Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Problem with Pain

It hurts... what does? Everything. Where? Everywhere. And when people ask if they can help, you just gasp, "No." 

That’s the problem with pain. You can’t tell it to go away, you can’t ignore it, you can’t make it evaporate, you can’t make it leave any sooner than it wants to. It will stay as long as it desires, and it will wreak havoc inside. It will tear around however it pleases. It’s messy. It’s bitter. It’s ugly. And it’s unfair. It’s unjust. It’s pain… and it’s pain that overwhelms. It disables. It blurs your eyes from tears, with tears, through tears, and with every drop, you feel like you’re being torn apart. Every bone in your body is screaming, wanting to dislocate itself, because whatever is in place, in alignment, it doesn’t seem right anymore. How could anything be right? How could anything be good, when so much seemed bad? How do mere words describe pure anguish? Can words do it? Can they envelop this feeling of breathlessness because the tears can’t come quick enough? The breathing, the gasping for air can’t come in time. You're left breathless, exhausted by the idea of breathing. Forget seeing. Your eyes couldn’t focus even if they wanted to. They’re glazed over by the asphyxiation. Words don’t come to mind. You're not even thinking. You're in standby mode while your body takes control, tries to make things work even when your brain is telling you that nothing should work. None of it makes sense. 

That's the problem with depression. Outsiders don't see it like they do a broken leg. There is no cast, no outward sign of pain. It's all inside, and it's a jumbled mess, difficult for even the finest doctors to understand. Chemical imbalances, emotional abuse, physical abuse, bad habits, genetic or not genetic, changing of the weather, broken relationships, loss of a loved one, anxiety, seasons of heightened stress... the list goes on for what causes depression, but perhaps the cause of it doesn't matter as much as how we treat it and those who try to cope with it. Sometimes it visits for a time and then leaves. Sometimes it comes and goes in waves. And still, sometimes, it's a daily companion, never taking leave.

I cannot pretend to know what full-fledged depression feels like as I haven't been clinically diagnosed, nor do I suffer with it everyday... but I do know what those moments of darkness feel like, what they taste like for a second, the reality of it is terrifying.

I struggled with depression for four years after my family moved to another town. I was 13 and my world, my comfort zone, changed when I moved. Making friends was hard, I didn't know who I was and I didn't feel pursued. I didn't feel wanted or desired by others, so hurt and neglect ensnared me in a web of doubt, despair and ultimately depression. I just wasn't good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, outgoing enough, hardworking enough, funny enough, popular enough... enough. I wasn't enough and for some reason, no matter how much encouragement I got from people, or how much some people tried to love me, there was this block that wouldn't allow any light in. Pain and feeling sorry for myself became my identity, and it almost hurt more when people tried to cheer me up because that hurt, that pain, had become so integral to my being, that I didn't know who I was without it. The moment when I was most depressed was when I kept putting off going to bed every night. I would stay up until 12, 1, 2 and then 3... wondering why I was still awake, and then I would realize. The longer I'm awake, the more I can put off facing tomorrow. Because in my head, I knew that once I fell asleep, tomorrow would be here before I knew it and I would have to wake up. I would have to get out of bed and I would have to face the day, regardless of my wanting to hide from it. And if you've never struggled with depression before, or known what it feels like... that's a depiction of what it can look like for some.

This is what depression does. It seeps in, sometimes without our even being aware of how it happens. It's a poison that slowly percolates into our brains and makes us sick. Yes, sick. And some of us have to live our whole lives with this sickness figuring out how we're going to wake up every day.

But friends... this isn't the end. I'm not writing this for others to feel sorry for me or for those who struggle with depression, because if I'm being honest, I couldn't be more thankful for my depression. The darkness is what brought me to Christ and the darkness is what keeps me coming back to Him, day in and day out, needing His compassion. Because the insidious thing about depression, the problem with pain and despair, is that they strip away hope. The future becomes dark and bleak. The isolation and silence is deafening. There seems to be no end in sight.

But the Gospel gives us hope.

John 16:33 explains that we will have pain in this world. Jesus didn't sugarcoat it, but he did say to "take heart, for I have overcome the world." That's the beauty of Jesus.

John Mark McMillan once said, "It's like, it doesn't honor God to pretend like everything is OK. That's the beauty of Jesus that so many people miss. The beauty is that He died on the cross for our sins, but also that he existed the way we exist. He understands what it's like to lose a friend. He's not unfamiliar with those emotions. He's not unfamiliar with the difficulty of human life. To me that's what makes Jesus as God beautiful. He totally understands. He went out of His way to prove to us that he understands our situation. So when He has something to say, it's not coming from this high and lofty standpoint. It's coming from this person who understands intricately the perils of human existence."

He knows the pain of depression, the taste of despair, and yet He overcame it and He gives us the strength to overcome it by WAITING for the day when we will be perfected and united with Him, and our HOPE will be fulfilled. Our hope for freedom from despair, from bitterness and sorrow... our hope will be reality. Because through His death, by His wounds, we are healed. 

 So... while this is the problem with pain, with depression - that it hurts, that it is very real, numbing and gut wrenching - this is also the breathtaking beauty of pain; that Christ would come embody human form, to understand our pain and take our struggle upon Himself so that one day we could live in perfect holiness, unity and joy with Him.

This is our hope, if we only wait patiently, day by day trusting on Him with our pain.

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