This post comes upon hearing the news of Robin Williams’ suicide.
He had often openly shared his struggle with deep depression, among other things. As for his spiritual life, he considered himself somewhat religious, talking about having “some sense of God during rehab.” Watching him act, I recall seeing deep sadness in his eyes even when he was at his comic best. Did this “sense of God” help him in daily life?
Just about everyone experiences some level of depression in their lives, and a significant number suffer from clinical depression of various intensities. Even Christians are not immune! A very gifted pastor and prolific author wrote:
“Heaviness of heart is a killing thing, and when it abounds it threatens to turn life into a long death, in which a man seems to drop away in a perpetual drip of grief. Tears are the distillation of the heart, When a man weeps he wastes away his soul. Some of us know what great heaviness means, for we have been brought under its power again and again, and often have we felt ourselves to be poured out like water, and near to being like water spilt upon the ground, never again to be gathered up. There is one good point in this downcast state, for it is better to be melted with grief than to [have hardness of heart]” Charles Spurgeon – Treasury of David – notes on Psalm 119:28 ♥
So, I guess there are a number of us in good company. Personally, no one knew 20 years ago that I would come home from work, walk into the back door of my house, and weep from the sheer relief at having made it through another day. Just physically putting one foot in front of the other was a terrific drain of energy. People would tell me to ‘smile’ when it felt as if there were 10-pound weights on the corners of my mouth. And, no one knew I had felt “melted with grief” for many years. Going into counseling gave me a diagnosis of clinical depression, and a very gifted psychologist and my primary care doctor worked together for relief.
When I shared with Christian brothers and sisters I was given a variety of responses which I know were meant to be helpful.
- “Read all the verses on joy in the Bible daily out loud.” They didn’t realize I already had tons of notes on ‘joy.’
- “Have you prayed about it?” To which I felt like saying, “Duh!”
- “What sin is God trying to point out in your life?” Well, if that was it, He was not being very clear about it.
- “Just wait. It’ll pass.” Meanwhile, what? It felt interminable.
I eventually stopped sharing with anyone, and plugged into the stage presence I had learned so well as a college piano major. No one knew the depth of sadness! I finally determined that for one year in my personal devotions, I would read nothing but the little book of Philippians over and over because it emphasizes joy. I would read until a verse stopped me, and perhaps meditate on it for a week. At the end of the year, I noticed no difference in my soul. But, a number of people who had no idea of my Philippians project told me they saw deep joy building in me. The light bulb went on that Hebrews 4:12 is true! The word of God is truly alive and at work discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. That was the “aha moment” which sent me into counseling and healing!
Praise God for His provision! Am I totally depression-free? No. I’m very grateful for friends with whom I can be transparent, and for antidepressants to treat the physical effects. While I cannot be grateful for depression, I am very grateful for the place to which it has brought me! It helps keep my eyes open to encourage the fainthearted. And I’m so grateful to pass on the great gifts given to me by friends and family, like that Paul spoke of in Philemon 1:7 – Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother [sister], have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. (NIV)
None of us are alone no matter what circumstances try to tell us!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
♥ Quote from Treasury of David is in public domain. Another online place where Charles Spurgeon eloquently addresses depression: “More than Coping”