Christians prone to depression, as I am, can feel extra burdens of shame and doubt. We’ve heard the best news in the world, yet we can hardly motivate ourselves to butter our toast. Are we failing to work the program, or does the program itself not work? Are we setting a bad example in a world already inclined to believe that our faith is useless at best, harmful at worst?
Travis Mamone’s article The Boy with the Thorn in His Side at Relevant Magazine asks these exact questions. With humor and pathos, he describes how he read The Bible Code last year and became paralyzed with fear that the apocalypse was imminent. Though he eventually debunked that specific worry, he was disturbed by how easily the habit of panic returned, despite his faith:
When will this struggle be over? I had been dealing with mental illness for most of my life now, and I was getting sick of it. There was nothing else I wanted more than to just wake up one day and no longer have another anxiety attack. Ever! The Gospels report that Jesus once drove demons out of a man who hid in caves and cut himself with rocks. I thought all my demons were supposed to be gone.
And then it hit me: this is exactly like the thorn in Paul’s flesh!
I can’t imagine how my weakness and hang-ups can possibly give glory to God. When people look at me, I want them to see a strong man, a man whose life has been changed by God. More often, however, people see my failures and moments of weakness when I let the negative thoughts drag me down. What kind of testimony is that supposed to give?
Or maybe that’s exactly the kind of testimony I’m supposed to give. If I had the strength to battle my demons on my own, I would have never given my life to Christ in the first place. But the truth is I’m not. I tried to do it on my own, but just fell back into the same cycle of depression and getting better and falling back again. It wasn’t until I came to know God that I realized I didn’t have to battle it alone. In fact, the battle is not even mine to begin with; it is God’s. There are moments when it seems as if all is lost and the darkness is completely taking over. But then there always ends up being something to keep me going; it could be a Bible verse, a memory of being blessed, or a gut feeling that everything’s going to be okay. God’s mercy always shines through the darkness.
There a particular Bible quote that comes to mind: “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 Cor. 1:3-4). Maybe there’s some one out there right now, huddled up in his or her room, wondering when the darkness will end. Maybe this person is waiting to hear a story such as mine, a story that’ll make him or her realize, “Hey, I’m not alone!”
Today, that person is me. Thanks, Travis.
Check out Travis’ blog at http://tmamone.blogspot.com/. (What’s really disturbing is that the “What type of hipster are you?” graphic accompanying yesterday’s post looks exactly like me on a bad hair day. And you wonder why I’m depressed?)