Anxiety Disorder for more than a year, and along with that has come depression. And I can’t imagine dealing with it for a lifetime! God loves you.. Psalms 139 has been of great help for me. Meditate on it 🙂

  31. I, too, have suffered from clinical depression in my life. I can tell you with complete assurance and all honesty that I walk now in freedom from that monster which dominated me for so long. I have enjoyed my freedom from my old enemy for almost 15 years.

    I am here to tell you freedom from clinical depression, chemical and drug free, is possible in Jesus in this life. I am grateful every day for this miracle! However, I won’t delude you by saying it was an easy road, or a short one.

    I won’t deny it doesn’t try to rear its ugly head from time to time when circumstances begin to overwhelm me. But part of my freedom is God has given me friends who recognize its earliest symptoms and tell me, and the knowledge of how to stop it in its ugly tracks. I know now I must stop it quickly, when I am “blue,” before the downward spiral has a chance to start.

    You can be FREE. You can walk in freedom, and know peace, true and lasting peace, in your heart and soul. You can learn what you need to know to stop the downward spirals before they get started. You have people who love you, who can learn the signs of the start of a depressive cycle, and remind you to escape. You CAN do this. It’s POSSIBLE. And then, like me, you can share the testimony of freedom with others, so they can be freed.

    Because if I was freed, you can be, too. If I can testify, you can, too.

  32. Daniel, I have been there. I recognize your hope … and your hopelessness. There is healing for you, Daniel. Whether it is immediate, in a few months, a few years, or in heaven. Jesus will heal you and restore you. Hold onto that hope.

    I am glad that you are in the Psalms. David knew much about depression. When I was in so much pain in the middle of the night, I would slip out of bed, grab my Bible, lie on the sofa and read the Psalms. David cried out to God in his distress, laid out his anxiety, his questions and his anger; yet, in many of the Psalms, after his “Whys?” he focused on God’s power, God’s lovingkindness, God’s work, and he ended praising God.

    During those long years of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and other ailments, I learned that there is blessing in pain, there is blessing in knowing that God was getting me through each minute of the day. There is the blessing of God leading us through the valley of the shadow of death and setting a table for us in the presence of our enemies, our depression.

    Yes, there is freedom from depression, from disease. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Psalm 103:1-5

    My doctor confirmed a miraculous healing of my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. There is hope, Daniel. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor 3:17

    May you lean on God your Healer. May He make your path straight. May our Father touch your body with healing, your spirit with peace, and your soul with rest. I’ll be praying for you. Karen

  33. I have been a sufferer on and off for decades, although the drug I currently take for bipolar disorder has kept me on a fairly even keel for almost nine years. I have been in the slough of despair during extended periods in my life.

    I find those very verses very comforting…and also some of the verses in the book of Jeremiah.

    I also have some “go to” sections of the New Testament listed here http://annkilter.com/2013/02/03/weakness-part-1/ and here http://annkilter.com/2013/04/13/weakness-part-2/ along with some favorites from the Old Testament.

  34. What a helpful reminder this is! “I can trust that he has solved my problem eternally…I can trust that he has given me healing forever”
    What a hope we have in Jesus!

  35. Thank you for sharing your pain and your hope. My daughter was recently diagnosed with depression among other things. Though it is so hard to see her in so much pain at times she, as you are witnesses to the fact that life in Jesus does indeed save us. I pray the power of Christ to provide healing for all who suffer this terrible thorn.

  36. Wonderful words of truth! An encouraging reminder that this is not our home and whatever “thorns” in our flesh, they will all one day, be removed! I’m truly grateful for your testimony and focus on an eternal perspective. God blessings!

  37. Reblogged this on SUBIRA and commented:
    Never lose Hope! Depression and sadness are the ‘negative’ extremes and opposites of Happiness and Joy, so choose wisely! Praise God and realise Him as He wants you too, sometimes you have to go through Darkness to find the shining Light.

  38. Never lose Hope! Depression and sadness are the ‘negative’ extremes and opposites of Happiness and Joy, so choose wisely! Praise God and realise Him the way He wants you to- sometimes you have to go through Darkness to find the shining bright Light.

  39. That verse is actually referring to Jesus on the cross. I know what depression feels like. A state of emptiness, but far worse the feeling of negativity in you and the disconnection with people around you.

  40. Thank you so much for writing this post! I see what you are saying and, now, because of you (thank you), I can see it in a couple of people around me. I will try to listen a little more, try to love a little more, and try to help somehow.
    Keep writing! You’re amazing. I “liked” this post and will “follow” and check back often.
    Your new friend,
    Shawn

  41. I am so happy you did sacrifice prudence for faithfulness. That was an unselfish thing to do and clearly, in doing this you have touched a number of persons. I pray your family will see it the way the rest of us see it, as kind and real. The truthfulness of this article is the beauty that has inspired me and I am sure many other persons.

    Thank you for being real. It is one characteristic that I would like to see more of in the Body.
    Without trying to advise you or take anything away from your article, I would just like to share that in my own personal life, I have found that when I move beyond my ‘thorn in the flesh’ place and give of myself or touch someone else that something really supernatural happens both for those I’ve touched and for me. Hope you find the supernatural everlasting joy and peace of the Lord having blessed so many of us with this article.
    May the Lord continue to bless and keep you Spirit, Soul and Body until the day of His coming.

    Nuff Blessings

    Marcia

  42. I think your faith in God is tremendous and I thank you for sharing your experiences with God and depression. I also want to thank you for the comments your blog created. They are such a nice reminder of all the marvelous Christians there are in the world. Remember to look for all the help Christ can bring you through family, friends, psychotherapy, medication, books, and the ability to use your own mind to think better thoughts when depression threatens to overwhelm you. All these have helped me.

  43. Thank you Daniel. You’ve articulated your heartache and joy in Christ as you live with the thorn of depression. It is beautifully written and reflects your sensitivity, compassion and courage through your willingness to be transparent. FranceG

  44. I believe that while we can’t always understand the depth of what others go through, that sharing our stories is how the “5000 are fed” so to speak. When we break off the things we learn, and share it with others, they are encouraged/fed/helped, etc. When they get encouraged, they share it, and they reach people you can’t reach. I guess that is one of the reasons that God allows things in our lives; things that don’t make sense, and seem to have no answers….so that we can speak of survival through Jesus Christ and His word that gives us hope. I am so thankful that you shared your internal struggles so openly, and even more thankful that your faith doesn’t end because of them. We ALL struggle and hurt and anguish over things in our lives we can not change. May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you!

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