After a few weeks of pretty deep depression I’m beginning to see the light again. I’m still not totally sure what the source of this latest bout actually was. Likely overworking and overthinking connected with a healthy dose of forgetting to apply the gospel to my own heart were the main culprits. Any time I start focusing on my own righteousness and performance depression is inevitable.
It’s a bit difficult to trace back when I started going off the rails. But I know that last week the clouds began to break a bit. Zephaniah 3:17 and Psalm 103 coupled with some well timed pieces of encouragement helped. A conversation with my wife where she told me that it was okay if I failed brought a great deal of relief. It kind of jolted me back to my senses. (My wife is such a source of joy and help for me. I doubt few will ever realize how amazing she is and how much I need her).
I thought I’d like to share a few random observations from my time in the pit.
Grounding God’s Love In His Character
I have to confess that Sam Storms’ book The Singing God is the type of book I typically roll my eyes at. And that’s to my peril. I know this and so I forced myself to read through this book and really digest God’s love for me. Starting this book came at a providential time for me.
A few paragraphs from that book helped tremendously. Storms begins by encouraging the reader to consider the depth of God’s love for His children. And to make such a thing personal. He writes things like, “So profoundly intimate is God’s devotion to you that He bursts forth in sacred song”. I usually dismiss those sentences. But I was desperate. I wished it was true of me, but at that moment I didn’t figure they were because I felt so worthless and discouraged and like a big failure. Then Storms got me:
But I don’t need to know you. I only need to know God! The issue here isn’t one of who you are or what you’ve done. It’s strictly a matter of the character of God and His determination to love you as revealed in the immeasurable sacrifice that He made on your behalf when He sent His only begotten Son to suffer in your place on the cross. Nothing else matters. (Storms, 9)
The Spirit used these words to draw me to Zephaniah 3:17 and Psalm 103. Places that have been a life line for me time and time again. And again I noticed in Psalm 103 how God’s love for me, His dealings with me, is not fundamentally determined by my performance but by His settled decision to cast unremitting and eternal love upon me. That’ll blew me away. And the clouds started to lift.
The Help of Tapping Out
Last Thursday I was at a tipping point. I had to leave work a bit early and go home and sleep. I just couldn’t take anymore. So I went home, slept for a bit and took my family out for a date night. I posted a note on Facebook asking for prayer and my phone got lit up with so many people encouraging me.
I’ve read before that pastors should be less vulnerable and not share so much of the things going on in their mind and heart. And I agree in part, that we need to be somewhat guarded. We have to be responsible in our sharing. We cannot just vent. But I’ve also got to be a disciple first. And at times I have to tap out. I have to say, “Man down!” And I have to plead with the church to pray for her wounded…like me.
I was amazed at the outpouring of support. So many people were praying for me. I got encouraging notes and phone calls. I was amazed at the care and concern I received just by simply saying, “If you get a chance pray for me, this darkness isn’t wanting to lift.” So many of the fears that I often have about reaching out and being honest about my struggle are mostly unfounded.
Which leads to my last observation…
I’m Glad I’m Not a Woman
Okay, that sounds offensive. Give me a couple more seconds to explain what I mean. I’ve seen ladies on Facebook make similar pleas for prayer. I’ve watched as hurting women have said, “I’m sad, I need prayer” and their Facebook wall looks so much different than mine. Sure, there are notes of encouragement but it is mostly bits and pieces of advice.
It seems to me that if a woman is depressed and makes a “woman down” type of plea that folks assume it must be because she is doing something wrong. Ladies are absolutely brutal to one another. Have you ever spent more than 5 minutes reading Facebook threads or comment streams on mom blogs? They can be so heartless to struggling ladies.
I don’t have much more to say on this point other than to just make the observation. Speaking from a church perspective, I think it’s likely from the overall thrust of so many of the ladies Bible studies that I see. These things are drenched in legalism. Women’s bible studies have the same issues that I pointed out in my rant about children’s ministry curriculum. So it isn’t surprising that when a lady says she is depressed, well meaning people want to help her with a mountain of advice. I just can’t help but say, “ya’ll need to learn to hug one another more and point to Jesus more”.
Perhaps I’ll write more about this later…in the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts.