Many of you know that I only recently came out of a long depression. It was not fun. I hope I never go through that again. But, God was faithful. During that time of depression God helped me to face some demons I had been trying to ignore for years. He helped me take some time off from life to think through the past and the present and perhaps take hold of some hope for the future.
I know that many people suffer from depression. And I think that the population of people that don’t understand depression is probably pretty small. But, I think it is always encouraging when you hear about someone else who has been on the same journey as yourself. It makes you feel less isolated, less like a strange foreign being, when you realize that your experience is shared with others. I recently picked up a book by Christian author Philip Yancey called “Reaching for the Invisible God”. I am only about six chapters in, it is heavy reading, but I can’t tell you how encouraging it has been to read about someone else’s doubts and trials and realize that I am not alone in my questions and worries.
During my depression, God never “healed” me. He never gave me a special touch where I then walked away full of joy and confidence. Instead he just walked with me. He never left me. I cried out to him and he was always there. He didn’t fix me. He knew there were a lot of things I needed to face and deal with and for some reason, I wasn’t willing to deal with the baggage when I was happy and content. I am not saying that God made me depressed. I am rather saying that he allowed me to deal with the natural consequences of a stressful life that never stopped to reflect and never stopped to deal with painful things, trying to ignore them instead. Pain doesn’t go away. It has to be faced head on. If not, it just keeps resurfacing, usually at very inconvenient times.
Looking back I can now say I am thankful for my period of depression. I am thankful that God used that time to lead me down a path of healing. Am I now all fixed and better? No. I don’t think that will happen till I get to heaven. I am more aware though of my tendencies to hide from hard things, and I have more courage to face those hard things as they show up in my life. I also have a much better understanding of how important it is to face those hard things instead of trying to ignore them into nonexistence.
I would like to add that I did not travel this path alone. My husband offered me the gift of understanding and zero expectations. My children offered me the gift of patience and unconditional love. My doctor offered me the gift of teaching me to set small goals so that I could get through one day at a time. My church family offered me the gift of prayer and encouraging words, and physical help when needed. My Facebook friends offered me the gift of kind understanding words, and a small group of women whom I met with weekly, offered me the gift of listening. I am so thankful for my community that helped carry me through.
I found the following reflection that I wrote when I was deep in my depression, fighting every day to keep thoughts of suicide at bay, fighting every day to hang on to hope. In the midst of the storm God gave me moments of peace that carried me through….
I am standing in my dining room, looking out the window, watching the last light of the sunset filter through the trees. The naked branches of the trees show up black against the lighter sky, and it speaks of winter. The sky is slowly turning to my favorite color of indigo. My children are running around, playing a game that involves a lot of jumping and yelling. The baby is in his high chair talking to the world at large. All the sounds fade as I look outside. I can see the rope swing swaying in the breeze and as it becomes darker outside, the lights of my house seem more and more cheerier. My husband has walked across the street to buy some corn chips to go with the big pot of chili I’m about to serve for supper. I am at peace.
Yesterday was a difficult day as my depression sunk me so low I did not think I could ever pull myself up again. But today. Today, God has been faithful. Faithful to simply show me the goodness around me. The delight of hearing my children laugh and play. The comfort of sitting next to a burning fire. The solid rightness of having my husband come in the house after a long day of work. My soul is comforted. Our advent verse tonight was Psalm 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” I feel the warmth and life that God provides seeping into my soul. I feel him working as a shield on my behalf as I grapple with heavy questions that weigh me down.
My thoughts and prayers are with those right now who are suffering from depression. I don’t have any easy answers or 1,2,3 steps to getting through depression. I can only give my testimony that God was faithful and stayed with me and he used the people around me to help me. I pray that he will do the same for you.