This spell of depression/mania has been going on for about two and a half years now. Basically, it’s been more than two years since I’ve felt “normal” or much like myself. That’s a long time to be at the mercy of feelings that don’t make sense and cannot be squelched.
I’ve always prided myself on being the kind of person who, most of the time, could separate emotion from truth, and force my feelings to submit to the truth. The Lord taught me long ago that feelings are completely separate from truth and that they cannot be trusted as any sort of barometer or compass for my life. But, when I am in the throws of depression or anxiety, I am not myself. My ability to reason and perceive reality is completely compromised. I can’t always force myself to make decisions from a rational place, based on truth, because I am handicapped by this illness.
I confess that I have prayed for death on more than one occasion. (I guess that puts me in pretty good company, since Elijah prayed for death, too.) I know that when I do die, I’ll be released from this corrupted body, and I will, most importantly, be with Jesus. Death has often seemed like a welcome escape from the daily struggle just to survive.
In depression and persistent illness (I know mental illness, but I imagine that this is much the same for other physical illness), it is very tempting to give up on everything. Hope is a difficult thing to find and your mind plays tricks on you – telling you there is no reason to hope. Add to that the persistent attacks of Satan, and things start looking completely black.
During the last few years, I gave up on a lot of things. Some things, I’m still not sure about. But the one thing I’ve never given up on is Jesus. His presence has ever been with me and He’s never stopped revealing His grace and mercy to me. He’s never stopped speaking His words of love and encouragement to me. Even though it has seemed like a pathetically poor effort most of the time, I have clung to Him with all I have.
One verse consistently sticks out to me during this time:
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:66-68
Peter’s words have never felt so real to me as in this season – only You have the words of life! (Sure, the verse doesn’t say “only”, but I think it’s pretty clearly implied.) When I am completely without hope, when all seems lost: Jesus remains. Even when I am not sure He will ever change my circumstance, where else am I going to go? Will the world save me from my sickness? Will gratifying my flesh give me hope? There is nothing else that can touch the pain I’m in. Nothing else that can make me stand.
This conviction is not from me. I have no willpower or persistence. Only the Holy Spirit in me has given me the strength to desperately cling to the One with the words of life.
I’ve often beat myself up with thoughts that I am useless to God in this state. That by admitting that I’m often feeling almost dead from the struggle, I am not glorifying Him. But, I’ve been reading a book that is giving me a new perspective.
The author points to Psalm 88 as an example of heroic faith, because David, even though “darkness [was his] closest friend,” he took all of His pain and hurt to the Lord and cried out to Him. If just crying out to the Lord is faith, then I’ve got that. And I know that faith glorifies God. I guess getting up every day and trusting that somehow the Lord will bring me through is faith. Believing, even in the midst of unbelief, that God will heal me in some way (miraculously, through medication, or just by giving me more strength to endure) glorifies Him, because only He can give that ability to believe, even through the darkness.