Depression should not be wasted. As a teenager I was morose and deeply depressed. I wrote morose things and believed that if the world knew the real me I would be even more lonely than I was. The depressed teen years were followed by the depressed twenties. It went away for quite a while in my thirties, a combination of a great family life and a fresh calling as a pastor.
I have been pastoring for almost thirty four years and one of the chief temptations of the work is the incessant pressure to give the impression that one is always in control. I may preach against sin, but I am not tempted like other men. That of course is not true and I have no idea how many people knew it. More than I think. Some people I have pastored really did grow to hate me, and that increased the depression. Some really loved me and that increased it too. A series of events beginning in 2003 brought the depression back. I have confessed it to some and gotten horrible responses. When the pastor says he gets depressed people all of a sudden notice things about their shoes that they never noticed before.
Depression makes people run away. That is why it is so easily wasted and so cleverly hidden from great minds and friends who can become very stupid when reacting against what they perceive to be character flaws or sins. Not that depression isn’t accompanied by sin. It can be selfish and self righteous. It focusses on oneself and thinks the world owes it something or doesn’t understand the one who needs so desperately to be understood. It thinks it is loveless and then complains when love is perceived to be absent. It treats as insignificant the love that others show and therefore diminishes them. It sends a message that their love is powerless, that it is not what is needed. It blames others for the state of one’s world. It clings to physical darkness, blinds shut, curtains drawn, but this is only a picture of the state of the soul.
But it is still wrong and cruel and ignorant to label all depression as the workings of a mind without Christ. Charles Spurgeon called his depression his best friend and his worst enemy. The enemy put him in the slough of despond and incapacitated him in horrible ways. The friend caused him to lean hard upon his God and realize that all the accomplishments really were not his doing.
Depression should not be wasted. In far to many Christian circles it should not even be admitted. But people, quality Christian people, do endure dark nights of the soul and manage to continue on in their calling and be used by God to accomplish His purposes for them. Depression is wasted when it is not admitted. It is wasted when those suffering from it think that it is nothing but a liability. It is wasted when it is considered something to be hidden because of the ways that people react to those silently screaming at them. Depression is wasted when we treat it like the norm and is absent of anything needing to be repented of. Depression is wasted when we think it is a positive thing and needs to be welcomed into the life of those who know its pain.
But there is a way to ensure that it does not go to waste. Grace. The unlimited, powerful, life changing, eternity guaranteeing, grace of God. The grace of God revealed to us in the Scriptures tells us that God comes to sinners and rescues them from the power and consequences of their sin. The works righteousness that fuels the world and far too many churches, says that grace is needed and bows down at that truth. But quite often it seems that they need their talents and abilities and give the impression that God does too.
But the depressed know grace in the gargantuan effort it takes, not to move the mountains that get in the way of the incredible plan that was hatched, not of knowing how to use the great gifts that God has granted, but of pulling one’s feet out of the bed and onto the floor every morning. They know the power of grace when smiling and saying “thank-you” to a compliment instead of running away in terror. They know the power and love of grace when God allows them to actually see something that matters and know that God used them to be a part of it. They know the power of grace to stay in a social gathering when everything in them screams to run away and be alone – in the dark – on the edge. They know the magnificent power of grace when hours of attempting to figure out why someone was saved or helped or encouraged through them and no reason in them can be found except that God uses the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are. They know unimaginably great joy at knowing that God does not need us to be talented, in control, maintaining an unstoppable vision and waving the magic wand that makes everything that needs to happen – happen. They know that God uses even them – them, in their self hatred and self righteousness and self pity. Them, when they feel like quitting but don’t because God said not to. Them, who couldn’t muster up enough faith to move a pebble, never mind a mountain. Them, because God is more glorified in the triumphs of His cause when the instruments He uses are not envied and gawked at, emulated, imitated, interviewed and marketed.
Depression understands the call of the murderer on the backside of the desert. It is the mighty man of valour threshing wheat in a wine press for fear of the enemy. It is the boy with the sling shot. It is the woman who takes over when the men will not obey their call. It is the cowardly bigot in the belly of a whale. It is the prophet daring to say that God doesn’t seem to be getting it. It is the faith of the little child who gets shooed away by those who know that God has no time for such people until they grow up.
A lot of people suffer from depression. A lot of saved people. If you are one of them allow me to encourage you not to waste it. Go on in a power that is not your own. Remember that God does not call the great and the mighty. He calls the nobodies and failures and weak and unimpressive – and accomplishes a plan hatched before the world began through them. Through you.
The Psalmists knew the suffering of depression. They must have, considering what they wrote in some of the Psalms. We finish this with a listen to what God wrote through one of the Psalm writers on one of his less stellar days. I hope it encourages you.
Psalm 77:1-20 (ESV)
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
 Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.