Here’s part seven of the series on depression. Written long ago, I hope it helps someone struggling today.
A few days before the depression began I was working on a book. Writing brings out insecurity in me like nothing else does. But on that day I was unusually unafraid of the blank page, uncharacteristically sure of my ability to get the job done and do it well.
Then I took a break and checked my Facebook messages. A girl I barely knew in high school had written me a note. She brought up a mistake from all those years ago that I don’t even remember making.
“…no matter how successful you become or how far away you go-you will still be the skinny, dorky saxaphone player when you come back home…I guess what I am really trying to say, probably quite poorly, is-practice what you preach. I for one would actually have some respect for you-if you did.”
We talked for a total of maybe fifteen minutes almost two decades ago. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about – most of me thought. But the most insecure part of me, that remnant of the self-loathing kid I once was, took her words to heart.
I replied kindly. We had a good conversation. We made peace. She had recently been in an abusive relationship that left her angry and when she saw my name on Facebook she took her frustration out on me. Random. Or was it?
I’m afraid to tell you this. I don’t want to be labeled a flake or some overzealous Frank Peretti fan. Here goes: I believe depression is a physical, mental and spiritual monster but I don’t believe it always affects all three dimensions of a person equally. My bout with it, I believe, quickly became primarily spiritual.
Here’s what my closest friends and I (and even my very rational counselor and his PhD) think happened to me. We think my brain broke – something went haywire with serotonin and whatnot. Then, wounded, my head quickly filled with half-truths and lies and false accusations – a dozen at a time. Doubt jumped in the mix and started swinging too. And then came the most horrific nightmares in which “God” himself told me how worthless I was.
And all of this happened at a time when my marriage was solid, my kids were healthy, my ministry was effective, my calendar was full, my body was rested, and opportunities abounded? Every aspect of my life was seemingly strong.
We believe Satan came at me in a moment of weakness – sickness – the way he comes at us all. Like a lion hunting the wounded. With lies, half-truths and accusations placed with precision where we’re most vulnerable. Even my counselor, who stands to profit most if I’m mentally ill, told me last week – after poking around in my past for a few sessions – he’s convinced this depression was primarily spiritual.
I didn’t want to hear that at the time. It felt prideful. I felt too unimportant to be messed with by some unseen spiritual power who surely had better things to do. But I believe it now. We’re all that important.
I think Satan messes with anyone who calls Jesus their King and aims to live like it.
Living like it means, in part, expanding the borders of His kingdom: recognizing every second, talent, dollar, relationship as an opportunity to bring heaven to earth by doing God’s will down here as it’s done up there. When a kingdom expands it’s always at the expense of another’s. And that “another” doesn’t like to give up his territory. He’ll fight us for it.
He prefers we pay no attention to him, that we look down on people who do, that we call them superstitious or worse…charismatic. He’d like to go unnoticed, undeterred. But how can we ignore him? He’s gotten a lot of press.
He was there with Joshua the high priest, whispering lies into one ear as God spoke truth into the other. He was there in the Garden, never asking Eve or Adam to do anything – simply misquoting the truth and prodding them to think and doubt. He was there in heaven asking God for the chance to test Job’s faith. He was there in the desert with Jesus, spinning the Torah into three precisely aimed temptations. He was there giving Peter the wrong words to speak to Jesus. He was there giving black eyes to the sons of Sceva.
Might he have been on Facebook telling me I’m still as insignificant and incapable as I felt I was at sixteen.
He’s always going to be there. But when he comes for us he can be resisted. And when he is resisted, he leaves. Sometimes it takes the better part of a month and a small army of persistent friends, but he does leave.
How to resist him? That’s next.