Bottomless, terrifying darkness shrouds mind and weights chest with invisible, yet tangible heaviness. Breath hurts. Heart aches. Free-falling fast into depressive depths never known. Anxious, sleepless, seemingly endless nights taunt.
And you think you’re a Christian! Look at you. You’re a pathetic mess. You’re never going to climb out of THIS pit. YOU ARE—unknown and alone.
I can feel the wicked sneer. I know the vicious voice. Inaudible but clear. Not psychotic. Real. Ephesians 6:12 real. I’ve been here before, but not this deep.
I want to cry, but I can’t.
I want to scream, but I won’t.
I want to run, but where?
I pray the name of Jesus. It’s all I can pray right now. It’s dark.
I AM. I AM. I AM. Lesson will be learned, this time—in this hard place of months, in these soul days turned night.
Where are you God? You promised never to leave me and I believe You. But where ARE You? I can’t feel you. I can’t hear you. I hurt bad. I need Your peace. I need Your comfort. I need Your joy.
I would hear His voice whisper soothing, healing soul answers months later. But not now.
Now I am stuck in the Slough of Despond, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. The lesson learned does not come easy or by intellect alone. No, some God lessons—some us lessons—are gut-wrenching hard, learned only in life’s solitary cell where comforts and vices are removed and one is stripped bare.
I’m in the cell alright—David’s valley of death—and I don’t know if I’ll ever make it out this side of heaven. Really, I don’t.
I am exhausted. Thinking hurts. Feeling is worse. Alone and unknown. Not just feelings—a place.
Depression is not a common feeling of down. It’s castdown. Down. . .down to the lowest place imaginable. Cast down—physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. Oppressive and paralyzing. Terrorizing and isolating. Where did I go, this energetic, creative, joyful, free-spirited self? Gone. I’m gone. Alone and unknown. Or so I think.
No human understands except those who have traveled this twisted, tangled stretch of blind hell path. Where are they? Why don’t they speak? They’re out there, I know—genuine God-lovers like me who turn dry and desperate in dark nights of the soul where there is no comfort current—just ragged rocks that cut. And I bleed. And I try to walk but I fall. And the vultures loom ready to accuse and rip and tear with their judgments.
Some well-meaning souls suggest sin as the cause—my sin—some unconfessed sin. Modern day Job friends, they are. It must be my sin, they say. Pull yourself up! Repent and be healed!
This time, meditative prayer illuminates nothing—no Holy Spirit voice, no God-breathed Word convicts of anything other than is present in every fallen human. I am a believer, no better or worse than any other, in process like all, humbly admitting my imperfection and constant need of God’s grace, mercy, and transfiguration. But my Job friends are right about the cause of this dis-ease.
Do we forget we live in a fallen world? The first touch of cold, heartless, life-stealing, death-stinging sin did everything in. Sin that broke and fell our world infects everything God created with dis-ease. Sin knows no bounds. Everything is maimed. All creation—every minute, invisible-to-the-human-eye part of creation screams, begs, aches for restoration.
Raped earth cries for renewal. Depleted pancreas pleads for insulin. Malignancy downright dares chemotherapy. And my drought-dry brain synapses scream hot, parched for neurotransmitters.
We understand dis-ease in diabetes and cancer and other physical ailments. We don’t blame. We treat. We console.
But depression? Anxiety? We who suffer often do so alone. Why? Though God-gifted science has revealed physiological cause, stigma abounds. And we who suffer know it.
We have felt every word-wave pound us raw on the rocks. We have felt every syllable break us apart. We are shipwrecked and stranded in our unseen land. Practicing together acts, our shame masks hide bit-by-bit crumbling, pieces of our souls falling off, disfiguring God’s beloved masterpiece.
And the words keep crashing.
We are not trustingenough. Not thankful enough. Not joyful enough. Pulpits preach, books teach. And we hear and we read and we pray and we try. God knows, we try! And we conclude, with human help—we’re just not enough. Down we go, further down, far and away.
“ENOUGH!” we cry and cover our ears. We don’t want to hear those who can’t hear. Dare they speak of that which they do not know, paths they have not trod?
Who has crept on rock-torn, bleeding knees through the Valley of Death with dust for food? Who has communed with us on the dark and treacherous road of no exits? Our friends once were.
Joseph. Elijah. David. Job. Godly men since have known our landscape well. Luther. Spurgeon. They learned what we’ve learned in depression’s dark pit.
Our dis-ease is not soothed with spiritual platitudes mouthed from mountaintop people who know nothing of valleys except from summit vantage points. Those in our place need those who have survived the dark well of souls, who have visited the place of guttural groans with hot tears and questions unanswered in desperate moments.
Jesus knows such a place. He ascended the Mount to spend His last night. With tight-twisted heart, He sobbed, and blood-sweat fell on Gethsemane ground. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
Overwhelmed with sorrow. Think of it! Even his closest friends could not stay awake with Him.
A few steps further, He fell facedown. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Three times he prayed the same prayer. Anguish absolute. Submission complete. (Matthew 26:38-44)
And then? Betrayed, arrested, abandoned, disowned. Condemned, scourged, and stripped. Nailed and hung. Bleeding, suffocating, sin weight of the world.
And then? Father God turned away and Jesus sobbed.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Separation sliced more than flesh-to-bone scourging—stabbed more than hammered through nails. And then? It was finished.
In garden, on cross, Christ suffered complete and paid for our freedom in full. Only through suffering could Jesus know our human experience thoroughly. Agony, tears, and trepidation did not make Him imperfect—did not make Him weak. It made him complete—completely human, still completely divine. (Hebrews 5:7-10)
No one has suffered as Jesus has suffered. Yet we suffer. Jesus knows. And He knows the depressed, with our tears and our fears. Does humanity? Do humans recognize our need like others who suffer? We don’t want to be special. We want to be included.
Can we please be included in the noticed, the embraced, the cared for, the prayed for?
We don’t want to be alone and unknown. We don’t want to be last page when cancer makes front page. Cancer kills. So does depression. Will someone help us fight death?
We need Jesus with skin on. Will someone—anyone—hold our shaking hands and be prayer-full when we cry? Will someone—anyone—help us hang on to the Life-giver when we cannot see Him, cannot feel Him? Will someone—anyone—realize that God can send manna through medicine, even for us with depression? Insulin for diabetes. Chemo for cancer. Who would deny? Neurotransmitters for depression? Will you deny?
Many will. I know. But I know God has inspired many medications. I praise Him! Through such He has delivered many, like me, from death. When will we become as compassionate with the depressed as with the malignant?
It matters not. I know what I know. I know Him. I love Him. I know that He works in ways we even reject. And through my latest trial of depression, I have danced with Him closer, more intimately, than ever before.
His name reverberates in my brain, on my lips.
And i am in awe of I AM. It feels good to be small in I AM. Like a child held close, all is well. Lesson learned.
Months bound in valley, finally released through the God-gift of medicine. And i am.
i am knee-dropped thankful like a near-dead desert pilgrim finding water. Finally, once again, i can think and pray and sing and dance praises. Even better, i have shared in Jesus’ sufferings. To know is to love. To love is to know and to share.
And my face? New countenance shines. God has melted my shame mask. i will no longer hide. He has swelled me with words. i will stay silent no more. For God loves the downcast and poor. Soul poverty we have and true filling we need. Hard places are grace places because, only there, stripped bare, can we drink deep from the well of Life, receive the great I AM, and let Him, all of Him, and all that comes from His hand, satisfy soul places nothing else can. Hard places are grace places. They fuse our souls with God, our Creator.
From whence commeth my help? From God. Jehovah Jireh. My provider. From He who IS—He who is SOVEREIGN—He who is GOOD.
All, all, all good is from God. And God is always good.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (emphasis mine)