Growing up in a Polish-Catholic home, I was more of a cultural catholic than a church going sort. But, my alcoholic father would make us go with him sometimes. I think it gave him a sense of normalacy; a feeling that he could be with other people without throwing down shots of Jack Daniels at a local watering hole. Only later did I develop any real sense of my own spiritual search. I’m still on that journey.
All religions have a lot to say on the topic of suffering, but not so much on the topic of depression. I guess you could say that depression is a “form” of suffering. Personally, I think that doesn’t cut it. When someone says to me, “Well, everyone suffers,” I walk away misunderstood and feeling the worse for the encounter. Maybe there’s not much dialogue about depression in our churches because of the raw fear that faith can’t fix everything.
When I first became sick, I didn’t know I had “depression”. I just thought I was having one of life’s many existential emergencies. I would kneel and pray that God would take away my pain. But, it simply didn’t happen that way. Sometimes, I would give God an ultimatum: “You either take away this damn pain, or I’m turning my back on you fella”. I demanded “a” solution, an answer. One wasn’t forthcoming.
As time went on, something happened. I stopped trying to dictate so many of the terms of my recovery from depression. Instead, I just began to surrender myself. I began to see that God was bigger than my depression. It didn’t mean that I wouldn’t suffer now or in the future from it. But a light appeared through cracks in depression’s armor. There’s a sense of joyous relief that comes when we stop the war against depression. We lay down our burden.
In the new album by The Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, there’s a beautiful song (listen now), called Lying in the Hands of God. In one part, Dave sings: “If you feel the angels in your head. Tears drop of Joy runs down your face. You will rise.”
At my best, when I feel “the angels in my head”, I weep with joy knowing that depression doesn’t have the final say in my life. Yes, there will be times when I suffer from it. But, it doesn’t last.
In her article written for my website, Sister Kathryn James Hermes (who suffers from depression), author of the book, A Contemplative Approach to Depression, wrote that prayer leads us to “. . . vulnerability – the learned powerlessness of the truly powerful who can simply be: simply wait, simply be present, simply wonder, simply trust that much larger hands are holding us and knows for whom we work in view of a much larger plan that we cannot as yet understand”.
Tune out the drumbeat of depression for a bit today. We don’t have to understand or control it all. Try lying in the hands of God awhile. And rise.