I remember the day the darkness came. I was about 14 at the time; a little boy with big dreams. My head was filled with rockets, astronauts, and landing on the moon. My biggest worries were chores and homework. I was very imaginative and was always dreaming up some new project to keep me occupied over the summer. But, unfortunately, it was this imagination that opened a doorway to something darker.
I was in my living room, sitting at the computer. School was out for the summer, so I planned to enjoy myself. I slept in a little that day, and I had just finished emailing a friend of mine whose family were missionaries in another country. Suddenly, as if a cloud had begun to form, a terrifying darkness began to slip into my mind. My stomach tightened into a knot as a paralyzing fear took up residence there. Over the next few weeks, haunting questions began to fill my mind and, though I knew they weren’t true, kept pounding into my head. Fears began to haunt me that I had never known before. I started to become more listless and introverted, trapped inside my mind. No matter whom I was with or what I was doing, these questions and fears never left me. They were always there, taking up all my energy. Then, with those fears, came the compulsions. I started to think that, because of these things that went through my mind, God must hate me and want nothing to do with me. So, I felt as if I had to do things to earn His favor. I would read my Bible and pray for hours every day, thinking that God would be angry with me if I didn’t. I would do strange and senseless rituals, thinking they were the only way to appease God. To put it simply, my mind became a living hell. Once the school year started again, I couldn’t focus on my work. My grades went down and I was always behind because, no matter what I was working on at school, my mind was constantly filled with dark whispers. I came to the point where I didn’t want to wake up in the morning, because that meant I had to face the darkness. From the moment I opened my eyes in the morning until the second I fell asleep at night, these fears raged inside of my head. Over time, I came to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore. I just wanted to escape; to have some peace.
Depression is kind of a “taboo” topic, because it doesn’t seem to fit in with the Christian worldview very well. As Christians, we have been set free by the blood of Christ from the power of sin. The Bible says that we have been given overwhelming victory through the One Who loved us. I think that might be why, when Christians struggle with depression, some of their fellow believers immediately diagnose it as being a problem in their spiritual life. In their mind, if you have the power of Jesus in your life, you should be able to claim victory over depression. Sadly, this kind of response often leads those who suffer from depression into a deeper darkness, feeling that they are somehow evil or lacking in faith. They stop sharing their struggles with anyone else, because they’re too afraid of what others might think. So, they put on a plastic smile and try to act like nothing is wrong while they slowly die inside.
I lived with these fears in silence for about a year. During this time, I really didn’t share with anyone what was going on inside because I was too ashamed of it. I hid in the shadows, trying my best to look fine on the outside so that no one would notice. Eventually, though, people did notice, and, slowly, I started to open up about what was going on inside. I found out that I wasn’t evil or insane, but that my brain was simply sick and needed to be “reprogrammed” to think differently. I learned that other people I knew had experienced similar circumstances, and they had learned how to deal with the darkness; this monster called “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”. But, the story doesn’t end there. It took years for me to recover and start to heal. Even to this day, I still struggle with some of the same fears and questions that plagued me when I was 14. I still hear those dark whispers at times; those voices that try to tell me that I’m not good enough to be loved. But something is different now. During some of the deepest moments of my depression, when dark voices raged in my head, I began to hear another voice calling to me through the noise. It wasn’t like the others; it was calm and gentle. It was so quiet at first that I had to strain to hear it. But, the more I listened, the louder it became. It told me that I was loved and worthy. It told me that God cared for me despite my imperfections. It told me there was hope, even when I couldn’t see it. I know now that this was the voice of God. It took a long time, but eventually, I began to believe this voice. I began to realize that God was more than a cosmic judge. During this time of darkness, I found that God was no longer just the God of my father; He became my friend.
If you’re facing your own demons right now, I wish I could tell you that everything is going to be all right, but I can’t. It may not be all right; in fact, it may get worse for a time. But I’ve been there, and I know that the Great Redeemer is making all things new; you and I included. He’s shaping our character through the things we suffer. He’s slowly making us look more like Jesus. It may take time, and you may think that all hope is gone, but if you listen closely, you will hear another whisper through the noise. It’s a sweet and gentle whisper that speaks of beauty and hope. It’s a whisper that gives you just enough courage to move ahead when you feel too scared to breathe. It’s a whisper that tells you that you are worthy and loved. Tune your ear to that whisper, believe in the hope that it offers, and it will lead you home. Take courage, dear heart; this is not the end.