When I first started my journey in depression, I felt like a mess. There was nothing in my Christian paradigm wherein God called a believer to spiritual weakness. You see, before depression, I could usually rely on MY motivation and MY will power to be the catalyst to help me please God.
After depression, my motivation and my heart’s desire were NOT enough and the depression took away any self-control. Before depression, my emotions (feelings of fellowship) would dictate to me whether I believed God loved me or was pleased with me. During depression, there were no feelings of fellowship. I couldn’t see God in my depression.
Before depression came into my life, I’d come to God: “Look, Lord, look what I’ve done or You! And look how righteous I am becoming for you!” So, it was a huge struggle to find a way to come to God at ALL in the state of depression. My upcoming book will fill in the gaps between finding myself in that awful pit to finding peace in the smile of my Savior.
The most difficult thing I’d struggle with for years, was my culpability in my depression. Was I guilty for the way I thought and behaved in my depression or was I a victim of it? Was I just a bad person or was this an illness? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was sick with a true medical, physiological disorder and that it caused me to act unspritual but could I be culpable for things I did as a result of a depressed condition?
I struggled a long time in this tension, earnestly searching my heart, then fiercely defending my heart, then questioning my heart again. Was it even possible for a child of God who was walking with the Lord, filled with His Spirit, able to become depressed? Didn’t it challenge the very idea that the Holy Spirit, if yielded to Him, would NOT allow me, a believer, to become depressed? Didn’t He promise that His Spirit would always be available to ME both for comfort and for control?
I didn’t find the same tension in the idea of Him allowing me to get sick, or allowing me be killed… but there was something about the connection between the mind and the will …it was nearly unconscionable that the Holy Spirit could not and would not supersede my will by protecting my brain health? Although I recognized His sovereignty in everything else that could ever happen to me, how could He be sovereignly be putting my will and emotions in conflict with His commands, His law, and His desire for my sanctification? What I forgot to realize was that my will and emotions were already at odds with the holiness of God. My righteousness, as good as I had attempted it to be, was still only as good as a filthy rag.
I wrestled with the heart of a God that would require me to do something, (remain yielded to the Spirit, be filled with the fruits of the Spirit, obey all of His commands in His word), then cruelly take from me the very tools that I needed to do what He asked. At times, God felt like a bully who took my homework and held it above my head, and taunted me with my inability to get it back.
Then, I wrestled with His authority. His authority was in direct relation to His ownership of me. But then, I remembered my commitment I had made to Him. “Though He slay me, still I will follow…”…Did I really mean that? Was I really willing to let Him slay me? I felt like Isaac…Yes, I was the sacrifice. God, inconsiderate of how much it would hurt me or the suffering it would cause me, had demanded my life. Would I let go, let my Father bind me and lay me on the altar?
I felt like Job. I wrestled with the tension of Satan possibly being the one to afflict, yet God being the One who signed the permission slip. Don’t you think that if Job was standing within earshot of that heavenly conversation, Job might have leaned over to God and said, “Let’s not bait him. Please, don’t taunt him.” So, was I a victim of Satan, or of God who was trying to prove something that I didn’t understand?
If I was a victim of Satan, what was in my toolbox wherein I could defeat Satan? If it was Satan, then there MUST be something I could do to defeat him. What armor could I fight him with? What was the “trick” to winning this battle against this formidable enemy? However, I despaired as I was incapable of doing anything to fight this.
As I wrestled, I came to the conclusion that although spiritual warfare might be at play, I was NOT, in fact, a victim of Satan. My God did not suddenly become limited. His hand had not become shortened or weak because of this. If I was being afflicted, it was because GOD chose to allow it to happen to me. The choice for me was the same as for Job. I could moan and groan and agonize over my condition, but I WOULD NOT curse God in it. I was His to do with as He pleased, either directly or indirectly.
Unable To Please God
While I was in the “victim of God” mode, I wrestled with whether it was in God’s character to choose to allow anything left me without protection from my own depravity? Was He to blame for making me unrighteous? If obedience to all His commands was what pleased God, then… NOT obeying all His commands MUST mean that my life didn’t please God. Was it kind or good of God to take from me the very thing I needed for ME to please Him? That seemed to me to be the most personally cruel. Yet, the fact remained… whether cruel or not, I was helpless to use this “self-control” tool that had always been mine to use my whole life.
In the past, I knew what I was supposed to do. I determined to do it. I worked hard to do it. And I dug down deep and used self control to make myself do it. When I did what I knew was good and right (“righteous”), I was convinced I pleased God.
But now, I couldn’t do what I thought, in my heart, was good and righteous because I had no self control. I couldn’t work hard at anything. My brain could not just “determine” anything. My brain was numb, lifeless, defenseless. So, I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do. So, I concluded, “I’d never be able to please God again.”
IF this depression was unrighteousness, was I culpable? Was I guilty then or was I a simply a helpless victim in the things I did? Or, could it possibly be that God Himself was culpable for making me unrighteous by taking away His spirit who gave out the gift of self control that I NEEDED to please Him. The moment I’d entertain God being the one to blame, I made a mental decision that I could never entertain that thought anymore! God COULD NOT be capable of causing evil. I was distraught somewhere in between God being culpable and me being culpable.
Heidi, Meet Your Sin Nature Who Lives Inside You!
But God, in His gentle and wise kindness showed me what I was missing. Yes, I was a sinful person. Yes, I had horrible thoughts. Yes, I could behave in despicable ways. But, even though God signed the permission slip for all of it, God wasn’t at fault for what I did. Something inside of me was.
While I didn’t think it was fair that the blame should fall back on me, I still believed,“though You slay me, STILL … I WILL follow.” I could either fight God for what I believed was fair, or I could choose to surrender under the mighty hand of God.
God can do whatever He wants and isn’t limited by anything. I knew there was nothing I could do to change His plans for me. I remembered that God owned me. That was easy to remember when I was in victory mode, but when I was in defeat mode, it was a LOT harder. But, the fact remain, God could take from me whatever He wanted and whenever He wanted, even if it left me drowning in defeat and even when it exposed the unrighteousness in my depraved heart.
Self Control Was Just My Self-righteous Rag
I think that is when God reminded me that although I believed that I had been doing pretty good at this righteousness thing on my own, that, even before my depression, my righteousness was NO more impressive than filthy rags. Ouch! What I had, in fact, BEFORE depression, was a way I thought covered my unrighteousness. My self control was the rag which I believed covered my filth. It was the brakes that slowed down the out of control downward slide. I came to understand that what I was coming to grips with was my own utter depravity.
In fact, as a child of God, wasn’t I at His mercy anyway to have been granted my past self-control in the first place? Hadn’t my self-control, in fact, been His kindness to me rather than MY kindness to Him? Although I was a still a sinner who still sinned, it was only by His grace that I could do anything good for God unless He first gave it to me to be good with. And didn’t He have the authority and the sovereignty to withhold any of His gifts from me, whenever, however, and to whatever extent He chose, ESPECIALLY if I thought those gifts were coming from MY self-righteous heart?
Who Is Left For Me To Trust?
So, that left me staring down the barrel of an utterly depraved mind with utterly depraved thoughts and utterly depraved behavior and my God who was holding the shotgun which was aimed straight at me. He held me captive to my situation by His authority and His sovereignty. It finally dawned on me that my only hope would be His mercy! I had nothing to offer Him! Would He accept me in mercy or turn me away?
Without any other options, that’s when I finally gave in; it would be the mercy of God or I was destined to always be a disappointment to my God. My heart finally screamed, “Jump! Jump into the arms of God.” I didn’t know where it’d land me. I wasn’t sure I’d be safe on the other side. I knew IF my righteousness was what would make him accept me, I was without hope. But what other alternative did I have but to just surrender HIM? Ana Laura sings it this way, speaking from the heart of God, “If you ever fall, just fall into my arms. I would never hurt you. If you’re ever going to trust This heart, I will be there to catch you when you fall.”
What is the first and most important lesson a dog trainer teaches a new puppy or a dog in training? Their first lesson should be teaching the new puppy that there is an alpha in the house and it is you. God was teaching me who was going to be Alpha in His pack. God rolled me onto my back, placed me into a submissive position, put His hand firmly on my chest, pointed His finger at me and said, “Stay!…. Now wait!….”
My eyes searched about my world, “Wait for what? What are we waiting for? What do you want me to do?” With my tail between my legs, I wondered what I POSSIBLY did to make my Master mad at me to inflict me with so much pain. I wrestled in the tension a LONG time, I thought there MUST be something I am supposed to be doing but I couldn’t figure out what I could do. He had already taken the only thing I had that was able to please Him, you know, my self-control. What in the world could I do now, if I couldn’t negotiate with Him, if I couldn’t make Him relent? I couldn’t figure out how to be good FOR Him so I how could I make Him happy?
And yet, while I was in that most desperate position of submission, looking helplessly up at my Master, there was something in the kindness of his eyes. I expected to fear Him. But I didn’t. I found myself hopeful that my obedience in surrendering was, in fact, what He wanted of me. Rolling me onto my back wasn’t one of anger or aggression or bullying, it was one of kindness where He smiled and just gently but firmly held me there in a position of submission.
This was God teaching me to BE STILL! It’s so hard to just “be still” when you feel like you are in a fight for your life. He told me “don’t fight back.” He wanted me to succumb to His firm hand. Being still, with no resolution. Being still, with no peace and comfort. Being still and waiting IN the darkness is frightening. Being patient and humbly surrendering to God’s fiery furnace is excruciating.
And then with each depressive episode that tormented me, He’d do it over and over and over again, week after week, month after month. He’d roll me over onto my back in my already desperate state and say “stay.. now wait.” I’d surrender to His firm hand. I’d look into His eyes to see if He was angry but never saw any anger.
I didn’t understand what He was doing, or why He would not relent from doing this. But, He wasn’t hurting me; He was just pinning me down. He was NOT disciplining me for anything I had done, He was resetting the foundation for our relationship. He was boss. I was not. Our relationship would only work if I remembered this most important lesson.
Then, over and over, each time my depression would slowly dissipate, I’d feel him release me and I’d stand back up and tried to go about my life. But, all the while, never understanding what all that, “surrender and wait” stuff was all about.
(to be continued)