I struggle with how to start this post because I want to talk about depression. I type thoughts, then erase them. Type other thoughts, then erase those too. It is hard to start writing because depression is difficult to talk about.
Right now I am not depressed, but I have been very affected by depression in my life. I have struggled for years with depression, disordered eating, and negative body image. This illness affects many people I know and dearly love, including many in my own family. I think that depression has a language, and I’m not talking about phrases you might hear from a counselor or on a TV talk show. I’m talking about the language of emotion. The language that goes on inside your head when you are deep in the depths of depression. Hopeless, lonely, sad, fearful, angry.
I have found that when I meet or talk with another person who is or has been depressed they understand exactly what I mean. They know how the world slows down when you are depressed, colors become dull, your brain feels heavy and confused, you are moving in slow motion, and it is very difficult to communicate thoughts and feelings to other people. With disordered eating and a mangled sense of body image, you can literally look in the mirror and see a completely distorted reality. Just like the image you see in the fun house at the carnival…only it’s not so fun and it’s definitely not a carnival.
This post was inspired by a recent re-reading of the story of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21:1-21. At the birthday feast of young Isaac, Sarah observes Ishmael, the son of her husband’s concubine Hagar, laughing. Out of jealousy and selfishness (I think), she demands that Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael from their home. Hagar and Ishmael wander into the desert, eventually running out of water, and suffering to the point that Hagar places Ishmael under a bush to die. She moves far from him because she can’t bear to see what she thinks is about to happen and begins to sob loudly.
There is a point sometimes when we can do nothing but sob. Out of sadness, loneliness, anger, depression, or fear. The Psalmist knew these feelings well: “O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you…For my soul is full of troubles…” (Psalm 88 ) “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130).
I believe that God seeks our response to depression. I believe that He wants us to respond to depression in light of what we know about Him — that He is sovereign and He is merciful. I believe that this knowledge is written all over the words of the Psalmist.
I am not as eloquent as the Psalmist and, in fact, I usually have no words at all. Fortunately, God has no need for my words. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27).
I love that — “He who searches hearts…” There are times when I need for God to search my heart and hear my groans that words cannot express. Oh that He would be glorified even in my deepest and darkest days.