“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”Psalm 42:5
“A shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness. It cannot be reasoned with.”
That’s the description of depression given by Charles Spurgeon, an eloquent preacher, who lived during the second half of the 1800s. He knew what he was talking about. He could tick all the boxes of every cause for depression and struggled with it for decades.
I didn’t think I’d be someone who got depressed. It wasn’t a consideration.
Yet for a stretch of time when Fall came, melancholy would wrap itself around me and its grey cloud would follow me, weighing me down. It sounds so obvious but it went on for years before I recognized the pattern. Why the Fall? My greatest losses happened in the Fall: a still born daughter, other miscarriages, the death of my father-in-law. Without intent the Fall became representational of my losses; mourning my Autumn companion.
Finally realizing the sequence, I prepared for Fall each year. I spoke to God of the losses, the sorrow, the yearning for what might have been. I prayed about my concern for the repercussions in my children’s lives. I learned to thank Him for what I had and even for what I hadn’t wanted – the understanding and compassion that come from sorrow. In time Fall became just a glorious season of colorful change.
And then I missed a family birthday party. It sounds so trivial, but the family dynamics are not. I told my brother that I used to be puzzled by Spurgeon’s pointing to an incident that began his struggles with depression. He was preaching in a crowded hall. Someone yelled “Fire!” Panic ensued. Several died. It was a tragedy, but not of his making. Still, he marked it as starting a lifelong struggle. Now I found myself sighing and heavy-hearted at random times over that missed party and the why-didn’t I? and I-should-haves piling up to weigh me down. A small thing, like a weed multiplying, taking over, and choking out the happy. I thought again of Spurgeon’s saying “it can’t be reasoned with.” So I strained at overwhelming it with the truth of God’s promises – reading them and saying them aloud and keeping up a deafening conversation with God.
And then, I got blind-sided by my sorrow this April. It wasn’t deliberate. I was waking up in tears.
Last April my daughter delivered a beautiful baby boy with a compressed knot in his umbilical cord – a terrible echo of the baby girl I delivered with a compressed knot in her cord. A repeat to revive old questions and sorrows. A year later, I was waking up to tears and the aching longing for my grandson.
I thought of Spurgeon being overtaken with weeping and sometimes not even knowing why.
Those April mornings I did what I‘d learned. I stayed in bed to pray, pouring out my sorrow to God. And then, I sang:
* Why so heavy oh my soul . . .
Hope thou in God, He still shall be
Thy glory and thy endless praise.
His saving grace shall comfort thee
Through everlasting days.
Then I did what I didn’t want to. I got out of bed, read Psalm 42 and got to work.
The beauty of the Body of Christ is God’s provision of family and friends who pray for me and help carry my burdens. I am listened to and comforted. The astounding thing is finding help, encouragement, and inspiration from my brothers and sisters in Christ who are long dead.
I’m hoping heaven means I get to meet Charles Spurgeon. I’d like to thank him.
* Why So Heavy, Oh My Soul by Red Mountain Music