God and Depression: What Does the Journey Really Look Like?

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Recently, I’ve been going through something I’ve been graciously calling a “funk”. You know, it can’t possibly be depression; I have no reason to be depressed because life is going pretty well; it hasn’t gone on for long enough to really be considered depression; it is not as bad as other people’s so I don’t really have the right to call it depression. Maybe these were little lies to get me by. But now, I’m ready to look at it for what it really is.

I stopped writing. I stopped prioritizing my spending and my daily tasks, stopped thinking of my to-do lists. I stopped wanting to hang out with my friends, but they wouldn’t know; I was happy to see them all the same. I stopped enjoying my practice times, and didn’t really get much done. The house is a mess, the dishes are dirty. The bathroom needs cleaned and the laundry needs put away. I haven’t done my Stats homework in over two weeks.

There is no motivation. It’s not that I’m motivated to not do things, like those times when I push myself way too hard and I desperately need a break–when I’m burning out. There is simply…nothing.

I’m having a tough time explaining myself well, so here is an excerpt from a journal-like post I started to write the other day…(dont’ speed read over this. You’ll miss it.)

I’ve been caught in a sea of questions and unresolved emotions as of late.

What is real? What is worth my time and emotions? What do I take in, what do I push away?

Why can’t I talk about it? Why am I so scared to reach out and get help…from people who care so much about me, from those who would understand the depths my heart travels…from those who would empathize, who would pray for me and encourage me…

How have I deceived myself into believing that I have no right to be depressed, because everything is going fine, I am doing well in school and we have some money to live on, […]…

Because all of my skills are getting better, and I keep saying that the only reason I’m not keeping up with homework is because I just haven’t made time for it…because I have been irresponsible…

When really, what has been pushing me down is a sense of worthlessness, thinking that I don’t really have anything to offer to anyone–because everyone else has already contributed; so what more could I possibly have to give that would actually be worthwhile?

[…]

It is a sense of loneliness as a result of fearful isolation; there are no kindred spirits to know me, because I do not allow them.

And with every homework assignment that goes undone, I feel more and more worthless.

Aren’t I a dedicated and diligent person? Don’t I always see things through to the end, no matter the cost? If I don’t…then who am I? I am lazy. I am irresponsible. I am worthless.

Every minute that I do not spend agonizingly looking at the clock with longing glances during class (I used to love class), I spend distracting myself. From what, I often do not know. I resort to endless scrolling down Tumblr pages, to a stupid RTS game that I play on my iPhone, to anything but doing something that might leave me some room to think. The dishes are dirty. The house is a mess. There’s that pile of homework. And what about getting a job?

I do not have friends, because I cannot tell them what truly weighs on my heart.

There is too much to do.

I am giving in:

I am bad.

Is it a spiritual attack? God never gives me more than I can handle, so maybe I’m just not trying hard enough

Not enough

And that brings me to this:

That last bit was not a doubt in God on my part. It was a result of all of the dogma surrounding depression and emotions and God’s role in all of it.

I honestly wonder if any of those people who talk about “overcoming your emotional self”, telling you to “stop wallowing in depression” and “look to God and He will take it away” actually know what it means to be depressed. As if I’m the problem. As if it’s my fault that I feel this way, that I am sad (I mean, for Pete’s sake, did you even read Job?). As if it could fly away and dissipate like smoke, in just a moment’s notice. And even more, that it’s my fault that nothing seems to be getting better. Because I’m not trying hard enough, because my emotions are actually meaningless and I can’t possibly reach God if I have them.

Depression isn’t a sad mood. It’s not even a choice. So stop trying to tell me to “leave my emotions at the door” when I approach God. Stop trying to tell me that I can’t possibly get to him if I have emotions other than “joy” (which isn’t an emotion, by the way).

Because what I heard that night, as I sat in a puddle of tears, was not nothing. It was not silence.

It was a fierce, yet gentle reassurance. It was not words; not a whisper, like it usually is.

It was resolution. It was comfort.

Not the happy kind of comfort, though…but comfort through finally, finally admitting that I am sad, and I need to be sad for awhile, and God’s okay with that.

And it is so immensely frustrating when I hear such conflicting messages from the Christian community, from the body of Christ, from the ones who are supposed to build me up and help me grow–all of those lovely people who are well-intentioned yet sadly misinformed–all of those who are trying to help me but all of their words only dig me down deeper, only further away from God. Because they speak of things they do not know.

They do not know…

I have no moral-of-the-story for you. No encouragement. That question that I asked in the title, “What does the journey really look like?” I asked it because I have no idea. Sorry if you were expecting an answer, because I don’t have one…and I don’t know if I ever will. I’ll only ever have fragments, I think…one can never know everything about anything.

I can only tell you that I am getting better by the day. My depression seems to be cyclical, happening once every one or two months…but every night it returns…no, not as potent as it was a week ago, when I was at my depths. It lurks, though. Deep beneath the surface.

There was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, […]. Three times I called upon the Lord and besought Him about this and begged that it might depart from me; But He said to me, “My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you (sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully): for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in your weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 (AMP)

He never, ever ordered Paul to not have that “thorn in his flesh”. (Obviously. God wouldn’t even take it away.)

He never told Paul to not come to Him while that thorn was troubling him. (How else was Paul to receive His grace?)

He never promised Paul that his thorn would go away. (See first parenthetical remark.)

He only promised that His grace, and loving-kindness, and mercy, would be sufficient for him to bear it.

Even when he can’t feel it.

A promise worth holding onto, indeed.

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8 responses »

  1. Sam! It’s Chadd…I don’t know if this reply box thing tells you that so I figured I’d tell you myself? Anyways, I love that you are able to confess your shortcomings, not that you have control over them like you said, but that’s what the Body of Christ is all about! We’re supposed to ‘keep it real’ with each other. Be encouraged, Sam. I don’t necessarily enjoy using cliches, but the ‘everything happens for a reason’ seems semi-appropriate at this moment. God is continually shaping you into the women He wants you to be, even if that means a little suffering on your part. But hey! That’s okay because we have every reason to find joy in times of hardship, right? This is all very ‘sunday school-ish’ but it works. It’s relevant. I guess I’ll further that with a Jesus loves you and He’ll never forsake you and I’ll be praying for you. Seriously though, you, although you may not know this, are a role model in many people’s eyes. You certainly are in mine 🙂 Tell Matthew I said hello

    • Matt says “Hii Chadd!” 🙂
      As I meditate more and more on “shortcomings” and the passage in which Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh, I’m realizing more and more that “shortcoming” doesn’t mean I’m not trying hard enough, or that God doesn’t like who or what I am, or that he hates a part of me. It simply means that because of this flesh that’s been tainted by sinful nature, I am innately imperfect. I suppose a perfectionist like me finds that hard to accept 😛 But nevertheless, God accepts it. In fact, He loves it and I am perfect in His eyes.
      Sorry for that short, nearly off-topic musing. I’m really trying to pick apart all of the things that I know about God and the things He’s given me to overcome my struggles. It’s building me up a lot.
      Thanks so much more all the encouragement…you might think it sounds “sunday-school-ish” but I only hear love and encouragement from you. Sometimes it’s more than enough to just know that someone cares…especially someone who inspires me like you do. 🙂 Thanks again, Chadd.

  2. Jesus my heart is all I have to give to you,
    So weak and so unworthy, this simply will not do
    No alabaster jar, no diamond in the rough
    For your body that was broken, how can this be enough?

    By me you were abandoned, by me you were betrayed
    Yet in your arms and in your heart forever I have stayed
    Your glory illuminates my life, and no darkness will descend
    For you’ve loved me forever, and your love will never end.

    God doesn’t need joyful perky Sam, He just wants Sam. All of her.

  3. “Depression” and other types of similar challenges manifest themselves in an infinite number of different ways for different people. No online tool, checklist, or other person with a similar experience can diagnose it adequately in every case. Just because you don’t think you fit all the criteria or that it may not be “long enough” doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    Another common misconception about “Depression” is that it means “sadness.” Sadness is only one of many potential symptoms of depression. Lack of ambition, lack of focus, a constant weak or drained feeling, an unusual desire to be alone, a desperate feeling of loneliness, unusually emotional, unusual lack of emotion, physical aches and pains are some others. Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list either. Regardless, resist the urge to label it.

    Bottom line is, if it doesn’t feel right… if it feels like a “funk”… it could be something. It could be an acute (short-term) something. It could be a chronic (long-term) something. It may be the result of some incident or situation, or it may just randomly happen. It may pass, it may linger. Regardless, there’s always things you can do about it. From as simple as talking to someone, to taking natural supplements, to seeing a medical professional and getting a prescription. The worst thing anyone can do is ignore it. By writing about it, you have taken the first step: admitting that something’s “not right.”

    The one thing I have realized over time is that it is different for everyone, and it happens to a lot more people than we think. Over 50% of Americans are professionally diagnosed with some level of depression, ADD, ADHD, or other similar condition. Makes you wonder how many others are out there who are not officially diagnosed. The point is that it is commonplace and not something to be shy or embarrassed about if it happens to you.

    You have a lot of people around you who truly care. They might not understand what is happening to you. They might not have any useful advice or recommendations for what to do about it. The least they can do… is listen.

    You have spoken through your written word… you have been heard. We’re all listening. What’s next?

    We’re hear to listen. We’re here to chat. We may actually know how you feel. We’ve been through similar situations ourselves. We want to help if we can. Just know that you are not alone.

    • It’s nice to know that I am not alone and in fact, many people experience the same things I do. It certainly makes me feel less alone.
      You know, I agree with you when you tell me to “resist the urge to label it”. Honestly, labeling it made me paranoid and scared for a time, and it only dug me deeper.
      As it stands now, I’ve had the chance to talk with my counselor and a couple of other people…and I think it is a cyclical thing (happening once every month or two because of hormone levels constantly changing, oh the joy of womanhood) and there is some grief about a few other things mixed in there. My counselor also has suggested a few different treatment plans to try.
      And you’re right…what will I do about it? I’ve always believed that once I am made aware of something, it is my responsibility to handle it as well as I can. Now, God’s putting this in my hands…I can either start doing something about it now, or I can sit and let it torture me for longer. (Easier said than done, though.)

      Thank you so much for your encouragement…I really needed it.

  4. Sam I have read your piece on God and Depression three times. I appreciate your honesty and openess. Depress manifest itself in many ways. There are many types of depression-clinical depression, situational depression, as well as, manic depression. I hope you will consider counseling. Either a school counselor, or Christian counselor. God provides us with counselors to help guide us through our journey — sometimes it may even be medication. God also provided us with Christian doctors.
    Your an intelligent young women, with many gifts and talent, I pray God will open your eyes to see this, open your ears to hear this, and most of all open your heart to receive it.
    I hope I have not come across as preaching to you — I just want you to know I love and care about you. God bless

    • Thankfully, I have already found a counselor–I have been going to see her about once a month since September or so. She has been such a blessing to me and she has given me some wonderful, Godly advice about all of this. And since I’ve gone to see her and I’ve had more time to think and pray about all of this, I can say that it’s getting much better.

      You certainly didn’t come across as preaching to me. It means a lot to me when you say that you’ve read through this several times…and everything you said to me was very helpful. It’s too easy for me to forget the worth I have in God, and the gifts and talents He’s given me. Matt can tell you, I don’t notice most of the things I accomplish every day–he usually reminds me of everything I did so I don’t go to bed feeling like I’m a lazy person who didn’t do anything with my day 😛

      Thanks so much for your care and concern…this comment that you left me is only one of the many ways that you and Pop have been a blessing to me and Matt!

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