Sad For No Reason

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And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
Matthew 14:23 NIV

In my lifetime our society has moved from not talking much about depression to being free to discuss its many manifestations and their treatments. Although there is still a lingering negative stigma to revealing openly one’s struggle with any sort of mental illness, our attitudes continue to evolve. We’ve come to understand that in one sense, a disease of the mind should not be viewed any differently than disease present in another part of the body. Part of the challenge of treating depression is the many ways it presents itself, both in type and severity, all the way from what we might call “the blues” to life-disrupting, debilitating clinical depression. Treatments depend on the individual and range from talk therapy to medication or a combination of the two. For myself, I believe we ignore our connection to God and his part in our healing at our peril.

In my early 20s, I, in essence, told God that, although I thought he was pretty awesome, I wanted to make a change in our relationship. I told God I thought we should just be friends. Now, who does that, really? Maybe all who claim to be Christians do at one time or another.  I may not have done it consciously, but what I tried to do (using a Facebook analogy) was unfollow God while still remaining friends. It was during these early years of my marriage to Lori that I experienced my first real bouts of depression. I was terribly sad and unsure, which made life at times tremendously difficult for my new wife. More than ever, we needed God to be the head of our household, but he was left in the hallway outside our $210 a month apartment.  The fact that we have stayed married through all the ups and downs of our life together can in part be attributed to our stubborn determination, but mostly it’s been God’s grace. Over the years I’ve learned some coping mechanisms for dealing with my own periods of depression, but I’ve found there is no substitute for my relationship with Jesus Christ, who certainly knew what it was like to be a human being.  There have been the typical life experiences to deal with that we all find challenging, like deaths and job loss, but also there have been times like earlier this week, when I simply found myself feeling unbearably sad, for no obvious reason. It is times like these when searching scripture and seeking the prayers of friends and family are my lifeline.

When night comes
but it’s not yet time for night.
When the fight comes
but you’ve no strength to fight,
God will hear you
and bear you up.

When you’re cold
but the fire’s still burning.
when you’re sad
but can’t tell why you’re hurting,
When you need a defender
whose aim is true.
That’s when God is there
to bear you up.

God makes time
and prayer
and doctors.
He makes room for us.
His schedule’s always open.
There’s nothing he hasn’t seen
from birth to death
and in between.
You can’t scare him away
because you’re frightened.
He’ll always bear you up.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40:1-3 NIV

© Joel Tipple 6/1/2019

 

Depression

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I learned today that Pastor Rick Warren’s son Matthew committed suicide. At times like this there is a lot of discussion concerning mental illness. In the main, I find that most of the talk is healthy, in that we talk about different kinds of mental illness and how to help friends and family who find themselves in its often deadly grip. It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating that no family is immune. No matter how comfortable financially, no matter how together spiritually someone may seem, disorders of the mind are equal opportunity foes. Even these days, when we would like to consider ourselves more enlightened, it’s not easy to talk about. People struggle for years with depression without telling anyone, fearing the social stigma attached.

Although I gave my life to Christ when I was 12, by the time I reached college age, my relationship with God had started to slip. Personally, the problems I had later on were magnified by the fact that I didn’t take these issues to God. For that matter, I didn’t seek professional help either. Instead, my wife was left with the awful chore of trying to support me emotionally. She saw me through some terrible times, but I will always regret that she had to suffer such pain trying to help. There are many levels of depression. I suffered for years with feelings of inadequacy and crippling fear that sometimes made it hard to leave the house. I forced myself to work, but was often held back by this unnamed fear. Please understand that I don’t claim to have an easy answer for the multifaceted issue that depression is, but for myself the abandonment of my faith caused me to be so much more vulnerable. I am thankful to God that I made it through the worst of my own pain. I hope in some way by the grace of God to be able to help others who are going through it too.

Two years ago my older brother, Jay, who had suffered with his own mental pain and substance abuse took his life in the same way Matthew Warren did. The resulting pain our family endured was compounded by the fact that he did it shortly before my Mother died as a result of cancer. It’s a time that almost seems unreal now. I understand what the Warren family is going through and I’m praying for them as they grieve the loss of Matthew. I know one of the things they will do is something we all should seek to do as well, try to find ways to help others. We aren’t always aware of the positive impact we can have on those around us. This is a good time to reach out.