(November 13, 2008)

I’ve been struggling. Struggling with a mild but painful depression that has been bothering me off and on for the past while. I know it’s mainly the result of life stresses – my mom sick, going into a nursing home, emptying her apartment and looking for a doctor who’ll look after her (seemingly an impossibility right now). That sentence kind of ran on, didn’t it? Befitting the way I feel about this endless list of problems and things to be done.

Yet I am grateful too. Mom is in a good home within fifteen minutes of where I live. What a difference from the 45 minutes away as she was. I’ll be able to visit her often, and without the stressful drive.

In this struggle of depression I’ve also struggled with a need for support, a feeling bad about burdening my friends with my sadness. I need my friends at times like this, yet something someone said in a comment on my last post particularly made me feel that perhaps I should not be bothering them. And the question I repeatedly find myself asking is: “Shouldn’t God be enough for me?” What helped was something forwarded by a friend a few days ago, pointing out that the verse at the very center of the Bible is Psalm 118:8: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust man.” Reading that helps me to lean a little more on God and a little less on my friends.

We who suffer from depression long for compassion. Within depression there is a yearning for God to fill us up with His love – to find refuge in His love. Often that love can be expressed through a caring friend. How we need that support from caring friends! To know they care. To know they are remembering us in their prayers.

When I think of friends who have gone through depression, I want to be there for them. It would hurt me to know they’re going through a hard time not letting me know. And when I do spend time listening to them, I feel the presence of God in a special way. And when I pray with someone who is deeply depressed, I feel God very close and my prayer is one I’m not praying on my own. It’s through the Holy Spirit that I ask God to show this friend His love – to help this person truly feel His love.

So maybe it’s not so bad to go to friends after all? To ask for prayer? To lean a bit?

My pastor and I talked about this. He thinks we sense God’s presence more when we’re there for people in depression because God is always present with the oppressed. “And when we are with them in Jesus’ name and with his love and compassion we also become the presence of God to them. It follows then that as we do that we would experience the presence of God in a deeper more significant way.”

He concludes that it would be good if church were a safe place for people to come and give expression to their oppression, a place where they would be welcomed with open arms. Church should be a place where we are open to God’s presence and what He wants to do among us and through us – where we simply respond in obedience to people’s needs. “That’s what it means to be a community of the Spirit…a community of faith…a community of God’s people.”

Living Room is a place like that. And I think that’s what gives me the wonderful feeling I have after meetings. We talk about our troubles, yet we share in love and with compassion, in God’s presence. When I go home I experience what I have come to refer to as “holy joy.” It’s the kind of peace and joy that can only come from God.