The Lake

My heart is empty. All the fountains that should run with longing are in me dried up.” Pilgrim’s Regress C. S. Lewis[1]

More than a few times, I have mentioned my desire to take a canoe trip on one of the local lakes. We did once years ago but never again. It was one of those nostalgic memories you wanted to create with a family, like an old country time lemonade commercial, but just never had the time. However, things recently were coming together to make it materialize.

I had the day off, and my daughter had recalled this planned but unrealized trip; urging me to go. But, that morning, my desire was gone, and the idea felt like drudgery.

Why?

I suggested other things to her, cited the humidity, said I had no cash to get in the park (but the cash was found shredding that excuse), I flat out asked her to pick something else. But, moments later, we were in the car lake bound.

This is the odd feeling depression can produce. The conflict of desire. I want to, but I do not want to. It’s reminiscent of Paul’s declaration about indwelling sin, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”[2] Application different; but the outworking of desire is identical.

Depression affects our emotions…some may become animated, like grief, fear, anger, or shame. Others like love, caring, joy, happiness become deadened. But emotions are reactive to the environment we live in. We react to what is…with an emotion. Desire, however, identifies a reality that does not exist and works to create it.

Desire vs. Emotions

Understanding this sets up an active process to deal with depression. Now we know, desire has a strong connection with sin. And this is destructive: “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.[3]

But it also has a constructive side: “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end…”[4]

I saw this work out in my life through my young daughter and a canoe. The feeling was absent, but the desire was known. So, without feeling, we worked to create a reality that would be the desire. In the end, the feelings followed, and I am glad we did.

As a new creation in Christ, your innermost desires have been transformed. But the challenge we all face is the disappoint of those desires not being realized. Depression feeds into this, leading to despair. It’s easier to act with the support of feelings. They act as a wind to the sail. But a boat doesn’t need wind to move; rowing works just as well.

Our heart may be empty, and the fountains may be dried up, but we are to pursue Christ, not feelings. He is our hope and desire.

– Blair Radney

[1] Lewis, C. S., and Michael Hague. The Pilgrims Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014. Pg 184.

[2] Romans 17:9

[3] Ephesians 2:3

[4] Hebrews 6:11

THE WELL….

 

The deeper the wells, the brighter Thy stars shine

So goes, a Puritan prayer.

But in the dark world of depression, the well is just deep and dark without a focal point to fix your eyes.

It is a world best described by Solomon…

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; – Eccl 1:8 ESV

Unable to fully describe the feeling, depression takes on a mental and physical manifestation.

Past loves and hobbies now become hard joyless work. The strain to push through creates compounding stress.

The mental battle increases with submission the path of least resistance.

Stress turns to the physical, causing pressure headaches, panic attacks, ulcers, and short tempers.

Family, friends, and coworkers may have no idea the struggle as you become good at hiding the darkness.

Life becomes a striving after wind and passes by like a shadow.

This is not an abstract description. Rather it is what life has been for me at times since I deal with reoccurring depression.

And how many Christians who suffer from the same condition may feel when they are down the well of despair.

On the outside looking in, the causes and solutions to this condition can be confusing and full of urban myths. From the inside looking out, it can be equally difficult to solve.

Why is this happening?

The disciples confronted Jesus with this same question. While walking through the street of Jerusalem, they passed a blind man.

They asked him, “Rabbi, why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parent’s sins?”

Why is this depression consuming me? Is it my sins?

Is it something else? Why is God allowing this to happen to one of his own?

Sin?

Have these questions passed through your mind or reflected in your actions? They ran through the disciples’ mind.

And Jesus emphatically broke down the persistent myth that this suffering, blindness, was the result of God personally punishing one for committed sins.

“It was not because of his sins, or his parents’ sins.”

We suffer in this life…

We suffer as a result of sins entry into the world at the fall of mankind in Adam.

This does not constrain itself to unbelievers. Sins affect on the world, disease, disasters, death, they trouble everyone.

Your suffering is no more a result of God’s anger with you than your health is evidence of God’s favor towards you.

Yes, God can use suffering as punishment.

Yes, God can heal the suffering of his saints. But that is not the norm.

The gospel does not promise a special blessing of health for his people. If it did, then God would suspend the law of gravity every time a Christian would trip and fall. And the wicked would be continuously inflicted with pain, suffering, and poverty.

What would that world look like?

Or opportunity?

No, instead Jesus gives us the explanation; opportunity.

“This suffering exists, that there may be displayed in it the works of God.”
Your suffering in depression is an opportunity. An opportunity, not a disaster. Christ uses the plural form of works to emphasize that there is an ongoing opportunity for God to be glorified in the suffering this man has in his blindness.

This is something I have just recently begun fixing my eyes on in my personal life. Seeing the opportunity where I find myself to make much of Christ.

The fact is, the well of depression is deep, and you may never fully extract yourself.

But, as the Puritan’s prayer indicated, there is a light, the light of Christ to fix your eyes on. And if you allow your eyes to take in this light, and adjust to the darkness, you will see the outlined shadows of others sharing the same space. Others who want to help or need help.

You’re not alone.

Blessings

Blair Radney