Much has been written about the scourge that is depression and the Christian life. From my own experience, though it may seem strange, there actually may be some kind of blessing that can come from experiencing depression. This paradox is something that has helped me, as one who experiences depression, to endure.
Depression can be like seeing the world through fog. There can be a sense of the loss of identity. For Christians it can seem like God is absent, not interested or simply silent. There may be a sense of guilt and shame because of the false perception that a Christian’s life is full of joy. Someone I know once expressed their experience of depression as “a darkness so tangible that it engulfed my whole being; body, mind, spirit, emotions. I tried to pray, but it seemed that my words left my lips and fell to the ground.” This sense of isolation and abandonment by God and others is at its heart the curse of depression.
The society that we live in is one that looks to fix things in the easiest way possible. The constant merry-go-round of the latest quick fix diets. The increasing popularity of cosmetic surgery as a way to improve how we feel about ourselves. The rise of social media has made it easy to find ‘relationships’ to cure loneliness. The reality is that depression cannot be treated with a quick fix. There are no short cuts that can be taken and this is one of the reasons that it is so devastating for anyone who experiences depression. We may cry out to God for healing yet simultaneously may feel that our prayers go unheard. For many the reality is that depression is something with which they will struggle for much of their life. Healing may seemingly never come.
If we take the Psalms as a model then we can undoubtedly see a pattern. The psalms are often filled with raw emotion, crying out to God “How long”. Psalm 13 is one that expresses a sense of depression and abandonment. The psalmist writes “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” There are questions as he pours out his heart toward God but by verse 5 there is a change. The psalmist effectively says that even though his questions remain unanswered, and his situation has not changed, in the big picture God has been good. In my experience I can relate to this when I start to consider that God is my loving Saviour.
Even though depression may be a life long struggle for some Christians there may be some blessing when they begin to see that God is still at work. Passages such as Revelation 21:4-5 remind me that one day God will wipe away every tear and make all things new. When people are in a place where there is no hope, the Bible offers a glimmer. This hope is where the blessing of depression lies. When you have experienced the hopelessness of depression it makes the depth of hope that Jesus offers shine brighter. It is never easy to comprehend that God is at work when he feels distant but the hope that he provides is enough and testifying to the faithfulness of God even in the midst of this struggle is a powerful witness.
Depression itself is never a good thing. It is a struggle. But as with all things God in his sovereignty and love is still able to bring good things out of hard places.