My Unwanted Guest
Depression, I will never forget the day we met. You were intrusive, unwanted and refused to leave.
It was during a counseling session. I felt good about my counseling sessions at first. I was in a doctrinally sound church that offered biblical counseling. I was a boss at this grief thing. I was strong and walking the valley with uttermost confidence in my Savior. I was going to show the world that whatever the circumstance, we could have rock-solid confidence in Christ. I was eager to show my unwavering faith.
But as the shock, numbness, and denial started to ebb away, reality set in. Confidence was replaced with fear and doubt. My legalistic brain quickly jumped into action. Christians do not give in to fear or question God. I couldn’t let that happen. I learned how to compartmentalize my grief so that I could maintain my façade for the watching world. Before I knew it I was shackled to the constant upkeep of my appearance. I wanted my church, especially the leadership, to see me being faithful. As time wore on, I wore out. Keeping up this pretense began to take its toll on my health and my family.
I was fooling most. But not the counselor looking at me across the desk or the God who had already paid the price for my fear of man’s standard. I began to conceal the issues with isolation. I would work hard at preparing myself to go out in public. My stamina got to a point where I could only handle small spurts of social interaction. I found that anxiety was real and that I didn’t have physical medical issues.
Then it happened.
Founder, Refined Family
Kerry Tittle is a mother of 10 children and an 20+-year homeschool veteran. She is the founder of Refined Family. Her desire is to honor Christ while comforting others with the comfort she has received from the Lord.
My counselor knew he was dealing with a strong willed, proud legalist. He gently pushed a book toward me across his desk. “I would like to see you read this and I’d like to discuss it with you.” I looked in horror as the title seemed to glare at me. Depression, Looking up from the Stubborn Darkness, Edward T. Welch. I looked at my counselor bewildered. “I don’t need this! Really.” Silence. “I’m not…….(I couldn’t even utter the word, so I pointed)…..that!”
He quietly replied, “Just take it with you and think about it,”. I was hurt. He was supposed to be on my side – helping me, not labeling me. My pride was trying to process how this strong Christian woman could have depression! It can’t be! It WON’T be.
I obstinately went home and threw the book in a drawer where it remained for two months. I didn’t talk much to my counselor about certain things. I was still very upset that he would suggest something so outlandish. You don’t even use the “D” word in some of our circles. Meanwhile, my counselor just patiently waited.
But as I began to spiral, the situation went from bad to worse. I went to my doctor who I had known for years with a bag of supplements. He looked at me and said “I have run every test I know to run. You are struggling with depression. And that’s ok.” I tried to defend myself but all I had to offer was hot tears streaming down my face.
I went home and pulled out the book. Of course I waited for my kids to go to bed. I didn’t want them seeing supermom reading something like that.
I read the first page. First chapter. Second. By the third chapter I ended up in my counselor’s office asking for forgiveness.
The truth is, Christians can be depressed.
“For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.” Lamentations 1:16 (ESV)
We find many in God’s Word with similar battles. David, Job, Elijah, Jonah, Moses, Jeremiah, to name a few, had struggles. Scripture doesn’t use the word “depression” but it uses despair, downcast, fainthearted, or troubled. These are all indicators of people who are struggling – not struggling because they don’t trust God, not struggling because they have sinned and they are being punished – they are struggling because God is working in their lives. I’m not saying there is not suffering as a consequence of sin. There certainly is, but we must not always assume that these battles come from personal sin.
God doesn’t waste the seasons of suffering we face. He has a purpose for them and will use them for His glory and our good. He uses us to encourage others. He changes our hearts and He makes us stronger in His likeness. When we are in the throes of depression it’s hard to see that plan, but we must trust in His goodness and in the story He is working out in our lives. It is never without purpose.
A truth we know we can cling to is that we have a Savior who understands our suffering.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
Isaiah 53:3a (ESV)
No matter our circumstance its small scale compared to the grief he bore for our redemption.
Another wonderful certainty, despite the feelings of depression, He is with us.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 (ESV)
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long,“Where is your God?”
“Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. That night—let thick darkness seize it! Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it.
One of the hardest things to accept during my battles of hopelessness is being told that God is with me. His presence seemed nonexistent. I felt more abandoned than any other time in my life. The words of scripture appeared as meaningless words of another language.
But His constant grace held me during the times my prodigal heart and flesh failed.
He said He would never leave me or forsake me and He didn’t.
Though I entirely hold to the sufficiency of Scripture, sometimes it helps to read other’s journey in sufferings. There is something about shared suffering that gives us reassurance and hope. That very idea is what has helped launch Refined Family. Our team has compiled a list of resources here that have been beneficial for me and others during these dark seasons.
Depression is a consistent chord in my life, but it doesn’t have to be the governing one. It doesn’t have to be for you either.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)