Monday, September 29, 2014

an illogical sadness.

"I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
    my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.
When friends said, 'Everything will turn out all right,'
    I didn’t believe a word they said.
I remember God—and shake my head.
    I bow my head—then wring my hands.
I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep;
    I can’t even say what’s bothering me.
I go over the days one by one,
    I ponder the years gone by.
I strum my lute all through the night,
    wondering how to get my life together."

This is depression: the stolid belief, beneath it all--lurking behind the good days and the bad days alike, woven in with the trying-hard-to-do-well and the sinking-into-sadness--that nothing will change, nothing will get better.  It's an illogical sadness, because it blots out the reality that not a thing in the world can remain static, that everything is moving and changing and so you, too, must be changing, if infinitesimally.  Depression resists reason; it is persistent, insistent upon itself, and words fail to budge this massive certainty within you that your life must be over.

Depression is about a loss of hope, or rather, the inability to grasp and hold on firmly to hope.  Hope is slippery in the hands of depression.  It is an open wound that won't heal, a seemingly endless desert stretching before you, and how long must you continue to trudge through the sand before you are allowed to sit down and have a drink of water?

"Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
    Will he never smile again?
Is his love worn threadbare?
    Has his salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten his manners?
    Has he angrily stalked off and left us?
'Just my luck,' I said. 'The High God goes out of business
    just the moment I need him.'"

Recovery, then, is about making the motions until something finally catches; it is about gritting your teeth, yes, but it is also about practicing rest and kindness and nurturing small delights so that you remember in small flashes: the world is beautiful, and moving, and you are alive.  

It will feel like nothing will ever get better, like the pain is endless, but that's impossible, because when you look over your shoulder you see how very far you've come, and though the scenery has been changing very slowly because you're making this journey by foot and not by car or airplane, still, you think you might see a bit more green on your journey, and even a scattering of trees, and you wonder if you just might be trudging your way out of the desert and toward the sea.

Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
    lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished,
    and give a long, loving look at your acts.

As it turns out, the Christian story is a good one for those in the grip of depression, because it doesn't flinch in the face of human pain or doubt--yet it holds in tension this bold assertion that the love of God never quits; that God is a God who runs out to meet us when we are still a long way off; that incredibly, God seems to specialize in bringing life out of places that seemed resolutely dead and past saving.

When all seems lost, when God seems to have abandoned the whole world, I suspect it is nevertheless that same God providing the strength we need to make it through the next moment, and then the next, trudging through the sadness until at last, new life is birthed from the pain.

Excerpts from Psalm 77.

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