If it is a problem that so many people struggle with, there must be many Christians struggling with depression, right? And if there are many Christians who are depressed, surely someone thought to turn to God's words and share some wisdom and insight from the Scripture, right? If they have, I have yet to find it. Oh, there are plenty of Christian bloggers who blog about what you should do when you are depressed, and lots of ministers who are apparently untouched by this plague on the rest of the race, but I can sum the first 20 or so that your search engine will show you. They basically say, suck it up and move on, because Paul told Timothy "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV).
Oh... Just get over it and move on... why didn't I think of that. Are you kidding me?! Have any of these people ever suffered from depression? I think they are confusing depression with disappointment. So, disgusted by the lack of help that I found there, I decided that maybe it is time for someone who fights depression (with victories and defeats) to write about it, and try to uncover what God thinks about my struggle.
Personally, I believe that one of the worst things about depression is the feeling that you are not good enough. If you fall into a state of depression, chances are you really cannot stand your inability to just "get over it." Your inability to move on make you feel worthless because it seems like the rest of the world is able to cope. Maybe, like me, you feel that you are far too fragile to live in the world you live in. If we feel like we are not meeting the expectations of the general public, we feel this more strongly with those who know us more intimately, and we feel this exponentially more with God. If I cannot be the person I want to be, how can I ever be who God wants me to be? I mean, how does a supreme being look at my profound weakness?
You might be surprised by the answer. Allow me to tell you a story that inspires me.
There is an almighty, perfect, and holy God. And He desires to have a relationship with humans. As strange as that may seem, from the beginning of time (which He set into motion) it has been His goal to have an unparalleled relationship with man. Once Adam and Eve ruined the chance of us living in the garden of Eden forever with God, God put into effect the plan He made before the world began, to redeem man to Himself. He would justify man so man could be with Him for eternity, after death.
There were, however, two men who God could not wait to have at His side, apparently. These men never experienced death, but were called home by God. The first man, we know very little of. His name was Enoch and He walked with God, then one day "He was not, for God took Him." (Genesis 5:24). All we know is that he walked with God. It seems like he had a wonderful relationship with God and one day God just took Enoch to be with Him. Makes sense. But what about the second man? Enoch was just the type of person you would expect God to take home, but it is not exactly the same with Elijah.
When we think of Elijah, we tend to think of this guy:
This is the first of several examples that I will be posting over the next few weeks of how God is kind, patient and understanding towards His servants who are suffering from depression.
So what does God do? 1 Kings 19 - He sends an angle to get Elijah to eat and drink. Depression will lead us to take poor or no care of ourselves. We may lay around and not bathe, get dressed, eat, or even drink, because we are so crushed, and often when we realize our pitiful shape we become so ashamed of our behavior that we believe we don't really even deserve any better than how we are treating ourselves. Or maybe we go the other rout and eat ourselves into a pitiful state. Either way, we are not taking proper care of ourselves. So God sends Elijah an angle to care for him. And what does Elijah do? He eats and drinks, lays back down and returns to his agony. There is rarely ever an easy fix to depression.
The angel comes and does the same thing again telling Elijah he needs his strength for a journey. Sometimes a change in scenery, even just getting out of the house can provide some relief. The problem is getting motivated to look presentable and then go out. It sounds so easy to someone who has never been there, but it can be hard and frightening. It often takes a push like Elijah got. So he traveled 40 days and nights to the same mountain where God spoke to Moses. 40 days, a trip, and a visit to an amazing landmark should help right? It doesn't seem like it. Elijah is just living in a cave, still needing God's help to get him out of this sad situation he is in. It does not mean that Elijah did not have faith or that God was not there, he just had not made it out of this emotional torment that he was in.
So God shows up and shouts, Okay Elijah, I tried to be patient with you, but this is ridiculous, just get over it and move on. Right? No again. God shows Elijah His power through mighty works, but when He speaks to his fragile, suffering servant, He speaks to Him in a kind whisper.
He does not say, there is no way a depressed person who struggles like this with their faith and motivation can be pleasing to me. He just asks Elijah what is wrong. Why don't more people do this rather than shoving advice and cliches down our throats? Elijah says, I gave you all I have and it's not enough, and now I am all alone. God does not tell him that he is right, that he is not enough, instead He seems to agree with him. This is amazing! But God says, Okay, get up and we will appoint Elisha to take your place. This amazes me. This is how caring God is! How often do we fail to cast our cares on Him and simply say, Lord, this is enough. Help! I cannot do it anymore. 1 Cor. 10:13 tells us that God won't put on us more than we can bear, but this does not mean that we don't heap too much on ourselves by not putting things in His hands. This passage tells us He will provide a way of escape, just as He does here for Elijah, but we have to take it.
He next tells Elijah, you are not alone. How nice it is to know that you are not a freak, not some failure who is worse off than those around you. He tells Elijah that there are literally thousands of others who are serving God under this stress and strain too. what is really funny is that if you do some research, you will find that a servant of the king who feared God had actually hid the other men in caves. Elijah had no idea how similar their plights really were.
Through appointing Elisha, Elijah finds companionship and comfort; but God did not forget how Elijah had asked for the Lord to end it all, or how he said it was all too much. The Lord came for Him and takes him home in an epic whirlwind, complete with a chariot of fire. The only person we know of, other than Enoch, that God ever took home to be with him was not a man like Joshua who seemed confident and strong throughout his whole life, but a man who James, the brother of Christ, says is "just like us." (James 5:17 ISV).
When I feel alone, crippled by depression, when I disappoint even myself, how does God see me? God sees my as a beloved child in pain, in need of help, but not unworthy, not displeasing. My God sees potential for greatness and reward even in a man just like me.