Dragging On to the Slow, Inevitable March of Time is a Terrible Way to Live
We all try to hide things.
Often times, it’s something small. Sometimes it’s the fact that we ate a couple cookies at lunch when we’re supposed to be on a diet, sometimes it’s a speeding ticket from our parents when we just got our license, sometimes it’s a certain political ideology that others may not subscribe to and we want to avoid confrontation.
Whatever it may be, we hide it and think it’s a secret from the world. But more often than not, hiding these things for an extended period of time becomes detrimental. What I’ve found is this, little things you hide eventually turn into big things you can’t.
Whether you hide it from yourself, your family, your friends, co-workers, leadership, etc., whatever you have shrouded in darkness will eventually be brought into the light.
We often find ourselves in times where what’s hidden yearns to be brought out, and at that moment, we have a choice, either bring it out in the open for those who need to see and receive the healing your heart desires (but you possibly don’t want), or push it back to the depths where you think it belongs. Call it a crossroads of destiny, crucible moment, etc. You probably know of or have experienced this type of moment before.
The greatest example of this moment is salvation. When you fully humble yourself and surrender everything, and indeed, EVERYTHING, to Jesus. It is not a moment that should be taken idly or without anticipation. This is, without a doubt, the greatest decision you or I could ever make.
Though there are other moments like this. Especially as a Christian.
Moments where our faith is shaken and we try to understand why things seem to inevitably crumble around us. Moments, when we shout out in prayer and nothing is seemingly returned. We may think thoughts of, “Maybe God doesn’t hear me anymore… Maybe I’ve sinned too much… Maybe his love for me has just run out…” Thoughts that we know shouldn’t be true, but the situations we find ourselves in would monumentally resound otherwise.
We look around and fail to see the hand of God at work in our lives because it seems, for once, the void is actually all around. Encapsulating you and never letting go. We start questioning things, “God, I know you’re always with me, never going to leave me, never fail me… So WHY do I feel so alone?” I know we ask that question, because I have. I’ve prayed, shouted, screamed that question at the top of my lungs and many times, it’s felt as if my prayers fall on deaf ears (though not for lack of trying). I’ve seen God’s hand at work in other’s lives but failed to see it in mine.
There were moments where I had heard God though. I could hear Him saying “Just be patient, trust me, I’m right here.”
And there were times where everything was good, maybe even on the verge of great. The void was seemingly pushed back, nothing could touch me, and life was good.
But inevitably, I would be enclosed again. Surrounded on all sides by this unshakable feeling of not being able to think anything other than, “I’m alone”. Even in rooms with thousands of people in them, I’d feel lost in a sea of loneliness, unable to escape.
That’s when I realized the sea wasn’t still, it was raging.
Tidal wave after tidal wave hit me, making my thinking slope down while I tried to cling on to the faith I had, though it felt like I was treading water, holding onto a twig. I didn’t want any help, didn’t tell anyone about it, didn’t show any signs of distress, but everything inside of me screamed: “I’m sinking.”
My thinking started getting worse. Not about God or anyone around me mind you, just about me exclusively. I had lost all self-confidence, self-worth, and sense of identity. I looked in the mirror wondering who was staring back at me through the other side. My thoughts were constant, “I’m worthless, I don’t deserve anything I have, I don’t deserve any sort of position, I can’t handle my responsibilities…” eventually culminating to,
“I hate myself…”
It hit me one day, all of a sudden. I was in a meeting, a tidal wave came and released this torrent on me. I couldn’t explain why, but I hated myself. I hated everything about me. I couldn’t accept a compliment from someone and if someone would, I failed to grasp what they were saying. I gave compliments out though, I’ve always tried to be an encourager to everyone around me, seeing their worth and potential for greatness. But when it came down to me, all I saw was someone not worth encouraging, someone too far gone in the void to be returned to the light.
This thinking kept going on for quite a long time. I wasted my days away and thought only these things about myself. Being around others was a nightmare, but being alone was much, much worse. As time went on, this culminated, grew, festered in my mind. I didn’t want to live like this anymore, but that desire led to one thought, “Would anyone care if I didn’t exist?”
. . .
There’s one word in particular that describes this pretty well: depression.
Now, most of you at this point are probably thinking, “Hey Josh, are you sure about this? This doesn’t really sound like you.” Well, that’s simple. It wasn’t me. Not the true me at least, not the “me” that I had been created to become.
I became a shell of my former self. I became the opposite of what I told everyone else. I may have looked good on the outside (not physically, but emotionally, spiritually, relationally, etc.) but on the inside was death and decay. Not spiritual death, I was still a Christian and worked at a church and was an RA at my university, but I lacked the life I desperately needed.
Once I started thinking that thought, I thought about how it would end my desperation, end my loneliness, end my problems. I came across a quote, though I’m not sure the author, “Suicide doesn’t end the pain, it just passes it off to someone else.”
I never made a plan, never wrote a note, I just had far too many thoughts about it.
At this point, I realized I needed help, though I didn’t know where to go for it. So I casually brought it up to someone I trusted, downplaying the vast ocean I was lost in. Like any good Christian friend, confidant, leader in life, they probed a bit more, knowing that I was hiding something. So I told them. And they spoke to me in wisdom and sincerity, pointing me gently to counseling. I had been before, though not dealing with depression. I spoke some of my fears and worries about it, but the push I truly needed came.
From there, I started a process of restoration and healing. The keyword in that sentence is “process”. The illusion of loneliness often clouds our vision.
The adage that “time heals all wounds” is quite false. I thought I could drag on to the slow, inevitable march of time. But it turns out, that’s a terrible way to live.
I have found a few things to be true along this journey. Hopefully, if you or someone else you know is going through something similar to my own situation, this will give you hope and encouragement.
1. God is real, He is near, and He truly does hear us when we call. No matter if the void screams back to us that we are alone and unheard, they lie.
2. The moment we think we’re sinking in a sea of loneliness we’re only one step away from standing on The Solid Rock, Jesus Christ.
3. Every fear, worry, anxiety, and feeling we have is valid. But God wants us to tell him about them and surrender them, not simply hold onto them. Holding on creates an unhealthy attachment and dependency on those feelings, eventually putting them in the place where God needs to be.
4. The first things to go out the window when tidal waves come are the basics: prayer, Bible reading, and spending time in God’s presence. The best defense against this is worship. Not simply putting on a Hillsong or Bethel album but singing a new song to God; one that comes from your heart.
5. The negative thoughts we have about ourselves need to be viewed through the lens of scripture. Always ask the question, “What does God say about me?” It will never line up with the negativity, I assure you, I’ve tried. And if you need some verses on who God says you are, here are a few of them: Romans 8:15–17; 1 John 4:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17.
6. If your hope is in people, it is in the wrong place. People fail. Put your hope, your trust, your faith, your heart, and your mind, in God alone. Let Jesus be the guide of your thoughts, the captain of your ship, to guide you into clear waters out of the tempest.
7. Find something that gives you life and chase it. Often times it reveals a gifting God has naturally given us. Not things that lead to sin, but things like going outside on a nature walk, reading a wonderful book, learning an instrument, these are only examples for you to follow.
8. Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you spend all day, every day, in your apartment and never leave it, never having any true human contact, you will obviously feel alone because you are alone. Grabbing some coffee with a friend or sitting down with the Bible outside of your house is a great way to remedy this.
9. Don’t waste time on social media. I know this may seem ironic since you probably saw this posted on social media, but I can’t send a messenger hawk to you (if only I could, and if we’re going by those rules, then I’ll send a messenger dragon, thank you very much.) Every like you get on a post is just another hit of dopamine to your system. Look it up, there are plenty of studies on this. (Some very good ones are linked down below for your enjoyment [or displeasure] depending on how much you use social media). There may be merit in keeping up with friends and seeing what they’re up to, but I’ve found it to be much more a black hole than a great tool.
10. Surrender EVERYTHING to God. Don’t hide anything, don’t leave anything out. Bring what’s in the darkness into the light, it’s a much brighter, healthier, less anxiety-filled way to live. Let a trusted mentor in the faith help guide you in this if you need help. Then you can start to help others in the same way. Everyone needs a Paul, and everyone needs a Timothy.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step to healing, but more steps have to be taken. Healing and freedom are a journey; and with depression, they are intrinsically tied to one another. Counseling, I’ve learned, is not something to fear, but something to embrace. It’s not just for moments where the void is taking over, but is also extremely beneficial for times when things are going just fine.
The world may seem to collapse all around you, but remember James 1, “‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It’s not joyful when it’s happening, but the point of the test is to make your reliance on God instead of yourself. This is a lesson I’ve had to relearn in this process.
So now, the waves may come, but I know where I stand, and they only have power over me if I let them. Where once I was drowning in my depression, I now am firmly planted in the Lord, on dry ground.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading all the way through and I hope this has brought encouragement and perspective for you. If you have a friend in need, please reach out to them. If they come to you and say something that they're struggling with, especially if it’s in the arena of depression, dig deeper with what they’re saying. If they say something, they may be trying to reach out to you but they don’t know how to do it. In the end, they’ll thank you for it.
If you don’t know how to help someone (or yourself), find someone that does. Reach out to a pastor, mentor in the faith, counselor, any of these will do. Just don’t wait around, find help because freedom and healing are much, much closer than you think. Just keep stepping in the right direction.
Social media studies: