Freedom from Depression

I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but I’m getting a bit of email these days from folks that are finding freedom from depression in part because of some of the things they’re reading here, but I think we all know who is really responsible for their freedom.

But it blesses me nonetheless to hear how God is drawing people out of long and deep places of darkness and setting them in the warmth of his life and grace. I do think Christianity as religion actually promotes and prolongs depression with its focus on performance, its trust in intellectual answers alone and its use of guilt to try to make people do better. As well-intentioned as all that might be, it can be incredibly destructive for people caught in depression.

I got this earlier in the week with a book order from Rick:

I am so thank for your willingness to make the Jake book and Transitions available for free. God has used you to literally save my life, I was severely depressed and ravaged with guilt a year ago and considering making an end of myself, but now I live free knowing that I have an affectionate father who loves me. Thanks be to God for your ministry.

And I received a longer story from a sister still in the process, but I so appreciate where God has led her and where he continues to lead her. I met this lady this past summer and she lives in what’s called the Heartland of the US.

I am 45 years old today. One psychologist estimated I have suffered from chronic mild depression since I was 12 years old. I have to date never been suicidal. However, I have so bought the lie that if I did everything right, then I would get to look emotionally balanced and mature. The way I have addressed the problem has been so shame-based. Mature Christians don’t get depressed.

Religion, especially the brand I was raised in, put I high premium on rational thought, logic, creeds. Emotion and passion were pretty suspect. Well, I don’t have to be embarrassed about being an emotional person anymore. Organized religion tends to shun and stigmatize mental illness. I had another friend who lost her husband to schizophrenia. She said if he had had cancer she would have had overwhelming support, but got very little when her husband left her and their children as a result of his mental illness. Most of these illnesses are not about making “right choices†at all.

One pastor told me if I just found goals and vision for my life I’d be excited not depressed. OK I am already finding everyday life overwhelming, and he wants to add tasks to the pile. He’s been down; he’s been sad. He doesn’t understand depression. What I needed most was to be let off the hook.

I am still struggling, but for the first time I realize He loves me whether I get over this thing or not. It’s not up to me. I have been so ashamed of this weakness. Whether I break free from depression or not, I am still free because I don’t have to fight and try so hard to be healthy. He can do whatever He pleases with me because I trust Him. I’m going to stop demanding that He change me and see what He does with it. It’s spoiled my relationship with my Father long enough.

John Eldredge once said to me that some of the best times, the most restful and inviting times, he had with me were when I was a mess. And for years I’ve thought what the hell did he mean by that. Now I know. In those moments I stopped trying so hard to be perfect and just was what I was. Being me even the broken messed up me was better than the fake striving I invented because I was ashamed of the real me. I think he said that to me in 1998; I am as thick as a post—but God loves me anyway.

Last night my husband was just driving me around because he had to get me out of bed and break up a crying spell. We talked about medication or another counselor. You know that scripture in which Paul brags about how religious and what a great Pharisee he was. Well I’ve had three counselors, a psychiatrist, a curse breaking, demon kicking prayer guy, theophostic prayer, etc. I’ve been through ancient paths and living waters programs. I’ve read a library of books. I said I give up. I surrender to God. Now those weren’t all bad things really. You see getting over being a depressed person has been what my relationship with God has been all about. I can be part of the adventure right now; he loves me as I am. If this battle could be won by learning, talking, confessing, rebuking, forgiving and believing, it would have be won by now. I am not worried about or embarrassed by depression and anxiety anymore. Now that I am convinced I am loved nothing else matters; it’s all I ever wanted.

I really think laying down the fight and embracing love will go a long way towards leading me through the final stages of healing. I think at the bottom of depression is I am unloved and unlovable. I will always be very, very sensitive and there is no doubt a good purpose in that. There is much I have thought needed to be fixed that doesn’t need to be fixed. I love this quote from John Milton’s sonnet about going blind. Here’s the one of the greatest poet’s in Western literature. He’s losing his sight. How is he going to read and write? The last line reads, “They also serve Him who only stand and wait.†One of my favorite poems. Anyway I go on and on. This in an incredible epiphany for me; you had a hand in it. I thought you would enjoy knowing.

I love what God did in Rick and what he is doing in this sister, and their experiences speak louder than anything I could say. I always encourage people to take depression seriously. Religious folks tend to blame themselves and try harder, which, as you read here, only intensifies the depression. This is a battle few can fight alone. If you’re caught in depression find someone to help you walk out of it. Don’t find someone steeped in religion and human performance, because that won’t help. That’s often why a secular counselor can be more helpful for someone in depression than a religious one. But get help! Causes very for different people, but it is important that you find a way to reverse the spiral and find your way into greater freedom.