Depression is real in our culture. Just about everybody experiences it at some point or another in their lives. To be sure depression is an equal opportunity provider and can raise its head when we are looking and when we are not. Medical professionals have recognized such. Therefore, doctors have made it an integral part of their questioning during routine medical examinations, because it is so common. Even still, talking about depression is a taboo subject in some cultures. Room is not always allowed to share the real struggle with depression.
Even in scripture depression was a real matter experienced by the people of God as well. Some of those who struggled with it were King David, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Moses, Jeremiah, Naomi and others experienced bouts with depression. Yet depression was often called by some other name, such as melancholy, or one’s soul being downcast, a heart filled with anxiety, broken-hearted, troubled, miserable, despair, and mourning were just a few of the names. In studying scripture one can get an up close and personal view of the wrestling and sometimes emotional, physical, and spiritual spiraling that can often take place in the process of dealing with depression. Certainly, depression comes in many different forms and can be caused by a variety of things. Trauma, loss, personal hardship, death of a loved one, guilt, shame, emotional struggles, overworking, lack of sleep and some medical issues can be the cause. While, I am not a doctor, I highly recommend that one not keep their depression, hidden. For there is no way to address it, other than to face into it! There have been times when I have been down in spirit and suffering from what I was reluctant to even call depression. All the same that is indeed exactly what it was. In the African American culture, we sometimes don’t feel free to share our struggle with depression. Yet the number of suicides is rising at alarming rates these days because depression can push people into a place of despair and hopelessness. In my bouts with depression, sometimes I resorted to prayer and that helped me. Other times, I sought relief from reading scriptures, and it did provide me a sense of relief. Yet at other times, I took the opportunity to talk with a professional counselor and most especially I spoke with my doctor about it. Now that took some courage, because I’ve heard people say, “I don’t want to talk to a therapist, because I’m not crazy”! That is exactly the point of talking about it with a professional in a safe place and with a safe person, who has your best interest in mind. See, as a pastor I counsel people all the time, but when it’s over my head, I refer to others who are more equipped to help. Help may come in the form of a professional counselor, or a physician who may very well prescribe medication to address certain types of depression. Sometimes, it might be sharing with a spiritual counselor, a person gifted in dealing with soul, heart, mind, and spirit issues that can push people into dark places. Amid this discussion the question may come, “where is God in all of this?” Good question! God is very present and as always at work in our lives! Sometimes that work is done in ways that might be mysterious to us! Yet the mystery of God is not void of presence. Meaning, the power of God’s presence is alive in our prayers for healing. It is alive in the preached word. Certainly, God’s power is alive in the scriptures, which reminds us of the promise of God “to be with us”, no matter what comes! Even more the presence of God is yet alive in family and friends, who stand by us and with us. Truly the mystery and power of God presents itself too in conversation and dialogue with professionals, who by God’s grace opens new ways and means of healing to attack :”this thing called depression”.
Lastly, in Scripture God invites us “Come to me, all who labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Now the many ways in which God chooses to provide us rest, may very well come, in ways, we have not yet imagined!
Lord, provide the rest that each of us need, that it will completely satisfy our souls yearning and our hearts burning. Amen.
This meditation was inspired by Soul Reset: Breakdown, Breakthrough, and the Journey to Wholeness by Junius B. Dotson. To learn more, visit SoulReset.org.
Jackie Wickware is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology with a Masters of Divinity and has served various churches as senior pastor.