Depression and Dependence

I started having spells of depression when I was a teenager. Every now and then, out of the blue, it would take significantly more effort to get up to shut off the alarm, and I had little motivation to do much of anything for the rest of the day. Gradually, after a few days, maybe two weeks if it stretched out, it would fade away, and I’d be back to my normal self.

Thankfully, over the last ten years, they’ve become more and more rare thanks to some therapy, self-understanding, and healthy connections with people that I care about and who care about me. Still, every now and then, one still sneaks up on me. This last week, I was sideswiped once again for a few days. Waves of emotion would build up and swallow me, I’d release everything in a torrent, and the cycle would start again in several hours later. After a few days, the cycle seemed to end.

I never did figure out why it started or why it ended. I always feel like if I can find a root, maybe I can pull it up and deal with it, but God didn’t seem to offer any such thing. All it seemed I could do was just wait it out.

Of course, it occurred to me late in the cycle that perhaps even if I never figured out what was causing it all, maybe there still was something in it for me. Our gut reaction to things going wrong is generally to fix it or at least rail against it or to despair if it’s bad enough. But maybe it wasn’t something to be fixed, or maybe fixing it, getting rid of it, might rob me of something else.

I’d been reading something that pointed back to Paul’s thorn in 2nd Corinthians. Paul begged God to take away whatever it was that was causing him suffering, but God left it there. He was doing something else with it rather than just fixing it. So perhaps the depression was something similar for me.

If nothing else, maybe this thorn was simply a way to remind me of how much I need Jesus. It’s honestly a reminder I need pretty often. I couldn’t fix this one, but maybe it could open me up to the truth that I’m not self-sufficient. I need someone to be with me in the places where I’m not enough, someone to remind me that I’m okay and that it will ultimately be okay, that He’s got it under control.

I’d end this there, though I do feel like I should add a final thought. Depression isn’t the norm for the human person, and it’s not what God designed us for. So far be it from me to say that we shouldn’t try to deal with depression and just use it as a sign from God, all the while suffering under it. Depression is often a sign that there are things wrong in the soul or the body, and those things should be dealt with. Therapy, community, exercise, and at times medication are means of working with those things. Paul said to slaves that if they were in slavery and had the opportunity to become free, they should, and I think slavery to depression is just as valid. But in the meantime, suffering still calls us to the One who suffered and the fact that He is present with us. We really do need him. Depression might just be, at least for me, a reminder of that.

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