After reading my last blog post addressing the issue of depression, Jenni Saake sent a rather long and beautifully written response. Apparently it was too long to fit into my comment form on the blog post, so she private messaged me. While reading her response, I knew I needed to share this with you, my readers. Not because she was in agreement with my post, but because she writes from the heart of one who has traveled down the long and painful road of depression.
I was so touched and encouraged by her response to my last post that I knew I needed to share her words with you here. It is my hope and prayer that you will be inspired and encouraged as well!
Very well stated. So often the church at large wants to make depression a purely spiritual issue. That as long as you are a Christian you cannot possibly face depression and still be in a right relationship with the Lord. I love how you talked of the complex interaction between mind, spirit and body then said, "That is not to say that people who are Christians do not struggle with depression. Some do. But the answers to our deepest longings can be found in Him. Joy is not a condition of the heart that is brought about by the perfect circumstances in life. Joy is the hope in the One who is our salvation, our hope, and our grace, in spite of the pains, the wounds that we attain in this life on earth. Joy comes about when we allow those feelings of anxiousness, and fear turn us to God, remembering His goodness, even when our world seems to be falling apart; trusting the One who can bring us through the storms of life."
After my strokes I was deeply depressed (sudden blindness, hearing loss, serious nerve pain, loss of any form of self balance or ability to walk, could do that to a person!) but I surrounded myself with praise music, audio Bibles, and a couple months in when I could finally make limited use of a large print Bible, submerged myself in Scripture that way too. I prayed rather continually and sought the Lord daily, fervently. The pastor, elders, friends would come pray over me, with me. Still, I grew more and more depressed and quite suicidal for many months.
About 6 months in my doctor convinced me to try an antidepressant, something I had resisted up until this time, thinking depression to be purely circumstantial and needing greater spiritual discipline to come through the storm. We didn't get the medication correctly balanced the very first try, but it was a starting point. Within a few weeks, it was doing enough good that I could see small rays of hope breaking through my despair for the first time, enough so that I was willing to continue working with my doctor to find the correct dose (that, once achieved, offered a night and day difference!). As it turned out, the strokes had caused enough damage to specific emotional processing centers of my brain and the overall chemical balance of this organ, that short of God's divine healing, my brain was simply incapable of creating anything other than a deep, dark slimy pit where joyful emotions should be. The medication was providing a better balance of the chemicals my body should have already been producing on its own, but was simply incapable of now.
Once I got on the right dosage of medication, my body had also had many months to gain physical healing, so the circumstances, while still daunting, were no longer as intensely grim nor dire. I also gained insurance approval to start counseling, so I finally had professional help to start unpacking emotional baggage. When the mind and body were properly addressed, ALONG WITH the spiritual, then there was room for spiritual healing as well. My prayer, from the beginning had been "restore to me the joy of Your salvation" and God DID both renew a right spirit within me and overwhelm me with His joy.
At almost 3 years, I now walk with a cane, have mostly restored vision, have regained a little hearing, but the chronic physical pain issues become more intense all the time (and were horrid to start with). So if we are going purely by circumstantial issues, there are great gains in some areas and ongoing losses in others. But I will tell you, I would so much rather choose this physical pain along with restored hope, than the emotional/spiritual writhing of depression!
Lest you think I am making an argument for depression being purely chemical, physical or circumstantial, I still believe there is a great spiritual interplay as well. A year ago I went through several weeks of a slippery slide springily downward, back into the slimy pit. I couldn't understand what nor why this was happening. I was on the verge of calling my doctor and asking him to raise my antidepressant dose, when a STILL SMALL VOICE broke through to my heart to remind me I had been neglecting consistent time alone with Him over recent weeks. Oh, my life was filled with good "Christian things" but in the new-found business, one-on-one intimacy with the Lord was lacking.
I returned to Him, confessed my neglect, and recommitted myself to seeking out priority alone time with Christ. Amazingly, all traces of my heavy heart vanished within a few days! When I start to struggle now, as I still do at times, my first question is always honest self-evaluation of the state of intimacy I'm enjoying (or not) with my Heavenly Father. Often a little adjustment there will make an indescribably amount of difference! If it doesn't bring about immediate positive change, I now know there could be other physical or mental issues at play, so I think through recent dietary choices, physical exercise schedule, check my pill box to be sure I haven't been missing any antidepressant doses over the past week, and I have yet to face a time when the heart/soul, mind and body are all being cared for as they should that I could even fathom suicide as a viable option anymore!
Wow! I am humbled by your words, Jenni. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey with us! It is my prayer that God will continue to bring about healing in your body, and that He will continue to use your story to encourage, to inspire others, and to advance His kingdom through your ministry.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Sharing your story may be a blessing to others. Be alert…God just may bring someone across your path this week. Are you willing to allow God to use you to be a comfort to someone else?
Read the article Jenni is responding to here: Tears of a Clown…Take Heart!
Resources:The American Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
Is Depression Emotional, Spiritual, or Due To A Chemical Imbalance? by Paul Meier, M.D.
Christians Get Depressed Too Films