“My tears have been my food day and night …”
~ Psalm 42: 3a (NRSV)
How is it that life could have such a low opinion of us that it would castigate us into a bout of depression?
We can be forgiven for asking this question, among others; for questioning the injustice of life that we, properly caring individuals, are malnourished at such depth. Why is it that we, people who may have such empathy for the others' suffering, are lambasted and lashed by this horrendous black dog?
Though these sorts of questions are always logical – and we can tell from hindsight, having recovered our reasonable minds – they can seem appropriate and pitiful, as guilty and self-condemnation recoil through us like a viper in our piqued self-consciousness.
HOW DO WE LOVE A BLACK DOG?
We may never have another opportunity to grow quite so close to God than through the one we have present. This is both an awkward truth and an enlightening one.
It is awkward because we may still ask the question – “Why me?” – yet somehow we know what a special period this is – if we know God. The believer has a special advantage in their depression: they know God. And being part of their number, if we are, we have respite.
Even when we do not feel the rest that God promises, we have hope that we will. We know that relief will come.
But there is an opportunity, even in a bout of depression. What if we could learn to love this black dog? What if we could learn to nurture ourselves in our sadness, in our incapacity, and, in our forlornness? What if we could learn to allow God to nurture us, to hold us, and to love us, and our black dog, through this period and ever more?
IMAGES OF LOVE THAT RESONATE
There is no simple answer for the way out of depression. Each person, each situation, and each case, is different, as are the reasons we suffer in the first place.
But what can help as we plan our recovery, and it always helps to plan, is to find images of love that resonate. We may have sources for empathy about us, counselors and pastors and friends and family, but we have the greatest source of empathy in our faith in a loving God. God loves us many ways, but in these cases most poignantly by images of love that resonate.
Images of love that resonate are like colors of the rainbow; all of the emotions, and not just the sad and mad ones, come into play. God meets us emotionally. As we open ourselves up to images all around us, life in full flight, we allow God to minister to us, healing our hearts. Sunrises and sunsets, soothing rain, silence, music, stories of compassion, and a good book – all examples.
Finding a way out of depression is about finding love that is just right for the moment. Those moments provide hope for survival. And survival sees the key to growth and adjustment. Most of all, God loves us ever more through and out of our depression.
© 2012 SJ Wickham.