**Disclaimer about this post: Chronic depression is an illness just like any other, and should be treated physically (in addition to spiritually) with the help of a medical professional, whether that be through lifestyle changes, counseling, and/or medication. Please, let’s all get the help we need.**
“Why should I be sad when Jesus is with me?” That was pretty much the thesis of every testimony I grew up hearing in the church. Between the lines I read, “I shouldn’t be sad, and if I am that means something is terribly wrong with me. I’m not faithful enough, not trusting God enough, and just plain not good enough.” For many years that message didn’t cause major problems for me – I was a mostly happy kid.
But in my early twenties I started to struggle with fairly regular bouts of depression. At first I simply had no idea what to do. Nothing in my faith narrative had equipped me to deal with depression. I thought it was all mental – that if I just willed myself to believe I was happy because God loved me, that I would be. Because, let’s face it, it’s pretty freaking awesome that God loves us. For real!
So yeah, I knew that God loved me and was with me. I mean, I really knew it. I started to engage in inner healing prayer and dove deeper into scripture narratives, where I regularly found myself encountering God’s presence.
But it didn’t, and still hasn’t, erased all sadness. And I don’t know that it should.
I no longer believe that my depression is only personal to me, that it’s merely a sign that something is wrong with me. Rather, sadness is a sign of the sacred. It’s a reminder that something is terribly wrong in the world, and that we have a God whose heart aches as a result. God allows the depression, giving me a glimpse of the horror that is the separation between us and the Father. For a time I am privy to the pain and isolation that so much of humanity experiences on a daily basis. God doesn’t shield me from all hurt because if he did, I would would miss the sacred calling to truly know Him and to enter into others’ pain with Him.
In walking through depression, I walk a sacred journey hand in hand with Jesus. He too was a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” To know sadness is to know Jesus.
My desire now, when I feel the heavy mantle of depression descending is not only to ask, “God please let this be taken away from me.” It is also to say, with fear and trembling, “Let your will be done,” expecting that no matter what happens with my own life, God will surely show up.