Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dark Times

Do Christians have dark times- periods of depression and even despair?

Yes, yes, unfortunately yes. One of my favorite bloggers, C. Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen, is going through one now, and opened up for his readers in this transparent, emotionally raw post.
It is a very dark time in my life. I don’t know how else to describe it. About three or four weeks ago I changed. I don’t know how to describe this to you. Either I attempt to comfort you and preempt any sorrow by saying it is not really that bad and understate my circumstance, or I catalogue my thoughts to you with the possibility of misunderstanding and dread. All I can say is that I have had some sort of mental breakdown. My strength is gone. Depression? Certainly. Anxiety? Definitely. Fighting with the Lord? Most assuredly. All I know is that I broke a few weeks ago and I don’t know how to fix myself. All of the advice that I have given to broken people over the years is now pointed back at me and I realize how empty it can be.
Christians are not immune from hard times and down times, or even from clinical depression. It does us no good to pretend otherwise. King David had such times (just read the Psalms), Jeremiah had them, Martin Luther had them, C.H. Spurgeon had them. I've had them, and you have had them, whether you will admit it to your Christian friends or not.   Let's be real, people!

If our theology does not allow for depression and periods of darkness for believers, then perhaps something is wrong with our theology.Yes, there is a spiritual joy from the Lord that comes even in the midst of sorrow, but the sorrow can still be very real, and sometimes very inexplicable. Exhortations to just "rejoice in the Lord," however well meant, sometimes just do not cut it.

I think there are some aspects of the love and mercy of God that can only be understood through (and after) these dark times. The God who is most revealed in the darkness of the crucifixion of His Son also seems to show himself more clearly to the beaten man in the mud by the side of the Jericho road. Our dark times may be a form of His severe mercy.

But that realization doesn't make it any more fun to go through.

BTW, if you see this, Michael, I'm praying for you.