When Darkness Hides His Lovely Face

As many close friends know, I am a pretty outgoing person. What many of those same people may not know is that I often have bouts with darkness. It’s not that I try to hide it, but I have found that people don’t like talking about the darkness. We’re scared of the dark, aren’t we. We’re not just afraid of what lurks in the dark, but we’re also afraid of the ignorance the darkness brings.

I want to be able to label an issue or explain a problem. When we hear of someone struggling through something, we often try to give uplifting answers. Yes, the darkness frightens us. And so. We remain in the darkness.

I have found that when I have told people about my bouts, my visage transforms before my eyes. I see confusion. I see uneasiness. And yet. I find that the sadness is often a friend. He reminds me that things are not the way they ought to be. There is something sinister about the world. Something beautiful, yet shrouded in darkness. The sadness makes me long for a day when the fog will lift.

Friend, I am okay with the darkness. I want to know that you are too. I want to know that as Death Cab for Cutie sings, that you will follow me into the dark. Not having answers. Not knowing what questions to ask. Not anxious to see light. But in the darkness mourning together that the world is not the way it ought to be.

A Smoldering Wick in the Night

Over the past few years as I have been working through major disappointments in life, I have heard of others’ struggles and realized that everyone is carrying a burden of some sort. It may be a burden laid upon them or one they have taken up themselves. Either way, you pull up the shirt sleeve and you will see scars. This is part of living in a beautifully messed up world. A world full of selfish people. A world full of selfless people.

This is simply a reminder to remember thatCandle-300x192 every person you interact with has scars. Don’t be so quick to condemn and to peel back the layers of their life. They have had enough of that. What people need is less verbiage and more life. Instead of letting your breath strike your vocal cords. Perhaps just breathe out. Breathe out life.

“But they need advice!”

“They need to know the truth!”

You are probably right. But. Why are we so quick to think that we have to speak. Why do we think we understand the multi-faceted issue so clearly when we didn’t have their husband or their wife or their father or their absent father or their mother or their always-hovering mother? Perhaps we would all do well to write and speak less than we think we need to. Why snuff out the light by snuffing it out with words that bruise? Why not breathe out life by being silent? So then the smoldering wick ignites and will soon give light again.

Relationships & Losing Control

Am slowly working through Lesslie Newbigin’s “Christian Freedom in the Modern World.” In light of the last post from The Marrow of Modern Divinity, I thought this a mighty helpful teasing out of not only the human relationship we were intended to have but also the ultimate relationship of God to his people.

When I turn from dealing with natual objects to dealing with another person, I am in a quite new world. I am no longer in the position of a subject dealing with objects; I am no longer the single centre of decision and will, and a centre which is inaccessible to my will in a way that nothing in the natural world can ever be. I am in the presence, therefore, of something which can resist me finally in a way no natural force can, with something which can hide itself from me as no natural secret can. A secret of the natural world can in the end be wrested from it by persistent and painstaking research. THe simplest secret of my friend’s will towards me can never be so reached. I can only know it when he chooses to speak–he, a new subject not in my control.

It is this quality of ultimate resistance which is a big part of true friendship. Loneliness, the terrible loneliness of the egocentric man, means, above all, being without any such resistances. It means being the sole subject in a world which is all objects, being alone on a wide sea where one can go everywhere and see everything, where no path is closed and nothing will ever finally resist, where one is always at the centre of the world with a vast horizon all around. The joy of friendship, or a large part of it, is the knowledge that my friend is not in my power, that he is not merely one of the objects in my world, but that he can do to me what only another subject can do–challenge and resist me.

So it is with any and all relationships we have or hope to have. Blissful infatuation eventually gives way to the battle of the wills. Rather than being frustrated, we can embrace the joy and secret and challenge of being vulnerable and enjoying the fact that another subject willingly opens up his/her life to me.

In the same way, we cannot study God as though he is an object. We receive his self-disclosure as an act of grace and opportunity. We relish the secrets he reveals to us when he wants and how he wants. We cannot shake our fists when he is not ours to command.

Mental Health and Spiritual Health

In an effort to nuance some of my thoughts on suicide that I posted at The Gospel Coalition, I want to write a few more posts here to answer some responses and excellent questions I have received in light of that post. Hopefully these will be helpful as you think through your own depression or those around you.

One of the first things I want to respond to relates to those who claim that if you just have enough faith you will not suffer depression. My question to that person is faith in what or in who? If you answer “God” or that you ought to have faith in “God’s love for you,” then I would say that the Bible does not teach us that category of faith equaling the lack of depression or sadness. To say so would make 3/4 of the Bible irrelevant to our experience this side of the Fall.

Just a couple days ago, I was reading Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

We see here that David lived in reality. For someone to say that depression doesn’t happen to those who are full of faith obviously doesn’t live in the same world of betrayal and frustration and fear and pain that David lived in. . .that I live in. Therefore, such a counselor has no place in my counsel. They are out of touch with the reality that all Creation groans in the pains of childbirth awaiting the consummation of all things. We likewise groan. Longing for full, unbridled adoption. An adoption that has not bit in its mouth reminding it that life hems it in.

Such were Job’s friends. Miserable counselors for sure. As I have said, those who struggle with depression may actually be the most honest among us. Being struck by the reality of pain and suffering and that things are not the way they are supposed to be. May all who give poison under the guise of balm for our pained hearts be done with their sermonizing and lies.