Some days, I just want it to stop.
I don’t want to have to keep putting in so much effort.
Life is hard and I don’t always think I am up to the challenge.
Some mornings, it is such an effort to get out of bed because I know I am just going to have the face the same challenges I faced yesterday. If I have already worked so hard, why do I have to keep working? If I have put so much effort into this already, why can’t I see a payoff?
And I don’t always feel like I can tell anyone.
Because, after all, I’m the guy with sobriety time. I’m the guy who leads recovery groups. I’m the guy who’s almost 40, married 17 years with 3 kids. I’m the guy who helps teach people how to discover their talents and abilities and find work. I’m the guy who leads small groups for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults.
So who can I tell?
I can’t show any weakness. I need to be strong. And also, won’t all these things just go away if only I have enough faith? Pray hard enough? Do more churchy stuff?
One of the worst things about feeling that way is that we convince ourselves we cannot talk about it.
Feeling tired, feeling overwhelmed, feeling depressed is not strange. It is not sinful. It is not wrong. It happens.
And pretending it doesn’t makes it worse.
We need to create more space to talk about our difficult days. The more we talk, the less strange it seems. More than that, when we talk about it more, we realize that we are not alone in our struggle. So many of us have thought we are the only ones who feel depressed, lonely, anxious, or just sad.
But we are not. So many others have experienced the same things. When we isolate, our experience only gets worse. And isolating does something else: it allows us to convince ourselves that we are the only ones who struggle. Because when everyone is isolating, no one is sharing.
One of the most powerful, startling, and profound realizations anyone can have is, “I am not alone.” I find out I am not alone when someone has the courage to speak up and say they go through the same things I go through. Other people find out they are not alone when I muster up enough courage to speak up on my own behalf.
Treating it like sin or weakness makes it worse.
Depression is not a matter of lack of faith. Anxiety is not a sin.
But what about that verse that says, “Cast all your anxieties on Him” or, “Do not be anxious about anything”?
I know that. I get that. I love those verses. I strive to follow them daily.
But some days, the emotion is almost crushing. Some days, I feel like it is a struggle to breathe.
Does that mean I am sinful those days? I certainly hope not.
I believe it means that when I feel like I am about to lose control I know where to turn. When fear hits, I have a refuge. When anxiety descends upon me and I am overwhelmed, I can begin to turn to that light. When the waves of life are crashing around me, I don’t have to be okay before I say, “God, help!”
I do cast my cares on Him. When I am anxious I do pray. But I still have those moments of struggle. Thank God I am not alone in that.
Instead of making people feel weak or un-Christian for those experiences, lament with them. Be quiet instead of offering platitudes. Cry and scream with them. Maybe they will do the same with you.
Do you need examples of people, good people, who experienced depression and anxiety? Look at John the Baptist and Jesus. The prophet who asked if Jesus really was who John had proclaimed him to be. The Messiah, Son of God, Savior, who was so stressed out his sweat fell like blood.
We have our moments of grief, anguish, fear, doubt, and pain. But we know where we can turn.
This does not even address those who suffer with severe clinical depression or anxiety. If you are one of those people, please seek the help you need. But also, please talk to me about it. I pray you are in a faith community that is welcoming and inviting to you. I pray you have a community that treats you like a brother or a sister; not an outcast.
To the faith community, please stop making people who suffer with mental health issues feel like they are “less than.” People do not need to be made to feel guilty; they need to be loved, supported, and nurtured. People don’t need nags, they need champions—people who will fight for them even when they don’t have the strength to fight for themselves.
Let us be more open; more vulnerable. In other words—let’s be honest. Not every day is a good day. And some bad days are worse than others.
I need to know you have bad days. And I need you to know that I have them, too. It’s easy to find people to get together and have a good time. It’s easy to find people who are willing to suppress their real emotions in order to not the rock the boat at social gatherings.
It is much harder to find people who are willing to be honest. People who are willing to show the courage it takes to say, “I need help.”
But when we say that, we realize we are not alone.
And they may just be the greatest realization we can make.