Fighting Depression: Thinking It Through

Glen falls 1Today I heard of the death of yet another old acquaintance.  She was my boss’s mother-in-law when I worked for a ministry some years ago.  When we had social events she was often present, and as the two “oldsters” we often sat together serenely observing the “young people” engaged in sports and games.  She had a killer sense of humor, and I enjoyed her company.  Later, after I retired and the ministry had settled permanently in another state, I lost touch, and later heard that she had developed Alzheimer’s disease.  She was 97 when she went to be with the Lord.  I must admit I felt a twinge of envy.

I have been feeling very reflective lately… even bordering on depression.  I haven’t been feeling well ~ an overwhelming lack of energy and strength ~ and even prayer and the strongest of internal cheer-leading/guilt trip monologues haven’t been able to keep me moving.  This makes me depressed, and it becomes a self-perpetuating circle as the depression drains me of even more energy, which makes me more depressed, and around it goes.

I am increasingly lonely, humanly speaking.  While I know God is with me in all things, I miss having human company and feed-back, especially when I am not sure how to get something done.  Most of my friends are now gone, or too fragile to get around.  As I am less and less able to be independent and able to cope with the housework, the garden, the errands and so on, I frequently wish that I had even one child living in the area so that I could feel comfortable in asking for a little help now and then.  The periods of silence and aloneness are more conspicuous when my body is less involved.  I have been independent all my life, and it is frightening not to be able to push through and just get things done as I have always done ~ yet that time has already arrived as far as the heavier housework and gardening is concerned.  I see the house deteriorating more and more and I often can’t afford even the simplest maintenance, let alone upgrading old paint and carpets and ancient appliances and plumbing.  I have always loved having a home which was immaculate and ready for company at all times.  Now, I have to swallow my pride and let people see it in a state which would have been unacceptable in the past ~ or else do without any company at all.  It hurts my pride, and maybe that is the point God is trying to make.

Until now, I have felt completely comfortable in expecting that the Lord would provide my needs ~ and He has always been faithful… but until now I have also had the ability to work with Him in finding solutions to the worst problems.  Now, the bottom line seems to have descended to another level.  Each day becomes one of keeping an eye on who or what is chasing me ~ hoping against hope that nothing more will be tacked on to the growing list of things I can no longer do, or another apparently insurmountable problem.  I am feeling overwhelmed and isolated.  As I laboriously and painfully climbed the stairs to go to bed last night, I found myself saying to Him, “Lord, You are my only hope and refuge!”.  My human strength was at low ebb, and I knew I had nowhere to go except to Him.  I gave thanks at the top of the stairs: glad that I had made it through another day, and had been successful in managing the stairs one more time.  Even small things which I once thoughtlessly took for granted have now become singular blessings worthy of thanksgiving.

It is a normal part of life to age, but I hadn’t expected it to be so difficult.  I thought God would somehow let me relax a little.  Instead, as I grow older and older He seems to be pushing me harder so that I can recognize the new insights He wants me to have before He calls me Home.  I still have things I need to learn, but less time in which to learn them..

Almost all my life He has been trying to teach me humility.  As a small child I was forced to realize that I was on my own emotionally, and found very few people or things worthy of my faith.  I learned to be independent.  Then, years ago, He gently began stripping me even of those few human things in which I had trusted.  Over and over, just as I would begin to be comfortable, He has allowed the rug to be pulled out from under my feet.  I was puzzled and a little angry until I realized that He was letting me see that I could not depend on the world’s values or even myself.  He wanted me to understand how much I needed Him.  He has been trying to teach me that trust and obedience may involve suffering, and that I must come to the place where no matter what the problem, I must be willing to say, “Yes, Lord.” and mean it.

Over and over He has guided me to change my values and expectations; to come to appreciate people and actions for how they reflect His grace, and not by the world’s standards.  He has been teaching me not to need to be noticed or appreciated.  He has been helping me to appreciate all my blessings and not be envious of those whose lives are easier.  All His actions seem aimed at reinforcing my dependence on Him.  He is intensely practical, and my submission needs to be involved in even the smallest of details.  Perhaps this latest round of relatively simple domestic problems has the same goal ~ to help me realize that my home doesn’t have to be perfect to be a place of comfort and hospitality; that even if people do think less of me because I no longer pin-clean corners, that is their problem, not mine.  Perhaps He is continuing to strip me of my pride so that I can learn what is truly important in the walk of faith: to have a meek and humble spirit and to focus on reflecting grace and mercy rather than worrying about how my house looks, or if my clothes are fashionable, or how old my car is, or what people will think of me regarding anything except how I reflect the character of Jesus.

I am torn: torn between the values surrounding me and with which I was raised, and the values of those who would follow Jesus.  It isn’t that I ever longed for vast riches and power and glory.  My deepest wish (and I think this is true of many women) is to have a modicum of security.  That is the one thing which I see is impossible.  No one knows what the next minute will bring.  I am forced to depend on the spiritual safety of the life in Christ.  This does not mean that God will step in and intervene and wipe out all my problems.  He probably will not send instant good health or riches just because I pray fervently or send some convincing TV preacher some “seed” money.  He is not a good-luck charm.  Faith is not the same as superstition.  He has His own plans for me, and they may include some hard lessons.  The security I mean is knowing that I am secure eternally.  It means knowing that no matter what earthly problem overtakes me, I do not have to go through it totally alone.  It means that I am always surrounded by Love.  That kind of security makes it possible for me to be at relative peace even in the wildest storm.

The future is unknown. I have no clue how or when He will call me home ~ I may have many years yet, or it could be tomorrow.  I can only go on as I have begun, trusting in Him and putting my faith in His Word.  There are many wonderful things in store on the other side ~ and while seeing His face is the one uppermost in my mind, I also know that I will be so glad to be done with my old nature.  I cannot wait to be transformed into His image, and not to have to wrestle with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Depression will be a thing of the past.  Feeling inadequate will be ended.  Finally, I will no longer be lonely, or overwhelmed by things I cannot do.  I will be like Him.

Do you know what?  By working all this out, I find I am no longer depressed!  Praise God.

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