By Jonathan Holmes –
*Jonathan is a pastor of the LC-MS currently on disability and a friend of The Jagged Word.
I often ask myself, “What am I doing here?” It seems like no one cares, and that no one can ever understand what I’m going through, or even want to understand. At least, that’s the perception. But my perception is the only thing going for me right now. After all, that’s all I know. I stay in bed – thank God for sleep number beds – and I wouldn’t get out of it if I didn’t have to – maybe it’s the sleep number bed’s fault… I have no perception of time. I know time has passed, but it’s cloudy, and I don’t know if it’s Tuesday or Friday. I’m so numb I forget what feeling anything is like, even guilt, not to mention joy. I don’t even feel the anger I have toward those whom I perceive to have caused me all my grief. I don’t even feel sad. I can’t cry, as much as I try. What a life to live, right?
That’s because I’m depressed.
I often ask myself, “Is this shit really worth it at all?” I might as well end my life. That’s a scary thought. I know, it scared the diarrhea right out of me. Thank God I’m a pansy, though. All the ways I’ve thought about taking my life are really painful. A gun, hell, I can’t get a paper cut without a Band-Aid and Neosporin. Because if I can’t stand a paper cut, I sure as hell can’t puncture an artery or slit my wrists. A bottle of aspirin? Well, I guess, but I know I wouldn’t be able to stand the stomach pain. I’ve got IBS, and I can’t stand the pain I get when I eat cheese without Lactaid. Ya, that’s how much of a pansy I am.
I’m married, and I know she cares. But she gets frustrated all the time; with me and with the whole situation. I think at times even she is borderline depressed because she can’t fix the problem – she’s shared that with me on multiple occasions. This life sucks, but for a depressed person, life sucks even more because there seems to be no hope. And I’m not talking about being depressed in the, “Oh, now I’m depressed because the Dodgers didn’t make it to the World Series on the 25th Anniversary of the last time they won the World Series…” kind of depression. I mean real, severe, no hope, and I would rather kill myself kind of depression.
Boy, who would expect anything like this coming from a guy like me? I’ve gone to church my whole life. But aren’t Christians supposed to be these great people, who are always happy, and if they aren’t happy they really don’t have faith after all? Huh, isn’t that a load of crap…
Even worse, I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to find joy in my work. I’m not supposed to think this way in the joy of the forgiveness of sins. I’m supposed to act like the rock of the congregation! I’m the one who is supposed to find order in our world of chaos. I’m supposed to be the joyful guy and have a smile on my face all the time, even where there is a time of calamity and strife. I’m the one who is supposed to have all the answers to all the shit that people go through, especially to say everything is going to be ok for you, and even me. I’m baptized. I’ve been declared righteous. What’s wrong with me?
Where are you Jesus? Where are you, damn it?! Show yourself! COME ON! You said you would always be here for me.
I have struggled, and continue to struggle with moderately severe to severe depression. It’s how I think right now. You see, depressed people can snap in anger at anytime, and sometimes don’t even know it. It took my wife – thanks be to God for such a wonderful, Godly, patient woman – to point out to me I wasn’t the same man she had married. I yelled at her and cut myself off from her. I needed help…
I went to my doctor first. I couldn’t sleep. All I could think was the world was worse than sin – I know that doesn’t make sense, but what about depression does? Nothing I came up with would fix it after my head hit the pillow. So I needed sleeping pills, at first. Then I needed an antidepressant. When that wasn’t enough I started seeing a counselor. She wasn’t enough, so I started seeing a psychiatrist. Since I’d started seeing the psychiatrist he’s added to my buffet of meds. At another point I couldn’t think; hell, I couldn’t concentrate enough to read a book, and not just a theology book, but even Dr. Freaking Seuss books. So he put me on the same meds that kids with ADD take.
Because of my depression I ended up having to leave my very first call after two and a half years of preaching, teaching, and having administered the sacraments faithfully. Other events, some my fault, others not my fault, didn’t help with the depression either. It was the best decision I’ve made in my life, as tough as it was to make, next to marrying my wife and taking the calling of a lifetime in the ministry.
For those of you reading this – and I know it’s not just pastors – I’m sure many of you have thought the same way. I’m sure many of you by this point are absolutely at your wits end reading this, whether you do struggle with depression, whether you haven’t realized it, or aren’t depressed at all.
Life does seem bleak and that things will never, ever get better. I’ll be perfectly honest, it won’t; we live in sinful world.
But what I can point you to as the remedy for all the bullshit we face on this planet called Earth: Christ. Christ, who also went through depression. Yes! Christ was depressed, too! What!?! Jesus was depressed too. He often cut himself off from people, just as depressed people do. At one point, Jesus snaps in anger, and begins to throw tables around at the temple (which by the way is a viable option to the question, “What Would Jesus Do?”). Just read the Gospel accounts of Jesus and you’ll see it, especially as the crucifixion got closer. He was depressed. In fact, he was so depressed, that while He is praying, blood starts to drip from his sweat pours from all the bleakness.
But it goes beyond Jesus knowing exactly what you are going through. It’s the fact He will never forget you, nor will He forsake you. That’s the whole message people who struggle with depression need to know. I know it’s something I need to know. As much as it seems that God is not present with us, it’s just another lie of the devil.
That is why we need to hear phrases, and even proclaim to ourselves the truth:
I’m baptized! (Start with this every time.)
I’m killed with Christ, but I am raised with Christ!
I’m justified before God by Christ!
I’m a righteous child of God!
I’m a forgiven child of God!
I’m His, and no one, not a single person, nor any evil spirit can change that fact.
I am because of the great I AM, Himself.
We must remind ourselves of who we are in Christ: baptized, loved saints. I’m a person whose depression was conquered by Christ on the cross, and so was yours.
I’m getting better. And I know you can get better, too. Get help. Don’t worry if you seem weak or not, because you are. That’s the whole point: you’re a weak, fragile sinner. Through your suffering you will find Christ, who suffered for you and does with you now. Remember you are forgiven, freely justified before you Father in heaven. Go to church, hear of the forgiveness, life, and salvation given to you, and receive Jesus body and blood, all given and shed for you.