Sometimes, I feel like it’s raining when it’s not.
Some days, I don’t know if I really believe the words to my favorite worship songs.
For weeks at a time, no matter how hard I try, how many Bible verses I read, or how long I spend on my knees, I just don’t feel God’s presence.
After 10 years, I have come to terms with the fact that depression is real and that I’m one of the many who suffer from it. Ten years ago, 16-year-old Anna Sparling sat down in her first counseling session. That day, I was told that depression is not a sign of spiritual failure and that even though it felt hopeless, I would be able to enjoy my life, family, and friends again… I really, REALLY wanted to believe that.
So, what I’d like to do is pretend that 16-year-old Anna is with me in my home-office right now – tired, lonely, and afraid. If you can relate to anything I’ve said so far, are denying that you do, or have a friend like me, I’d like to imagine you are sitting here with us too. Now… Let’s chat.
You are so brave:
I know it was scary to tell mom and dad how you feel and to ask for help. You didn’t want them to worry about you, be disappointed, or think they have failed in some way as parents.
Listen to how brave the Psalmist was in being honest about his despair in Psalm 42: 9-10: “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’ My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'”
I now know this is true: Being brave enough to be honest about your depression and ask hard questions was the beginning of your journey towards joy.
Depression can affect anyone, even you:
I know that you don’t think you have the right to be depressed. Sure, you’ve been hurt, but your life is pretty good. You know girls who have had horrible childhoods filled with physical and emotional abuse. You think that your sadness doesn’t matter in comparison…
Psalm 34:18 reads: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Notice that there is no qualification for God to care about what is breaking your heart and why… God is CLOSE to the brokenhearted. That’s reason to believe that the state of your heart MATTERS to the one who created it.
I now know this is true: No matter who you are, or what you’ve been through – God doesn’t shame you, but desperately wants to comfort you.
Listen to the people who really know you and really love God:
Unfortunately, you have good reason to expect some people to judge you for your depression. You will hear many lies:
When you’re 17, one of your teachers might say that taking anti-depressants is a sign of spiritual weakness and will keep God from fixing you. Don’t listen to him. He’s misguided and does not know you AT ALL.
In college, you might be told to suck it up and that God doesn’t care. The people who told you this are clearly not pointing you to Jesus. You need friends who will!
Everyone’s path through depression is different. Yours might include anti-depressants, spiritual discipleship, counseling, and authentic friendship. It’s going to be a journey, Anna. Be careful who you are listening to along the way!
Proverbs 4:5-6 says: “A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
I now know this is true: When you listen to those who desperately love Jesus, and know the real you, you will find acceptance and be encouraged to find your hope in Christ.
You will have good days, and some bad days:
Anna, I wish I could tell you that you will be completely freed from depression by the time you write an article for by design ministries… But I’d be lying to you. But I will tell you this: God’s faithfulness? It’s real. His greatness is not just a line in some old hymn. It is a faithfulness to redeem you and be all you need, all the time. No human is capable of this kind of faithfulness. It’s going to get you through and give you a deep, satisfying joy. Oh, and I’m warning you, next year is going to be quite the doozy. But guess what? You’re going to be okay, you will be happy, your marriage is going to be strengthened, and God is going to use you as a wounded healer to help reach others who are hurting.
With depression, you will be reminded of your need for Christ on a daily basis. Jesus said it himself in John16:33: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I now know this is true: Because Christ has overcome sin and death, you have PURPOSE, HOPE, and the ability to find true JOY.
I want to leave you all with this final thought:
Depression is a real condition that can be brought on by physical chemical imbalances, painful experiences, as well as a combination of both. Spiritual or physical, when dealt with properly, depression can be a pathway to experience satisfying joy. God promises to meet us in the valley of the shadow of death. Expect to find him there, grab his hand, and begin walking.
Anna Culton lives in Northborough, MA and is a part of The Journey Community Church in Worcester, MA where she leads worship and works in ministry support and development. Currently pursuing her Master’s in Nonprofit Management, Anna is in the beginning stages of founding a program for Worcester’s refugee population. She and her husband, David, can be found photographing, hiking, listening to the latest Timothy Keller audiobook, or eating almost anything covered in dark chocolate.