Time I write at least a little about depression. Not much; the very subject is, well, depressing.
But there have been a few bright spots in it. Occasionally, I still see one.
Those who know me well probably know that I have struggled with a low-grade chronic depression for as long as I can remember. There have been some seasons of relief, and a couple that bordered on suicidal. But as a whole, if the average “emotional temperature” bubbles along at 98.6, I average closer to 90. Sometimes it’s lower, but it is decidedly above room temperature. And I am happy about that…
… at least most of the time.
The past few months (and especially the last few weeks) have been particularly difficult. And the things I do to “medicate” the emotion often make the problems worse. In my case, I tend to find some event to attend, particularly if it involves playing music -that is the one slam-dunk relief for me. Being with other people playing music together works every time. But if I do that too much, I feel even further behind on things I need to do, and the sense of being overwhelmed – and the depression – deepens.
Lately I have been pulling the plug on almost every non-essential activity; first just to rest, now to actually make progress, and have some things to about which I can feel some accomplishment. It has been getting better.
So why am I writing this? Surely not just to say all THAT!
I have become convinced that the only thing to do with bad, is to bring it into the light, that it may be transformed. I don’t think that just “venting” will do it – Manure piled up in a big pile is still just a pile of … -well, you know what I mean. But if that manure, and other “undesirable” remnants are submitted to “nature and to nature’s God” in the miracle of the Compost Pile, then the results help any garden grow, and any patch of dry, hard, unproductive ground become fertile and fruitful soil. The junk must be submitted in faith of God’s transformative emotional compost pile. Telling the story, opening the box, opening the door to what is shoved into the closet is part of that process.
Others may be emboldened in their own struggle, we strugglers may be able to “compare notes” and thus not feel so isolated, and even those not afflicted may know at least how to pray. In the telling, especially in faithful telling, I may even say something that I myself need to hear.
This morning I went to my Church Christian Ed. group. This is a small group of folks with a wide range of opinions, some with wisdom from great learning, others from great experience, and still others from great heart; but with very little reluctance to say what we think. I love that group! My absence for the last 3 weeks was noted as we started, and I brushed it by. I’m pretty good at that.
But as we closed, I went back and said that I needed to be more honest about my absence, and told the story in a few brief sentences, about like I did above.
We didn’t form a circle and pray (more than we normally would) or do an impromptu therapy session, or any of that stuff. I’m glad for that.
But being honest about the issue helped.
Being received about the issue helped.
One of the good things I have been reminded of by all this is that the presence of God, and the goodness of God does not depend on me, or on my emotional temperature.
In the middle of all this, it came to me to write a few words to a person who was likewise struggling with their faith in a fog, not being able to see God, to see the goodness of God, to see much of anything of value in anything. I recognize the feeling. For what it’s worth, John Bunyan described much the same landscape in “Pilgrim’s Progress”, which I need to read again.
Many of the other commenters played on the idea that there was some sin unresolved that was causing the fog – “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?” -that sort of thing.
The sort of things Job’s friends told him in the Bible.
My reminder for him, and for me, was instead that the presence of an overcast sky only obscures the sun. It does not blot it out. The power, the brightness, the glory of the sun is the same as always. I have seen it before, I will see it again. The clouds may be more persistent than I like, perhaps more than for other people, perhaps even somewhat/sometimes under my influence. But they never, never, never destroy the sun. The love of God goes on as steadfastly as before.
In the same way, when I am walking and overtaken by a fog bank, my road is not destroyed – the path is as good as it was, my goal is in the same direction. If I can’t see where I am, the first thing to ask is “Where was I last time I knew?”
What did I understand about God the last time I believe I was understanding correctly?
Am I in a fit place to refute my old understanding, or am I just hurting?
Working on the theory that I am more likely to get it right when I am thinking straight than when I am fog-bound, God, my relationship with God, my path ahead is the same as it was before the fog – and it will be so after the fog. I might choose to sit tight until the fog lifts. I might walk forward the ten feet I can see; into the last direction I knew to be right. But I have no business assuming that the fog has obliterated the truth.
The truth does not depend on me.
“We walk by faith, not by sight.” –
To me, that doesn’t mean that we walk contrary to evidence. It means we trust what the evidence has shown us, even when the measurements are not in front of us.
It is rational, it is a good thing, and I would not see it without the fog.