Dark sea of confusion and fear, ebbing and flowing in the mind, rolling like waves through the storms of life. When that dark sea becomes placid, thick waters pull down into the depths where the surface is always out of reach. Down, down, down. Drowning in the everydayness of life. Drowning in the unbearable grief of lethargy, longing, and loss. Depression.
Slithering up from the pit of uncertainty and doubt, coiling around its prey, gently at first, spiraling up to the breath, the heart, the mind. Gently circling. Gently squeezing. Gently suffocating. Forcing the air out without ever allowing more in, so that the breath is always shallow, always just enough to survive, but never enough to be alive. Anxiety.
Depression. Anxiety. Dancing in the black chauldron of the mind. Weighing heavy on body and soul, making the everyday into Everest. Always climbing steep slopes with heavy limbs, heavy burdens, heavy breaths. Oh God, I cannot breathe.
Breath is life. If I cannot breathe, I cannot live. To keep breathing is to keep surviving: escaping the grip of death. Survivors are heroes. Escapees. The ones who refuse to stop breathing. Disease, war, abuse, pestilence and famine. The atrocities that humans inflict on each other. This is surviving in the heroic sense of the word.
Depression makes me a survivor of my ordinary life. My everyday blessings. My home becomes the prison that I cannot escape. My family becomes the burden that I cannot carry. Anxiety replaces joy with fear. Gripping, chest-crushing fear. Fear of everything and fear of nothing. My God, what am I so afraid of?
Too much. Too much. It is all too much. I cannot do this anymore.
This was the lament of my depression days. The cry of my anxious heart. When life was hard, and I could not see the blessings, because I could not take it anymore.
You’ll survive. You’ll get through this.
So many people have it so much worse than you.
You have so much to be thankful for.
Hollow words meant to encourage always fall empty to the floor.
Better words. Acknowledging words: I made dinner for you.
How can I help you?
Can I take the kids for a while?
Focusing words: Everything you go through prepares you for future ministry.
Purpose. Purpose in the suffering. Purpose in the surviving.
And most often, no words. Just presence.
Long, strong embraces that speak what words could not. Empathy. Encouragement.
Life begins in the surviving: the raw human desire to live. But surviving is not living.
And Scripture does not call me Survivor. Scripture calls me Conqueror, yea, More Than Conqueror. Because nothing, NOTHING can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
This is TRUTH. Depression is LIE. Ancient lie, from the beginning. The lie that separated me and all humankind from perfect unity with the Creator. Sweet to the lips, bitter to the tongue, fire to the belly. Whether the first lie was committed or inflicted, the second lie always whispers just the same: unloved, unaccepted, unworthy. The unholy refrain: God is not with you, the world is against you, your suffering will never end.
How can a Christ-follower, a Jesus-lover, a TRUTH-finder be so utterly overcome by darkness?
How can I be drowning?
How can I be drowning when my God walks on water? And slowly, suddenly, TRUTH sets me free. Jesus comes to me, walking on the thick, dark sea of my grief and fear saying, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I am overcome.
TRUTH. I could not see Him in my dark mind. TRUTH in flesh, I AM TRUTH lifts me up out of my dark sea, and I am standing on the water with Him. Rather, He is standing with me. ME. Loved. Accepted. Cherished. I AM has come. Come to tell me, to remind that I am His. I belong to Him, and He always, always comes for His own.
I AM, that eternal name of God, the name He spoke to Moses. Revealing Himself: reliable, unchanging, covenant-keeping. His name, His person, embodied in Jesus Christ, loves me. Not because I am worthy, but because Christ makes me worthy. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Come, child. Jesus leads me on the water, and I am set free. Free from the darkness, the heaviness, the fear. I am washed, cleansed from the filthy muck that was drowning me. In the washing, the cleansing, there is mercy and pardon. Forgiveness for the weakness. Forgiveness for the fear. And even more, forgetting.
God forgets the old me. He cannot see old-me, because I am washed new. Clean. Clothed in the white robe Jesus bought for me with His blood. The brilliant white leaves no memory of my former filth. And God forgets. Not in forgetfulness, but in choosing.
How does God choose to forget?
Oh, how I would love to forget.
The root of depression is the remembering. Remembering the words, the hurts, the loss. Remembering what was, longing for what might have been. Living in the why’s and what if’s that never get answered.
The root of anxiety is the fear. Fear of the memory. Fear of the past. Fear of the present. Fear of the future. Fear of people, intentions. Fear of God, His will.
For too long, depression was my constant companion; anxiety my loyal friend. Never far away, even on the best of days. On those days, hope glimmered that they were gone. But it was not that easy. It is never that easy. The dark sea, warm and familiar, invited me back often, and I sank comfortable into its enveloping waters. Warm and familiar, until I was engulfed. So easy to sink in, so hard to climb out. Dark swirling down to deep, where the slithering, suffocating lies haunted me, and I could not silence them, because I was barely surviving, too weak to fight.
How did I get here again? How could I be so overcome by darkness?
How could I ever escape this endlessness?