After spending a week in Trent Vineyard, Nottingham, surrounded by people who love Jesus and hearing their stories of faithfulness despite pain and disappointment I’ve come to understand a bit more how following Christ doesn’t promise being exempt from misery.
I want to start off by saying I don’t believe God gave me my depression, a fallen world did. He is a good Father who adores us and although I suffer he still conducts good works through it. It is easy for us to cry and yell at God for the hurt and pain that we experience from life, we are permitted to do so (Exodus 2:23; Psalm 61:2; Matthew 27:46) – even Jesus cried out to his Father – and he does listen. However, a lot of the time we miss the good that God can do in the midst of despair and pain when we are obedient.
I’m not taking away from the fact that it is not going to be easy, as I have said before God confirms over and over again that we will face trial, tribulation and persecution (Acts; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, James 1:12, Romans 3:3-5). We just have to open our bibles and we see the constant conflict and persecution God’s children went through for years.
Read the story of Moses (Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy), it took 10 plagues before Pharaoh let the Israelite’s go (Exodus, 7-11). It took 40 years before the Israelite’s got to the promised land (Joshua 5:6). Moses, a faithful man of God, did not even get to enter this promised land because of disobedience (Numbers 20:10-13, Deuteronomy 34:4-5). Thankfully we have Jesus to thank that we are no longer punished for our sins as Moses was but that is a whole other topic all together. What I wanted to establish with you is that this belief “following Jesus means everything will be good and easy” is false and this is my conclusion after only one story in the bible.
We watch as Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12 -21) waited 24 years, convinced she is barren, before they receive their promised son. The story of Joseph (Genesis 30-50) follows a similar pattern. Joseph sees two dreams (Genesis 37) as a young man where he declares his brother’s sheaths bow down before his and then that the moon and eleven stars bow down to him. This is followed by years of torture where Joseph is sold into slavery and later lands himself in prison (Genesis 39). By no means did Joseph have it easy but he remained faithful by holding on to the promises God had gave him and by the end of the story we see Joseph rise to power as the dreams God had given him came to pass (Genesis 41:27 – 45:38). In the book of Job, we see Job lose everything (Job 1:13-22) his family, his livestock, his friends and his health (Job 2). He cries out to God in a depressive manner, he can’t see any future in front of him, he begs for death (Job 3) but in all this he still remains faithful to his Father God. In the end God doubles his fortunes but he had to go through the pain of losing everything to gain everything (Job 42:10).
In the new testament, we reach Paul the apostle (Acts and the many letters he wrote e.g. Corinthians, Philippians) a man who faced severe prosecution while preaching the Gospel and still persevered. A man thrown in prison and finally was beheaded for Christ. Even God’s own son faced trials. Jesus faced the rejection of his people (Luke 4:14-30), the shame of carrying his own cross (John 19:17; Matthew 27:32) and the pain of being nailed to the cross (John 19:18; Matthew 27:38). If that doesn’t show hardship well then, I am at a loss.
You see throughout the bible are stories, historical accounts, of the trials faithful women and men faced. This is what gives me strength.
When my depression hits I feel like the Israelite’s in the desert not being able to see the promised land. Through periods of lowness when I am just waiting for something good to happen I feel like Abraham and Sarah waiting for that child. When someone makes a comment (not out of malice but it still hurts) I feel like Joseph who was laughed at by his brothers. I can relate so closely to these biblical heroes because although their life was thousands of years ago we still face the same challenges today.
But as I get to the end of these stories I see the glimmer of hope and how God still used these painful situations. In my own story I have seen the work of God as he allows me to help other people battling the same illnesses by sharing my own story, encouraging people and being able to help people. It doesn’t make it any easier, it doesn’t take away my pain or my feeling of worthlessness or my low self-esteem and every day I still battle with the impact of depression. However, by focusing on his word I can at least bring good in a bad situation.
God didn’t give me the mental illness but he still used it for his good.
I encourage you; look for the good. Look for the ways you can turn these situations around. Most of all however what I want you to take from this is that you have a Father in heaven who adores you and is keeping his promises even when we can’t see or feel it.
“… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”