I was clinically depressed once.
The downward spiral began when lack of funds forced me to move off campus spring semester of my freshman year of college. Smoldering anger toward my parents and myself (because of the litany of bad decisions I made with a high school boyfriend) also contributed to my depression. Day after day I felt damned by God. For over a year, I was numb to every experience except the piercing pain within and the seemingly inescapable feeling of dead weight on my physical frame. It’s a feeling with which those who are depressed are well acquainted.
Depression mercilessly tortures the soul it inhabits.
Theologians often speak of hell as separation from God and his grace. If hell is separation from God, then those who are severely depressed often feel like they are experiencing a living hell—separation from God—but also separation from others and separation from themselves. But depression need not be severe to wreak havoc on a life.
Glimpses of Grace
Since then, I haven’t experienced depression to the same degree or duration. But like many, I’ve had a few very mild episodes of what has been called “situational” or “circumstantial depression.” In the meantime, I’ve counseled and comforted many college students and parishioners who have suffered from depression.
Below, I offer some of the words of encouragement and spiritual practices that have provided hope and comfort to me and to others. These practices give us glimpses of God and grace in the darkness.
Know You’re Not Alone
When you’re depressed, you may feel like a pariah, a God-forsaken phantom human roaming the earth while you feed upon your shame and self-loathing. But you need to know this: being depressed doesn’t mean you have a weak faith. Many faithful believers have suffered from depression (and other mental illnesses) or presently suffer from depression—people like King David, Elijah, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Teresa, and Ann Voskamp.
Think About God’s Delight in You
Depression cannot separate you from the love of God, even if you are numb to it (Romans 8:38–39). Being loved well is one way you are transformed into the likeness of Christ. Do you know deep down that God adores you and loves you? He is always excited to be in your presence, sort of like a screaming teen at a rock concert who swoons over a favorite singer—except this is God swooning over you. He is always beholding you with delight in the same way a mother delights in her newborn babe. Ponder on this truth.