Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dealing with Holiday Depression

Here is the final version of this column that appeared in the Muncie Star Press on November 6, 2006. They called it, "Words of Hope for the Depressed."
Lauren sits at the Thanksgiving table with her head gratefully bowed, realizing she's holding the hands of God's cornucopia of love: family. But Lauren's Thanksgiving prayer is an exercise in faith and maturity because she doesn't feel much emotional warmth or connection. She is numb. Lauren is fighting depression that intensifies during the holidays, when the pressure is on to be happy.

Can believers, claiming to know the source of peace and wholeness, be depressed? From David, who poured out his intense angst in the Psalms, to you and me, it happens. Whether by circumstance or biology, people of faith struggle with this paradox.

Others simplistically advise, "Read your Bible more," or "Quit navel-gazing and go work in a soup kitchen," or "Depression is a part of life. Get over it." The depressed person knows that compared to those in Darfur or those facing catastrophic illness and loss, she has nothing to moan about, so the admonishment only contributes to her implosion -- guilt and shame are heavyweights. Some people are born seeing their proverbial gravy boats half full instead of half empty, and they will never understand persistent depression.

Many in the heat of the battle faithfully follow directives for coping, including counseling, medication, serving others, exercising, keeping a gratitude journal, etc. They are committed to slogging through the wet cement of depression. Still, they are wondering, "Will this ever end?"

It will.

The key is not to ask, "How long, O Lord?" but to continually affirm, "His grace (strength) is sufficient for me," whether enduring the holidays or 3 a.m. insomnia. Just because you don't feel spiritual doesn't mean God has left you; relationship is more than feelings. The verse 2 Timothy 2:13 says, "If we are faithless, he will remain faithful."

Sometimes we travel through dark tunnels we never saw coming. We look around, and others don't seem to be affected. We look ahead and can't see any light. We pray and hear an echo. Pretty soon we just sit quietly, confused and anxious.

Keep praying -- your prayers are heard.

The shortest distance between two points, the beginning and end of your tunnel, is a straight line. Don't be so impatient to stop the pain that you lurch out sideways; you'll feel the wall you throw yourself into. Listen for the voice that says, "This is the way, walk in it; do not turn to the right or to the left."

You are going to come out on the other side of depression like waking from a coma. Your spiritual eyes will open, and you'll see how God was with you, teaching you, comforting you. You won't be so tired anymore. Your relationships will be meaningful again. The glass wall between you and others will shatter. You'll be glad you hung in there for one more day ... then one more day.

Your purpose and destiny are not nullified because of this struggle. In fact, you'll be able to help others better because you'll be spiritually richer, more compassionate, more humble, more usable, and more in love with God.

So stay the course. The darkness is almost over. Hold on one more day ... and then one more.

Linda Crow, Muncie, is the mother of three teenagers and works in youth ministry. View her blog at www.2nd-cup-of-coffee.blogspot.com.

11 comments:

Melanie said...

Try the link to my blog again. I can see the movie. Maybe you have a filter or cookie blocker? I don't know. If you still can't find it, go to YouTube. Type in My Cousin Vinny and look for the clip of them in the restaurant ordering grits. It may pop up first.

The Human Napkin said...

Wow... I really needed to hear this right now. My favorite part was where you said that just because we don't feel spiritual doesn't mean God has left us. So often, it's easy to doubt ourselves and our faith, but we never need doubt God because he is always faithful, always there for us, even when we feel like we're in that tunnel. Thank you!

Carol said...

This is very encouraging. Not a depression-sufferer, I can relate to Christ being enough. I understand it's difficult to hang on to that when under the cloud of depression, but it's good to remember that God presented himself in a cloud over and over again to the Old Testament Israelites.

He is in the cloud and the NT says He'll be coming back in a cloud!

JaBeZ said...

I, too, needed to hear this. I think one of the most poignant points for me is that just because we don't feel spiritual doesn't mean God has left us. I've learned in dating recently that love & relationships aren't feelings....but I'm quick to forget that in the midst of things when dealing with God.

Thanks, Linda!

Big Mama said...

Great writing, Linda. There was so much in this that I related to and needed the reminder that God is faithful.

Melanie said...

I am one of those strugglers. After reading it, I can relate to that darkness you write of.
How about-
Holiday Depression- Experiencing Darkness Amid The Twinkling Lights
Who do you write for? Would love to see the final copy.

Linda said...

Melanie, it's for the local newspaper, The Muncie Star Press. It's in a religious column rotation, so mine is in about every six weeks. I loved the title you suggested, but I fear they would think it's too long. Thanks for your kind words.

Linda said...

Jabez--What a clever, unique name! Whoever in the world gave you THAT nickname???? You are light years ahead in spiritual development than most people in spite of your tender years. :)

Linda said...

Tandy Mom, Carol and Big M, the scripture about God being faithful has struck a cord with several people. It is one more huge reason to love our God. Carol, I love the reminder about the clouds. Have you written a post on that? It's such a striking image that portrays his constant presence in "inclement" emotional weather. He may be hidden to us, but he is there.

Susanne said...

What an encouraging post Linda, both to those who suffer from depression and also to bring a better understanding for those of us who know someone going through this.

annie's eyes said...

After your sweet note, I remembered you writing this. It is a balm in Gilead to me this day. Especially the part about guilt and shame. I'll write more offline, but thank you for your candid and hopeful post about the conflict of Christianity and depression. This is one I'm printing and claiming some Scripture for. Love, Annette