What follows is a journal entry from 2005. The first part sounds bleak. I was knee-deep in a depressive episode and couldn’t slog my way out. I’m posting it to show you how depression expresses itself in the minds or emotions of some Christian workers you may know or encounter. Yet it’s far from an exhaustive list of symptoms.
The second half offers a biblical rebuttal of sorts. It’s how I “preach to myself “ when despondency descends. Faith, not despondency, had the last word that year. By God’s grace, I’m still going strong
as a teacher and writer almost eleven years later.
Not because all depression episodes are in my past, but because God and His Word sustain me. Bouts of depression and usefulness in ministry aren’t necessarily mutually-exclusive.
March 26, 2005
I’m depressed, but God is good.
Almost every task requires a herculean effort, whether I’m preparing for a class, taking out the trash, or returning phone calls. Motivation is almost nonexistent, even when it concerns tasks that I’m convinced are important. I withdraw into myself, exaggerating my introverted tendencies, withdrawing from people. Right now there is no gladness in my heart in serving the Lord, only gnawing anxiety about my effectiveness, and how my teaching is being perceived. There’s a crisis of confidence about courses that were rated highly just a year ago. What I’d give to laugh out loud, to focus more on others and less on myself, to blow away this pall of darkness. Last night I went to bed at 8:30, because sleep was the only way I could escape the depression and agitation of spirit.
Yet I’m not quitting in my ministry, nor in my fight against despondency. Though I have a genetic predisposition to depression, there’s still a spiritual battle to fight. I’ll keep praying for the Lord to grant me the gift of joy, to use me in ministry even when the feeling isn’t there. I’ll work hard on my classes and trust Him to use me in spite of my frailty. The last time I checked, God’s power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Am I really strongest when I am weakest?
What an opportunity exists in my life for God to be God: to do in and through me what only He can do. Incredible: He wants to magnify His sufficiency through me. He wants to show what He can do with people who have no choice but to rely on Him day after day. “Call on Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Ps. 50:15).
Life is hard, but God is good. I am depressed, but God still IS. In Psalm 30:5, I see a tiny ray of light poking through the dark clouds hovering over my spirit: “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”
I look forward to tomorrow’s sunrise. (End of journal entry.)
How has the Lord sustained and used you in times of weakness or despondency?
Read more from Dr. Powell on terrydpowell.com.