Joy Meets Sadness
[mk_dropcaps style="fancy-style"]I[/mk_dropcaps]n the Disney/Pixar movie “Inside Out” the profound dynamic of sadness and joy is explored. When talking about depression it seems apropos to address the healthy tension between our joy and sadness. We do not know the depth of our joy without the contrast of sadness. Sadness would leave us isolated and alone without the energy and drive that joy brings along with the desire for us to pursue more. These two are a necessary team in our lives. Having dived deeply into depression twice in my life and watching some of those closest to me battle the same, what I find interesting about depression is what it takes to free yourself from its grip. From an outsider perspective, depression seems like something you should be able to just “snap out of.” If only it was that simple it would not be such an issue. The truth is, what was once enjoyable no longer carries the same draw and not because we like it any less, but the feelings and effort around any activity seem much harder. Depression creates a sticky quicksand-like environment of isolation, numbing, and disconnection.
Depression is a byproduct of living in a fallen world and not something that God intends for us to remain in. Prior to going to the cross, Jesus was whipped and bore the burden of depression for us so we do not have to. Just as anxiety is not something we were meant to hold on to, neither is depression. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and nothing exemplifies stolen joy more than depression.
What do we do to get out of this sticky quicksand swamp? Let me share with you what got me out of the deepest depression I have been in. About 7 years ago, I was isolated. I had very few friends and sought the counterfeit connection of binge watching TV shows to isolate me from real connection. I withdrew to the comfort of my room to avoid interactions with others as it seemed as though it would be too painful.
I was emotionally tapped out. I did not feel I had any more to give, because I was giving so much of myself to my family (more than a healthy amount or even required of me). I did not know what healthy boundaries were yet, and I found myself in the grips of hopelessness and loneliness. Then I, by the grace of God, found a church full of life where I experienced the presence of God. At that point in time, I knew I either needed counseling (which I had done before) or a strong social community. My church provided just that, but had in it something even more transformative: the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It says in Psalms 16:11
[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.[/mk_blockquote]
There is nothing more valuable, healing, and comforting than the close and intimate presence of God. Before I came back to church in 2009, I did not know that the Holy Spirit was a real and tangible person I could connect with. Growing up I only knew of Him as a historical figure wrapped up with Jesus when I heard scripture read in Mass. But once I experienced it, I realized there is nothing more powerful than running right into the presence of God. It is overwhelming, but incredibly loving and peaceful. That first day going back to church rocked me and transformed my life from that point on.
You see, the antidote to depression is creating an environment of gratitude in your mind. You won't get immediately air-lifted out of your depression, but the momentum begins as you get up from your camp of isolation and begin to walk through that dark valley. The key piece I found was when I encountered the presence of God, and the fire of joy was ignited in my heart. That fiery joy is what led me to finally face the root of my depression and I realized I was no longer alone. God, Himself, is with me. He is also right there with you. He has never not been by your side. Rather, it is us who have become unaware of His presence or have turned away from Him. He is unfailing. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Look to Romans 8, it is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. I want to highlight two verses, first off Romans 8:35
[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?[/mk_blockquote]
We can think the issues we face actually draw us away from God, but it is not situations that can do that, only our lack of recognition of His presence. For we see the truth and God’s promise just a few verses later:
[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39[/mk_blockquote]
You are more than a conqueror! Depression is not for you to keep, it is NOT from God. Let me repeat, it is NOT from God, and through Him you have authority over it. If you rise up in faith, you will be victorious over it. It will not be easy, and to promise such would be very wrong, but I can promise that the very Creator of the Universe is beside you, walking with you to your certain victory.
You can and will get out of the depression that has held you. But it starts with a step of trust. Trust that is anchored to God. Followed closely by trust to allow others in who have gone through and come out victorious in their own battle. They should be people who care about you and will encourage and support you in the journey. Allowing others into your world requires humility and courage. But you have all you need within this. God thought it important enough to remind you that you are “more than a conqueror.” You will NOT just squeak by to get through this. You will end up far beyond your valley. You will reach the peak of the mountain. Get in His presence and recharge your joy! In His presence is fullness of joy, providing you all the fuel you need to conquer this monster within.