I’m Anxious, Not Angry. Sad, Not Sanctimonious


I really upset some people with my post yesterday. Some folks assumed I was referencing The Church: The Bride of Christ when I was critiquing American Church Culture. Others took it personally which I don’t understand. I’m writing from a place of pain and loss… not from judgement and condemnation. You’ve got to be in some place of authority to do that… and I’m far from it. I find it a little ridiculous that some people would respond in anger to a plea for acceptance and understanding.

Things will be written in this update that people won’t want to read. That’s because there is a side to depression that’s uglier than depression itself. It’s way society deals with it, the way the church deals with it, the way we deal with it… the way I’m dealing… and I’m going to talk about how all of that has affected myself and my family.

How I viewed Depression.

Before I had it myself I was a huge critic of depressed people. I had no mercy for those who committed suicide. Depression was a choice people made to keep from working or being a contributing member of society. Suicide was what self-centered people did who didn’t care about their loved ones. I’m sure there are those who abuse their depression and I’ve known people who killed themselves for self-centered reasons… but I now understand that suicidal thoughts come because you love your family so much that you truly believe they’d be better off without you and that depression is beyond a person’s control and that if they could control it, they gladly would. (What is Major Depressive Disorder?)

People don’t understand so they don’t support

Though depression is something you have to experience to understand, you can support the depressed person without understanding. That’s not what people do. There’s an unwritten rule that says “You are promoting what they do if you accept who they are”. We fear a “guilty by association” stigma. While Jesus surrounded himself with people who’s lifestyles he couldn’t support, he accepted, loved and supported the person in that lifestyle. We do the opposite. We claim to “love the sinner but hate the sin” but mostly we just hate the sin… and nowhere in the Bible does it say to hate another’s sin. It tells us to love sinners. Bless those who use and hurt us. Turn a fresh cheek when we’re abused and carry our brother’s burdens as if they were our own.

We’re too busy being Christians to do that!

For so many Christianity is church attendance, bible reading, book studies, not watching this and not listening to that, associating with other Christians and steering clear of those who don’t live like we do. It’s keeping up the appearance of spirituality so that we can continue to be accepted by others playing the same game. The only problem comes when someone can’t keep playing. Their weaknesses show like spiritual nudity and people get anxious. God’s people aren’t supposed to struggle. It’s either God judging hidden sin or the devil working because of an open door. So we distance ourselves from the struggling person so that we won’t “catch” whatever is going on ourselves.

We do this to the sinful, the misguided and the depressed. The sinful because they deserve it. The misguided because they’re a drain. The depressed because they’re so darn… depressing. Weakness in a Christian’s life, whether it be sin or sickness, is a threat to our faith. If God is real and loves us why is this person dying of cancer? If a life devoted to Jesus is supposed to bring us joy, why is this person depressed? It doesn’t fit in our worldview so it’s easiest to just sweep the person out of the way and get back to being saved.

People just don’t know what to do with Depression.

If it were something tangible like a broken leg or an obvious sin we can handle that. It’s something we can easily wrap our minds around. It’s something that has a cause, a duration and a conclusion. We sign a cast or pray a prayer of forgiveness and it’s all wrapped up and tidy. Depression has a cause, but it’s not anything we can put a finger on. The duration is unknown and so there is no ending in sight. It’s messy, ugly, sad, and hard to relate with. There’s no cast to sign and prayers don’t make it go away. Christians link the mental and the spiritual. So a problem with mind, though every bit as physical as a blood disease, is assumed to be a problem of the spirit. And if the depressed person is a Pastor it just get’s that much more complicated. Pastors are supposed to be perfect! They live at a higher spiritual plain at all times. If they fall, fail or flounder, what hope is there for me, the normal Christian?

What am I trying to say?

We feel rejected. Tossed out. Thrown away. Wasted. Lost. We’ve lost our church, our friends, my job, our direction, purpose and a good bit of my personality which affects how I relate to my wife and kids. We’re literally in mourning over all the loss. We’re waiting for this thing to pass hoping that there is something better than this at the end. And that there is an end. Because at the same time there is a practical fear, like the fear of being burned by a flame: What if this is all there is? What if I’m this way for the rest of my life? What if my family has to deal with me this way for the rest of their lives. It’s an ugly possible future. A possibility we face every single day.

God hasn’t forsaken us.

Right now it feels like God is waiting for this to pass over. And when/if it does… then we’ll get back into some sort of normal groove. Back to having a life. This assumes of course that there will be a change. That this will pass. That it’s not a permanent part of my life from now on. I don’t yet know how my relationship with God will be if this never passes. How close can you be to someone who allows you to suffer? How do you draw near to someone who allowed everything you did for Him to be taken away? Does He even want closeness from me? Isn’t it some kind of statement from God about me if he allows depression to say forever? Do I become a spiritual second-class citizen? Where is my value if I can’t do what I was called to do and shutter at the thought of ever doing again?

Resist the urge to answer those questions… they’re not yours to answer.

They’re are not questions from a place of doubt and a lack of faith. They are the hard questions of my heart to my Creator. This is the ugly part I wrote of earlier. The part that makes people turn away. It’s not an easy faith. It’s rocky and dicey and stretched so very thin. I believe God can answer these questions but for now we’re in a holding pattern. A miserable, self-sustaining whirlpool of heartache and hope. It’s just hard because I’ve always been the kind to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For now I can’t see it.

Is it because there isn’t a light or there isn’t an end?

It’s hard to maintain a positive outlook when everything in your life reminds you that you have failed. Today for instance, my daughter asked me to do Chapel for her school. I told her that I wasn’t able. She hugged me and said, “I miss Pastor James.” Heartbreaking. “I miss him to,” was all I could say. “I still have you though!” she whispered.

I look forward to the day that I am no longer a disappointment. The day when this phase is just a nasty memory. Right now I can’t imagine how anything good could ever come of it. It’s been damaging, horrible, dark and ugly. I really don’t care if anything good does come of it… I just want it over and in the past.

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