Sometimes I feel like God gives me glimpses of His sense of humor. Usually it’s a bit sarcastic and dry, and sometimes it’s just straight up funny. In the past few weeks of clinging to God for dear life, there have been some shafts of humor among the clouds. For instance, the other day (the day that was to have been my wedding, but was not) I took a long bike ride. I talked to God for most of it. I was talking to Him about my ex-boyfriend’s mother when all of a sudden He interrupted me. He said “I love you. You’re beautiful. Your messy emotions are beautiful. You are beautiful just the way I made you.” I teared up of course. I mean, if any human were to say anything that sweet to me right now I’d probably bawl on their shoulder, but when God said that I just melted inside and felt super treasured and loved. So of course, being the beautiful meek soul that I am, I replied with, “Aw, thank you! Will you marry me?” He just laughed. But it was nice laughter. So I guess that rules out becoming a nun.
I sat on that last blog post, the one about grace being greater than pornography for about two months. I hadn’t even looked at the next chapter in the book I’m working through, Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado until I posted that the other night. So I turn the page and this is what I see:
I’m like, seriously God? Rejoice always? You use everything to accomplish Your will? You mean this crap I’ve been dealing with is part of Your will? And You expect me to rejoice about it? Funny God, real funny. Also, another humorous side note, Pastor’s sermon on Sunday was about being joyful. AND the next chapter in the C.S. Lewis book I’m working through (The Joyful Christian) was about joy. Theme much, God?
I think part of the reason I’ve struggled so much with managing my depression is that I sometimes feel as a Christian, it is a sin to be depressed. When the gray clouds have descended in my brain and I am feeling hopeless, I always thought it was because of something I did wrong or I wasn’t trying hard enough, because Christians should be joyful and happy. And I was not. I feel like a very bad Christian at times.
I’ve only recently realized that having a chemical deficiency in my brain is not a sin. God made me this way, and He thinks I’m beautiful even with a brain that is mean to itself and sometimes doesn’t want to stay alive. And yes, He wants me to be joyful. Always.
There’s a difference between joy and happiness, in my opinion. Happiness is an emotion, a fleeting sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Happiness can be affected positively or negatively by circumstances and people. I believe that just like anger, fear, disgust, and sadness, happiness (yes I know they call her Joy in the movie) isn’t a lasting emotion. If you’re feeling only one emotion constantly, you need counseling.
I explained my depression to my nephew using the movie Inside Out (excellent resource for dealing with negative emotions for kids [and adults]). I told him that Sadness was in charge of my brain (like the mom in the movie) and that she wasn’t letting any of the positive emotions touch the controls for a while. When I feel better, I tell him that Sadness is sharing the controls again. And when I go down again, he understands that Sadness is being selfish and controlling once more.
But I believe joy goes deeper than happiness. Joy is contentment and peace, the trusting in God that He’s got you, that He loves you and has a plan for you. When I’m not fighting depressive lies, it’s easy for me to feel that joy. Times like the last day and a half, when I was tired and weak and the lies were winning, I wondered “Can I still be joyful now? I’m not really feeling the joy at the moment.” Depression, at the least, hides joy, covers it up, shouts louder than the little spark of joy, and at the worst, robs me of my joy. Now I like a good heist movie – and I usually root for the clever thieves – but now I find myself in the position of the bank or casino, trying to guard my treasure of joy against the gang of lying thieves trying to take it. I have a vault of Scripture and security cameras of music to help protect my joy. I remember verses like Psalm 42:5 and 43:5 (same words, David wrote it twice):
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
David, the man after God’s own heart, struggled with depression. That gives me hope. Paul wrote about his “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.” Depression feels a lot like a messenger of Satan sent to torment me quite often. I don’t know if that was Paul’s ailment, but I love that he goes on to say:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
And then there’s the always challenging words from James:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:3).
I don’t know about you (hopefully you don’t have a depressive disorder like I do) but when I’m in the depths of despair, totally discouraged about pretty much everything in my life, and thinking that everyone’s lives around me would be much easier without me it’s really hard to find the joy. There are glimmers of joy though, even in the depths. There’s my nephew, coming into my room today after I’d yelled at him and giving me a hug and saying “Nessa? I’m sorry I threw a water balloon at you while you were picking raspberries. I’m sorry I made you sad.” (I did explain to him that he didn’t make me sad, that I’m just sad again right now and even though he didn’t make a very good decision, I still love him and I forgive him for hitting me in the face with a water balloon.) There’s my wise friend and mentor (who has not given up on me, despite how mean I’ve been to her [I’m sorry!]), helping me analyze what happened to cause my latest spiral so that hopefully I can avoid or manage the situation differently next time. There’s this pin I found on Pinterest that made me cry slightly joyful tears:
Joy goes deeper than happiness, and even though I haven’t been very happy lately, there’s still joy. The tunnel is dark, but there is light at the end (and hopefully it’s not just an approaching train – I’m good with staying alive at the moment). I texted my mentor this today:
Max Lucado says in this chapter: “God’s sovereignty bids us to fight the onslaught of fret with the sword that is etched with the words but God.” So like, my job is overwhelming but God is providing other opportunities to explore. My boyfriend dumped me but God used it to reveal a condition I probably never would have found otherwise. I want my life to be by “but God…” I hate being depressed, but if it serves the purpose of revealing God’s glory, power, and might in my life to others, I’ll do my best to keep fighting. Max compares our lives to lace:
It will be beautiful.
Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking the links above will take you to Amazon where you can read more reviews and purchase the item if you’d like. I receive a percentage of the sale, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to pay more for it than you normally would. It just helps me out. Thanks!