Margaret is a dear friend and sister in Christ. I came to know Margaret through our church, Riverside. She is an incredibly strong woman and a loyal and dear friend. I asked if she would write about how God has been enough for her and she has chosen to share her experience of Him in the midst of her depression. Margaret and I have connected over our journeys with depression and food issues and we are daily learning together how God is enough for both of these battles. Margaret writes about her weight loss journey and healthy living at her blog margaretwolfinbarger.blogspot.com
There are days when the ground is dry and it does not rain. The scorched earth releases the brittle grass to the wind and it floats away as if it never existed. So it is when depression comes and takes roots in our lives. The mind and soul wither for lack of comfort.
Job 3:24-26 (ESV) "For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. 25 For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. 26 I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.”
I know when it is coming. The feeling of gladness begins to leak out of me like a days-old balloon. At first it is only melancholy and then I am tired. Then, all my thoughts are bent on darkness. Sometimes there are triggers… I ate something I shouldn't. I nurtured hidden sin. Other times there is no rhyme or reason. The darkness just is. I feel as though I am closed up in a prison with no walls—an invisible bubble that clings to me like a second skin. I shirk and stretch but there is no shrinking back from it. So I settle in to the cocoon of pain because really, all I can do is wait for it to dissolve.
In the modern age of medicine there is a pill for everything. Overweight? Amphetamines! Infection? Antibiotics! Depression? Anti-depressants. It is as if we have decided as a culture that suffering holds no place in our lives. We look at sorrow as a thing to be endured, even scorned. The old poem "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox comes to mind, "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep and you weep alone. For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, but has trouble enough of its own." Ella knew what it was to suffer. She bore one child, a son, and he died shortly after birth. If you happen to read her poems, as I have, you will note the sorrow that is weaved in and out of each one. She lived in a day before there was a pill to fix everything. I wonder how her verses would be different had she the advantage of our pharmaceutical advances. Would we have the gift of learning and growing from her words of sorrow?
It is interesting to me how people respond to depression. For those who have never experienced it, their flippant criticisms can wound deeply. Someone close to me has frequently said, "Why can't you just snap out of it?" "Oh, honey," I want to say, "if only it were that easy."
I recently told a friend of mine that I was glad I have the opportunity to experience depression. She is a fellow sufferer and was bewildered by my statement. I run the risk of sounding trite here but I must somehow get my point across. My truth is this: depression drives me to the very end of myself in a way that only then do I realize my absolute desperation for Jesus Christ.
My truth is this: depression drives me to the very end of myself in a way that only then do I realize my absolute desperation for Jesus Christ.
For many years I sought to fill the holes in my life with things other than Him. I ran through a litany of crutches for my despair- food, motorcycles, pets and romantic love. It seems strange to pile all of my pointless strivings into one sentence but there they are. I have learned that the crux of my struggle is this: I want to believe I can find satisfaction in myself and this earth, but my only true satisfaction come from my relationship with Jesus.
Now here is where my detractors may accuse me of sensationalism. As if I am saying Jesus is my magic cure for suffering. Let me be clear, following Christ is not inoculation from pain. The following analogy may prove simplistic, but if I were to compare Christ to anything it would be anti-venom. We all feel the sting of pain and death but He provides the means for us to live—even after we have been bitten. To live is to endure suffering in some shape or form. The shape of my suffering may be different than yours but it is real nonetheless. Because I live in Christ, I know I have hope of a fulfilled life after that pain. If it is true that He satisfies the deepest longings of my heart, something I cannot do myself, what does that actually look like?
Today I feel as if my body is filled with sawdust. I am deadened with depression. If it were up to me I would be anywhere else doing any number of things just to feel something other than this heaviness of heart. I have prayed for comfort but I feel nothing. I am not sad. I am ambivalent. I want to run away from it but there is nowhere to run. At this moment the depression is me and I am it. Sure, I smile and chat. I complete my tasks at work. If asked how I am doing I say I am doing well. I smile and nod and move on. But I promise you, I am broken glass inside and I am easily unhinged. I hold this pain behind a dam of mental steel, but all it takes is for someone to tap at the base in just the right place and the cracks spread and the whole wall crumbles and my river of emotions flood everything around me. It is utterly humiliating when this happens. So how can God satisfy my deepest longings when I am in such mental anguish?
I go deeper. What are my deepest longings? I like to joke about ice cream and how much I long for and love it, but when I am in pain and I eat ice cream, it doesn't satisfy me. When it is gone, no matter how little or how much I have eaten, I am still somehow empty. My deepest longings have to do with being known and understood, with being fully loved—flaws and all—and being truly accepted for who I am. It is the rare friend who can see us as we are and love us. These friends are a great comfort in times of pain and suffering. They hold us and heal us with their words. Their tears mixed with ours is a salve for our soul. And still, we hide our ugly from them as best we can because we know even these close friends don't see the wicked thoughts and desires that continually course through our hearts. If they did, surely they would run away. God sees it all and loves me regardless. So when I am at my ugliest and neediest, when I am foolishly flailing, instead of looking at my sin and my darkness, God turns his face to Jesus—to his death on the cross—because his sacrifice covers my black heart—God can unconditionally accept me for who and what I am….a sinner, saved only by His grace. This love satisfies me in a way nothing else can or ever will.
So I can say with all truthfulness, even in the midst of body-crippling depression, I am glad for it. Depression reminds me that nothing on this earth can satisfy me other than Christ. His love for me is enough. No, not enough—it is more than that. God's love is everything that matters.