Down Days

Sometimes I just feel down. I have no actual reason for feeling down, nothing is going wrong, and I have plenty of things to be thankful for, but I still feel down. I have to admit that I don’t particularly like these days. They tend to come and go in clumps, and I seem to be in the middle of a clump of them right now. Here’s the other thing though: there’s nothing wrong with feeling down. It’s natural. More natural for some than it is for others, but it’s still natural.

There is a significant movement within American Christianity that would have you believe that depression, in any form and to any degree, is a spiritual malady brought on by demonic possession or sin, and sometimes this is true. There are certainly spiritual reasons for depression, and I’ve had times when a vast depression came upon me that was clearly a spiritual attack. I can remember one night, I was supposed to have a spiritual meeting the next day, when I was suddenly overcome by the absolute certainty that my life was meaningless and no-one would ever love me. I remember spending about two hours curled up in a ball on my bed, wracked with depression, doubt, and thoughts of self-loathing, desperately calling out to God to help me, because I was certain that this was a spiritual attack. After a time, and just as suddenly as the fit of depression came on me, it disappeared, leaving me calm, confident, and at peace. …My current depression is nothing like that.

There are other people who would have you believe that depression is never acceptable, even when there are good reasons for that depression. Consider the story of Elijah’s depression in 1st Kings 19, or the story of Job… the entire book really. Both Elijah and Job have very good reason to be depressed. Elijah had just watched the entire nation of Israel see the clearly expressed power and authority of God, and still decide to reject him. Oh… and he also had the queen of Israel and, you know… her army trying to kill him. Job only had everything he owned destroyed, all of his children killed, and his wife decide that she hated his guts. I mean, really, I can see why Christians would use them as examples of the horrible sinfulness of depression and how no one should ever feel that way…

I really hope the sarcasm came through in that paragraph. Elijah and Job both had good reasons to be depressed, and yet so often we use them as examples of people who ‘weren’t focused on God’ or who ‘abandoned the blessings of God’. This is complete crap, as God’s response to both of them shows us clearly. God does not berate them for their depression, although he does lay into Job for challenging his justice. God does not tell them to get up and be happy. Nor does he tell them that by being depressed they have lost their focus on him, or that they are horrible. He doesn’t tell them to be joyful, or to ‘get over it’. Instead, he simply reminds them who he is, and gives them something to do. He gives Elijah a series of simple tasks to do before finding his successor, and he commends Job and commands him to pray for his friends.

There are good reasons to be depressed, and there are bad reasons to be depressed, but either way depression is still natural, and moving through it is the only way out of it. Speaking of which… I’m actually feeling pretty good now.

Hope

I know what it’s like to live without hope. I’m not there right now, actually I’m doing pretty well right now. I find that I’ve finally come to a place where I’m not looking for anything. I’ve always been looking for something, a better job, a relationship, someone to love me, someone to support me, a new hobby, a new degree program, or some new thing… always something. However, recently God has had me waiting. I honestly have no idea what I’m waiting for, I’m just waiting. I’m not applying to any jobs, not sending out resumes, not applying to schools, and I’m not looking for a relationship.

At first this was really hard because it felt like giving up. I thought I was on my way back to that point of utter and complete hopelessness, that God was, for some reason, commanding me to dive back into the depths of suicidal misery, and I do actually mean that literally. I’m not being melodramatic, two years ago I was suicidal for about four months. I also spent Jr. High and High school trying to get myself run over by cars. However, that’s a story for another time. I’ve found that the secret when I’m suicidal is to remember that my life is not my own. It is not my right to end my life. Only God has the right to choose when I die.

However, back on track, that hasn’t happened. It’s been hard, especially the last couple of weeks, but God is bringing me to a point where I actually do rely on him and find my meaning, my purpose, and my self in him. As I wait, I find that I am becoming more comfortable waiting. Not the hopeless, giving up kind of comfortable that proceeds suicidal desperation, but a comfortable expectation that the waiting will end at some point, and that God will use it to make me better.

I love my job, and while I’d like more work sometimes, and could certainly use more money, I know that what I do matters. I have friendships that need work, but I also have friendships that are meaningful and that allow me both to sharpen others (which I love doing), and to be sharpened (which I need). Finally, for the first time in a very, very long time, I’m comfortable being single. There are one or two women that I’m interested in, but I don’t need anyone else in my life.

I’ve been happy before, but it was always something of a circumstantial happiness. There’s nothing wrong with this, circumstances can make us happy, but they can’t be relied upon to make us happy. Circumstances change, good things come and go, but our happiness doesn’t need to do so. We can be joyful because God is with us. As the Psalmist said, he is our portion and our part. Actually, even more telling, Jeremiah says this in the middle of Lamentations, which is a book that thoroughly expresses the feeling of hopelessness and depression.

I’m finally beginning to learn to simply be happy, not because of something that I have or something that I’m doing, but because I have him. I am simply content, and satisfaction is the key to happiness. Like me, many of us spend so much time searching for one thing or another that we forget how to be content, and contentedness is not only important, but also commanded.

So, simply put, I’m learning to be happy, and to let go of pain. Giving things up always happens differently. When I gave up my hate it happened almost overnight after I first got saved. One day I hated everyone and everything, and the next I didn’t. However, God took almost a decade to change my suspicion and distrust into a complete and total trust of him, and many of those lessons were very painful. When I gave up my anger he had me fast for three days, and I gave up my anger on the first. No, this… I’m learning to be happy, learning to let go of my pain, and I am fasting, but I think this is going to be more of a process. God works in mysterious ways, but he never stops working, and he always knows what he’s doing.