This is a message for those who have been there, are still trudging through it, are close to someone who is struggling, or just doesn't understand people who do. This is a message for everyone. As the body, we should encourage one another, and we should strive to understand, so we can help, and be the light of God in a dark situation.
There is an old Cymbalta commercial that sometimes comes to mind. Cymbalta is an anti depressant medication. The commercial said:
"Where does depression hurt?
Who does depression hurt?
I don't really remember the rest of the commercial but those words sometimes haunt me.
If you have ever experienced in intense depression these words may ring true to you. Where does it hurt? Everywhere. I felt tired all the time. I could never bring myself to get out of bed, and when I did I could never convince myself to do anything productive. I had no motivation. I had no energy. I had nothing. Nothing but pain...everywhere. It feels as though your heart is breaking, and sometimes you don't even know why. Your tears sting your eyes. Your breathing burns your chest. Nothing is okay. And it feels as though nothing ever will be again.
If you are going through depression, this is for you. It sounds cliche to say that I know what you are going through, so I won't. I can't possible know what your dark places are like. All I know is what mine were, and that I never want to go there again. You should know that, as much as it doesn't feel like it right now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope. God has not abandoned you. He is still faithful. He is still good. He is still love.
If you can hold on to nothing, hold on to this:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Believe that someday, somewhere on the other side of this hell, you will see that something good, something beautiful has come out of that dark time. Hold tight to your love of God, it is your victory.
My name, Nicole, is the female derivative of Nicholas, which means Victory. In my darkest hour, feeling so broken, so alone, so lifeless, like there was no point to go on anymore... I did not feel like Victory. The very label I have been given since birth, it held no meaning to me. What is victory in the midst of the pain? These ashes, that I once called my life? This betrayal by everyone I ever trusted or loved? What does victory even look like?
It looked like me.
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
Me! A son of the most high God? [Note: "son" being used in cultural context is a great honor that Paul did not differentiate between men and women, he is saying that both men and women can become 'sons' or 'heirs,' because in this day women could not inherit anything. You should embrace your sonship as woman's true gift of equality, not resent it! God was way ahead of women's rights movement on that. More about this in a future post.] Adopted and accepted as co-heirs with Christ! If I share in His suffering, then I may also share in His glory?! I won't claim to fully understand this. But what I do know is, even Jesus felt depressed. The Garden of Gethsemane is the perfect picture of a fully surrendered heart that is burdened by the trails of this life. Jesus knew what He had to do and embraced His cross, we should also strive to surrender our so-called broken and meaningless lives to Father and see what He can do with it. I challenge you, in the midst of your darkest hour, look yourself in the mirror and say (it doesn't have to be out loud) I am the victory. Why? Because it is true. Because you need to be reminded. Since the before you were born God has equipped you with everything you need to overcome any trial you face. Jesus died to give you life, and a new heart -a stronger one, you can do this. You can make it through.
I highly recommend finding out what your name means. God has really used this as an avenue of speaking to me. Because He knew my name even before I was conceived, He called out my name and prophesied what I would be. My parents had no idea that they were giving me a name Father had already chosen.
My middle name is Danielle, the female derivative of Daniel, which means "God is my judge." HAHA! This one literally made me laugh out loud (I'll admit, it was mostly in bitterness). So many people had beaten me down with judgment, if only I had known all along that God had sent me a little reminder, there in the echoes of time- my ID, my birth certificate, people calling me... all throughout my life there has been the one thing I needed to hear today. "God is my judge." No one else. Who can judge me?
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
A dear, sweet friend recently shared with me something she learned in ministry school. Who can put a label on you? In a retail sense, no one can legally put (or remove) a label on anything unless they are a) the person who made it [the creator], b) the person who purchased it, or c) the person to whom it was given [the owner]. The reality is, in your life, Christ represents all three positions. He made you, he purchased you, and he owns you.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." [Emphasis added, mine].
Therefore, even you do not have the right to label yourself! Stop calling yourself a loser, a failure, or worthless! You are spitting in the face of the one who made you, and paid the highest price for you. He loves you, and has plans for you. You should be willing to hear what He says. And most of all, stop listening to people who don't know what they are talking about. So many people, especially Christians, love to label others with what they think they see. They will try to tell you what you are, what you can and can't do, and what you have done. If you need to, tell them to shut up! God will forgive you for your rudeness. You don't need to hear Satan's lies. Even Jesus told Peter, "Get thee behind me Satan." When Peter spoke Satan's agenda rather than words that came from God. If you can just ignore it, do so, if you need to just stay away from people who aren't speaking God's truth, then for goodness sake, do it!
Pray that your ears would be closed to both the voice of the enemy, and the voice of others, and only open to hear the voice of God. In our darkest times, this is all we need. His voice, His word, is like a rain falling in the desert, it keeps you alive.
"Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
The enemy views depression as an invitation to come in and torment us. He tells us we screwed up, it's all our fault, we are failures and we can never repair what we've done. A lot of times people tell us the same things, unaware that they are being mouthpieces for the kingdom of darkness.
If you have never experienced depression, or have forgotten what it was like, if you have ever gotten impatient or frustated with someone who is going through it, please remember this:
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
As the body of Christ, we are called to encourage each other in love, pray for each other, build each other up... not to hurt each other and cause one another to stumble! It is heartbreaking to see, and feel, what the church has become. A hornet's nest of gossip, lies, judgements, and labels. I am reminded of the book "You are special" by Max Lucado. It's a story about toys who grade each other based on behavior and looks. The toys who are viewed as "good" get gold stars stuck on them by others, the toys who are viewed as "bad" get ugly gray dots. However, one toy visits the toy maker, who gives him a gift. The result is no stickers will stick to him. Good or bad, they just fall right off. The other toys' opinion of him no longer matters.
The sad part is, even worse than the world, the church has become an infestation of judgmental toys who go around sticking labels on everyone they can find. Are you famous? Are you talented? Are you 'important'? No? Well, then we don't have time for you. Until you do something they don't like. Then they suddenly have all the time in the world. "What is wrong with you??" They will do one of two things. Tell you to your face they love and support you, then take part in the spread of gossip and lies about you throughout the church. Or, they will tell you to your face you are a disappointment and a failure, then also take part in the spreading of the lies and gossip.
There are a precious few who still choose to be like Jesus. To love and encourage, support, and build up. If you are reading this today and you are realizing that you are not one of that precious few, I beseech you, pray. Ask God to change your heart. Ask Him to teach you how to love, how to be like Him, how to be His disciple. I beg of you, one person at a time we can rebuild the body into the church it was meant to be. Powerful and united, and full of love.
Only God can make this change in you. I know, He did it for me. And I'm still in that process. Find someone who really looks like Jesus, someone who treats people like Jesus, who talks like Him, someone who behaves how He behaved. Then follow that person around. Sit at their feet so to speak, and listen to what they have to say.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I know this is very long, if you are still with me, thank you for reading. I hope these words have spoken to you and blessed you. I have one more group of people I want to speak to. If you are living with, or very close relationally with, someone who is depressed, I know it is a struggle.
Who does depression hurt?
Especially those closest to you. When my husband has gone through some very deep, dark places, even deeper and darker than I thought he was capable of going, I had to be there and just watch. There was nothing I could do or say to help him. I tried counseling, prayer meetings, new jobs, new hobbies, taking him out to get his mind off of it, loving him the best I knew how -giving him gifts, making him special dinners and treats, giving him back rubs, or feet rubs, or head rubs, writing him notes or making him a card... anything I could do to make him feel loved. I got to a place, several times, where I just couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to leave. I wanted to stop trying. I felt as though I had poured out all my love and was left bone dry. I had noting left to offer. Nothing had really helped, not long term, anyway. It hurts. It hurts to see someone you love so down, so broken, so sad. It hurts to not feel loved by them, because they are too lost in sadness to love on you. It hurts that there is nothing you can do, and nothing you try makes much difference. It hurts to fail them, when you start out trying to encourage them and you end up in a fight. It hurts. It all hurts.
But...there is hope. There is something you can do. It's going to be hard, it's going to hurt, I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't, but you can do something. It may take a very long time, but it is very worth it. You can pray. Pray for them. Love them as much as you can. Encourage them. Make them feel special (I used every love language I could!). Help them forget, even if it's only for one afternoon. When you feel dry and empty like you can't take it anymore, turn to Jesus, He will give you all the love you need, He will give you strength to go on. You can do this! God has equipped you with everything you need to love this person, especially if it is your spouse. Remember it is not your job to "cure" them, it does not reflect on you how bad it gets, or how long it goes. It is not your place to bear this burden. Daily cast your burdens onto Jesus, and He will get you through this. You will get through this... together.
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." [Emphasis added, mine].
Wives, submit yourselves to your husband as you do to the Lord. We will do whatever it takes to love and support him, for we are one. Husbands, love your wife as you love yourself, and as Christ loves the church [Christ died for the church!]. This is the only way we will survive. A man needs to be supported, respected. A woman needs to be loved, and defended. This is the fruit of a godly and lasting marriage. And this is how we do warfare as man and wife!
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.*
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.*
1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.*
* [Emphasis added, mine].
In supporting someone struggling with depression who is not a spouse, the Bible is clear that as brothers and sisters in Christ we are to love, encourage, and support each other, even through hard times. As this 1 John reference says, we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers, and let me tell you, supporting someone going through depression sometimes feels like laying down your life -sacrificing what you want, how you feel, and even your own needs, to care for and support that person. It is a very hard and challenging thing but I believe it is worth it all and God is pleased by our obedience to His Word, and our love for one another.
1 Peter 5:6-7
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
No matter what your place is in the spiritual battle against depression, whether you are in it, you are outside it looking in, or you are alongside someone in it... let Jesus take care of you. Don't try to bear the burden alone. It will overtake you. We are not made to take on these things. Jesus is right here with you, waiting for you to turn it over to Him. Just trust Him, no matter how long it takes, keep loving Him...keep leaning on Him. He is the only one who can get your through this, He is the only one who can give you strength.