I have depression, and no one in church knows.
Some of the adults have asked about my health, noting that I look tired, grey and wane. But, how do I say it, when anxiety is condemned as a sin? When my closest friends gloss over it (ignore, actually) when I tell them? When the bible study group concludes that the antidote for depression is to simply to confess our sins and God as King?
The tapestry of my church’s history is full of faithful and strong Christians who serve God and others tirelessly, knowing that their reward lies in heaven. They pray unceasingly, and take an active interest in each others’ lives. They don’t get depressed.
… a girl who loved God, served others, prayed, reached out to others – and also depressed.
But there was I, a girl who loved God, served others, prayed, reached out to others – and also depressed. And yet, God’s been so gracious to me.
In these past nine months, God has sent other Christian friends to minister to me. Their words and prayers were a balm for my anxious soul, and their stories gave me hope – that it is possible to find joy even when hurting from the loss of health, a loved one, a future.
One of them left me with this verse: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10c).
Like the Israelites then, I needed to “heart-derstand” that joy is knowing Jesus. That the joy of the Lord is in me, and is the source of my strength regardless of my emotions of circumstances. My joy is not dependent on whether I’m happy, sad, frustrated, annoyed, thrilled, or numb.
More importantly, I needed to heart-derstand that through it all, God is good. Even if life doesn’t turn out the way I expected or hoped for, God is good. And when anxiety rears its ugly head, I know that I’m still protected, still loved, still at-one with God.
Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote this:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
Hope does not put us to shame. Perhaps it is time to come clean with the church this year. And however the church chooses to respond, I know God is still in control, and will lead me where He wants me to go. As the children’s song goes, For there is therefore now no condemnation down in my heart.