On Isolation in Suffering

Lately (and by lately I mean at least a year) I’ve been really struggling with a lot of depression.  It gets worse sometimes, like once a month when my body decides that it hates me for not being pregnant or nursing still and will avenge itself by throwing my hormones into utter chaos… or those moments where the facts of life get really overwhelming (like dishes piled so high that they are blocking the view of the counter and when the income to outgoing money ratio is severely imbalanced).  It’s gotten so bad at times that I’ve actually heard the words enter my mind, “It’s just not worth it.  You should just take your own life. (which sound mildly ridiculous when I’m thinking clearly)”  More than once or twice, I’ve heard those words.  Thankfully it is worth it, and I’ve had enough clarity in those moments to reject that notion (but what if the clarity hadn’t been there?).  A few times I’ve found myself staring blankly into the abyss and felt like a soul fully encamped in a lifeless body and thought “I could just stay here.  I wouldn’t ever have to talk to anyone again.”  And then I’ve thought about how I’ve seen the expression on my face in people in movies… in white, padded rooms with nurses and pills and diagnosis…. and that thought snapped me out of my inner-cell.

The thought that gets me beyond the recluse, depression, anxiety, chaos is always the Character of God.  I am very confident that He has a much greater purpose for this whole thing than just to watch me suffer through it.  And in those moments when I’m tempted to “end it all”, I’m quickly delivered from that temptation with a reminder of Who my God is and what He accomplishes for His saints (which by the way is just a really lavishing word for what He does for really mediocre people, and what He calls us when He adopts us as His own).  I know these moments pass.  But what if I didn’t know that?  And what if I didn’t know God?

Lately it all kinda came to a head and something that shouldn’t have been a struggle sent me into a really, really dark place for a couple of days, and I was forced to talk to a friend about all this depression.  Through our conversation, it occurred to me that I kinda hadn’t been talking to much of anybody about it.

I’ve avoided talking to Smiles about it, because he always tries to fix stuff, like a typical man, and this can’t be “fixed”, it must be wrestled through.  He also tends to take it personally if the thing that throws me over is something pertaining to the weight on his shoulders, because there’s a lot of it right now.  So, I’ve talked to him about it a little, but they haven’t been especially productive conversations and I haven’t felt very supported.  And mostly I’ve just pretended to him, and myself, that this battle didn’t exist.

And, although I’m a super-extrovert and external-processor, sometimes disadvantageously for other people (and probably myself), I haven’t really talked about this.  No one really wants to say out loud that sometimes they feel like a mental patient, and that although they have a really amazing family and life that they’ve felt really, really dark and ungrateful and that their husband keeps making (unintentionally biting) comments about how they’re never happy anymore.

We all want to be strong enough to manage our own junk, right?

But what I realized when I talked to my friend is this: Even Jesus designed it so that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”(Hebrews 4:15).  In another place in Hebrews (2:10), it says that “it was fitting for Him, for who are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation (Jesus) through sufferings”…  And again it says, in Hebrews 2:16-18 “For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham (humans).  Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (appeasement) for the sins of the people.  For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”  All this to say that a huge part of Jesus “interrupting history” and coming to earth was so that He could suffer and be tempted alongside of us and come to our aid when we suffer and are tempted.  (It also finishes up one of those Hebrew passages by telling us to come boldly to the Throne of Grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.)

2 Corinthians 1:4 says that He “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

My conclusion in all of this is that I’ve been really unwise to keep myself isolated in all of this.  We were designed for relationship; Relationship with our Maker and with one another.  When we isolate ourselves, when we shut off community, we suffer alone.

We will always suffer, so long as we wear this skin.  (Though in the kingdom of heaven, even while it takes residence on this earth, suffering has glorious purposes, because God magnificently “causes ALL things to work together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28).

And so I write this for all of the folks out there who feel alone in their suffering and struggles.  You aren’t.  There’s another place in the Bible (though I can’t recall the wording or where it’s written and it’s probably written a bunch of different places in a bunch of different ways) where it talks about our sufferings being common to man, and how we think we’re alone in our temptations and trials, but really everyone else is experiencing similar, if not the same things.

I guess there are some people who have the opposite problem and they have no joy at all and they never stop complaining (internally and externally), perhaps there’s another blog entry for you that would be more pertinent (maybe one about joy).  But to those of us who feel like we’ve got to keep it all together and can’t let ourselves be vulnerable and weak, because “everyone else is relying on us”, well, sometimes it’s refreshing to know that we aren’t suffering alone.  I wrote this for you.

Space 9/11/15

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