When the Dust Settles: Living in the Wake of Depression

It’s a quiet morning.

A couple weeks have gone by since a friend passed away from suicide. I sit alone with a cup of coffee. Life has inescapably moved forward. The dust of that crazy, moment has somewhat settled.

And that, in and of itself, can create a problem, especially for those who deal with depression or are directly affected by the loss it brings.

Just because things externally have subsided doesn’t mean things internally are resolved.

Our church community (Kfirst) supports an organization that is helping the people of the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. It’s called Convoy of Hope. What I love about COH is that they’re not only prepped and ready to respond when a disaster presents itself but has plans for long-term assistance with putting life back together for the area affected by the tragedy.

Convoy of Hope is there when “life hits” and still present when the “dust settles.”

And that my friends is what those of us that deal with inner darkness need most.  Yes, we need you when life hits us hard. But we still need you present when the “dust settles.” That’s the moment where life moves forward and we cannot afford to go back to “business as usual.” The tragedy must produce change in our praying, thinking, loving, and engaging.

Luke 24 is one of those “the dust has settled” moments. Jerusalem has calmed down a bit since the crucifixion of Jesus. These two men walk have lived through the whirlwind that has been the previous couple days (arrest, trial, death of Jesus). They now depart from the city and, unbeknownst to them, the resurrected Jesus is about to join them on their journey.

v. 17 And he (Jesus) said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.

The death of their Savior devastated them. And now that the event was over, most likely, they were heading back to their hometowns to resume the life they knew before they met Jesus. Back to “business as usual.”

They don’t even know it’s Jesus. Their inability to recognize him, I believe, was less about Jesus concealing his identity and more about how our depression and hopelessness work. Mental and emotional darkness tends to manipulate the senses preventing people from seeing or sensing what seems completely obvious to everyone else.

This is what Jesus stepped into. And He listened to them as they started sharing their hearts with these four words:

v. 21, “But we had hoped…”

These words were not spoken in ignorance. Luke 24 tells us they knew how Jesus had foretold His resurrection because they recognize it was the “third day” after His death. They’ve heard the eye-witness testimony of the ladies who visited the empty tomb and encountered the angel. They had even received word that Peter and John had confirmed the empty tomb.

But we had hoped…”

Quite often, we can be quick to respond to a tragic moment but forget that there’s more to do when things settle. We can get so busy celebrating “empty tomb” experiences but fail to realize there are those still aching from the wounds of the original event. Just because life moved forward doesn’t mean they have. Just because you see something hopeful doesn’t mean they feel the hope.

The dust of the event may have settled, but what is happening inside of them has not. They are still living in the wake of tragedy.

Enter Jesus.

Jesus stepped into their journey with them.
If you notice the scripture, Jesus didn’t stop them from the direction they were walking. He joined them and walked with them. It’s such a simple point that needs to be highlighted. He didn’t stop them to shift them into direction that made Him feel more comfortable. “Hey, guys, let’s go back to Jerusalem and talk.” Jesus met them on their journey. He chose to walk with them in their hopelessness.

Jesus listened before He spoke.
Listening is not waiting for your turn to talk. Listening is being fully present and fully aware of what is being communicated. These two are externally processing their inner turmoil. How do we know Jesus fully listens to them? Because we get every detail of why they feel what they feel. Listening isn’t leverage to tell your story. Listening is the invitation to step into someone else’s story that may or may not include yours.

Jesus DIDN’T “top” their pain with His own.
He didn’t tell them, “You think you’re suffering, let me give you a clue to what I dealt with this past week.” You may think you’re “connecting” with their pain or helping draw them out of their personal darkness by showing them that their issues are not as bad as you may see them. But it’s causing more harm than good. “Topping” someone’s pain/story doesn’t connect to them. It only devalues them and labels you as an “unsafe listener.”

Jesus fed their soul hope.
Too often, we separate the spiritual from the practical, emotional, and/or mental. And when we do that, we short-change people. The Greek word is Zoé. John 10:10 is where Jesus talked about coming that we might have life (Zoé). That life impacts on all four of those levels (spiritual, physical/practical, emotional, mental). They affect one another to bring complete life/health to us human beings. Look at Luke 24:

Jesus was fully present with them: emotional health
Jesus listened and dialoged about their mentality: mental health
Jesus ate with them: physical/practical health
Jesus spoke hope to them: spiritual health

The results: These two men who “had hoped” left that place and went back, full of hope, ready to tell others what they had discovered.

Jesus didn’t come to make us “un-sad.” He came to give us life to the nth-degree. And I wonder if we’d see more people “full of hope” (Luke 24)  if we choose to have that Christ-like (Zoé) approach by pouring into people spiritually, practically, emotionally, and mentally. Instead of just trying to get people to stop being so down, perhaps Zoé can give us a game-plan and a pattern to strategically pour life into those who feel lifeless.

This is what I need when I face my inner darkness. This is what I want to be for others.

I want to be there when “life hits” and still present when the “dust settles.” I want to be that physical reminder that Jesus is not just present now, but ready to help navigate (Zoé) life with them moving forward.

This is our role as the Church. We are a convoy of hope to the sphere of influence God has placed us. And since Jesus met us and filled us with hope, we are to go and do likewise.

Light into the Darkness: Journaling Through a Depressed Heart

Sitting early this morning in the coffee shop, I had just finished reading John 15:26-27. I sat in stillness at the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit jumped off the page.

The Advocate, or Comforter.

In scripture, the Psalmist calls this “selah” (stop, pause, think). And in the midst of meditating on the words of my Savior, the lyrics in my ear buds caught my attention. In Cory Asbury‘s new album “Reckless Love,” his song, “Water and Dust” spoke these words,

And when everything is falling apart, don’t lose heart.

Between what I just read and the words being sung in my ear, I set my pen to my journal to articulate what this moment was speaking to me. The words Advocate or Comforter have always been the reminder of Who has been my rescue and redemption during my bouts of depression. When I cannot see where help will come from, I look for someone to be my Advocate. When I cannot sense hope, I long for someone to be a Comforter.

I don’t know where I’d be without the Lord. Knowing that He is with me, even when I can’t detect Him with my senses, has been a huge comfort to me.

Journaling has been a place to process and express for me. It’s a safe place to work through what I’m pondering inside. I find it’s much healthier than throwing out a Facebook status empowering others to speak into my unprocessed thought while exposing my vulnerability to some that may not be equipped to help. So with ink and paper, a started scratching out a few thoughts.

From there, I began to thumb through my journal. It took me back to October when I shared with out congregation some of my journal thoughts combined with the song, “Let there be light.” Why that song? Because during a dark moment, it was my ongoing prayer to God,

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

So today, I thought I’d share those journal thoughts from that dark moment when the Comforter was not just pulling me through a tough season but was working someone deeper in me.

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

It’s the prayer of everyone who’s been hurt by disappointment
When life hits and gave us way more than expected
It’s the cry of the overwhelmed heart; the scream of a tired soul
The aching of desperation; fallen deeper into a bottomless hole
But you understand my darkness, you get the struggle of my inside
So I lift up my eyes asking you to hear my cry
You hover over my chaos ready to create with just one word
Speak Holy Spirit; I need hope in my hurt

Lord would you speak…

It’s the prayer of everyone who feels forgotten
When the devil has convinced them that they’re no longer wanted
When he’s blinded their eyes from seeing the hope of light
When their strength is drained and unable to get in the fight
I‘ve had victory on the mountain, but the valley is nothing but distress.
Lord it’s you I need. I need some hope in my darkness
I call out the only One who can reach into an unreachable place
I know I can find peace if I could just find your face

Lord I need you to speak…

To every person who thought that nobody cares
To every tired soul, bearing weights to heavy to bear
To those longing to knock but cannot find the door
To those who seek a way out and cannot take any more
Lift up your face, look beyond the valley
The sun may have set behind you but it’s not your finale
There’s a God who creates out of the depths of your chaos
Lift up your head, the Son rises to call us

“Let there be light…”

He is Immanuel; God with us. Not God “gonna be with me” or “was with me.” He is God with you. Right now. Right where you are at. And darkness cannot hide you from Him.

To those who find themselves in darkness. Proclaim what you know to be true!

You are not alone. Darkness cannot hide you from God.
You have hope. Darkness cannot stop His hand.
You can get help. Darkness cannot keep you from His rescue. There are people who are reaching out even when you cannot see or sense it.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this AND the darkness CANNOT hide you from the presence of God and His outstretched hand.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Reflections from a Depressed Pastor: 2 Thoughts about Depression

I’ll start this off as I have my previous blogs on the subject: My name is David. And I’m a pastor who deals with bouts of depression.

I don’t write as one who is specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. My depression is considerably lower than others, and happens perhaps, less frequent as yours. I will not compare my pain to yours but would implore you from the beginning of this post:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

(Click below for previous blogs on depression)


Sorting through the tangled mess of my emotions, I’m trying to make sense of the news of another lost life due to suicide.  If you know me, I’ve never had a “flippant” attitude toward the issue. But today’s news has impacts me in a different way as it hits a bit closer to home. The man who took his life was a pastor. Today is another reminder that depression doesn’t discriminate based upon gender, economical background, nationality, nor title.

I am shaken to my core. My heart is broken for his family. I’m sure there are those in his community who’ll say things like, “How can that happen to a pastor?” or “Why didn’t he ask for help?” They are the same questions people ask of anyone who has taken their life.

I get it. As a human being who deals with these dark seasons, what I have learned, in the face of the shadow cast over my soul is to lean upon something more stable than my emotions. When my feels are blowing like a dust storm, and I cannot see where to go, the Word of God is where I turn. And today I look to Psalm 139.

“…but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” Psalm 139:12

These words have become both an explanation and proclamation today.

The Explanation
The Psalmist doesn’t ignore the darkness. In fact, he is willing to recognize it’s there. And that, in and of itself, is a huge deal.

“…but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” Psalm 139:12

There may be no greater description of what it feels like to go through depression.

Darkness. Simple darkness.

Those who have never been through depression cannot understand the “feeling” of darkness. I’ve described it to people this way: Have you seen a dark room with one light shining on one chair? Now imagine a room where the entire room is lit, but in the middle of the room, one chair is shrouded in darkness. That’s what it feels like. To sit in a dark place while knowing other people are in the light but you can’t see or sense it. Internally, you’re asking yourself, “Why can’t I see (the light, the hope) what other people see? Why can’t I feel (the light, the hope) what other people feel?”

My blogs are not to highlight or glorify the darkness; they are there to expose it. Why?  Ignoring the darkness does nothing but root even deeper in our lives. Speaking about it, recognizing it, and/or being real about it doesn’t give power to it but reveals it so it can be dealt with. The only way to deal with darkness is not to avoid it but to expose it with the light. 

If that is you, you are not alone. As we say so often here at Kfirst, “It’s okay to not be okay. But it’s not okay to stay that way.” You can’t reject depression but you can reject its authority over your life. I get what you face and what you’re going through. But darkness doesn’t go away on its own. It is quenched by light. Which leads me to…

The Proclamation
The context of the entirety of Psalm 139 is to highlight the omnipresence of God (God is everywhere at all times).  And what I love about this psalm is how it connects the presence of God to “dark” moments and/or seasons. 

“…but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” Psalm 139:12

Did you pick that up? I may “feel” hidden, but darkness cannot hide me from God.

What does that speak to me as a human (and as a pastor) who fights depression? God doesn’t wait for us to come out of our darkness; He draws near to us in the midst of it. We are not despised by God because of our condition; His presence finds us and meets us in it.

When your feelings are in turmoil, turn to the truth. Why? Truth trumps feelings. What is the truth? Look at the next two verses of this psalm,

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14

When you find your emotions telling you one story, get the real story. You are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Proclaim what the darkness is trying to hide. God is with you. God wouldn’t have “fearfully and wonderfully made” you if He didn’t have a destiny in store for you. Bring the truth of that into every moment of despair. Remember this: God’s nearness is not predicated on your 5 senses. You may not feel him, but that doesn’t dictate His location.

He is Immanuel; God with us. Not God “gonna be with me” or “was with me.” He is God with you. Right now. Right where you are at. And darkness cannot hide you from Him.

To those who find themselves in darkness. Proclaim what you know to be true!

You are not alone. Darkness cannot hide you from God.
You have hope. Darkness cannot stop His hand.
You can get help. Darkness cannot keep you from His rescue. There are people who are reaching out even when you cannot see or sense it.

I love the ministry of Anthem of Hope. It’s an amazing non-profit organization dedicated to illuminating hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and addiction. Click on the link and get access to hope NOW.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this AND the darkness CANNOT hide you from the presence of God and His outstretched hand.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…