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?)
Count me in as the third. I struggle through pain and nothingness with bouts of happiness and calmness of mind everyday. Maybe, I, too, suffer from some kind of mental illness I haven’t dared to find out. What’s certain is my constant search for peace that at times seems to end only for the battle to begin again. Here are some whiffs of calm wind that had helped:
“Restless until my heart rests in thee”, thus, St. Augustine simply puts what ails man. All Truth seems poured in these seven words, truths that Jesus lived and died for. He showed us and taught us what these truths are but why did He seem to make peace such an impossibility, indeed? Why is life impregnable? Why is living a crucible? Jesus had a consistent answer to these—because to walk with God, to go home to Him in eternity is to shed the world at every single moment with every thought and every act. Otherwise we, who have wakened to this true path but have not really given in or have not learned to will what God wills or to simply break our will and turn it over to Him, will never find rest. Until we ‘die to ourselves’ and be nothing in this life, as Jesus says again and again, our journey back home will be wrought with pain. “Die to ourselves”, how do we do that? Not to seek comfort or consolation for what we do, and to deny ourselves of that, which makes us happy (a momentary lift), perhaps? Pain is in the nature of this life, Jesus assured us. If He knew of another way to peace and salvation, being Truth Himself, he would have shown it certainly, shown something else other than having been impoverished, derided, betrayed, and crucified by this world, in this existence, this finiteness. “No wonder you have so few friends”, Sta. Teresa de Avila once chided Jesus in all her humaneness. Maybe, we three are being considered among the few.
Hello, man! I am absolutely agree with this way of assumption and everything connected.