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.

In the Shadow of a Giant #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army…As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright… 1 Samuel 17:16;24

It’s such a simple Sunday School story. Even most people who don’t go to church know of the story of David and Goliath.  In the book of 1 Samuel, we have one warrior that causes an entire army to hide in inaction. He shows himself twice a day and no one will confront the issue.

Enter a boy named David.

He shows up to battle. He sees an issue. And speaks up to address it. The response of those closest to him say, “Why can’t you be silent like the rest of us?  Go away” (paraphrased from 1 Samuel 17:28-29).

A few weeks ago, I was standing in line at a grocery store and saw this magazine cover highlighting the life and career of Robin Williams.

5 Years later...

Everything we thought we knew about him came crashing down August 11, 2014 as the news came out of his suicide due to the internal hopelessness he lived with.

The blog I wrote 5 years ago came out later that day as I admitting, publicly, my personal battle with depression. Personally, I felt that I can no longer be like those in the armies of Israel (1 Samuel 17) quietly standing in the shadow of a menacing giant hoping the issue will take care of itself or that someone else will deal with it.

But I was done being quiet. Often, I felt alone in my struggle and couldn’t bear that there was another person like “Robin Williams” out there experiencing the same thing that both he and I live(d) with. And that passion for people was pushing through every fear that whispered to my heart:

  • If people know about your depression, they will not want you as their pastor.
  • Your board is going to ask for your resignation.”
  • You’re going to be ostracized by other ministers.”
  • What are your parents going to think about this? Good sons don’t do this to their parents.”
  • Do you actually think your wife wants to be known as the spouse of a depressed husband?
  • This will embarrass your kids. Don’t put them through this.”

Those were just some of the internal voices screaming at me to stay in silence. Then a few hours later, an external voice came my way that made me want to delete the whole blog and go back into emotional hiding.

For a few years, I had been trying to get a hold of a very well-known minister to come to our church. He’s a legendary speaker. In terms of his reputation, any pastor would want him to preach to their congregation. The previous week, I left another message and that specific evening, he finally called me back.

And after I said, “Hello,” his response was:

“Is this the ‘depressed pastor’? If I say the wrong thing, you’re not going to go hang yourself are you. HA HA HA.”

I didn’t have a reply other than to be speechless. To me this was 1 Samuel 17 and Goliath was mocking me and making me want to hide with everyone else. After a few moments of silence (that felt like an eternity), thankfully he began to backtrack his comments after realizing the issue was not to be taken lightly.

Please know, I hold no ill-will toward this gentleman. I know it was ignorance speaking. But nevertheless, it triggered a moment that has encouraged me all the more to keep beating the drum of awareness to those who do not understand emotional and mental darkness. And my challenge is to do follow the example  we have of this young would-be king in 1 Samuel 17.

He showed up to the battle.
He saw an issue.
He spoke up to address the it.

First, you don’t have to have all the answers but you do need to show up. Sometimes your presence with someone dealing with depression speaks clearer than the most eloquent statement. Simply being present with someone hurting can more impactful than offering an articulate prayer. Often I equip people with six words to say to those who are hurting internally,

I don’t know. I am here.

Don’t worry about your words as much as offering being present with them.

Second, see the issue. Depression must be seen as a legit “issue” to be taken seriously. Admitting this internal Goliath exists doesn’t give it more power just as much as ignoring a giant doesn’t remove it.  For those of us who battle with depression, we just want to know we’re not weird, crazy, or so broken we have no chance for healing (because we feel that way). Sometimes, encouragement comes from hearing from a trusted friend who shows up and can recognize the struggle.

Just because you don’t personally deal with it or understand it doesn’t make it less of an issue. We cannot afford to ignore it (or those dealing with it); lives are at stake. We cannot chalk depression up to an issue we can just “quote a scripture and offer a token prayer” (and I’m a HUGE proponent of the Bible and the power of prayer). Depression attacks on four levels: emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. Which leads me to my last point.

Speak up. Be a voice of hope. I love David’s words of 1 Samuel 17:26,

Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?

Before David volunteers to deal with their enemy, he deals with their identity. He speaks into who they are. “You are not an average army. You are the Lords; you belong to God.” And it’s this type of voice we need echoing in the shadows. We need life-giving, heart-encouraging, hope-building words breathing life into us who cannot see any opportunity of victory.

Speak up. Address those living in the giant’s shadow the reality of the hope that can be realized in the Lord.

I do not belong to the darkness. And when the shadow begins to, I know who (and who’s) I am and where my victory lies.

And I think others should experience the same thing. Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day would you:

Shows up to someone’s battle.
See the issue; recognize it.
Speaks up to address it by building them up with hope.

Hope has a name. And His name is Jesus.

And in the face of inner darkness, I say, “let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).