This is a hard subject for me to touch on because it is so personal. Not only do I have my own struggle with depression, but I have watched it wave through our family like an ocean, flood through the rivers of my friends, and trickle into every little crevice of life it can reach. What makes it so much easier for many to drown when they are screaming for help are the voices telling them it’s all in their head, to help themselves, and either stand and watch, or just walk away. If the voices had simply reached out, grabbed a hand, threw a rope, or even jumped in with a life preserver, they wouldn’t be a statistic. Sadly, many of those voices still think, “If they would have just tried.”
From the last statement, most of you will know that this will lead to a discussion of suicide, as some lost their battle of depression. First, I want to discuss the depression because it is what we avoid. I used to think there was no such thing. We had different aunts and uncles institutionalized over different mental illnesses, but depression was never mentioned until a young cousin had committed suicide. The adults fought among them over depression and murder. Depression is so unbelievable and unacceptable in our family that there is always some other else to explain it or it’s just not put up with.
The thing is depression is a very normal thing. When I was struggling with depression in 2010 from being almost bedridden and so isolated from church, I wouldn’t even acknowledge that I was depressed because the church said if we “truly” have God than we can never be depressed. If we were anything else that was like saying to God, in front of the whole world, that God is not enough. It would mean we haven’t truly surrendered ourselves to God. The missionaries I kept in touch with on a regular basis were my eye openers to God’s words, biblical characters, and books of lamenting, suffering, and testimonies, or of God’s own in their darkest hours.
The missionaries spoke of David and all his many psalms he wrote “from experience”. They talked about Jeremiah and the harsh reasons for his lamenting. And while I had heard like many others about Job and his tremendous suffering, it was eye opening to be reminded that God rebuked Job’s 3 friends (who were fellow religious leaders) for rebuking Job. Job’s own wife told him to curse God and get it over with. They were warning me because they knew I had a son in Bible college. They were teaching me that as a pastor, evangelist, or missionary that he would be easily vulnerable to depression being so far away from home and family, working around the clock, having to live by other cultures, having such a heavy responsibility to counsel so many others himself, doing funerals, hospital tragedies, and so much more. They told me of their own struggles, and greatly encouraged me in my own.
Lastly, is the struggle of loss of so much life, and the cruelty of slow death, or just cruel death. Unfortunately death and I have known each other for as long as I can remember, which is 3. It started getting personal when I was 8. It became common as a teenager. But the chain of personal deaths that have come through, Mrs. C, my grandmother, my dad, my brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, mom, and Irene just to name a few, it has taken my constant smile everyone always said I had. I am no longer soft-hearted. Many days it can feel like what is the point? Next! People see the numbers of the losses and they say, ‘Well, you couldn’t have been THAT close… to all of them!” “You just love too easy. You’re a good hearted person, but don’t dwell on it. Get over it. Move on. You gotta look forward.”
Well I was close to every single one of them, because I absolutely loved them. We stood at the grave of a loved one, only for that loved to be there shortly after. Each time there is a funeral, there is a reminder of who all is there. And as there are less and less persons to even have a family dinner with on holidays and birthdays, and so many birthdays to NOT celebrate any more, it can’t be brushed away.
And then there’s those who have or are cruelly suffering a long death or illness, at home, in the hospital, in a nursing facility, or hospice. I have watched so many look me in the eyes and beg me to let them die, or beg me to ask whoever was in charge to let them die. When I used to do nursing home visits through church this happened often too, and they absolutely counted personally acquainted or not. The last several years they have been personal. SO many died literally believing they were burdens, some even told they were.
Maybe this is not a part of the depression officially spoken of. I don’t know. But I know that I have watched this depression become so rampant and infectious that now they are intentionally stopping or hiding their medications to cause the side effects of heart attacks and strokes, and it works. It such a frightening thing being at the mercy of others for bathing you, feeding you, changing you, and to lay in such agonizing unrelenting pain. That depression has made it’s way to me… often.
To turn and tell a joke to someone who is no longer here, when that person started the joke, and you turned to the other side to say oh I forgot they were gone… but so is the one not there on the other side of the room anymore either. Calling that friend who misses them all too… she is gone. I know I still have plenty of family, friends, church, and praise the Lord for Facebook, WordPress, and other forms of social media but it has to be said from time to time that depression is real, it is serious, and it is terrible… WITHOUT being required to end on a positive note.
I will however end with a passage, a prayer, and a thought. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. – Psalm 34:18 KJV. I know darkness can get deep, linger heavy, and try to convince me to give up, but I also know I have a God who is with me. God allowed darkness to engulf a man after His own heart. God took care of that man after His own heart, and will take care of mine. My Savior left me a note too. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:27 KJV. I pray that the Lord would comfort your heart, still your restlessness, whisper quiet to your soul, and drive your fears away. Whether He chooses to do that today or tomorrow, may you ALWAYS feel His embrace and know that He truly loves you.