by Jonathan Daugherty
My whole life I have struggled with depression. It's been an on-and-off thing since as far back as I can remember. It's not something I talk about very often, if ever. I have been on medication in the past to help regulate my mood. It is one of my core weaknesses, like a "thorn in my side." And although I have discovered on life's journey that I don't need to live in fear of my weaknesses, there is no guarantee I will not feel afraid because of them.
My imagination is vivid and active, just ask my wife! This is a great blessing when attempting to write or tell stories, but it can be quite crippling when mixed with a depressed mood. Recently I was going through my mental checklist of all the events and tasks and projects our ministry has coming up in the next few months. The list just kept going and going and... I felt this wave of pressure come crashing down on my soul. I wanted to kick and thrash, try my hardest to swim to the surface of this overwhelming ocean. But instead I was frozen, unable to move, suffocating. Fear enveloped me and I felt myself slipping into emotional unconsciousness.
As I experienced the scene above, my mind wandered through a trail of old movies. I love movies, especially those with lots of plot twists. I'm always drawn to stories that have an element of free-spirited living, like in Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins' character refuses to let the walls of prison entrap his sense of wonder and hope, or Eric Liddle in Chariots of Fire, feeling God's pleasure when he ran. Freedom, hope, these wonderful passageways that lead the burdened heart to a place of calm and lightness. But sometimes I feel like these passages are walled off, or constantly moving, requiring more and more searching to find their treasures.
I believe God is not cruel or into playing games with our emotions. I believe He is what His Word says, a loving Father who cares infinitely more for us than all else in creation that He daily supplies with food and protection. And although I believe this, I still find it a great mystery that God allows His children to suffer, to endure pain and unanswered questions, and even prevent some "thorns" from being removed. This mystery doesn't cause me to abandon my faith, but it is puzzling nonetheless. I really don't want to struggle with depression, yet it lingers. I want to feel at peace, unburdened, able to breath, but the seasons come in which I taste nothing, see nothing, feel nothing. Is God uncaring? Absent? Busy?
Ironically, it has been through my depression that my love for God has deepened. I'm not saying I would have chosen this method, but this has been my journey. I often picture God as an endless ocean. His richest treasures are not found washed up on the shore, but deep in the depths of the waters miles and miles away from all that is safe and "firm." The more I venture into those "unsafe" waters the more my weaknesses are exposed -- and experienced! I flounder, sink, gag. But then something unexpected happens. In certain moments I'm enveloped not by my weakness, but by the majesty, power, and grace of God. The waves of my depression that sought to crush my soul are replaced by waves of God's steadfast love and tender heart. And although the power and force of just one cresting wave in the ocean of God could completely destroy me, instead it refines me, instructs me, moves me, heals me.
I still don't like feeling depressed. And I don't always manage my fear of it very well. But for the moments my God reveals to me how His power is made perfect in weakness, I will press on. I will not give up. I will confess my frailty, acknowledging my complete emptiness apart from Christ. Then, and only then, do I know what it means, "When I am weak, then I am strong."
Are you wrestling with God over your weaknesses? If not, I hope you will. Not because I think you'll win. No, I hope you will wrestle over them because sometimes it's the only way to get into deep enough water to see the rich treasures of God. That's a sight worth seeing, and something I believe God only reveals to the truly broken; even the depressed...