A recent search on the internet reinforced my concern for Christians who live with or journey in and out of depression. Over and over, the experts said that more prayer and reading your bible is the key. While those are excellent ways to journey with God, they have not in my experience lessened depression.
Acknowledging your inner truth may be the way to understanding your depression. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “the truth will set you free.” Truth will break your heart, maybe divide you from people who do not want to hear you speak, but it may just also lessen your depression, open a path of freedom for which your heart and soul long.
If the truth will set you free, what will lying do for you? The flip side of “the truth will set you free”, might be: Lying will shackle you, will cause to feel trapped, occupied, entangled, cornered, indentured, imprisoned, bound, confined, captive, prison-like, jailed, obdurate, obstructed, detained, or blocked.
Before I go too far, let’s explore for a moment what the Scriptures reveal. Throughout its messy message, we encounter people who are struggling. Sarah struggled with her age; Joseph struggled with rejection; David struggled with lust and loving his children. Peter struggled with people pleasing; Paul struggled with his “thorn in the flesh.” Very few of us gets through life without some suffering, struggles, or flat out pain. It appears to be very close to a promise. The waters will rise. But we are promised these waters will not overtake us (Psalms 32:6).
May I offer an image for your journey whether it includes depression or some other pain-filled process. I invite you see your depression as the moist dark soil into which a seed is placed. My favorite image for myself is a nice sized acorn. And maybe your seed has not really been placed as much as getting a strong push, hefty side-kick, or long slow fall into that soil. However it happened, there in the darkness you sit. Isolated. Alone. Lonely. Cool. Maybe cold. But in this unlikely environment, away from human eyes, a powerful unseen energy is at work. An energy packed with a desire, or longing, with a force strong enough to open wide the hard exterior and allow life to emerge. Out into the darkness a seedling is pushed through the moist soil. Seeking something not yet named or known. Yet with apparent clarity, the seedling moves through the darkness seeking light. Warm sunlight is its goal. The seedling travels to an unknown and unnamed place. But a place where it can live, grow, and be transformed into a mighty oak. A place of both light and darkness, warmth and coolness, stillness and movement, and a place that is filled with others who are seeking the same as they are … growth into another form.
As the seedling moves upward, another event is happening. Roots are pushing their way out into the dark space. The roots know to stay in the soil. They do not need, desire, or thrive in the sunlight. Rather they need, feed, and live in this dark foundational place called soil. Rooted into the foundation that is theirs’s alone to feed the new tree, the new you. These roots stabilize the tree. Holding it in place during the seasons of life.
In Pennsylvania our clay soil is filled with rocks and stones of great size. Frequently, a tree, prevented from putting down deep roots due to the number of rocks under it, will be pulled out the ground – roots and all when strong winds come. When we first moved here, having never seen this type of event, I would hike over to look at the exposed roots. The roots had grown sideways from the tree trunk and there were not any deep vertical roots. We are invited to do our deep inner work, not sideways, but deep. Seeking truth. Not lying. Not doing what we hate (Gospel of Thomas, reading 6). That is the way to freedom.
If you are struggling with depression, come struggle in community. You were built for connection even when you do not feel like it. It is not good for you to be alone. Reach out to one person who can listen with the heart of their being on your behalf. After you find that one person, be it a professional or a friend, with whom you can share your journey, be grateful for him or her. Gratitude appears to be a gateway to joy. If you are able, practice thinking of something for which you are grateful as you fall asleep. Maybe even a couple things. Whisper them aloud to God.
(Photo by Evan Johnson)