Written by Joe Watson. Media by Max Gensler [divide]
I just want to be open and say I have never experienced what might be considered clinical depression. I have, however, experienced deep times of sadness. I’ve had intense times of self-hatred and wavering feelings when it came to my faith in the years just before I came to Greenville College. Sadness dug its claws into my heart long before I realized I was in its grip. There were long days when I thought about how much I hated myself, and the sins I committed. I remember crying in my bed for hours wishing I had never been born.
Honestly, there have been many times when I’ve felt like an abomination because of the hurt and pain I’ve caused my family though it truly wasn’t my fault. The family situation I was born into created a lot of brokenness. I felt like I was at fault for the schism of two complete families. That I was the epicenter of an earthquake that destroyed the families that my brothers and my sister grew up in. I let myself take a great amount of baggage.
Going into my Senior year of high school, something happened to me that changed me deeply. My mother started to act weird around my father and me. There were times when I was so angry with her actions I wanted to scream into the air. I felt so alone at those times. I cried into the night expecting things would never change. It seemed that all God would ever give me was hurt.
Most of my screams were furious bouts of rage towards God. These bouts of rage turned into sadness, which caused me to start a long road of self-hatred. In Psalms 22, we see the desperation of David. He feels as though God has left him all alone, and that there is no hope without him. I know this is what I felt. I thought God had left me alone in a situation I didn’t know how to handle. I was bitter for the hand God dealt me.
In the Psalms, David appeared to feel overwhelmed and surrounded by his troubles. For example, in Psalm 22:12-13 he writes, “Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” There are times when we will feel overwhelmed with grief and strife. There are days when we feel burnt out, as though the next step is going to kill us. We might find ourselves identifying with David again when he says, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” I know I have felt similarly even while being at Greenville College. The reality that God is only giving us pain and destruction feels real sometimes doesn’t it?
An Act of Pride.
We all love to play the “who is the happiest person” game. This puts us down and keeps us in a place where Satan wants us to be. He wants us to be alone. He wants us to not reach out to the communities we have around us. Whether that community is your closest friends, family, church family, or small groups, you need to be in communication with someone about what you are feeling, and the hurts you experience. If you don’t, you starve yourself of encouragement from the loved ones God has given you.
Your sadness and anguish can lead to sin as a result of not communicating with others. You might feel like there is no one who is able to understand your situation. It might even be true that no one gets it, but that doesn’t give you the right to dwell in self-loathing. You might have to go outside of your comfort zone to help others understand what you are going through. God created each and everyone one of us the way we are. However, we act outside of the way he intended and a life of misery and depression is not what he intended for us. Sometimes, you just need to be humble, forget your pride, and ask for help.
If you think being a Christian means feeling good all the time and being the strongest person in your friend group, then you need to read the bible a second time. When Jesus asks us to follow him, it isn’t a call that comes easily to the ears. When He asked us to bear our crosses daily, He was talking about something dirty, nasty, and horrific. He wants us to bear a burden greater than we can handle. This is why there is joy in weakness. We can have joy in our weakness because the great burdens Jesus demands we bear make us cling to him.
Why is it that David cries out to God in his time of hurt and despair? It is because David knew there was nothing else that could truly satisfy. He knew we all must depend on the great faithfulness of God. Knowing that, “…God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;”(1 Cor 1:27)
It is for joy that we continue to live and love Christ. We continue in His love because of the great love He has poured out on us. So great is our God that David would later ask of us, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalms 34:8). I am not going to pretend things will always get easier. However, I do know the sufferings of this world are not to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Therefore, these are good reasons to fight for joy when depression isn’t easy. The Holy Spirit gives us strength by embedding a hope that spills over with love, and bursts from us with joy.
Here is a song that resonates well with the idea of having joy in depression.