One of the difficulties in handling depression is the tendency to think that, as a Christian, you should not feel this way. We so easily imbibe the thinking that when you become a Christian all of your problems are now sorted; Jesus is alive from the dead, smile and be happy. Now there are elements of truth in that presentation of Christianity, but if that is our only perspective on our faith that in Jesus, then we will be very dismayed when troubles hit us in our mental and emotional state.
Essentially then, I would have no sympathy with the simplistic, Jesus is risen; all your problems are over, perspective on the Christian faith. This is because it is evidently unbiblical. However, I still struggle with feeling the wrongness of being mentally and emotionally frail.
I have mentioned previously here about how Satan exploits the frailties of the mind to his own malicious ends to accuse and spiritually incapacitate the Christian suffering with mental afflictions. The derailed thinking goes something like this. “I’m a Christian, but if I was a strong christian I would not feel like this and other people will think I am a pathetic weakling because I can’t keep it together when I get stressed”.
One of the best antidotes to this attack is consider examples of those who have been evidently used of the Lord, but have suffered much in the mental and emotional realm. We find them:-
- in Scripture: Elijah in 1 Kings 19 is evidently cast down even depressed. David know what it was to be cast down in spirit. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? (Ps. 42:5a) is his lament.
- in history. It is good to read Christian biographies and know of the likes of Cowper and Spurgeon who suffered in this realm.
- in experience. It is such an encouragement to know of other believers who have suffered much with depression. I met a godly lady last month who would be in her eighties who had suffered much through depression for many years. This was such an encouragement to know that someone with such evident commitment to the Lord could suffer so much.
Through this I am encouraged that I am not alone.
My journey through my latest episode of depression continues. I trust that I am now emerging out of the debilitating symptoms and into a time of more normal functioning. This is a great relief and I am thankful to our Lord Jesus for the measure of recovery.
February was a month of progress and re-establishing myself. However, there was a significant blip in the middle. I got a cold on February 8th, which soon passed away actually, but the onset of the cold triggered a re-assertion of the depression for a week or so. This coincided with a planned period away. I was left wondering why. Here are some ensuing thoughts:
- I felt there were further necessary lessons that the Lord wanted to teach me particularly as regards dependence on Him.
- My plans are not always the best plans. My plan was for restful, relaxing time away; the Lord’s plan was for further suffering. This does not negate the fact that I was the recipient of so much kindness from various friends and family whilst away and was so appreciative of everyone’s generosity to me. There was much to enjoy through this. However, it has been the coming home that has brought the rest, refreshment and relaxation in so many ways.
People have continually urged me to not rush back. I was blessed though to attend the 11.00 service at Feltham last Sunday for the first time in seven weeks. I am presently signed off work until March 10th.
Feltham Evangelical Church is the church i deeply love. It is also the church I serve as Pastor. It is my family and it is my job. Given my recent health issues I am left with certain perplexities as regards to my relationship with the church.
In one sense i want to be a part of things and be immersed in the life of my family. On the other hand it is “my work” and I have been given a sick note from the doctor until 25th February signing me “off work”.
I don’t begin to say I have got everything right as regards to working through this tension. I wrote here about my original decision to pull out of work and my responsibilities in the church. I did not attend any activities for some two weeks. I have now sought to start being with the church family, although not functioning in my “elder” role at the moment.
The journey continues. My health has improved significantly. The church have been sensitively and helpfully supportive. God has shown His gracious kindness to me through this and His people in the church.
I have been asked several times about the symptoms associated with my affliction. I think for many, there is the assumption, that depression is just a severe case of feeling low in spirits. That would be a reasonable inference from the term “depression”. Given that to be the case “depression” is a little bit of a misnomer and does not fully reflect the totality of the experience. I will first seek to give the overall perspective and then look at detailed symptoms.
- “I can’t cope” is a phrase that embraces much of the experience.
- Not functioning properly.
- Life feels like walking through sludge. Everything is heavy going.
- Overwhelmed by things.
- Cold hands and cold feet.
- Panic attacks.
- Tight chest.
- Seizures in chest region.
- Reduced appetite.
- A mind that goes looking for worries.
- An inability to properly process those anxieties.
- Lack of / disturbed sleep.
- Episodes of sensing darkness in my being.
- Generally “on edge”. Thinking that if certain things happen then I won’t be able to cope.
- Claustrophobia (on occasions) in confined spaces.
- The accomplishing of everyday activities becomes hard.
- Body getting hot and sweaty.
- Burning sensation in chest.
- “Anxious” stomach.
- Feeling light-headed, although that may have been due to medication.
- Sensitive to other people feeling I am acting in an odd way.
All of these detailed symptoms have not been there all the time, but there has been some manifestation of them. I don’t want to exaggerate the severity of them, but they would be a part of the experience. No doubt, others who suffer depression have differing experiences, but I relate what I have been through thus far, in my recent affliction.
I heard second-hand of a depression sufferer saying on the radio, that she wishes that non-depression sufferers could just experience depression for fifteen minutes, so they could know something of what it is like. It was an interesting observation. The experience of depression can be so painful.
As I write this I feel somewhat improved, but still with someway to go. Some of the pain still seems very close in terms of experience and time.
So much to learn. Thank you Lord for recent relief. Thanks to all who have prayed and shown interest.
In my last post on depression (here) I mentioned about the anticipated beneficial working of the sertraline. One thing I have been pondering upon is the danger of just relying on the medication to move through this present affliction. I was led to think of king Asa. We read that In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the doctors (2 Chron. 16:12).
The fact that I consider the medication a beneficial gift from the Lord. does not take away from the need to continue to trust in the Lord through the experience. As I have observed previously (here) I do not fathom how the mental, emotional and spiritual intermingle to establish my well-being. However, I do know that the call on me as a believer is to be believing in the Lord.
King Asa got things wrong not in seeking the doctors, but in only seeking the doctors. The Lord calls us to live with all of our life placed in His hands. We use various means for the furthering of our lives, families and churches, but we should never only use means. In fact our use of means should always begin, continue and end in the presence of the Lord through prayer and thanksgiving.
Of course in all thsi I am a failure; I have not trusted and do not trust Him as I ought. So I come to ask Him for forgiveness and for enabling to trust Him into the future.
Yesterday, January 17th, I decided to pull back from involvement in church life at Feltham Evangelical Church, for the time being at least. Having sought to keep going for four weeks whilst feeling unwell, I concluded, that I was not helping myself by continuing with my involvement with the ministry here. I felt I had to take time-out to seek to get myself functioning properly again. This was a painful, and yet relieving, decision; I shed quite a few tears.
So I will see where I go from here. People say that the benefits of taking Sertraline are only really experienced after a month. That means I have about ten days more until then. I had a wretched morning today, but a much better afternoon. Perhaps only once in the last four weeks have I felt rested by my afternoon rest. Today though I was granted some rest; thank you Lord.
So we move forward seeking to trust in our God. May it be that something of Job’s acknowledgement in Job 23:10 is known in my situation But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
I am not sure if I will continue blogging whilst recuperating; possibly. Thanks to all who have shown interest and prayed.
Thanks for those who have taken an interest in Venabling down a further year. I trust you have found at least some of the stuff helpful. I am now taking a fortnights break. Hope to be back on 31st December. Very best wishes to you for the Christmas season.