I have wrestled with depression for nearly twenty years. It has been a part of my life since I was a boy, and, as far as I can tell, it shall be with me in the years to come. I have passed through many different seasons and trials; suffering through panic attacks, which then progressed into deep-seated self-loathing, seasons of apathy and melancholy, as well as dangerous issues with self-abuse and self-harm. Even to this day, I continue to struggle with the “black dog” of depression that lives within me. I say all of this to you today, because I do not want those of you reading this to think that I am unfamiliar with your plight or your struggle.
I have been there, bought the t-shirt and still wear it today.
I am writing to those of you who have, are, or will struggle with depression in your life. My hope and my desire is to affirm two points that you really, really need to hear:
- You are not in any way alone AND…
- It’s all going to be okay, even if you don’t believe me.
Growing up in the church, I could never understand how it was possible for someone (myself) to know Jesus, to love Jesus and to run around confessing Jesus as Lord yet, internally feeling as though there was no hope and that life was meaningless. This created a question that loomed in the back of my mind:
“If I really believe that Jesus is Lord and, in him, we have hope and life, then why don’t I feel it?”
After a long time, I came to understand that the problem was in my perspective of the situation.
After a long time, I came to understand that the problem was in my perspective of the situation. I had allowed the feelings that I had to influence what I said and I believed. Our beliefs cannot be formulated around what we feel because then our beliefs will be in constant fluctuation and not genuine at all. For instance, the goodness and proximity of God does not change based on our feelings. God remains a gracious and loving God who dwells with his children, even when he may feel distant or unloveable. God does not change based on our perspective of him and that truth should change our perspective entirely.
For me to declare that I believe in the eternal life and good hope of Jesus Christ, means that I stand by that truth, even when my emotions are running amuck. It is on this realization that I base my first affirmation to you, “You are not, in any way, alone.” I can say this to you with confidence, because Christ himself assures us that he will never leave us (Matthew 28:20) and that he also sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us (John 14:16).
This defeats the first and greatest lie that depressive disorders create within us. This is the lie that we are on our own and God (as well as the rest of the world) has abandoned us. If you truly believe that the Lord is who he declares himself to be, that he fulfills his promises always; if you do not permit your feelings to dictate what you know to be true, then, you do not ever have to wonder again if you are alone. This does not mean that there won’t be times in which you wrestle with feeling alone, but it does mean that you have the sure footing to combat those feelings with what you do know to be true.
But, if you can get to a place where you genuinely believe what the Scriptures tell us is true, then you have conquered the greatest hurdle before you.
The dominant struggle within depressive disorders is overcoming the lies that flood into your head with the truth that you desperately need to hear. But, if you can get to a place where you genuinely believe what the Scriptures tell us is true, then you have conquered the greatest hurdle before you. Either way, I can tell you that it will all be okay, even if you don’t believe me (my second affirmation to you). I believe what the Scriptures declare is truth and I know that our Lord is with you and for you. As he spoke to his people once through the prophet Isaiah:
“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you’” (Isaiah 41:13).
There are many things that you can do to combat the issues that arise within depressive disorders and this blog is not intending to belittle the numerous ways you can/should help ease your mental struggles (therapists, healthy diet, vitamins, staying physically active). My message is simply intending to remind you that in those dark moments, when you feel alone and meaningless, you have the ability to combat those lies with the truth of who God is.
If you are a Christian struggling with depression, I hope that I assured you and strengthened you by helping you to see that our struggle doesn’t take away from the goodness of God, but can actually be used to highlight his goodness. When we stand firmly on the truth of Scripture and walk in the sure standing of our beliefs – not allowing our emotions to sway what we know to be true – it is then when we can see the power of God moving. Then, we can understand more fully the truth once proclaimed by the apostle John about Jesus, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
Do not permit your feelings to sway your beliefs. Let your Savior see you through the darkness into the light.