Saturday, July 30, 2011

Is Struggling with Depression a Gift?

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about depressed leaders "Depression in Command," July 30-31, 2011. Some recent research has suggested that leaders who struggle with depression may actually be better equipped to lead in times of crisis--because they already expect life to be hard, and they emphathize with others. 

Normal sane people, says the article, are slightly over-optimistic about life, and feel they have more control than they actually do. A person who struggles with depression is under no such illusions--they're already adjusted to the low-pressure atmosphere of realism and hard times. Some melancholy folks may be better equipped to lead when the lights go out. 

Additionally, people who have suffered with depression have been shown to have much higher levels of empathy than normal, sane folk.  I've experienced that. When all is right with the world, I don't want to cloud my mind with the troubles of others. But in times of suffering or low spirits, I empathize with those in trouble on a deep level. The article pointed to Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples of people who had repeatedly struggled with depression, and who were therefore equipped to look hard times straight in the eye and spit back. 

In me, these turned up some deep thoughts. Maybe, those of us who struggle with melancholy are not simply losers, broken, inferior.  Maybe God is able to take our suffering and turn it to blessing, as he loves to do.  Maybe in fact, if we bring it to him in trust, he has a purpose for it all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gray Day Reflections

Sometimes, secretly, I think I might be a tree.

I look like a person, I know. It's just a suspicion I have. One of the main reasons I think I might be part tree is because when I don't get much sunlight, I begin to wilt. I don't think that's supposed to happen to people. There I am, sitting on a sofa, wilting. Then, you wheel me outside into some warm afternoon sun, and my back begins to straighten. My eyes brighten and my soul relaxes like some crying baby nodding off to sleep, sucking his thumb.

But sometimes, the sun isn't there. Sometimes I go outside, trying to aim my solar panels at the light, but all I get is gray skies and concrete buildings.

You can't make the sun come out. At least, I've never had much luck. I just have to wait until it chooses to show its face, whether it be five minutes or five days.

Sometimes I feel God is like the sun. I'm all wilted inside, not much more than a zombie, and suddenly there's a refreshing sermon or song, or person. Or I open the Bible and every word is just radiating out and I start to soak in His light. My back begins to straighten. My eyes brighten and my soul relaxes like some fussy baby falling asleep while his father burps him.

But sometimes I go into the Word of God, and it feels all gray. The words stick to the page like chewing gum to your shoe. I turn on a sermon and it seems cliche--I try listening to music but it seems too chipper. Even when a friend stops by to try to encourage me it's just mildly helpful, like a labrador retriever who only brings you one of your slippers.

Honestly, I haven't found a way to make the Sun come out when I want it to. So I appreciate the psalms where David complains about it: "How long will you hide your face from me?...Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death." (Psalm 13)

I mean, it's nice to remember that the sun is still there, above the smog and rainclouds. If you could get in a jetplane or ride on the wings of an angel, you could go up to see how bright it still is up there far above our petty problems. But that and a dollar will get you a pack of gum, right?

Still, I want to be like David who finished his gray-day psalm with some firm faith. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD for he has been good to me." He has been good to me. Lord, turn the sunshine of your face on us again and brighten our eyes. Until then we will trust in your unfailing love.