I’m going to be quite honest. This may or may not be the right place for it. But I think it’s important so I’m going to risk it.
I struggle with depression.
The reason I want to make this public knowledge is this: almost every time I am honest with someone about this, I discover that they struggle with the same things. Not just 1 person, not just 2, not even just 10. Everywhere I go. All kinds of people. And people are sometimes surprised that I am honest about it. Because people often aren’t.
I don’t want Christians to be afraid of depression. It is NOT incompatible with Christian joy – let’s just blow that one out of the water right away! I don’t think I have ever learned so much about joy as I have through depression. And I know this isn’t just my story, but the story of countless others. Joy forged in the fires of depression is real and lasting.
And it is NOT something to be ashamed of. It’s a no-brainer! As broken, fallen human beings our bodies are frail, our minds are frail, our emotions are frail. So depression shouldn’t be a surprise to us any more than a cold is!
So why are we afraid to be open about it?
Let me be honest with you. There will be people who don’t understand. There will always be people who see depression as a disqualifying weakness, who judge you for it, who think that you must be doing something wrong if you feel like this. It will hurt. And then (if you’re like me!) you will judge them for their lack of understanding…. A vicious circle of bitterness that can only be broken in the wells of forgiveness that are at the heart of the Christian gospel.
Somewhere in the midst of this, honesty is not only appropriate, but I think crucial. Even in the face of misunderstanding and risk of rejection, and disappointment with our own sin, we are called to be honest with God, ourselves and others about our depression.
There are 3 main reasons why I think this:
For the sake of God’s glory
We want people to see that we are weak but that God is great! The price of being misunderstood is worth nothing to us if this is our greatest aim and desire. We don’t want people to think that we are ‘sorted’; we want people to see that God is working in ordinary, broken people! The gospel is about Him, not us! (2 Corinthians 4:7)
For the sake of thirsting for God
We must resist the temptation to appear spiritual by never allowing ourselves to feel what we feel. On the contrary, I must let myself feel deeply, and only then will I cry out to God to ‘lead me to the Rock that is higher than I’ (Psalm 61) “The Longings of our heart must be faced. The disappointment of our soul must be experienced. Only then will we learn to pant after God in eager expectation of His coming, when every desire will be forever satisfied.” Dr. Larry Crabb
For the sake of helping others
It’s not just about us and God. We are part of a community. Covering up our struggles is not loving to those around us. It does not model authenticity.
On the other hand, if we are honest about our struggles there may be opportunities to help others as we have been helped. Perhaps honesty breeds honesty. Perhaps it needs to start with us. And perhaps then we can say with Paul:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Honesty isn’t where it ends…it has to be balanced with gospel truth. This balance is what Tim Keller calls the ‘gospel 3rd way’ and is what we see in the Psalms all the time. It is the balance between the 2 extremes of the ‘religious way’ (uncomfortable with feelings; deny and suppress) and the ‘secular way’ (acknowledge, express and follow). The gospel 3rd way is to pray our feelings, bring them before God and process them. [You can download Tim Keller’s excellent talk, praying your tears, HERE]
I do not have the monopoly on depression, or on fighting it. And I don’t want to reduce this topic to a blog post – it is much more complex than that, there is more to say! But I do want to start the wheels of honesty turning. And I want you to know that if you struggle with depression, you are not alone.