The Mighty Logo

When You're a Depressed Christian

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

You’re welcome for this unfiltered gorgeous capture of my face. My eyes feel puffy this morning, as if I’ve been crying all night. Which, perhaps shockingly enough, is not true. I slept pretty well last night. So well, in fact, that Isaac was late for school because Paul, myself, and Isaac (our 7- year-old, who was snuggled up right in between us), all slept through the alarm this morning. Or maybe it never went off. Jury is still out on that one.

And yet this morning I feel like I spent most of the night awake and crying. That’s happened before, of course, and before I was officially diagnosed almost three years ago, it happened with surprising regularity. I’d lay next to Paul and weep, hand over my mouth so I wouldn’t wake him. If it was really bad, I’d go down and sit on the kitchen floor in the dark, kitchen towel over my face, crying until I had no more energy to do anything but collapse back in bed.

All that being said, I think we do a disservice when we equate “sad” with depression. I suppose I can only speak for myself here, as it may not be the case for every person struggling, but the word “sad” just doesn’t cut it. You hear “sad” and you think that the goal is to be opposite that … “happy.” Right? If we can just get to a “happy” place, we would be set. I think that makes it hard for the people that love us as well. Because that’s what they work towards for us. Especially in a Christian circle, this can look like, “Just let go and let God,” and “give your cares to Him,”  and “choose joy.” These things are all true, of course. And perhaps would be helpful if I had, for instance, just lost my job or maybe broken my hand in the middle of an intense badminton season. But with depression, those are hard sells. Because what we are dealing with is a beast of a thing, which sadness can be a symptom of but is not at the heart of it. At the heart of it is … nothing. It’s emptiness. And that heart is circled by despair, because we as humans are powered by emotions. And when those disappear it’s terrifying and disorienting.

When I was in the hospital, I read the book of Ruth in the Bible. If you aren’t familiar with the Bible, Ruth is a pretty short book, so it was no great feat. But that book opens with a woman who has lost everything. And that woman has to make a long, difficult trek to a new home, where she would eventually find respite under the cloak of a man they call a redeemer.

Her life was empty, and she found fullness in the shadow of her redeemer.

I think that we, myself included, tend to want to pull people out of sadness, of despair. To yank them out by their hair if need be, and to put them somewhere happy. You are standing there, we say, so why don’t you try standing here? We are good intentioned. But what if we are wrong?

What if, instead of trying to pull people to Jesus, to fullness, to safety, we help them push those things into themselves? It’s a small shift, but it can mean an entirely different focus of energy. It can mean allowing that person to lay flat on her back, weeping into a kitchen towel, but reminding her again and again that right there, in that space, she is covered by the cloak of her redeemer. And that that redeemer knows what it is to pray for a hard, cruel thing to be taken from them, only to have to walk into it the next morning. And that the suffering she is in right now is a holy kind of suffering, that every gasp and choked cry she lets out is a participation in the redemption of a nation of believers.

We’ve gotten so scared of suffering. Both our own suffering and the suffering of those we love. Our knee-jerk reaction is to GET THEM OUT OF THERE, like you would pull your hand out of a fire. But how many passages in the Bible speak about fire being a good thing? A refining thing? A thing that burns down walls and barriers and veils? So many. So so many.

We fight for health. I fight every day by taking my meds, connecting with therapists, psychiatrists, family and friends. I am quite literally trying to claw my way out of the darkness. That’s a good thing to do. I implore you, if you struggle, do the work. It will feel like you could never do enough sometimes to break through that sound-proof wall, but you can. And you will.

But while you are here in the darkness, in the fire, don’t feel like you are doing Christianity wrong. This is not a knock on your faith, or your belief in God. Suffering is everywhere in the Bible. Everywhere. We are here, laying on the dirt, under the cloak of the redeemer. We may have lost everything. We may be bruised, bleeding, and broken. It may feel like this is what eternity will look like.

But there is a wedding to look forward to. There is wholeness and joy and respite waiting just around the corner. And THAT is what you hold on to. You hold on to the fact that you have a redeemer who came to YOU. You have a redeemer that never expected you to get up, dust yourself off, and present yourself to him. You have a redeemer that knows your name, who rests his hand behind your head, as it says in the Song of Solomon. You lay there while you need to. Shelter in his shadow. Wrestle with him if you need to, like Jacob did under the cover of darkness. Throw your sorrow and pain at him, like David did from the floor of his palace.

We do not need the opposite of sad. We do not need happy. We need peace. We need truth. We need grace. We need the scandal of the cross, not the polished version of Christianity where we are falsely promised that if we love God enough, we will be blessed with earthly comfort. That is a lie. We don’t need that. We need to feast on the broken body and poured out blood of a God Man that broke down the gates of hell to rescue our decaying corpses.

And when we can’t remember that, when it’s too dark for us to see the light, we need you to sit with us and hold that candle of hope out for us.

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: April 24, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home