Generation Cedar

Depression: The Lessons of Suffering in the Dark

Last summer, probably in a lengthy wake after the trauma of surviving an F-5 tornado and losing our home and all our earthly possessions, I found myself in a place no other human could touch. How can a place such as that be so painful and yet so glorious all at once? I was utterly depressed.

Not so much an overwhelming sadness, though sadness was involved, but more of a despondency, a complete lack of motivation to do the most basic of tasks, which for me, is a dreaded place. I’m usually full of ideas and inspiration and life–to a fault–but when I’m not, I’m really empty.

When we are there though, we are compelled to look up, to cry out to the only One who “can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”


Depression is one of those tricky topics among Christians, because we are tempted to believe it is solely a spiritual issue. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s not. I truly believe, having walked through it, that the brain, though more complicated than other body parts, is still capable of being “broken,” just like a kidney.

Sometimes inventory is required to figure that out. Is there unrepentant sin in my life? (Psalm 32:3,4) Am I abiding in Christ, letting His Word be to me a fountain of life? Once the spiritual causes are ruled out, we look to the physical.

And sometimes those physical causes can be easily treated. Are you getting enough exercise? Vitamin D? Serotonin?

Lessons, Regardless of Reasons

I learned some valuable spiritual lessons during my darkness. Though our humanness seeks to avoid suffering, God uses suffering–always has–to achieve His purposes. Maybe, we should do less avoiding and more resting in His providence.

For me, it was a time of being still and quiet. Of coming face to face with my utter frailty and recognizing that He is the joy of my salvation. We need to know our weaknesses, and for me, depression did the trick.

“I was brought low, and he helped me.” Psalm 116:6

Unexpected Blessing

Suffering from depression brought another unexpected blessing. As my husband tried so desperately to help me, he became more like Christ, more like the picture our marriages are supposed to be, and “in my weakness he was strong.” He prayed over me, with me, and for me; he encouraged me to lower my expectations, he helped me find refreshment, and most importantly, he waited patiently, and he did not trivialize my very real feelings.

If you suffer from depression, I would encourage you to soak yourself in the Word, even when you don’t feel like it. Wait for Him and trust Him to use your life, even in this moment, for His glory.

Pain is Never Wasted

One last MONUMENTAL thing the Lord showed me was the desperate need for our transparency. Just a few days after I began to emerge from my despair, I was scheduled to speak at a Ladies’ Tea about our recent loss in the 2011 storms that swept across the Southeast. As I prepared (difficult to do during depression) the Lord kept weaving bits of my other “storm” inside the testimony. Afterwards, I received showers of thanks for my “transparency” about depression. Women who were struggling but afraid to verbalize it.

The Lord had used my suffering to minister to these ladies. “Pain is never wasted,” I said in my talk. And I believe that is true for all of us if we fall back into His arms and trust Him to use us in all things.

As I wrap this up, I’m reminded that He also used this time in my life to compile the book, When Motherhood Feels Too Hard. As I’ve received so many emails from women grateful for the book, the Lord washes my soul afresh with His goodness and reminds me, “See, I know what I’m doing.”

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8 Responses

  1. I understand too…if you remember, I had emailed you about feeling the same way…feelings of no motivation to do the homemaking task…overwhelmed, yet bored, tired, yet pointless…Also, living in a town where we know few people, and church is 11 miles away! Tired of my kids, tired of always being needed for what seem like little, pointless, mindless tasks…(change the 10millionth diaper), I felt like all I did was use up oxygen and food and earth space…I rediscovered and began to listen to preachers like Voddie Baucham and Paul Washer…every night I listened while hubby worked his 2nd shift…and as I listened, I realized that I was a rebellious woman. In spite of learning for years about submission, I was REBELLIOUS and it started against my dad before I was married(and I think that being the foundational relationship somehow interferred with my marriage/motherhood) I’m not meaning in a way that indicates I was abused–nothing like that, but just in a he-wasn’t-always-what-I-wanted-him-to-be sort of thing…I was critical of him and always looking for ways to be hurt by what he said/did…never forebearing with his limitations or mistakes. And keeping it to myself…inside..thinking about offenses for days at a time…And finally, when the Lord convicted me about my sin, and I realized what I was, I too was broken…and needed to repent of my sin…and Kelly, I learned a lesson about who God is…and how HE works in our hearts and takes our deadness, our sin and gives us hearts of flesh and righteousness…and since then, the Lord has given me a new love for my dad. A new willingness to respect and honor him…a desire to see the best and forebear with the not-so-best…And as the days have gone by, somehow, my outlook has altered…and I feel like I used to…thank God…I also started taking iodine supplement about a month ago and I wonder if that hasn’t helped some too! But I know lonliness added to it…where the only people I saw were my hubby and kids(especially the weeks hubby had to work on Sunday), which are all relationships who need from me constantly…and we would try to ask people to come for dinner and things and never got a yes… Anyway, good thoughts, Kelly!

  2. I too suffer depression time to time and I often sink fast. I am
    human and fallen. I relay heavily on the Good Lord to bring to
    light on paper ( journaling ) what is often a muddle in my head.
    It is very effective! Sometimes I’ve found it was just refreshment
    I needed or another woman to talk to…and other times a good
    break from homeschooling was in order…sometimes my sadness
    stemmed from unresolved anger or bitterness. God has always
    revealed problem areas to me through writing and prayer.

    Also, wished I’d shared my depression with my husband earlier
    as he was so loving and understanding with me. I was too proud
    and in control to reveal my vulnerabilities. Glad you brought
    this issue to light. We are all frail at times…even good
    Christians. God bless.

  3. My suffering of late has been most unGodly and nasty; I’m doing the best I can to avoid further attacks. Regular depression was a blessing in comparison; I’m trying to take that in stead and trust God.

  4. I’ve never suffered from it, but know many who have. I really appreciated how you were balanced. Yes, many times it is a spiritual attack, and you showed the things to focus on. But sometimes it is a chemical/vitamin deficiency/poor food choices thing. Too many times we only focus on one or another, but we are a spiritual and physical.

    I’ve always loved your transparency. It really helps keep me transparent, too.

  5. I unfortunately have suffered from depression since I was a child. I came from a very loving family but we were very poor so that only added to my feelings of worthlessness. I believe mine is mostly a chemical imbalance but difficlut situations do make the hopelessness worse. I have been on many different antidepressants over the years, some have helped some have not. I have finally resigned myself to the fact that this is the way I am made-it is simply a fact as much a fact that some people are happier and more resilient than others and some people are just more fragile.

  6. Good to hear a Christian acknowledging that depression is not always a spiritual issue. My husband had a severe breakdown 4 years ago, 3 months into our marriage. It was horrendous, 2 suicide attempts, he went missing etc. He is still on anti-depressants and is now fully better- in fact better than he has ever been. But it took him a good 2 years to fully recover.

    As an 8 year old child he had been prescribed anti-depressants to counter a common childhood health problem – we think perhaps his young developing brain stopped being able to produce serotonin on it’s own. Plus, he was also prescribed Roaccutance for acne in his teens, which can have depression as a side-effect – so in a sense his brain was completely messed up from a young age. Although stress was a trigger, we’ve decided that we think it was a completely medical, chemical imbalance issue. However, I think certain strands of conservative evangelicalism struggle with the idea that depression can be anything other than a spiritual issue.

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