When All You Feel is Gray
Essay of Encouragement #1
This morning, I am weepy.
I am overwhelmed with thanks for those people who washed me in love, truth, and grace when I was unable to “wash” myself.
I am thankful for the “unwavering lovers of Christ” who saw me at my very worst for months or years, and did not give up on me.
I am just so thankful.
For the moments my husband quite literally held me like a child. Sung to me. Spoke truth over me. Let me cry, and shake, and shelter my face in his chest.
For my sister, Lauren, who often would call me and leave a voicemail, simply so that I could hear another human’s voice. She probably knew I would not pick up. But still she called so that I could hear out loud that I was loved, even when I couldn’t get out of bed. Even when I missed our planned activity, again.
For my sister Sarah, who on numerous occasions sent me scripture or song, when I couldn’t read it for myself or lacked the energy to sing.
Friends, when we are depressed, It is absolutely crucial to our one-day walking in the light again, to have someone, if not a small handful of people, who we allow to see us at our very worst.
Depression. It’s when darkness crushes and dances you dizzy until you’re face first in the dirt. Unable to get back up.
And for any number of reasons, we stay there, on the ground. Maybe it’s fear, maybe exhaustion, maybe a chemical imbalance, maybe a trauma that’s left us paralyzed, maybe the belief that in those moments we are impossible to be loved fully as we are… so we stay there, in darkness. We let the darkness fill every void. Some days we crawl out. Some days we stay. But the darkness lingers regardless.
My hope and heart, after many years on the ground myself, is to encourage you to come out of hiding. I’m not telling you to get up off the ground yet. I’m just suggesting first you let others be on the ground with you.
The darkness suffocates and stiffens. It makes even insignificant, every-day movements feel painful.
I’m so very sorry if you’ve been there. Or are there. It’s an impossibly painful place to be.
But you can come out of hiding, sweet friend.
Don’t feed darkness with more darkness.
Open the door of your home, and the door of your heart–let light sprinkle in, even if it’s just a layer of mist at first.
Who can you collapse onto? Who can you invite on the ground with you?
Who can you leave the door unlocked for so that when they arrive at your home, they simply walk in? This way you don’t have to get up off the couch to answer the door at their arrival. Let them see you. On the couch. Your unwashed self. Let them sit near you.
We have to be willing to, quite literally, curl up into the fetal position–our most vulnerable and humbling physical posture–and let ourselves be held.
Be read to.
Be sung to.
“For most people who are passing through the dark night of the soul, the turnaround will come because God brings unwavering lovers of Christ into their lives who do not give up on them.”
“You cannot persuade a depressed person that he has not been utterly rejected by God if he is persuaded that he has been. But you can stand by him. And you can keep soaking him, in the “benevolence, mercy, goodness, and sympathy of Jesus.”
John Piper, “When the Darkness Will not Lift.”
The greatest temptation for the depressed person is to hide.
And oh, how I hid.
I fed darkness with more darkness.
Until finally I gave up. I had to give up. I had to stop fighting it alone. It was the only way I began starving the darkness and nourishing the light to combat it.
And the “combating” on my end was simply to surrender. The rest was accomplished by my people. The holding, the reading, the laughing, the singing, the sitting in silence — they did it all — they were the hands of Jesus that nursed me back to health. I just had to leave the door unlocked, and stay on the couch.
May you welcome in a trusted friend, and in doing so welcome in a bit of healing.