It’s a beast. A ‘black dog’. And the worst thing about depression, is that it tells you it’s not really there.
You’re not depressed – you’re..
a waste of space
and, to top it all off…
not even a Christian.
Because Christians don’t get depressed.
Amazingly, they are immune to all kinds of mental illness. Broken legs, yes. Headcolds, yes. Measles, mumps, rubella. Tick, tick, tick. But depression – well, that’s another story. Real Christians are happy aren’t they? If you’re not feeling the love, then get out of the kingdom. Sadness is selfish. Silly. Unspiritual.
Instead, real believers are like shots of bottled sunshine. Consider the evidence. Jolly Jeremiah. Known and loved along the length of Israel for his one-liners and sunny disposition. Or David. “I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. …I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (Psalm 38:6-8). Life and soul of the party.
And then there’s Elijah. We read of his stoic response to persecution in 1 Kings 19:4 . ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!'” (1 Kings 19:4). Hmmm. Not quite the power of positive thinking. In fact, the man is suicidal. But (given no sudden bolt of lightning), how does God respond?
a.) ‘Don’t be so ridiculous you silly sausage. Pull up your socks and put on a happy face’?
b.) ‘Look, things could be a lot worse. Think of the starving in Africa. What have you got to be sad about?’
c.) ‘Ugh – call yourself a Christian? You’re a fraud. You’re lazy and pathetic. Now get up and go to work?’
d.) ‘It’s all in your mind. We need to call in the professionals. You are crazy’.
e.) ‘Let’s go to the pub and forget about it. You’ll feel better tomorrow’.
f.) ‘Here’s some verses on joy. Now meditate on them until you feel it’.
No, here’s how the Lord reacted.
“As Elijah lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ … So he ate and drank, and lay down again” (1 Kings 19:5-6).
The Lord brought him physical rest and refreshment. But that’s not all. He didn’t then deliver a lecture or pack him back off to the office. Instead, He gave Elijah a fresh touch of Himself. He spoke to Elijah’s heart – not in the way that he expected, with smoke and mirrors and loud noises, but in a still, small voice. He reminded Elijah of who He was. That the government was on His shoulders. That Elijah wasn’t called to have the answers, or to work a one-man act of mighty deliverance. That’s God’s job.
Depression is horrible. It affects all kinds of people, including Christians. It’s hard enough to handle, without the added burden of guilt, self-condemnation and shame. But the Lord doesn’t treat us as we treat ourselves. He doesn’t tell us to buck up and pull it together. To bin the Prozac. Or to hide and pretend we’re okay. He is big enough to deal with all our pain. His arms are wide enough to draw us out, even when we feel that we’re trapped in ourselves. He knows what it is to feel alone and afraid and sorrowful to the point of death. And it is often at this point that, like Elijah, He reveals Himself to us in a new and personal way. Following Christ will not transform daily life into a vista of endless rainbows – often, the very opposite. However, what it does mean is this: when we are in the pit, He is in there with us. He won’t leave us there. Nothing and no-one can separate us from His love. And He will bring us out.