I’ll never forget the night I told God, “I want out.”
I was Miss Christian. I did it all. Taught the classes. Organized VBS. Took the teens to church camp. Always smiling. Always ready to lend a hand.
And I was miserable inside.
Depression is a silent cry. Likewise, anxiety is a storm of crippling intensity inside the mind, but can appear like a tranquil lake on the outside.
Depression is not always the dark-clad figure hiding in the back of the room. It’s the smiling cheerleader, the teacher, the mother, the pastor, or the successful businessman.
It demands perfection. Time. Energy. Spinning plates. Productivity above all. Do more. Be more. An ever-growing list of ‘shoulds’. How weighty the ‘shoulds’ become when they shift from daily tasks or career chores to demands more spiritual in nature. “I should give more.” “I should be nicer.” “I should sign up to take on one more activity at church. Isn’t that what God asks us to do…be a servant?”
Depression is the yawning chasm seeking approval. Acceptance. Sometimes it’s the brokenness of a past that has never been dealt with, a trauma never healed.
Sometimes, depression just…is. There’s no rhyme or reason for it. A broken body in a broken world.
The pressure from trying to do it all left me unable to breath, paralyzed in fear. As I lay sobbing on the bathroom floor, I remember saying, “God, I can’t breathe. I’m drowning. This isn’t the victorious life I was promised. Get me out of this. I don’t care how.”
It took a vicious battle with depression to help me realize several things: being busy for God is not the same as being close to God. Second, approval and love are not the same thing. I had fallen for the lie that the way to feel loved was to do more for people. Earn their love. I was wrong.
Third, I learned Jesus is tender. He cradled me in that difficult season and loved me back into a healthy mind, restored heart and transformed spiritual walk. It wasn’t easy. I needed medical help. I needed to unlearn and replace harmful thought patterns that affected my behavior. I needed time. I needed grace.
He gave it in abundance. He also provided sweet people along the journey who had experienced the same thing. Their encouragement was a lifeline. I had no idea so many believers struggled with depression, but they do…far more than I realized.
I also met folks who didn’t understand. Who hurt me with their ignorance and hastily flung remarks. Though none of them meant to be cruel, these people taught me as well. They taught me what not to say to those who are hurting.
I believe with all my heart that the enemy of our souls uses depression as a spiritual weapon. He attacks those on the front lines with discouragement, isolation and fatigue. He convinces us that sharing will mean condemnation from others. (And sometimes, it will.) Accusations of ‘a lack of faith’, or simply sharing a scripture in hopes that the afflicted person will soon bounce back from a blue funk, often cause someone battling depression to recoil deeper into isolation.
The solution is not that simple.
Complex brain chemicals and deep-seated emotional issues are not created overnight, nor can they be healed overnight. We have become a people uncomfortable with the messy. We don’t like what we don’t understand, so we try to force it into a box, put a bow on it and say, “Jesus will heal it. Smile and let’s praise Him”. Meanwhile, those who are hurting know the wounds have not been cleaned…merely bandaged over.
A wound left untreated creates a full body infection.
I don’t have all the answers. I only know we must do better supporting each other. Listening more than we speak. Making sure our pastors and spiritual leaders take weekly time to rest, turn off the phones, and have safe places to share their messy stuff without condemnation. We must stop piling more on the uber-organized because they are good at what they do and take responsibility for ourselves. We must each examine our motives. Why do we serve? Strive for that promotion? What is the true intent of our hearts?
And we all need to put down our obsessions with productivity and learn to dwell with Jesus. Presence over production. Connection over to-do lists.
Most of all, we should pray. Pray for sensitivity. Pray for our eyes to be opened to those silently suffering. If we see another struggling under the weight of their load, we offer a helping hand.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2
For all the uncertainties, lack of answers, and complexities, there was one abiding truth I learned in the darkness…Jesus is there.