I am convinced that all real change and transformation in our lives, all the real and tangible knowledge of who God is, and undeterred faith is borne not out of sheer positive determination to know but out of the very dark, dark moments in our lives. Positive determination creates a situation where it has to be re-fabricated at another time, thus rendering it unsustainable; but what we learn about God and his love for us in the dark, when we are near death, revealed to us by the power of the Spirit (because we know we couldn’t have created these things ourselves), those are the events that create truly altered attitudes and stances and praises and thanksgivings that stay with us forever and ever….because those attitudes and stances were created out of nothing by God (because we have and are nothing). In the darkness of depression, we have not the strength or the voice or the heart to praise God; we are brought nearly dead and lifeless to Him. And it is He who breathes life back into our lifeless bones and after we inhale His life-giving breath, we exhale His praise.
When we know God by night, we will certainly know him by day.
I speak not naively but from experience. I’ve known God in the midst of the darkest depression I’ve ever experienced a few years ago. The following is a testimony/sermon produced out of that depression.
I’m coming out of a season decked with many losses and failures, and enveloped by severe depression. In early April we lost my husband’s grandmother; five weeks later, my grandmother; five days later our 9.5 week pregnancy. In June we lost our financial footing because of a van that couldn’t pass inspection. In September we lost a significant job opportunity that had given us great hope; a week after that, our other car was stolen for amusement and with the intent to destroy it. Finally, in October, I was confronted, boldly, with the reality that I was failing (and hurting, inadvertently) a dear friend and our friendship. All of this mixed in with months of struggle with my oldest son—who repeatedly hit me, threatened me (as much as a 3.5 year old can), and telling me he just flat out didn’t like me.
Losing and failing. Each one of these events that I was experiencing is normal and even tolerable; but, the cumulative effect and the weight of all of them at once…and…the depression that I was trying my best to ward off, finally won. I slipped into a very dark spot. I couldn’t take it any more. There was no joy in my heart and every heartbeat actually caused me physical pain. I cried every day, often crying myself to sleep. My mind fluctuated between the twin thoughts: “God has turned his face from you” and “you are a complete and utter useless failure.” And in that darkness, I gave up. At one point I curled up on a bare mattress in a room we are renovating and pulled a blanket over myself, and wished it would be over. Please just let it be over. I felt barely alive; I could barely breathe.
And it’s from here, right here, from this very palpable darkness, this having given up, and rendered useless, this barely alive and barely breathing, that I can talk about the power of the Gospel preached. Because the Gospel preached to me—repeatedly—cut through that darkness; it boldly penetrated it—unashamedly and unabashedly, it burst in and seized me. It lay hold of my weak and feeble frame, my exhausted mind, my smoldering and bruised spirit and rescued me, and, maybe even more than that, the Gospel resuscitated me, it gave me faith, it gave me life. Throughout all of the darkness and despite the lack of any tangible assurance, I still believed in God; this very God who is merciful and unyielding in His love; who, by the life of His one and only Son, through the event of the incarnation and the cross, has declared “it will not always be so.” Darkness, depression, sorrow, suffering, grief, and pain have been given their verdict: no; and I mine: yes. Every Sunday, I heard the Gospel and I could not not raise my hands in praise and worship of this God who has done this great work for me and in me. By the power of the Gospel I was made one hundred percent aware of my total and utter and desperate need for the Cross, for Jesus; by the power of the Gospel, I’ve been made truly human because, by the power of the Gospel, out of sure death came new and true life, with the robust breath of faith.