The dark gloom of winter overtook me,
the grey skies,
with cold slivers of wind that threatened to shake the fabric of my soul.
This is the voice of depression, and if the statistics are right, a great deal of us will taste it in one way or another. Some will hold it in, and carry on, living in pretense.
Others will reach out for help.
Most will feel misunderstood and very alone. "Shaking it off", or "focusing on the positive" doesn't always cut it.
For this is the happy time of year, right?
Recently I read a very powerful interview by Parker Palmer who is known for his wise writing and speaking. He openly talks about his own depression, and has had three clinical episodes which were very dark times for him. His sharing helped me a great deal, to understand those I know, and those I work with, who battle the dark night of the soul. (You can follow the link for this interview)
I too can suffer from depression, and I don't use the word lightly. Too often we don't acknowledge each others suffering. We gloss over it, looking for the happy, the light. It is simply easier. We don't want to see, we don't want to acknowledge. It is too painful.
Writing these thoughts can be vulnerable, but I have to be honest about it. I am prone to depression, aware of it, and sometimes even frustrated with my melancholy soul. And yet, I realize that it gives me the deep gift of compassion, of being able to sit with another and truly "get it".
I am not a fixer... none of us are. But I can be a companion to others who hurt in this grieving world.
If you've read thus far, you might think I might have messed up the title.
But when I was working through my advent devotionals, and faced with drawing about JOY, it was a challenge for me! Depression certainly had been lurking at my door, and I could name various triggers.
So I looked for another word, as I starting researching the word "JOY". And the word "rejoice" came up, and then this beautiful verse from the ancient book of Habakkuk. He writes "Yet I will rejoice"... the emphasis on yet is mine.
This was God speaking to me, and I soaked it in. "Yet" implies whatever you are going through, whatever your situation, however you are feeling, whatever the state of our world... yet I will rejoice!
This is not a denial of present circumstances, but a wonderful choice to make in the midst of it. When we choose joy, choose to trust, choose to rest in the arms of a God Who loves us, our perspective can change.
When you think of the circumstances of that first Christmas, the world then was in turmoil. The people ached with waiting for a Messiah, for relief of their circumstances. And then skies blew open and angels appeared and there was this triumphal glimpse of God revealing holy wonder and calling us to Rejoice!
Rejoice, because Emmanuel, God is with us! We are not alone. This is an action verb, a call to action not based on feeling. I can sing the carols and mean it. This is not a denial of suffering. No, it is a medicine for the soul, a lifting of the heart.
I'm grateful for the gift of Advent... the yearning, the waiting, the conversations about peace. And rejoicing that God our creator is a provider for all we need. So, rejoice!