If you read, my previous blog from a fews years ago regarding depression, you will know that depression is something I have struggled with on and off for more than half my lifetime. One thing you should know about me in particular, is that I tend to “hide” my depression and emotional turmoil from myself and my community. I put on the mask of having it all together. I go to work as a psychotherapist and convince myself that what I’m going through is not nearly as bad as what my clients are enduring and experiencing. (Which, I want to point out, is a lie. Regardless if you’ve had a simple life or if you’ve had many hardships and trials, your depression is very real and valid.) I tell myself that the coping skills, encouragement, and advice that I provide my clients somehow does not apply to myself. After spending day in and day out pouring into others, the emotional conflict within me gets pushed down further and further; the last thing I want to do is to deal with my own sufferings.
I convince myself that other Christians will not understand the emotional distress I am feeling or be able to empathize with the realness of the pain I am feeling. I look around me and see that majority of my Christian friends, mentors, and leaders appear to have it all together. They are joyful, happy, loving, kind, energetic, motivated. They abundantly love, give, and pour out and never run out of steam. (This is a lie that I told myself and believed for a long time.) It wasn’t until recently, when I had a conversation with a friend of mine, that I realized that many of us appear to have it all together on the outside, when we are actually screaming on the inside. I once again realized that so many of us within the church struggle with depression but are afraid to address it.
The stigma associated with mental health, and depression in general, leaves many Christians hiding their depression from their community and in return, from themselves; this allows the depression to manifest and grow to the point where it is unbearable and suffocating. Separated from God and our community, depression leaves us feeling isolated, defeated, broken, damaged, worthless, hopeless, paralyzed, unloved, invisible, inadequate, and forgotten. It can create an emotional pain that runs dark and deep; a pain that can feel more painful than any physical pain we have ever experienced. Personally, I find it one of the most difficult struggles to navigate and seek guidance in as a Christian. It is easy to forget although the Spirit of the Living God lives within us, we are still broken and sinful humans. We are not perfect. We are not without sin. We forget that just like everyone else in the world, Christians get depressed too.
As we try to navigate all of the feelings, emotions, negative thoughts, and emotional pain that comes with depression, defeat sneaks its way into our hearts. We begin to isolate ourselves to escape the emotional pain and spiritual desert that has become our normal. We unconsciously drive ourselves deep into our darkest valley. We know we need help, but are afraid to seek it, out of fear of judgment and rejection. It starts to feel like the help we need is nowhere to be found. We eventually become so distant from God that it feels like He isn’t there. It feels like He has abandoned us or is punishing us. Before we know it, our feelings take precedence over what we know is true and the darkness continues to reign over us. Not only do we begin to isolate ourselves from God, but in return, we start to isolate ourselves from our community. We tell ourselves that our brothers and sisters in Christ don’t care; that they couldn’t possibly understand or want to help. We become fearful of their response, judgement, and thoughts. We tell ourselves that we are better off fighting the battle of depression alone. We become so ashamed and disappointed in how far into the darkness we’ve gone, that it’s easier to brush our depression under the rug than admit to our community that we are struggling and need help.
In the midst of it all, we fail to realize that we are doing exactly what the enemy wants. He wants us to isolate ourselves. He wants us to feel like we are left alone in the dark. He wants us to feel defeated. He wants us to think that victory is his, but the truth is, it isn’t. He hasn’t won. Jesus has and always will have won the battle. Deuteronomy 20:4 says, “For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory”. Even when it feels like He has left you, He is still with you. When you become defeated and can’t bear to keep fighting, God is still fighting for you and with you. Just because you can’t feel God or see how he is fighting for you, doesn’t mean he is being idle. The God who spoke you into motion, cares for you and fights for you in battle. Regardless of your brokenness and wandering heart, he still fights for you, simply because He wants to out of His great love for you!
As I’m writing, I am reminded of the worship song, “Reckless Love,” which is based on Luke 15. There is a part in the song that says, “It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it.” I think that phrase perfectly summarizes God’s reckless and steadfast love for us. When depression seeps into our defeated and wandering hearts, when sin takes over, when the enemy thinks he has a hold of us, God’s love chases us down. When darkness surrounds us and we’re lost in our darkest valleys, God leaves the 99 to fight for you, chase you, and find you. Not because He has to, but because he loves you with a never ending reckless love. Despite your sinfulness, despite your brokenness, despite your depression, He loves you still, just as you are. He has not abandoned you, nor has He forgotten you. He loves you with the greatest love of all and there is nothing that can or will stop Him from chasing after you.
The question is, will you let Him? Will you let Him chase you with the never ending steadfast and reckless love that He has for you? Will you let Him break down those walls and free you from your deepest fears and darkest thoughts? Even if the life God has for you is different than the life you wanted, will you boldly and blindly trust Him? Will you let your community walk with you through your darkest valley? Will you let them chase after you just as God does?
When Jesus died on the cross for us, He paid the ultimate price so that we may experience a relationship with Him; so that we could live free from the chains of our sin and brokenness.
He never said it would be easy, but He did say to trust him and take heart, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Surely, if he has overcome the world, He is more than capable of helping you fight your battles, no matter how dark they may be.
Friends, it is my prayer for you, that you would continue to run to the one who loves you and chases after you. That you would allow the His Spirit and Word to work within you. That you would not be afraid to come to your community when you are in pain and emotional despair. That you would fall on your knees and cry out to the one who fights for you, today, and forever.