My husband and I have been struggling to transition our toddler from a crib to his new toddler bed. Every night he wanders out of bed into his dark room, crying, not understanding the change we have made.
As a believer who has struggled with mild depression, I thought how much we are like my poor toddler: crying in the dark, confused about life’s changes, wanting the familiar, not understanding the things that are happening to us. We feel out of control against tornadoes, miscarriages, job losses, economic uncertainty, divorces, abuse, crime, depression, or maybe even just the slow disillusionment of everyday life. We fight and flail and we don’t know why God doesn’t rescue us in the way we want. In the dark recesses of our hearts we ask, Where is God?
What difference does it make to be a believer when you struggle with depression?
It certainly isn’t that God answers right away and delivers us immediately from the pit. Psalm 54:10 says, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
In some of life’s trials, we draw closer to God in the pain and find intimacy increased. But in depression, it can feel as though all your mountains are shaken, your hills flattened, and love is failing you.
I do believe His grace shelters us in ways we don’t even see in the midst of the emotional desert. When I sought to pursue gratitude in the midst of depression a couple years ago, I could see ways He was helping me along, although He didn’t deliver me from my pain instantaneously. In the pit of despair, I found myself at the same junction as the disciples in John 6. Jesus was teaching hard things, confusing things, and many people deserted him. When he turned to the disciples and asked, “Will you leave, too?” Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?”
I know Jesus is the Messiah, but hard times are before me, He is not explaining himself, things are getting confusing, and will I still believe?
In John 6:29, Jesus says that our work is to believe, however faint is that faith within us, because it is not as much about the enormity of our faith as it is about the enormity of our Savior and the salvation He wrought, completed at the cross.
Sometimes just to believe in the face of our circumstances, including depressed emotions, is work enough. It is finished, whether I am depressed or not, so I do not forfeit my salvation with my crisis of faith, but I acknowledge He is Messiah, and eventually, He restores me so I can praise him.
He knows I am a weak creature, dust of the earth so prone to wander with tiny, mustard-seed faith, but God accepts me on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice and His obedience. This is why even a mustard seed can produce a great harvest and a believer is not lost when he or she encounters depression. We are sealed with the Spirit, and will never be cast out of the joyful, triune God’s presence.
A toddler in a dark room does not feel Mommy and Daddy’s presence, but that doesn’t make them any less real, just outside the door, listening to every little footfall.
Depression can be a stretch of darkness where we wander and cry and it seems God will never come to the door, let the light spill into the room, and speak soothing words over us. Yet we know He is there, just outside, unchanging, ever faithful, keeping his covenant of love to thousands of generations of those who fear him.
And on this promise, maybe we can find a soft place to lay our heads down in the darkness and rest. Because sometimes grace comes eventually, and in the meantime, believing is all we’ve got left.
But in the end, it’s the difference between heaven and hell.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”