Yet, Jane (not her real name but I can't keep saying 'she') is wracked with the most appalling clinical depression. I don't know if it is worse at this time of the year when dark winter clouds blot out the life-giving rays of the sun. Maybe it is, but I suspect perhaps not, because this is what the Bible describes as "the arrow that flies by day and the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, the plague that destroys at midday"(Ps. 91:5-6). This kind of deadly depression seems to hit us when we are down, not just when the sun goes down.
Winston Churchill, the great war leader of Britain, suffered from bouts of dreadful self-doubt and dark depression. The recent film Darkest Hour reveals this well. He called depression his black dog, and felt that it plagued him at the most unwelcome times.
William Cowper, the writer of several well-known hymns like "There is a Fountain" and "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" was plagued with dark periods of despair and depression all his life. At the age of 21 he wrote "I was struck with such a dejection of spirits, as none but they who have felt the same, can have the least conception of. Day and night I was upon the rack, lying down in horror, rising up in despair." His many attempts at suicide were not just cries for help - they were the outcome of his hatred of his life and himself, and the misdirected longing to be free from his suffering.
When my lovely, joyful wife and I were first married, she suffered from 13 years of almost unbearable depression and anxiety. Those years of sleeplessness, distress and dark forebodings, affected us both deeply. We can and do thank God for stepping in and through a long process of counselling. love, prayer and healing ministry, bringing both of us out of the shadows. But it is not easy, nor is it something that can be achieved in a moment.
Those whose hearts are breaking right now are precious to God and they should be to us. You can't see a sign on Jane saying "I am depressed". May God help us to be more sensitive to those in the grip of this plague and offer far more than platitudes. Practical love manifest in persevering prayer, comfort and kindness, acceptance and grace, must all play their part in helping others to get through.
Think of that if you have a moment to read William Cowper's words below - words torn from a breaking heart.
- God moves in a mysterious wayHis wonders to perform;He plants His footsteps in the seaAnd rides upon the storm.
- Deep in unfathomable minesOf never failing skillHe treasures up His bright designsAnd works His sov’reign will.
- Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;The clouds ye so much dreadAre big with mercy and shall breakIn blessings on your head.
- Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.
- His purposes will ripen fast,Unfolding every hour;The bud may have a bitter taste,But sweet will be the flow’r.
- Blind unbelief is sure to errAnd scan His work in vain;God is His own interpreter,And He will make it plain.