I saw a woman engulfed by the roaring waves of the ocean. Her arms frantically moved as her head bobbed in and out of the water. She gasped for breath and wanted nothing more than to be on shore. People swam out to rescue her as others stood on the sand waiting for her to be pulled in.
In the people’s effort to help, they too were being pulled down and couldn’t reach her. The woman felt hopeless as she cried out to God. “God, why won’t you save me?” A few moments later a white life ring floated beside her. She grabbed it with every ounce of strength as she pulled her body through the hole. She heard God say: “Be still and know I am God.” At first, she wondered how she could be still when she was in the middle of this vast sea until she realized she didn’t have many options. There were no boats or life guards. Just her and God. She laid her head back as a calmness swept over her. The very same waves that crashed on and almost swallowed her were the same ones that propelled her to the beach where she wanted to be all along. Though she felt God was ignoring her, it was in fact Him who had delivered her.
The deep waters this woman found herself in were those of depression. Some battle it all their lives. Others go through it once or a handful of times. It can be a chemical imbalance or a trigger from a traumatic experience. No matter what the cause or how long or little it lasts, depression is very real. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults, that were over the age of 18 in the U.S., had at least one major depressive episode in that year.
The woman that appeared to be drowning is the same one I face in the mirror every day. From all outside appearances, I have it all together. A husband who adores me. Healthy children. A beautiful home. There is nothing I need that God hasn’t provided and then some. So, why was I in the midst of such inner turmoil? I did everything I knew to do as a Christian. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t gain control of my thoughts to have the mind of Christ.
There is a fullness of joy in God’s presence. We have hope and faith in our salvation and eternal life and that sustains our joy. But, at times, we don’t always feel the joy. Due to the stigma that can be attached to depression, we hide our sadness, worry and anxiety in fear that we are lesser Christians. If we aren’t living up to the expectations others place on us, then we are obviously not doing something right. WRONG! We are all in a battle on this side of heaven and will be until we are called home. In a world full of darkness, it’s easy for our own lights to go out.
When we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, there are practical steps we can take to remove some of it. Brick by brick.
- Stay in prayer and be patient. The Lord delights to hear from His children but that doesn’t mean we always get relief or removal from our situations. The tests and trials we face are all refining us. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
- Read the Bible. God’s word not only gives us instruction but its healing words are like balm for our wounded hearts and minds. Our faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) Meditate and memorize scripture. When the enemy’s lies begin to invade our thoughts the best way to fight them is with the truth of His word.
- Worship Him! Our God is worthy of every praise. Turn up the songs. Shout the name of Jesus. What better way to usher in the presence of Jesus?
- Get involved in a small group. We all need a place to belong and people to help us carry our load and share in our triumphs. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews:10:24-25)
- Seek counsel from a medical professional. There is no shame in doctors, medications and/or asking for help. I believe when we do, it can be one of the best aids on our path to healing.
If depression has affected you or a loved one in any capacity, know you are not alone. We don’t have to wear a fake smile and pretend everything is fine. What we must do is take the steps to get us to a more healthy place.
Thank you for creating me, even on the days when I wonder why. You are a compassionate God who keeps track of all my sorrows and have collected my tears in your bottle. Nothing that has or will happen hasn’t first passed through your hands. Help me to remember there are reasons for our trials and your plans are good. Forgive me when I take my eyes off you and help me fix my thoughts on what is true and praiseworthy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.