I have struggled with depression, on and off, for over half my life now; however, it hasn’t been a serious problem for a number of years, and with God’s grace, I don’t think it will ever be a serious problem again quite frankly. Of course, I still have moments where I am down, but they are rare now and they don’t last, and I have learned not to take every setback or problem, or personality clash or just a bad day for whatever reason, as a serious problem anymore.
I have understood that depression is no mere run-of-the-mill illness; it’s not like a cold or a sprained ankle; you can’t just take a tablet and then all is well. It is something that seems part and parcel of human experience, or is for some people anyway. I believe that depression at its worst is a kind of spiritual malaise that often doesn’t have a physical cause, or a cause that anyone can really put their finger on or adequately explain.
At the same time as struggling privately with depression, I have found in my experience that anything new coming along, whether it’s a job or a course you are embarking on, or a stressful situation of any kind, or just anything which changes your routine, feels as if you are being pulled in a number of different ways; this is how it has been for me, and how sometimes it still is too. Trying to explain depression to someone who has never had depression is like trying to describe a foreign country to someone who has never been there; we can do it as best we can but it’s at best second-hand knowledge; only when you have been there can you then fully understand.
I was lucky to get professional help when I suffered extremely with severe bouts of depression; but sometimes with the best will and the best help in the world, all I could do was ‘ride out the storm’ so to speak. It’s often something that just happened, and all I could do was buckle myself in and wait for it to pass. Today, I haven’t suffered a severe bout for many years, and I attribute this to God and His grace and mercy in my life. Also, I have a slower pace of life, and I take each thing that happens very much in my stride. If it’s something bad or in some way negative, I deal with it as needs must, if it’s something good, I simply accept it and am grateful. I have developed a philosophical outlook to life, which holds me in good stead now, whether I feel down or not.
Part of my healing has come because I at last understood that depression in part can come from turning your back on God, and refusing to live obediently to Him. Yes, I know, that sounds strange. I am not saying that God strikes someone with depression for disobedience but simply that refusing to live in God’s ways can just bring this illness on, and perhaps for many reasons.
Jeremiah, the Reluctant Prophet
It has been said that Jeremiah, that quite famous prophet of Israel’s ancient past, was a reluctant prophet; it seems that he wasn’t particularly comfortable with God’s calling on his life, but at least tried to live out that calling. It didn’t help matters that what he was preaching was not what the Israelites wanted to hear. The more he preached, the more miserable he became, and the more unpleasantly aggressive reactions he got from those not wanting to hear his message too. So, in some cases he was preaching a miserable message and making himself more miserable in the process! But it was God’s will for him to preach unpopular warnings to a largely backsliding Israel. So, it was Hobson’s choice for him really; if he didn’t preach, he would be in trouble with God, if he did preach he would be in trouble with his kith and kin the Israelites. Maybe Jeremiah suffered with depression of one kind or another.
I have been a reluctant Christian; for a number of reasons. Like Jeremiah I have God’s calling on my life, and like him I have been reluctant many times in my life to live out my calling. As a result, I have had a half-hearted relationship and walk with God; also living in sin at times didn’t help matters either. Partially because of this, I think I developed depression as a result of my chaotic inner and spiritual life. I don’t come from a Christian background at all, and none of my family are Christian in any way; I don’t really go to church but am now in the process of finding a place where I can fellowship with other Christians; I am a dyed-in-the-wool Christian and try to live my life by godly principles and ideals but I am also in many respects an ordinary bloke and not particularly a ‘holy Joe’ of any kind. I have struggled with depression, both when I wasn’t really living as a Christian and when I was. I find that now the worst aspects of the illness have gone, and occasionally I feel a bit down or a bit stressed but that’s about as far as it goes.
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men May Oft Go Astray
Like many people, I have dreams and ambitions, and I have had dreams and ambitions in the past too. And like many people, I didn’t fulfil or achieve some of those dreams and ambitions. Some of them were big, and others less so. It is never good to see our dreams vanish, or disappear when harsh reality bites or just pop like a soap bubble; it can be depressing. But, like most things that happen to us whether good or bad, we can learn something even from this bitter type of failure. We can learn to get real, for a start; real with our ambitions, and real with God too.
Failing at something we wanted to achieve can actually open doors to other things, even if it might be at first a better reliance on God and a more philosophical outlook. It can also cause us to reflect on what we truly want out of life, and also what God wants for our life too. These things can be at odds with each other, or they can be in harmony with each other. There’s no reason why a Christian cannot have ambitions to own a business or succeed in getting a job or being an accomplished writer or athlete or musician, or whatever else it might be. Sometimes, whatever we desire can somehow fail, or we change our goals or we just don’t want a thing anymore; such is life. Sometimes, we do fail at something, and whatever it is sets us back. Again, such is life. It’s at these moments that faith can be tested. I now believe that God is the best source for giving us, shaping and holding onto any ambitions we might have. I might add, it also seems sometimes that life itself can get in the way of our dreams and ambitions; such is life it seems.
A big part of God’s provision in any believer’s life is healing; healing in all senses of the word; healing illness, healing emotional troubles and past hurts, and healing in the sense of cleansing a person from sin, from sinful lifestyles and forgiving sin so that we can move on to a better life free from the mistakes of the past. But in the correct sense of the word, God has the power to heal us and free us from illness so that we can be healthy both spiritually and physically.
Through His healing process, He draws us slowly towards to Him so that we rely solely on Him; as we get healed little by little we also learn to trust Him little by little too. And if He can heal us, from maybe long-standing health issues, what else has He the power to do? Well, if God had the power to create the whole universe, and everything in it, from scratch, then most everything else will be a doddle for Him. God has the power to heal us, and He has the power to change us, from a sinner to a repentant sinner, from a repentant sinner to someone who actively wants to serve Him on a daily and on-going basis. God can heal us of the worst things; He can and will, if we let Him and trust Him, heal us from the worst depressive states. If we trust Him with everything else, why not our health too? He has healed me, and He has taken what was bad and shaped it into what is good. No, my life isn’t perfect, whose is, but I go forward now in the assurance that God is with me, and Jesus is just a prayer away.