I used to be scared of the dark.
The kind of scared that plugged in night lights. The kind of scared that – even as a sophomore in high school – would carry my little sister (who was five years younger) into bed with me at night. I knew she couldn’t save me if a monster was to attack, but at least she was there in the dark with me, and that made all the difference. Simply hearing the sound of her breathing helped me fall asleep.
Some of us know what it is to be afraid of the dark. Not being able to see what in front of your face can be a horrifying reality.
Robin Williams was all over the new last year. The award winning actor, who made us all laugh out loud for decades, takes his own life. We look at the television screen and it doesn’t make sense. An icon with awards, money, fame, and humor. How could a man who made everyone else so happy be so unhappy himself? How could depression and sadness consume a man who seemingly had everything? The math doesn’t make sense, and so we scratch our heads wondering why it doesn’t all add up.
When depression does math, it doesn’t play by the rules.
Depression only takes away. It vehemently subtracts, and it does so without permission. Depression isn’t afraid of success. The increase in our bank accounts does not decrease our chances of sitting in darkness. Depression is a darkness that does not flee in the spotlight. It is a shadow that follows and torments its host. Often it hides behind the American Dream. It disguises itself behind smiles, church attendance, and good jokes.
I would describe depression as a heavy smog that makes it impossible to see clearly, even in the light of day. It has the tendency to pollute every crevice of one’s life and attacks most fiercely when we lay down to rest at night.
Giving my heart to Jesus did not protect me from experiencing depression. Being “saved” doesn’t save us from facing sickness and sword. However, God does promise to give us the proper footing as we walk through hard terrain (Psalm 18:33).
Yet the fact remains, Christians who are walking in the light can feel incredible darkness.
Although in a salvific sense I had been “found” by Jesus, never in my life had I felt so lost.
I had my head shoved down in the toilet trying to escape the darkness. If I could just throw up this heavy darkness, I could walk lighter. Maybe if I looked beautiful, these thoughts would go away. They didn’t. I was sixteen and had been out of school with mono for over three months. Alone. Scared. Depressed. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I felt as though I was already dead. I never did try to take my life, but I would nervously and intently gaze at razor blades all while wondering if people would be better off without me. I did not tell my youth group because everyone at church is supposed to be happy. “If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands.”
I sang the song and I did the dance, but every time I clapped my hands my heart screamed out in agony.
Sometimes those who are in the darkness are scared for others to see them helpless and out of control, especially those who seem to have it all together.
The Lord drew near to me in a very real way as I clasped that toilet bowl, and for the next several years I would see clearly. I would go through seasons of darkness but the clouds would soon lift, and I would be able to breathe again.
I had been married to Jamus a little over a year when we found out the Lord had blessed us with a child. My anticipation grew along with my belly. How exciting to feel life growing inside me! The day arrived when our newborn entered the world and I kissed his sweet head full of hair and thanked God for answering our prayers. Three days later I was cursing God for making me a mother. I held one of the greatest gifts the Lord had ever given me, and yet I was miserable and tormented in the dark. I would rock my child back and forth but I was really rocking myself, tears rolling down my face, asking, “where are you God? It must be that I am such a wretch that even You have left me here alone in the dark. My body hurt from crying. My feelings had feelings and sometimes I felt nothing at all. I was exhausted even when I did nothing. My thoughts were devouring my very soul.
Depression was taking a sledge hammer and tearing me apart. Motherhood had slit my soul open and it was bleeding out tears of fear, anger, and confusion.
I was lying in bed awake with my agonizing thoughts as usual. I was going to leave. Leave this life that I had prayed for since I was a little girl. My family would be better off without me and I must go. I even had a city picked out. They would all wake up, and I would be gone.
I didn’t go. The Lord held me in the darkness.
I would sit in a catatonic-like trance in our house, unable to move towards anyone emotionally or physically.
My husband had begged to take me to see a doctor but I refused because Christians are not supposed to need a pill to make them happy. Jesus is supposed to make me happy. Yet though supposedly I had Jesus, I was not happy. If I had heart disease or cancer, I would take the pill. But this was different, or so I thought.
One day it happened. It was mid-afternoon and I was lying in the back bedroom with the curtains closed, drowning in my own tears. My mom was in the other room with my newborn. My husband came home unannounced. He didn’t say a word to me, but he physically picked me up, and carried my lifeless body to the car. Having already privately set up an appointment, he drove me to meet with my doctor. She was able to convince me to take a medicine that would help.
Help. When I swallowed that pill, I realized I was weak and I was in need of desperate help. That pill was not a miracle worker, but the Miracle Worker used that pill to help His scared children (me, Jamus, and James). Is it for everyone? No. Was it part of God’s plan for my healing? Yes.
Though things began to slowly get better, I hid from people because it was embarrassing for church members to see me so weak and miserable. I am grateful for women who brought meals to me and came and sat with me every day until I started to come back to life. My mother stayed for almost an entire month. When Jamus had to be at work, women from our church came each and every day to just be with me. I was scared to be alone. Although they could not protect me from the monster of depression, just their presence with me helped immensely.
God used depression to show me I am in need of a Savior every. Single. Day. I did not (and still do not) have it together. In that dark season, I did not even have the ability to get out of bed on my own.
Depression Saved My Life
Depression can feel like a perpetual winter.
When it’s freezing, everything and everyone is forced inside into hibernation. Stuck. Sometimes when life moves in on you, it can feel like death and oh, how you long to be out. Coming in can bring the ugly out. It’s like shaking a can of diet cherry soda; there is an explosion waiting to happen (this example can be taken to an entirely different level if your children develop the stomach bug).
Life is nowhere to be seen. There’s nothing but ice that seems to cover as far as the eye can see. There is a mysterious kind of beautiful moving over the glowing snow, yet no life to be seen.
Sometimes life feels frozen
Frozen, stuck in the same boring mundane routine.
Frozen, numb to the things of God.
Frozen, stiff to the advances of God’s grace in my life.
Frozen in doubt.
Frozen in our bad habits (nail-biting, overeating, disorganization, forgetting your child’s homework . . . again).
Frozen, paralyzed by the fear of failing . . . again.
Even your face is frozen in a vacant stare, a smile cannot even be forced – dreaming, checking out, numbing the pain of the reality that is before you.
We feel like the ice queen, who with her ice-cold heart is standing still, not moving, done, hopeless, and motionless. We want to scream but we cannot, because our lips our blue with frostbite. We can hardly utter a word. Afraid to hear ourselves say it out loud again, we are sick of hearing our little speech to God.
I know what it feels like to be frozen for so long that you are sure that the frostbite will kill.
The frost makes us long for the sun.
Those struggling with depression (whether it’s spiritual, emotional, physical, or some combination of the three) are given a reminder that they are in great need of a Savior.
In our perceived hopelessness we are reminded that our only hope lies in Jesus Christ’s perfect life and His death in our place. I’m fully persuaded that until the day I die and see Jesus face to face, there will continue to be a battle that rages in my heart. Sometimes things don’t get much better . . . in this life.
No one wants to be frozen, but God often uses ice to bring out a unique transparency before God that no other climate could create. In freezing temperatures, we long for the heat. In our frozen state we long for the warmth of God’s love to melt away our cold heart. One of our wise church members reminded me today, “Our darkest days only magnify His brightest light.”
Depression left me with nothing to boast about “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).
We are literally frozen and unable to move apart from the work of God in our lives. Our recognition of our inability to move an evidence of God’s grace and gives Him glory. In our weakness, He is seen to be strong.
There is life hidden under the winter’s snow.
Christian, you may feel frozen, but there is life moving through you.
Take hope and know that God brings the snow and the ice. He is in control of the climate change in our lives.
I am not scared of the dark like I used to be. It helps knowing that the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star is with me in this broken and confusing place.
There is no need to fear the dark because Christ is with you, dear one. Do you hear Him breathing? This darkness may seem to be suffocating your very soul, yet in Christ, it has no authority over you. The great Light of the World came to shine into our darkness. He willingly immersed Himself into our mess and brokenness. There is no darkness that is dark to him. He came to this earth so you can breathe deep and have peace – even when you can’t see through this darkness in front of you.