“I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.” (Psalm 31:22)
Depression, as I may imagine of other mental health illnesses, is no easy ride as a Christian. Those meaning well give you bible verses that in the dark and heaviness sound an almost foreign language to your ears. People tell you “the answer lies within” and you want to give them more than a good smack for their lack of empathy. By now, most people are more than I aware that I made the decision to take time out of university, in the midst of my FINAL finals because I had severe depression and anxiety. I know well by now, that I am certainly not the first student to go through the myriad of emotions that were exacerbated in an intensely competitive, perfectionist culture like university. But even with loved ones checking in on me, that has got to be the loneliest time of my life. Bar none.
A time so isolating that it made an individual so wary of talking to a God, call on Him for help. Why wary? Because to be honest I really didn’t think He’d like me. I was more than rough around the edges. And I didn’t meet the standard that I had for God for me. Not even close. But that’s not really how He works. Nevertheless, the girl who’d sung anglican choral music she didn’t know the meaning of and dressed up as angels in the local church nativity, but never got Mary, just saying…affirmative action my backside. Well…I was drawn to ask for help. And a lot of people dislike this notion of religion or a God as a crutch. They think that it’s weak. Or just a cover up because you can’t deal with a world where bad stuff happens with no explanation, no fairness and bias and injustice. But in those moments criticisms of the causation argument do not cross your radar. So I did. I called out. And I felt relief like I have, and will probably never again experience. I felt a fatherly love, when I neither had the language for it nor a comparative role.
But I don’t write now forlorn, or even as that as the emphasis. I was having a good scroll down Psalm 31, and just shook by a verse I remember reading in the midst of that darkness and that impenetrable weight. And I couldn’t help but think about what and how far I have come in just a few years. Literally two. TWO.
As a person of faith, you can’t help but feel you’ve got the ear of the Creator of the Universe. Which you do. Which leads one to then ask for the normal things, health for loved ones, peace for the troubled, increased self-esteem for loved ones, an experience all too personal. And you know…complete and immediate mental health. Standard. And when you’re praying those prayers, and you’re waking up and even getting out of bed is too large an ask – you get quite irked, to say the least. And I just remember coming across this verse after deciding to read the entirety of the books of psalms, as you do.
And if I were the tattooing type I would plaster this across my forehead, that I might see it everyday, forevermore. Because in that university room, aghast and broken and lost I called up for help to a God I neither liked nor was convinced of His existence. That is no small action. In desperation, I screamed for help in what could of been a vacuous silence. I asked for help from feeling like I couldn’t get better anymore, that I couldn’t control my emotions or even explain them to myself. And He heard me.
And I’m really sorry if you’ve had the misfortune to talk to me for anything more than ten minutes, because I am very much love-sick. And hope and pray I will always be so. Because alone, and faced with my inability to continue, to even ask a real person for help, on medication that was not working, feeling like no one could understand or break through what I was experiencing, the most beautiful unadulterated love that I will ever know saturated that room. So very thickly.
I can not, nor would I be as insensitive to provide answers to the many people of faith who battle mental illness as do secular people. But I would bind that lie that He does not hear you; my goodness He doesn’t ever seem to work to the schedule you try coerce Him too. “God if you don’t do Y, I’M not going to do X” We’ve all done it. But you are not alone. You are not ignored. Or unheard. He is always there. Even when you think your closest friend or relative doesn’t have a clue what’s going on in your head, your heart, your workplace. He is steadfast. And more often than not will act through those well-meaning but often clumsy individuals who so desperately want to re-enact your Father’s love.
I don’t provide an exegesis for why God allows us to go through such pain. Nor do I attempt to play down the pain and the frustration of mental illness, something I’ve written on and very frankly discussed with those who ask. But that’s not what I felt led to write on. The full stop of this piece is Him. As with everything. To emphasise that those “WHY AREN’T YOU HELPING ME ?!” prayers do not fall on deaf ears. That should you never tell Him of your pain, He somehow wouldn’t see it. There is no place, no state of mind, no hurt, no anxiety, no want, that He does not see. And I pray that that peace that transcends all human understanding, don’t even waste your time trying to comprehend it, I pray that that would wash over you. And He would you show His plans to piece you back together again, when you are more than just a little bit forlorn, angry, disappointed, or dejected.
God bless xx