FINDING GOD IN DEPRESSION
Before I can ever remember struggling with anxiety and depression, I recall a childhood grounded in the church. I can remember Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. I remember sunshine times, vacation Bible schools, and knowing more hymns than your average toddler. I remember the church community and all the other mothers who raised me. The potlucks, Sunday school lessons and picture Bibles. Before my struggles with suffocating sadness and debilitating anxiety, there was faith—a cornerstone belief in God and a purpose for our existence. Before mental illness there was Jesus Christ.
But where was Jesus in my hurt? Where was this church community during my darkest days?
I could easily find God when I was doing well, and I could thank Him for the rich blessings. The good days strengthened our relationship, but the bad ones made me question everything I knew about Him. Where was Jesus in my hurt? Why did He let awful things happen? I was angry; the type of angry that holds a grudge and won’t let go. I blamed God. With clenched fists shaking at the sky, I questioned Him throughout my dark days.
Where was God when my brain raced, spinning a web of anxiety and fear? Where was He when my lungs forgot how to breathe? When a panic attack dictated my college visit, or when getting out of bed was not just a matter of how tired I was, but rather how much I didn’t want to wake up in the first place? Where was God when depression decided to be judge and jury?
I thought God did not care about me anymore. I no longer felt worthy of love or happiness. Never did I question God’s existence, but for a period of time I believed He belonged on the back burner. If He was okay with bad things happening, then I was not okay with Him.
As I distanced myself from God, I also stepped back from the church community. I found that it was easy to be part of a church community when you have all your ducks in a row, i’s dotted and t’s crossed—it was easy when I wasn’t struggling with mental illness. It was safer to stop answering messages than to be vulnerable and honest with friends. Honesty meant risking people not understanding or accepting my struggles; vulnerability meant trusting others with my shame. It did not feel safe to struggle with a profound sense of sadness, fear and anxiety, while engaging with others.
I wish I could tell you that these struggles have gotten better. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if depression took an extended vacation and anxiety decided to tag along? Wouldn’t it be too perfect if all those endless nights and days locked away in your room saw their last day? I wish I could take away the struggle. I wish I could take away the hurt. This may not be possible, but I can promise you something—there is purpose for the pain. There is hope in our struggle.
Hope in Jesus. Hope in our loved ones. Hope in tomorrow and the promise it holds.
It is extremely hard to not be okay and simultaneously reach out, but it is worth it. The best relationships come from those that have seen darkness and light. People care. You are loved. You are needed. Let someone help carry the burden, you were not meant to carry it alone.
I’ve learned that God does not leave us in our struggle. He never leaves us. He does not desire for us to be in pain. He loves us. You are loved, no matter what. He is there in the friend that invites you out for a walk in the sunshine, the hug that gets you through the day, and He is in the encouraging song that makes the night a little better. You are worthy of love and happiness because you exist.
It doesn’t make sense living in a world where picture Bibles and depression can coincide, but maybe that’s the point—we live in a beautifully broken world. We live in this paradox together. I pray wherever this finds you, you may know hope. May you know love. May you may know that there is purpose for your pain.