Right before Christmas, I wrote down the top 19 memories from 2019, but truthfully, they weren’t necessarily my top memories: they were just the ones I wanted to remember. After all, sometimes we just want to forget the painful events that pushed us over or left us gasping for air.
Social media has deluded us into thinking people have picture-perfect lives. Facebook–or Fakebook–and Instagram project an image of captured memories that we want to promote and recall, while ignoring the less desirable ones: marital fights, rebellious kids, death, financial strains, job loss, broken cars, overwhelming emotions, shattered relationships, loneliness, isolation, rejection…add your own hidden images. These pictures don’t get projected on life’s screens, because, quite honestly, they are painful and far from pretty and we often want to pretend they just didn’t happen.
Over my years of blogging, I’ve written several encouraging–I hope–posts regarding depression and anxiety. Because some Christians promote ignorant–albeit well-meaning–commentary on the effects of mental illness and how to cure it (e.g. “you just need more faith,” or “you need to pray more”), I want other strugglers to know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. More people understand than you may realize. I see you and won’t ask you to do what you can’t. Just as if you had a broken arm, I wouldn’t ask you to swim across the lake. The guilt tactic doesn’t work (I’ve tried it on myself and it’s failed). That said, I’ve rarely just come out and said, “I battle depression and anxiety.” It’s easier to say, “I did…back then,” or “I used to feel that…” or even “here’s how I beat x,y,z”, but the reality is that the last 14 months have been some of the toughest for me emotionally and mentally. Sometimes a battle involves charging up a mountain and sometimes it looks like camping out in a valley. In my fight, I prayed through books on bondage and releasing lies and I prayed with all the bravery I could muster. I exercised more. I changed my diet. I took supplements. I shared my struggles with a few trusted friends. I sought counsel and truth. And a few months ago, I went in for a check-up and started answering my doctor’s more probing questions. Despite my pleasant circumstances. Despite my eternal hope. Despite my deep security in the Lord, I couldn’t shake the dark cloud that pushed me under. God had given me this banner word of victory, so where was my victory? What was I missing, Lord? Am I too stupid or stubborn to get it? Am I blocking my own healing? I finally relinquished the pride that said, “You won’t go on an anti-depressant again.” Man, the internal shaming is real, folks, and the Enemy has a hey-day with it. But after a month of taking a low-dose anti-depressant I looked up one day and realize the dark cloud wasn’t following me. I found a lightness in my heart that hadn’t been there in years. The relief swept over me in grateful waves.
This post isn’t easy for me to write. I’m a rather open book, but some areas are only for those who have proven trustworthy: those who understand me and love me. I’d rather write in generic terms and say, “Here’s what helps, because I’ve figured it out,” but sometimes we need people who are still in the trenches, dirty and sweating and still swinging a sword to pull us up and say, “Hey, I’m here too. But we are fighting together. You aren’t alone.” Someone needs to hear the reality. What we see isn’t always what we surrender. That “put-together” person may have pushed through suicidal thoughts that week. That “happy” face may weep in the shower to keep his family from hearing the grief. That “steady” girl may feel like a wave tossed against a rocky shore.
Faithful people are still flawed people. Being a person of faith isn’t about fixing, but more falling. We fall into the Lord, relying on Him to carry us when we don’t know how to carry ourselves through the storm.
Isaiah 41:10 has remained one of those anchoring verses for me, reminding me of whose strength I rely on. It’s not mine. He upholds. He strengthens. He carries me in his hand.
So, if depression has become the unwelcome houseguest, occupying your space, I want you to know that you ARE understood. Your pain, your struggle, your daily battles are being fought by other brothers and sisters in arms. If you need to see that–truly see that reality–please don’t isolate yourself. Don’t buy the lies that no one is there for you or that your life doesn’t hold meaning or purpose. You do matter. You are highly valuable. You don’t have to do this alone. You can get help. You have fellow sojourners that care deeply for you. Not everyone will understand but some will. I am here with you, friend.
Prayer Over Yourself:
Lord, grant me wisdom to see what I need and where you want to take me in this journey. Help me to fight with your strength and to fall into your arms when I feel weak and worn-out. You are my Light, my Hope, my Joy, and my Truth. Surround me with brothers and sisters who will fight alongside me and challenge and encourage me, persevering toward the glorious end. You are faithful and merciful and good, Father. Amen.