Such an oxymoron: Someone whose nickname is “Sunshine,” is now more of a “Little Black Raincloud.”
I’m no longer wearing a mask for anyone these days. “How are you doing today, Tiff?”
Apparently, there is something shocking about that. (Who knew?) People don’t quite know what to do with me these days, unless they are depressed too. Those people are coming out of the woodwork, saying, “I’m depressed too. But I can’t tell anyone, because, as a Christian, aren’t I supposed to exude the joy of the Lord?!”
Call me crazy, but aren’t we taught as Christians that Joy is separate from our emotions? And isn’t depression something that affects our brain chemistry (a.k.a. “our emotions”)? If Joy is not an emotion (as any pastor in any pulpit will teach their congregation), and depression is an emotional health issue, then why can they not coincide?
Guess what I have learned firsthand? It’s true. Joy doesn’t look like happiness at all. I can be depressed, and in possession of Joy. Weird, right?
So, if it doesn’t look like happiness, then why does the Church demand that I be happy all the time as evidence of Joy?! Prove I’m joyful by pasting a big, fat, fake smile on my face and answer the “How are you?” question with a rousing “God is good, all’s right with the world!”
No matter the turmoil I may be enduring. Don’t let anyone see me struggling, because that means my faith, and perhaps my very salvation, is in question.
“Hey! My life is totally falling apart, and I’m struggling, but I can’t let that show, because I have to look joyful, or I’m not a real Christian!” So we smile on, shaking hands, and never reaching out for the help we need, in order to preserve the lie that Christians are happy all the time.
My friends, that is not Joy. That is a prison.
I have heard it said, “Show me a depressed Christian, and I’ll show you someone who is not reading their Bible, not praying, not fellowshipping, and not participating in praise and worship.”
I beg to differ.
That may be the case sometimes, but it’s not the case in my situation, or in the situations of many of the women who have opened their hearts to me recently. Nor was it the case in the lives of many Biblical characters who struggled–Elijah, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Naomi, Solomon. I could go on.
Time after time, we see evidence of their nearness to God in their valleys and dark times. Never in my life have I clung more closely to the hem of Christ’s robe. Never in my life have I felt his presence more deeply than in this dark valley called depression. Ever.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” ~Psalms 34:18 (NIV)
This theme of God being close to the broken-hearted runs deep through the Scriptures. He is not farther away from me because I am depressed. It’s not as though God is all disgusted with me, shocked that I (as a human) can experience a very human problem. He is close to me in my depression.
That is Joy, my friends.
Yes, there is rejoicing, dancing, singing, and celebration in the Christian walk, but not always. Sometimes, there is weeping and mourning and struggling and depression. Sometimes, our physical brain chemistry doesn’t line up with spiritual truth.
That doesn’t make us less Christian. It makes us human, susceptible to changes in our bodies that affect our emotional health, because we live in a fallen, imperfect world, and we don’t have our glorious, post-resurrection bodies yet.
Depression is a fact about me, right now, like the color of my hair. It doesn’t define me. I am not in sin because I’m depressed. I am not less of a Christian because of my depression. I am not depressed because of anything I have done or not done. I (and many just like me) am depressed in spite of “doing all the right things.”
I didn’t plan on being depressed. I have a nickname to live up to, after all.
However, I am depressed. The question is, what am I doing about it? I’m fighting it. With supplements, counseling, the accountability of close friends, and all the while leaning whole-heartedly on the Joy of my Salvation. Trusting in Christ to bring me through one more trial he has called me to.
No more masks. No more prisons.
Grace & Peace,