Oswald Chambers, author of the classic My Utmost For His Highest, is the spiritual hero of thousands if not millions of Christians worldwide. But few people know he languished in depression for years before writing his masterpiece. When the darkness ended, he wrote: “For four years, nothing but the overruling grace of God and the kindness of friends kept me out of an asylum.”
It took only one full day of darkness for me to reach the end of my rope and ask for help. I’d prayed and felt forsaken. I’d read the bible but it often didn’t make sense to me and, worse, sometimes the words doubled back and planted more doubt.
My wires were so crossed that it took me over an hour to write the first SOS e-mail and about as long to decide who to send it to.
I scrolled through the names in my address book and chose around a dozen: people I respect and love, wise compassionate people I knew cared for me, and, most importantly, people I wouldn’t be seeing anytime soon or on a regular basis. I had a history with each of them but many miles – many safe miles – separated us.
I might wake up tomorrow and be fine, I thought. And if I do, if this thing passes soon, I don’t want anyone in my every-day life to think I’m crazy, weak or melodramatic.
The next day, more desperate than the day before, I sent out a second SOS. This time I risked a little more. I asked for prayer from people I see more often, people who I cared about no more than the first batch but whose negative opinions of me could cause more ripples and embarrassment.
Day after day, I let more people in on my secret, risking more and more, increasingly certain the darkness wasn’t going to pass anytime soon if at all.
The last person I dared to ask for help was an older wiser friend who’s spent many years caring for the physical and spiritual needs of people around the world. We don’t see each other often enough, but when we do there’s a connection far greater than the sum of our hours together. And I always walk away with more life and faith in me than before.
I needed some life and faith so badly.
My father is actually the one who strongly suggested I reach out to this man, and, truthfully, my Dad’s belief that my friend would really want to help me is the only reason I finally hit the send button. I know he loves me. He even likes me. But in spite of that – or maybe because of that – the thought of him seeing me at my worst and weakest almost scared and shamed me into silence.
But bad stuff grows in the dark.
He e-mailed back quickly to say he would write more as soon as he could, and then closed with these words I’ve reread many times since.
“I care and I am holding you right now very close to my heart and in my prayers. My quick message to you is something that I cling to often . . . ‘one should never doubt in the darkness what God has told you in the light’.”
Something he clings to often. I‘d suspected this man had been through a few battles in life, that his halo wasn’t always on straight and shiny, that he’d probably waded through his share of darkness, but it was so good to read his own confession of it. I felt less alone, less crazy, and no shame.
The kindness of friends.