In recent days we’ve witnessed the outpouring of grief and personal memories that were triggered with the untimely passing of one of our great actor/comedians in Robin Williams. The world at large had done a wonderful job in sharing their favorite memories of this man and his many films that he’s graced us with over the years. This post is not meant to dredge up his personal life and whether or not Robin was one who accepted the Lord during his lifetime or not. Right now that’s not worth delving into, nor did we know the man personally to make such a judgment call. I have only taken the time to skim through a few of the headlines and have caught a glimpse into how his death may have been caused by suicide. The problem that I’ve recently discovered with this is how we as Christians seem to have a complete misunderstanding of depression and worse yet, some have even mistreated those who struggle with the ailment!
I thought that I should personally jump into the discussion as I have struggled with it personally and can offer clarify, hopefully, for some who have no clue as to what these people deal with who struggle with depression.
My life growing up was one where I lived in a healthy environment for the most part. Only over the past few years have I been forced to take a closer look behind the curtain of my upbringing. Now it may not have directed my life towards becoming depressed in my later years but certainly I had a few periods in my upbringing where not everything was like Ozzie and Harriet or Leave it to Beaver during my youth. My parents taught Sunday school when in elementary school and we collectively attended church as a family until I was in high school. During that time, it transitioned to where it was myself, my brother and cousin Cliff along with my Uncle Bob and his twin which is my father. Where were our mother’s you might ask? Well, my uncle at this point was already divorced and the relationship between my father and mother had grown distant. A typical school day ended with my mom and I watching TV before dinner or working on crafts, while my father worked late into the evening.
Looking back, my mother came from a very rough upbringing where she was abused by her father and at least one of her brothers as she came from a family of around seven siblings. Eventually, she was taken from the home and placed in foster care, being raised by a wonderful couple I had the fortune of meeting twice in my life, with my family celebrating Christmas apart from our festivities. Anyways, she never went to high school, but dropped out of middle school at some point as she fought dyslexia. Years later, she meet and married my father.
During some time in my youth, the precise time alludes me, I recall her having a seizure, hitting her head incredibly hard on the concrete outside of our home. Some time later, she became unable to take care of my brother and I while my dad was at work during the day. She went through a mental breakdown and reverted to a partial state of childhood. Over the years after this instance, she would occasionally talk like an infant which I found quite unsettling, and now as I sit here writing this, it makes me wonder if this might be the psyche or the bodies way of coping with incredible emotional trauma. To me, I relate it to how we can find peace and great comfort in remembering our earliest childhood memories at some level. Even many elderly pass away crying out for loved ones who are not with them nearby as they slip into eternity. This is what happened to my wife Julie and her grandmother, as we were at her bedside a few days before her passing and I could hear her muttering as such beneath her breath.
My parents eventually divorced shortly after I graduated from high school and as to what happened during this part of my upbringing are unclear. I do recall, however, that my dad told my mother to leave and according to her, he wanted her to cheat on him so that he was free from the letter of the law which says that adultery is a reason one can be freed from the vow of marriage. Both my father and mother have told me conflicting stories when I’ve asked for the details. This may have led to instability in my life afterwards although the blame cannot rest on them, as each of us primarily responsible with what we do with our lives. God, however, has very strong warnings for those who harm children and the Proverbs and other scriptures are filled with guidance of how we are to raise or kids. None of us are perfect parents, nor can we be, but the sinfulness of parents can lead to generational curses. In the case of King David, the murder and adultery that struck his family through his actions, tore apart his family at the seams.
Their divorce occurred around this window of when my brother was in the military for four years. I then filled my time with video games and listening to music in my bedroom, perhaps to numb the pain that I felt through it all. I was the guy who hung out with social outcasts in school to some degree, those who were cast aside, not those who delve into drugs and promiscuity. Since I was around my mother so often and was artsy, I became more passive and took on feminine characteristics emotionally. I hence took little risks in life and didn’t flourish as a man should during his teenage years leading into adulthood. The jobs I held throughout most of my life, and even today have been lower skilled, taking me to a place where everything hit the fan roughly 7 years into my marriage, as it naturally should for someone who is not at the proper state of maturity that manhood requires and which the scriptures demand of us as men.
All of this is to say one thing specially: My depression was not caused because of my sinfulness, although my wife and I will attest that I have made some terrible mistakes in our marriage. She holds very little blame as to the difficulties we’ve faced together. Ultimately it was brought on by the choices I made as a person that lead to irresponsibility, and lacking both direction and growth throughout my life. Nothing for a man is more difficult than to be faced with raising a family when he can hardly take care of himself. The burden for a man is placed on leadership and strength for himself and others and when this lacks, it’s utterly devastating. Since I am an introvert at heart, I think deeply, and when I came to realize my part to play in where I was at in life 3 years ago, that it was mostly my fault, I absolutely could take it no longer. On top of this, I saw things from the perspective of my wife and turned inward feeling yet worse for myself then was necessary. My despair then led to self hatred, which then led to thoughts of, “my wife and family would be so much better without me. they would be freed from such a great burden. she would be taken care of better by somebody else. why don’t i just leave…. or better yet, i should kill myself that way i won’t have to deal with the pain of leaving my wife and family”.
Now there is a line of reasoning which makes this sinful, these thoughts. Look at how ‘me’ focused they became, and just how selfish that is. This is not other focused, and loving others as ourselves as the Bible teaches so plainly. Now look again at that a bit closer: I’m in incredible pain internally… What does anyone, or any creature for that matter do with pain? We turn inward and want release from the pain. That’s how we’re designed. Because of our fallen nature, we don’t really have the capacity to look past that pain.
From Matthew Ch. 26:
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples,“Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter,“What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
Jesus was the Son of God. He never committed sin, and even He had to look to the Father for the strength He needed to both be crucified on the Cross, and to also pass through the rejection He would take from His father while He was on that cross, when He became our sin and cried out, ‘My God, my God… why have You forsaken me?’ Heavy stuff indeed!!
So when someone struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide, many of these people will internalize their thoughts and feelings and attempt to hide the deepest aspects of this from others. Now this is done primarily to shelter their pain from those around them, or like a cat in their pride and near death, they will isolate themselves completely from those they love. For those who cannot hide the symptoms well, they are then faced with family and friends, who in their attempt to love and care for that person, though ignorant and misguided might say things like, “just get over it” or “suck it up”, “put on a happy face”, “what’s wrong with you” or any number of phrases. Much like the friends of Job who said his misery was caused by his own sinfulness,…they were dead wrong and the Lord chastised them greatly for it, for not giving Job comfort during his trial which was none of his doing, but was actually brought on by Satan who was out to prove a man would lose his faith in God if brought to nothing. On top of this, they judged God and his motive to allow the process.
As we have seen in the case with Robin Williams and others, this test, although not from the Devil surely feels that way and ends up being a success… often times as a result from those who think they’re helping, but in actuality are only fueling the fire and causing the very outcome they’re trying to prevent.
Next time, do yourself a favor, and especially for those who are suffering with depression. If you notice it, empathize with the person and talk to them like you would anyone else. Seek to understand what they’re going through. Don’t cast judgment on them, but sincerely love them from the heart like you would your infant child or as your grandparent in their later years of life. Share quality time with the person. Many of them just seek to be understood and cared for. It’s not an easy fix. For many it can take months or even years to find healing. Time can heal many wounds, but prayer and deep relationships with others are the best remedies for those who suffer. Place lower expectations on these individuals also. It can be completely debilitating at times. I struggled at times to just get out of bed to face the day. I also told myself during my varied tasks that, I was not working hard enough and that God was judging me as a result. All the more reason to be cautious as Christians are more susceptible to this type of self-deprication, if you hold a faulty view of sin, grace and/ or mercy along the favor of God – that it cannot be earned or lost if you’re His child.
Depression seems mainly caused by environmental triggers, perhaps a lost love one, a devastating loss, abuse, or a multitude of traumatic events collectively. Both my dad and mom had siblings and family members that dealt with it. Perhaps there’s a connection at some level but I believe this is mere coincidence personally, unless there’s direct harm brought upon you by others. Some need drugs to help with aspects of it, or to regulate the initial onset, but mostly its just a band-aid that can cause far more harm than good, as they did in my instance early on. Drugs for depression attack symptoms only and are incapable by design of curing the root cause. Modern medicine still knows nothing about the inner workings of the mind, which is intertwined to the very core of our being and not just to our physical selves. Recent shootings in our nation have proven that these drugs have been a core cause for the instance to take place. So much for our vain attempts at treating men for an ailment far beyond ourselves, much like the lobotomies performed in the past that wrecked havoc on their victims.
To summarize, we ultimately do not completely understand depression, its root causes and how to best treat it as a society. Since it strikes at the core of us internally unlike cancer or other illnesses, we are incapable of solving it by our own means as men. Leave this territory to the professionals: God, His Son and His Spirit. We also cannot spiritualize these matters or assume that prayers alone will help, although the Lord can miraculously heal if He so chooses. God’s ways are not our ways and even illness can have a purpose in and beyond our lives that we may never see the fruits of in our lifetime. We need to tread very lightly on those who suffer with it and not crack jokes or trivialize anyone who deals with it. If affects far more than the one struggling, but the families and circle of friends of the one suffering.2014-08-17
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