I know because I walked the ugliness and pain of depression. About five years ago, seemingly out of nowhere, a dark cloud descended over me. I was blessed with a faithful husband, five beautiful children, and living at a summer camp (the greatest spot on earth), yet years of neglecting my spiritual life, and struggles with doubt, led me to face darkness in my heart I never knew existed. I was burned out and tired and it was a stressful time in life. I gave up trying. I stayed in bed for days at a time. I self-medicated. I escaped online. I was bitter. I was angry. I was selfish. I wasn’t suicidal, but I certainly understood how someone would rather end life, than continue on living that way.
In the middle of my depression, I read something that said, depression is caused by wanting something we cannot have. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” I wanted my own way, my own glory. I know as human beings, we can want lots of things we don’t have: a more satisfying job, a perfect spouse, a nicer house, children, a prettier face, greater intelligence, greater prestige, a more exciting life, acceptance from certain people, physical healing of an ailment, restoration of loss of loved ones and relationships. Some of the time, I didn’t know what I wanted. I just knew I wanted to feel better.
I speculate that the woman at the well struggled with depression. This woman had experienced 5 different husbands. Certainly hope was deferred for her, as she went from one man to the next trying to find joy. But Jesus told her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus pointed the woman at the well to the only true source of joy in life: himself.
I’m thankful for my depression because through it I learned to find joy in Him alone. In the midst of depression, I ceased to find joy in my earthly life. I no longer felt joy in watching my children play. I lost joy in my marriage. Every source of joy in my life seemed to be taken away from me. I spent two years, struggling and as I began falling flat on my face at the feet of Jesus, He slowly began to reveal Himself to me. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in He that is Spiritual, explains that when we are seeking God, we do not get more of God, he gets more of us. As I sought him, I relinquished more and more pieces of myself that He wanted. I wrote in my journal, “The Lord uses our struggles to empty us of ourselves. When we realize we cannot overcome it on our own, we must die, and He must live in us. How do I practically do this? The only thing I know of is hours spent seeking Him, renewing my heart, mind, and thoughts.”
Here I am…emerged on the other side of the dark, lonely valley of depression. I gave up. I handed Jesus my bruised, broken heart. I said, “This is it Lord. It’s all I have, it’s not very pretty, but it’s yours.” He performed a miracle. He transformed it to be whole again. I have peace. I have hope. I find myself now in a completely different place, incredibly thankful for the great blessings of my life, my husband and children. Because I learned joy in Him, I am even greater able to rejoice in them. Whereas before, my family was my greatest source of joy, my greatest joy now is Christ. I am forgiven, free, and healed and I feel incredibly privileged to be called his child.
Please don’t misunderstand and think that I am claiming that depression is only a spiritual issue, or always a spiritual issue. I know, for me, it was a combination of things. A doctor discovered I was severely anemic (almost hospitalization level) during this time. Lack of iron in the blood certainly depletes one of energy! I also think there were hormonal things at work for me. If you struggle with depression, please don't neglect getting help from professionals. But also, whatever the cause, depression can still be the catalyst that points us towards a deeper relationship with Christ. I love the Psalmist’s cry, “My eyes are ever on the Lord. For only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.” (Psalm 25:15-16) Because of my depression, I learned to cling to Jesus. There are days, I actually miss the way I needed him in those moments when my depression was crushing. I look back and see that He was good and faithful through it all and I give thanks…even for depression.