“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,”
“To cry is human, but to lament is Christian”
The Christian community in North America has increasingly struggled with how to respond to depression and anxiety in the last 50 years. Church is full of cliches. Those who struggle with depression or it's often accompanying anxiety are outcast... looked down upon, perhaps rejected… sometimes in toxic cultures even bullied.
Within many Church cultures there is an overriding culture of "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps". If one isn't experiencing joy they are told they need to read their Bible more, pray more, surrender to God more... most of this to the one in the midst of darkness is nothing more than "drive by" shootings of glib cliches rather than of genuine faith in action. One could say that the modern Church has become extremely adept at virtue signalling support while doing nothing of substance to actually walk with someone who is in darkness. I've done this myself... I have been both the victim and a part of the problem here...
This is all very interesting because when we read the Bible we find it full of broken, lamenting people. We don’t see God in a hurry to slap mud and paint on these individuals… just so the image of having it all together is evident… rather we see a patient God who allows and even encourages the lament to bring the individual to a place where light becomes apparent again.
The lament is a lost art… when bad times hit now we want to “skip to the good part”… without actually fixing the brokenness... Fixing the brokenness requires becoming deeply familiar and intimate with it. We forget that doubt, depression and anxiety are simply a part of life just as joy, passion and love are.
Several years ago I owned a vehicle that had severe rust issues. I tried to repair the rust several ways from Tuesday but it always resurfaced. One day I talked to an Autobody guy who said “you need to cut it out”… so here’s the thing. What we have been taught by our modern instant fix society is to cover up the problem with bongo so we look pretty... leaving the root cause to fester underneath. The Church, heavily influenced by name it and claim it theology says we should simply claim our depression is “healed and sealed”... even as the brokenness… the rust… is still under the surface and the only way to stop it from resurfacing is to methodically and carefully search out each part that is infected. This process takes time and patience.
I’ve found my mind is the same… I had unresolved hurts, things that triggered my mind into a cycle of anxiety or depression that kept resurfacing. This happened again and again until I was faced with something which I just could not overcome. I just had to dig deep into my emotions… I got familiar with them. I learned to identify why things triggered me and how. For myself, there was journaling, prayer, time with God, hours of weeping and sharing my pain with a very small group of trusted friends, and some counseling. It took time... in my case years... a largely hidden battle... eventually I could feel again.
My prayer journal did not look neat. It was full of cuss words… it was at times angry… it was at times inconsolably depressed… and at other times filled with victory. Some days I couldn’t write, or muster up the energy to stay awake so I would listen to worship music or the Bible as I rested on the couch. This was ALL I had energy for...
The church needs to again become acquainted with grief… with the lament… we need to stop trying to fix people and rather let them walk through the valley but with the assurance they are not alone.
It is important for us to provide tools and processes that could work... and to be fair I have found great healing in some of the tools and processes I have learned in Church. The problem is many well meaning Pastors and teachers use the narcissistic tools of this world to bring about "healing". These Pastors use guilt, manipulation and coercion to push people into a faux healing… an image that at its core is empty but on the surface looks good is just playing defence against a team extremely adept at offence. What I'm saying is that the rust will return with a vengeance...
It was not the cliché advice that healed my mind… it was the group of amazing people that helped me clean up the remnants of my failed business… it was the pastor who knew my secrets and never once had a word of judgement or advice, it was prayer, lots of journaling… it was time. I became deeply familiar with lies my mind believed about myself and others. It was discovering the depths of Christ’s patient love for me…
“We may weep through the night, but at daybreak it will turn into shouts of ecstatic joy.”
For those who are in the battle… who are in the depths and drowning...
My prayer is you hear God in the midst of the storm… that you come to an understanding of the root your sorrow and that you can latch onto hope that stands ahead of you…. and there most certainly is hope!
For those who are not in the battle… put hands and feet to work to support someone who is in this place of loneliness…
...a word of kindness
...a random act of kindness
Mourn with those who mourn… rejoice with those who rejoice!
Stay strong and be the change!