Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Benefits of Depression

”In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you will have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

I would first like to recognize that my trials have not been persecution and possible torture or death because of what I believe. The early Christians and current Christians who face these sorts of trials are greatly admired. My trials are far shallower than theirs but they are still refining me and bringing praise and glory and honor to my God.

For two years now I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The combination has left me drained and feeling absolutely useless. As a result I have struggled with guilt and blame, which has only increased my anxiety and thus my depression. As I face this autumn, once again the dread is back. It is not, however, as bad as it has been in the past; thank God for man's ability to manipulate chemicals so I can feel better (I began anti-depressant in May). I am in a different place today; I'm looking forward to a fall and winter in which I have the energy to be involved in the life Christ has called me to live.

In the midst of the storm I clung to Romans 8:28; now, as I step out of the clouds, I can see the silver lining. This depression has impacted me in ways I never would have expected. Good ways. I want to share these good ways because I remember sitting on my bed crying out to the Lord, “How can this possibly glorify You?”

Deeper faith: “...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...” Hebrews 12:2
As I struggled with depression, I also struggled with my faith. It was depression that brought me to Christ in the first place; to return to that place of sadness and anger has been scary. I often wondered if I had somehow failed Christ and, as a result, had missed out on His healing powers in my life. Worse, I wondered if Christ had failed me. But I clung to Him nonetheless, and, as a result, have experienced His love in tangible ways I never would have known had I not walked through this storm. I look back now and see that walking with the Lord through depression has built for me a solid foundation on which to stand.

Joy: “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
I am amazingly aware of a deep sense of joy inside of me, and I am incredibly thankful for it (there are not enough adjectives out there to express this properly). Having felt a desperate lack of joy for so long, I have completely embraced this new joy and allowed mirth free reign in my life. When you see me laughing, know that the joy I am experiencing is deep because I have fought for it for nearly two years.

Sleep: “In peace I will both lie down an d sleep, for You alone make me to dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
I am thankful for every good night's sleep I get. I didn't realize before how precious sleep can be but after having gone without it (almost completely) for a year, I now know how valuable it is and I praise God for how easily I slip into sleep these days.

Impact on others: “Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
One of the mistakes I made early on was to isolate myself because I didn't want others to have to “put up with” me. I've hated to admit that I was struggling, but I suppose that's pride. It is good for the Body of Christ to step up and love one another as we wrestle through the hard times. True, it is hard for people to watch their loved one struggle but it is an opportunity for people to grow in compassion, empathy, patience, and many other Godly qualities. I have had a few close friends walk with me through this depression, praying for me, crying with me, holding me, and watching out for me. I think each of these people would admit that it was a trial to walk alongside me during this dark time, but also that there was much they learned from it.

Then there are the girls I have come across who also struggle with depression. It has been an honor and a blessing to speak into their lives, to be able to connect on such a deep level, to share something that many other people just can't relate to, and to talk about our struggles with our faith in all of this. If this were the only reason God had me walk through depression, I'd be satisfied. Yet, in His omniscient goodness, that is not the only reason.

Patience and Perseverance: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope...” Romans 5:3-4
It takes time for the Lord to transform us, and it's rarely a pleasant process (I can hear the gold screaming as it faces the furnace). In this process, as the things I've already mentioned have been revealed to me, I see more clearly than ever before the value of patience and perseverance. I must learn to stand in the discomfort or the pain and know that this truly is good. If I can stand firm and face my trials with patience and perseverance, I will experience much healing that cannot happen when I try to escape (through addictions, numbness, certain behaviors, etc). Also, I will experience the love of God in tangible ways as He walks with me through the fire.

Reevaluate my life: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Depression has caused me to dramatically slow down my life. While that has been very frustrating to me, the Lord has used it to make me reevaluate my motives and to realign my desires to His. Why was I trying so hard to do as much as I could? So I could prove myself. And what does God think about that? “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Proverbs 16:2). “...And all of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...” (Isaiah 64:6). Yikes! Scary! Once our executive director at YD Adventures told us that, if ministry is getting in the way of our relationship with God, He will take us out of it. I think that's exactly what God did, slowing me down so I could come back to a place of experiencing His love and serving Him out of love instead of a sense of obligation.

To be continued... right? “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, no wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
I laughed the first time I read that verse. It's just one of those verses that reminds me that it's not all about me. God has this perfect, beautiful plan and, in truth, it's not us being patient with Him, but the opposite; He is so utterly patient with us. As I grow to reflect my Lord more and more clearly, one thing I desire is for people to see me in the trials and say, “That woman has no fear. She trusts her God to do good. I want to know Christ too.”

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