Depression is the cancer of the soul.
It comes quietly, inch by inch, until the consumption is too much. Mentally and emotionally well people do not suddenly become depressed. The progression is slow, almost imperceptible.
O Lord, how did I get here?
I have long loved my Lord. I have no dramatic before and after time: a remembrance of not loving God and then loving Him. My transformation into New Life has been gradual, one ray of Holy Spirit sunshine at a time.
Since childhood, I have loved reading the Bible and I have loved singing hymns. I have loved learning about God; asking question after question whose answers never quenched my thirst. I longed to know. I longed to understand. Not just cerebrally, but intimately. A knowing that would build my faith, my love for my Maker. An understanding that would draw me nearer to my Blessed Lord. The more I learned, the more I knew the God who made me and the Jesus who redeemed me. Joy filled me. A happy heart makes a cheerful face. I have always been known for my smile.
But that restless longing to know manifested in less desirable ways as well. As my spirit wrestled with the Holy Spirit for the blessing of deep knowing, I also wrestled with the flesh, the old me, the sarx, which kept getting in the way of spiritual growth.
My faith in God was questioned. Questioned by those who should have known better: known that a child, a child of God at any age, is only, always becoming.
This questioning became the essence of my spiritual warfare, sowing the seeds of doubt.
And again, we’re back in The Garden.
Did God really say…?
Did God really say He loves me? Even though…?
Did God really say forgiveness is full and free? Even for me?
The nagging questions I could not answer made me afraid. Afraid of a God I would never be good enough to know. To really know, personally, intimately, fully. A God to really know me. Oh, how I longed to be known. To be seen in the deep dark corners of my heart and to be loved anyway. Fear squeezed my chest. Fear of rejection, fear of humiliation, fear of failure.
Fear, my dear friends, is not from God. Conviction of sin through the Holy Spirit leads to repentance. Fear leads to doubt, confusion, and despair. It is not productive and does not bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness. But fear became constant, not always evident, even to me, but always just below the surface. And when fear is constant, anxiety is never far behind. Anxiety manifests in anger. Anger wells up in emotional outbursts that do not reflect the true nature of the immediate situation, but the true nature of the heart from which it springs.
In all of this, I found no grace. Grace pardons and cleanses within. Grace is greater than all my sin. But I did not know grace. I only knew guilt. Unproductive, spirit-crushing guilt. Guilt is not a good motivator for change, because it makes me believe I am beyond hope of change.
All this emotion, all this thinking, all this warfare wrestled within me from my teen years well into my adulthood. And so, depression and anxiety did not manifest in the winter of our discontent; they were already there, simmering. The heat had been turned up before in other situations, but the frightening, exhausting events of that winter brought them to a full boil. They became something I could no longer keep a lid on.
“You have depression. The post-partum kind and the regular, garden-variety kind. And anxiety, mixed in with a bit of PTSD.” Strangely, hearing this prognosis from a trained professional was actually a relief. Once my hopelessness had a name, I could do something with it. And I did. Or rather, God did.
Depression and anxiety are many things: physical, chemical, emotional, and hormonal, but they are also something else, something we tend to ignore in our intellectual western culture: depression and anxiety are spiritual.
For me, conquering depression and anxiety meant dealing with them on a spiritual level. Please don’t misunderstand. Sometimes, medication is necessary. I was reluctant to try it, but my counselor at the time explained it beautifully. Depression makes it difficult, if not impossible to think clearly, process, and decide. Medication lifts the veil that is keeping the one suffering from making progress. And so, for many people, it is helpful. For me, I refused it. On a practical level, I am very chemically sensitive, and avoid medications of all kinds as much as possible. On a deeper level, I did not feel that was what the Lord wanted me to do.
Physically, there were other things too, things that I didn’t learn until much later: a low functioning thyroid and more than enough estrogen to go around. These issues I address naturally, and so far that has been enough. I learned that if something doesn’t feel right, it’s because it’s not right, and so I need to love myself enough, for the sake of those who love me, who need me, to go to the doctor. To ask for help.
Why is that SO HARD anyway?
Addressing the physical, chemical, emotional, and hormonal aspects of depression and anxiety are necessary and important, but for me, addressing the spiritual brought healing.
The year after the boys were sick, a friend gave me a book about spiritual warfare. She was not a close friend, but she felt the Lord directing her to do it. Praise God she did. Her sons were in my writing class. She came up to me after class one day, handed me the book and said, “My husband and I are reading this book, because if our children leave our home with baggage, we want it to be their own.” That sounded good to me. I read and cried through that book all summer, identifying the spiritual roots of fear, anger, and bitterness in my heart and rooting them out in Jesus’ name, one at a time, Scripture verse by Scripture verse.
We do not struggle against flesh and blood. When we pray, it must be purposeful. Intentional. The spirits that speak lies of fear and despair into our hearts and minds will never be defeated by wishing they would go away. We must arise, put our armor on, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. This is what I did, over and over and over again. Every day. Many times a day. It was exhausting, as battles tend to be. I was often weary, but each victory built my confidence in Christ and fueled my will to keep fighting. To keep praying. To keep living.
The lying, whispering spirits still visit sometimes, when I am tired, when I first awake, or when someone I love hurts me or lets me down. But now that I can see them for what they really are, I quickly tell them where they can go. A friend calls this “sanctified thinking.” And so depression is not something that ever completely departs, but through the conquering power of Jesus Christ in my life, I don’t live there anymore.
I come to Jesus, just as I am, and in Jesus I have victory.
If you are interested in listening to a message I gave on depression and anxiety, please copy and paste the link below.