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Happy All the Day?

(Guest Post by Molly Hilbert)

A good writer is able to pull you into her world and allow you to experience her heart. An inspiriting writer is able to lead you beyond her world to experience a taste of the world beyond. That is what Molly is providing for you today. I’m so grateful for Molly’s willingness to share her journey with us. She challenges us to grapple with the question of depression for a believer. I love her heart, her honesty, and her answer to this difficult issue.

From Molly’s Pen ~

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Happy All the Day?

I stood in church as those around me sang out the popular refrain of an old hymn:

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Those around me were singing with their whole hearts, loudly and joyfully. However, I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t bring myself to even mouth these words that were not true for me that day.

Yes, Jesus took my burden of sin at the cross. I did not deserve that.
Yes, the Holy Spirit has given me the ability to have faith in Jesus as my Savior.
Yes, that brings me great joy because I do not deserve any of that. I am a great sinner who is unworthy of His redemption, His grace, His love, His saving me.

But I am not “happy all the day.”

Some days, I’m actually quite sad. Down. Grieved. Depressed.
Some days, it’s hard for me to get out of bed and face the world outside of my little apartment.
Some days, it takes all that I’ve got to get ready and go to work.
Some days, I am so depressed that I feel physically sick. Nauseous. Shaky. I get migraines and stomachaches and feel extremely exhausted and weak.

What do I do with this? How do I redeem verses such as “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2) with this honest question in Psalm 43:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

How do I understand other Biblical examples, such as Job, who experiences “churning” anguish (Job 30:27)? Elijah, prophet of God, suffers from bouts of depression and even wishes that God would take his life (1 Kings 19:4). David, this man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), experiences great anguish and is “worn out” from his groaning; he floods his bed with tears as a result of his weeping (Psalm 6:6).

A man whom an entire book of the Bible was written about experienced such anguish that it churned within him.
A great prophet of God wanted to die because of his depression.
A man who God said was after His own heart was worn out from his groans and grief.

All of them experienced despair. They were not “happy all the day.”

What about Jesus, Son of God and our Savior? How do I understand Jesus’ own distress when He tells His disciples before He is led to His death, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” (Matthew 26:37-38)? He was in “anguish,” even sweating drops of blood due to His agony (Luke 22:44).

Jesus Christ experienced despair. He was not “happy all the day.”

I am saddened and afraid that there is a stigma within the Church that tears are sinful, that sadness should be cast out, that any sort of despair or depression reflects a lack of faith in God. If that were true, then I would have to say that Jesus Himself sinned and lacked faith in His Father. Of course, it would be blasphemous to say so and I do not believe this. I believe with all my heart that Jesus glorified His Father and stayed faithful to His Father in His tears, in His grief, in His despair.

God has not called us to be “happy all the day.” Just as there is “a time to laugh,” there is also “a time to weep” (Ecclesiastes 3:4); just as there is “a time to dance,” there is also “a time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). That is biblical. The despair found in the laments dispersed throughout the Psalms are Biblical. Jesus is Biblical.

How, then, do we redeem verses such as “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) with verses from the same Bible that speak of Jesus’ own despair?

Hope.

That simple four-letter word is how we redeem verses such as these. This is how we mourn without sinning, how we feel depressed without lacking faith in God, how we experience anguish while still glorifying our Father.

Yes, the Psalmist battles within himself, probing his heart when he says in Psalm 43:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” However, he does not stop there. He continues by saying, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my Salvation and my God.” He knows that although in his current state of turmoil he cannot speak praises, he will again. He knows that although he feels cast down and in despair, God is still His Salvation; He is still his God. He speaks this. He names this. He knows this.

Yes, Jesus was grieved and in deep anguish. He sweat drops of blood. He is God in the flesh and yet He experienced agony. But hope. “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is in agony, but He endures because He has hope. He knows the Resurrection that is coming in just three days (Mark 9:31). He knows that after He endures this great painful trial, He will be seated next to His Father.

Yes, I have been diagnosed with depression by medical doctors. I sometimes have a hard time getting out of bed because my body is so weak. Sometimes I feel sad for no apparent reason. Sometimes the chemicals in my brain confuse my mind. Sometimes I feel nauseous and overwhelmingly exhausted. Sometimes I can’t fall asleep and sometimes I can barely wake up. But hope. I look forward to the day when God will rid this world of its diseases once for all – cancer, heart attacks, strokes, depression, heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia, leukemia… the Lord will restore these broken bodies and these broken minds. I endure because I have hope. I know the Resurrection is coming when this broken body will be resurrected and I will unite with Jesus forever (2 Corinthians 4:14, Romans 6:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:16). And oh, how excited I am!!

I am not “happy all the day,” nor do I think that any of us can or should be. However, I do have hope in the midst of this despairing world, today’s political situation, chronic illness, death, and my own personal depression.

Not only do I have hope, but I can have peace in knowing that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus knew a grief and despair deeper than any of us will ever have to know. He took that for us and He now walks this weary road with us.

Thank You, Jesus, for knowing me deeply and yet loving me even deeper still. Thank You for the hope I have in You. Thank You that I can know that one day soon you will completely and totally heal me and resurrect this broken body and give me a new one. I know that I will one day soon meet with You forever. There is no greater joy than in knowing this. Hallelujah. Amen.

Image courtesy of nenetus/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2 Comments

  • Jenny Erwin

    A Christian addressing mental illness. How refreshing! Thank you, Molly, for standing in the gap between the church and those of us who suffer with mental illness.There should be no gap.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    I agree, Jenny!

    Thank you for leaving an encouraging and transparent comment for Molly. Grateful.