For as long as I can remember, my battle with depression has been a constant theme in my life. What manifested itself in my childhood as a small dark storm cloud soon morphed in my adult years into a gigantically scary, but somewhat charming mansion. Indeed, when the pressures of life start to mount, the caretaker of this mansion begins to call my name, “David…David. Stop by for a while and sing a song with me, chat with me…Let’s take a break together.” Yes, this caretaker, Depression, offers something that I desperately desire – peace and control.
I don’t quite know when my love-hate relationship with Depression began, but it most certainly surfaced in a big way during my elementary school years. I remember going to school one day, and just before class began, the school bully pushed me up against the wall and shouted, with grit teeth, “You little punk! Nobody really likes you.” Those words took a stab at my soul and brought to life the fear and anxiety buried deep within my heart. “Does anybody really like me?” I struggled with that question for many years, and even now, as an adult, with a loving family and church family, I wonder (every now and then), especially as the pressures and stresses of life mount, “Do they really like me?”
Depression really grabbed a hold of my heart during my time in the U.S. Army, especially during my two tours in Iraq. If I close my eyes long enough, I can still hear the sound of the alarm system go off on the forward operating bases I was stationed at, altering me, and my fellow comrades, of incoming mortars. I would lay awake in my bed, on quite a few nights, and just stare into the blackness of night and whisper, “God, if tonight I die, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Too morbid? Too dark? Yep. I know, it’s a dark and scary world…and Depression seemed to offer me a refuge of escape from all of it…But in the end, the very things it promised (peace and control), it took from me. Yes, it robbed me of the very peace and control that I desperately craved.
Marriage to my wife, Heather, on July 10, 2010 was, and continues to be, one of the happiest days of my life. But even on that day (my wedding day), my old familiar friend was with me, whispering his strangely comforting words, “I’ll be here at the mansion when you need me. Bring your wife along if you two ever need a break…” Indeed, marriage and our subsequent children increased the pressures and stresses of life. And Depression, and his mansion of darkness, though scary, always felt familiar and strangely safe…It would fool me into thinking (time and time again), “Well, I can’t control this or that…I feel like this or that is out of control, but at least I can control these dark thoughts…”
I eventually entered pastoral ministry in November 2013. Pastoral ministry may be many things, but it’s certainly not boring. The frontlines of ministry provide to a human being a front row, dazzling seat to the extreme joys of life: Weddings, babies born, salvations, baptisms, and lives changed. But at the same time the frontlines of ministry provide you a front row seat to the extreme horrors of life: Suicide, drugs, addictions of all kinds, divorce, church splits, betrayals, and the list goes on and on and on. And when the extreme pressures of ministry start to mount, Depression, my old familiar friend, offers an escape into his dark mansion, calling my name, “David…David…”
I took up residence in Depression’s mansion in the early part of 2018. This had to be the absolute worst time period of my entire life. I was exhausted. Physically, I was drained. Emotionally, I was spent. Mentally, I was just plain done. And spiritually…Well, I’m a pastor. I preach the Word! I know Jesus. I love Jesus. I love Him more than life itself. Indeed, this love for Jesus can play strange tricks on your mind during dark times. For instance, Depression likes to quote Scripture to me in sadistic ways, “To live is Christ…to die is gain…to die is gain…to die is gain.” 2018 was an ugly year for me. So dark. So scary. And in the end, the very thing that Depression promised (peace and control), it took from me…again.
I’ve come to realize that Depression is many things, but it’s certainly an addiction. I fight this battle daily. This sin-cursed world offers so many valid reasons to flirt with Depression and take up residence in his mansion of horrors. Any of you understand what I’m talking about? I can’t be alone in this…Indeed, I know I’m not.
So, what do I do? How do I fight this? Well, in part, and this isn’t some cutesy, pat response in which all of your fears and anxieties go away, but I fight this enemy, that masks itself like an old familiar friend, by: 1) Trusting the promises of Scripture. Depression promises peace and control. But Depression is a liar…a good liar…but a liar nonetheless. What does the Word of Truth state? Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” I have to choose (time and time again) to trust my Savior’s voice over the tempting voice of Depression, 2) Praying like crazy. I talk to God frequently…I give him real talk, like, “God, I’m scared. Help me…I need you right now…I need you!” Talking to God gives me an outlet. It allows me to dump all of my fears and anxieties before someone (God) who fully understands and cares for me completely, and 3) Writing it out. Welcome to my public journal entry #1 on this issue. Putting these thoughts to paper has been good for me…Does it cure me of all my depression? No. Absolutely not. Depression still calls my name. It’s faint right now, but I know that as new seasons of difficulty arise, Depression will always be there. So, I will have to choose now (for the billionth time) and I will have to choose then (in the future when life heats up) to fight…to fight hard. Why? Because “to live is Christ!”