Some things in life cannot be explained very well to those who have never experienced it. Imagining trying to explain a sunset to a person born blind, or the feeling of holding your baby for the first time right after they were born to someone who has no children. Words often fail to capture what these moments really felt like.
Depression is one of those things. Studies tell us that 1 in 5 people will struggle with depression at some point in their lifetime. But for those who have been fortunate enough to never have to fight the monster of depression they look from afar and can't understand why the depressed person struggles. There doesn't appear to be a physical problem so why don't they just get up out of bed, do their job, clean their house, or any of the other countless tasks that seem impossible for the person battling with depression.
John Lynch, co-author of the book The Cure, wrote these words to help those blessed to have never battled through depression, to help them understand what life is like to those who fight with depression.
"There are countless friends today choosing to get up this morning, to get dressed. They sit and stare for a bit, they drink strong coffee or tea. And then fight hard to stand up and walk out into this life. They don't especially want to. They can't seem to rally it. There is sadness all over them that they can't label. They keep trying to fight it off, self-talk it off, but it stays on them like a wet, woolen coat. They have this conversation going on inside: "Come on. Just get in the flow of it. It's just a conversation with another person. Walk some more steps. We've got this. Come on kid. I know you can do this. God, help me find me. Help me wake up." Some days are better than others. Some have chemical issues. Some just can't figure out their sadness. Some are trapped in woundedness and don't know a way home. Mostly, I'm thinking today of the ones able to carry on with life, but they can't figure out why. They just want to get to bed, somewhere around two in the afternoon. You might tell them to think on happy things or be thankful for what they have, list them one by one. They do everything you tell them, but their coat is still dragging and getting caught on edges. When you're in that place nothing seems to drive out the thick, smoky, alienating haze. I only know I have visited that place. You have identified yourself and we have waved kindly to each other. ...You are not alone. And you are not wrong. And you are not estranged, or forgotten. This is not your fault. You are the best kind of heroic. Because what you are going through is invisible to most."
It is important to know that it is okay to be depressed, to fight and toil in this great battle. That struggling with depression is not a sign of sinfulness or a lack of faith. Some of the greatest saints in history have battled with depression in their lifetime. King David, the prophet Elijah and the Apostle Paul all reached a point of despair that they considered death to be their best answer.
When we make it a sin to be depressed, or their fault they are feeling this way, we make it harder for the person to reach out for help. They begin to feel the need to hide their struggle, for fear of being seen as a failure. This leaves them alone in the darkness facing the greatest fight of their life without any support.
Instead, we, the Church, need to rally around these people and encourage them to reach out for help. For the Healer, Jesus, loves them and longs to bring them healing at the source of their problem.
And thank God there is help. For as big and dark as depression is, it is not greater than Jesus Christ. His offer to bind up the brokenhearted and release the prisoners from darkness most certainly include those who struggle with their mental health.
For some, the roots of their depression can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden where sin and death entered the world leaving our bodies broken. For these people, medication is an answer to prayer much like insulin is to the diabetic or Lipitor is to high blood pressure. For sometimes God brings healing through medication. (see 1 Timothy 5:23)
For others, the physical side of depression (the stuff the medication addresses) is a symptom of unaddressed emotional hurts and traumas. For these people medication may bring some relief and help them to function, praise God, but more help is required to bring long term relief. Here, Jesus wants to bring the emotional healing this person desperately needs.
The hardest part of their journey to healing may be reaching out for help. For some, just asking for help seems too big, while others just don't know where to turn.
For those who have sought counselling before and it didn't seem to work and wonder why will this time be any different, the answer is Jesus. He is the Healer, not the counsellor or the latest fad in counselling. But coming to Jesus with your hurts and receiving healing from Him. (see the woman who bled for 12 years and could not be helped by others until she came to Jesus)
We understand this at Crossways to Life. Our Christ centered counselling approach has allowed us to walk with many people who are battling depression, helping them to discover the freedom and healing in Christ they need.
If you, or someone you know, is battling with depression then please contact our office to make an appointment. It may be the first step towards a brighter future.
For more information on dealing with depression please check out the following resources: