Hope

(Blogging University, Writing 101 assignment: One Word Prompt – HOPE)

Hope – a missing key ingredient for me when battling depression.

  • no hope that the pain will ever end / the pain will never end
  • no hope that I will ever feel better / I will never feel better
  • no hope that anyone will understand / no one will understand
  • no hope that anything will change / nothing will change

Notice how the first part of the bullet points use the words “ever” and “any.” Or the rephrase (after the / ) with ” never,” “no one,” and “nothing.” Extreme words. Leaving no wiggle room. Implying that there is no hope for a normal life.

When I first admitted to friends that I was suffering from depression, my best friend sent me a card with this verse in it: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13, NLT. A week or two later, another dear friend sent a note with this same verse written on it.  Shortly after that, I read this verse in a devotional. By now, I was saying “Ok, God, I’m listening. You want to tell me something about hope. What’s that verse again?”

It was a hard message to grasp, because the nature of the depression is hopelessness. And when my therapist first asked me what I wanted out of therapy, I told him that I wanted my joy back; I wasn’t even thinking about hope. But when he asked me if I felt hopeless, the answer was a resounding yes. Hopeless – without hope. Somehow, I didn’t make the connection for a long time that I was without hope. I instead knew I was without joy and life was hopeless. But I couldn’t see that I was experiencing hopelessness. I just knew I had no joy and was without hope of that ever changing.

Yet here is this Bible verse that addresses both hope and joy. And peace (which I would eventually need when anxiety joined the depression party). So what does the verse say?

God is the source of all hope. It comes from Him. And because I trust Him, he wants to fill me completely – to the brim – with joy and peace. And when that happens, through the Holy Spirit, I will have confident hope – so much hope that it spills over – it overflows.

Wow. A powerful promise to a hopelessly depressed woman.

And God kept that promise. Over time, as He restored my joy and peace, the hopelessness left. I began to be confident that the future wasn’t so bleak. I began to feel lighter, more hopeful. Eventually the day came that I could share my hope of healing with others who found themselves depressed, hopeless. It overflowed from me.

Now, if I find myself thinking about me or my life using those extreme words, I look more closely to see if I’m also feeling hopeless. That’s a huge indicator that depression is trying to enter my life and rob my joy again.  And while depression may try, I can remain hopeful. God is the source of all hope, I trust Him, and He loves me.

 

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Praying for Healing

Some very thoughtful comments from a fellow blogger prompted this post…thanks, Jennifer!

And in responding to her, I recalled meetings I had several years ago with a pastor at our church. He had referred to his battles with depression in several sermons, and I felt very safe sharing my struggles and seeking his wisdom and prayers on many occasions. We talked about being Christians with mental illness. We discussed depression as a result of sin in the world, not necessarily due to a specific sin in one’s life. He reminded me that this battle against depression has a spiritual component, and that I should daily prepare myself with the armor of God (Ephesians 6).

I still remember my reaction when he told me to pray for healing. I was shocked! Not at his comment, but at myself. I realized that somewhere over the recent years, I had resigned myself to living with depression, and had stopped asking God to heal me. Instead, I had focused my prayers and energies that He would use my depression to share hope with others who struggle, especially with other Christians. But why had I stopped asking for healing?

Sitting in Pastor’s office, I realized that I had given up hope of being healed. Don’t get me wrong – I know that in heaven there will be no depression; I will eventually be healed. (“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17, NIV) But I had accepted that I will have depression for the rest of my lifetime on this earth, and so I had stopped asking God to take it away.

Maybe I was thinking of Paul’s “thorn” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10) and that he had asked God to remove it – three times! – and God had responded with “My grace is sufficient for you.” In other words, “No. I will use this ‘weakness’ in your life to show My strength.” I don’t think Paul told us he asked three times as a magic number, and Scripture doesn’t say he asked, it says he pleaded. Implored. Begged. But still God said “No.” I thought, “Well, I’ve asked many times and it hasn’t happened, so I’ll just accept it and ask God to show His strength through my depression.”

But unlike Paul, I haven’t been told by God to stop asking. Instead, the Bible encourages me to be more like the woman who showed persistence in repeatedly asking the judge for justice (Luke 18:1-8). Keep asking. But keep working. Keep letting God use the depressions and remissions in my life to encourage others. “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4b, NIV. But keep asking for healing too.

I also remember the end of a meeting with my pastor. He laid his hands on me and prayed that God would take the depression away from my life. I prayed and cried silently, completely agreeing, with hope that God would answer “Yes,” and the depression would be gone. Pastor ended that prayer with Romans 15:13, NIV, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  the verse that keeps showing up over the years of my depressions. When he finished praying, I told him of the significance of that verse, and we agreed that it is my life verse, that I am to trust God, because the rest of the verse’s action comes from Him.

I’ve seen prayer heal depression. I’ve prayed with others for a woman whose depression went away that afternoon. I’ve had people pray the same for me, and I’ve felt the relief and comfort of my needs and concerns being given to God. My depression has not gone away. I still move in and out of depression and remission. But the verse remains the same. So I pray that I’ll trust God, be filled with His joy and peace, and overflow with hope. Certainly not of my own doing, but supernaturally, through God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think that asking for personal healing and serving God from a place of brokenness are mutually exclusive. There can be – should be – both. I think this is what my pastor was trying to tell me.

A Gift on the Journey

Relief as symptoms fade;
Everything feels lighter;
My spirit no longer crushed;
I have walked through depression.
Still, I know how hard,
So
I can give hope as a gift to
Others
Now on this journey.

Writing201 Poetry: gift (topic), acrostic (poetic form), simile (literary device)