Some days I seem to start out with flat batteries, my usual espresso kick-start has no effect and my soul is wallowing in some puddle of miry clay.
Left in such a state I know I am in for a tough slog through work, relatives and evening routine before much chance of an opportunity to recharge. Even then the lure of Facebook and catching up on some blog reading is more likely to draw me than opening the Bible for some spiritual food.
I know what I should do; turn my heart to God and adore the beauty of Christ. Let my soul be satisfied in the One who is gloriously beyond all we can hope or imagine.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
(Psalm 42:5–6 ESV)
What do you think? Of course not! I dragged myself through the morning, coming alive when then phone went and I needed to be professional, otherwise feeling as though lead weights were dragging my insides down to the pit. My best effort was reading Psalm 42 and remembering that my problem is me feeling like crap rather than any change in God. My soul is cast down, therefore I will remember God.
During my break I had a look for images of ‘adoration’, finding a few photos of people worshipping, lots of very staged and fake-looking ones of people ‘praying’ and loads of couples in love, along with quite a few pictures of folks cuddling their pets. Oddly enough this trivial activity cheered me up. Seeing photos of folks enjoying being around each other and their pets is a nice reminder of what joy can be found in life.
Not exactly spiritual, and although my mood lifted enough to get through the day it was mostly God’s grace in sending a colleague and fellow Christian along later in the morning that helped the most. My inability to fight for joy at times such as this worries me — I do not want to be dragged through life by the chain of depression. It is difficult to know how much is within my own control but intuitively it seems that at least some of my emotional state must be able to be manipulated into a better place.
Then there is the oddly Christian shame of taking antidepressant medication. A lot of Christians have some unease at why we weaker folks must take pills to moderate mood. It is always possible to find an example of someone who uses more spiritual weapons in this fight:
In the beginning, I took medication to ease the panic that surged in the gut, wave of terror to the throat, when I was in crowds. The last fifteen years, I take only prayer. (When you get to the root of some of the fears)
For the record, I greatly admire this example, but please don’t use it or any other to bang me over the head with!
What I really need is tools, strategies and encouragement in the fight for joy. It goes beyond simply ‘recovering from depression’, the fight for joy is a struggle and battle to know God. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10).
Many have gone this way before, there are strategies out there. My problem is that they are out there — I need the weapons at hand, ready to use at a moments notice. I need to go to sleep and wake up wearing the body armour of God. My instincts need to be honed to a hair trigger, ready to fight to the death against sin.
Many years ago I learned that times come when I am completely unable to read the Bible or pray. At such times it is prior knowledge and meditation on the Bible that gets me through; my only prayers are short, panicked, and often devoid of passion. To survive the next such hole I must act now to strengthen my feeble knees and weak arms (Isaiah 35:3).
As we begin a new year and consider this an opportunity to make a fresh start I am thinking in terms of doing some training on this flabby and weak soul of mine. By the grace of God I’d like to get ‘battle-ready’ so that my next encounter is less of a resounding defeat! I’d like to get from angst to adoration quickly and without departure from the way of Christ.