The dark night of the soul

This morning I had another electroconvulsive treatment (ECT). Up until about three days ago I hadn’t done much but lay around with a blank stare on my face.  I didn’t even have the urge to write anything. So this is much overdue. Other than that I did only what was required of me to get by. Even some of my responsibilities I failed to follow through on. I could muster up a giggle now and then for something I found humorous. But for the most part I was indifferent to everything else.

 

In all accounts there was no external reason for my lack of emotions. As a matter of fact, just days before the oncoming of my depression I had been caught in a whirl wind. A whirl wind that apparently that had been taking me for a ride for the past three to four months dragging me up and down like a roller coaster. Rides of hypomania, depression and mixed states.

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Now once again I was in a free-fall. Plummeting into that pit I am so familiar with. Again. I know the darkness all too well. Often times I become tempted by old vices when the darkness surrounds me.

 

Every time I am blind to the coming of my mania, whether it’s full or hypomania. Others see it before I do. I never see it coming. But the depression is like an oncoming storm rolling in. It announces its presence and slowly creeps in until it has completely surround my whole being.

 

It’s in my depressions that I feel the farthest from God. It’s in my depressions my mind makes me feel the guiltiest over any mistake I make. Sometimes like my earthly relationship that neglect, I neglect God as well.

Some people believe the words “Christian” and depression” should never exist together. And especially a “bipolar Christian.” And even more so, a person claiming to follow Christ who succumbs to failures in bipolar episodes.

 

However, William Cowper, author of the classic hymn lyrics as “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonder to perform” and “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins” suffered from severe depression and forced him early in life to abandon his career in law.

 

Charles Spurgeon, one of the most influential persons in Christianity who is known as the “Prince of Preachers” suffered from bouts of recurring severe depression that forced him to take retreat for weeks at a time. It worsened after falsely crying out “Fire!” during a packed-house congregation setting of a stampede, killing several in attendance. He often talked about hearing his “own chains clank” as he delivered his sermons, comparing his feelings to a chariot stuck in the mud.

 

Even Martin Luther wasn’t immune to occurrences of depression sometimes inhabited with suicidal ideations.

 

Much of the Psalms were written during bouts of depression. Actually 60% of the Psalms are “psalms of lament.” But are often ignored. King David, cried out in melancholy. Paul, who wrote, “God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:6). He obviously knew seasons of darkness and despair. Moses, Job and Elijah certainly went through overwhelming valleys of doubt and fear.

 

I have no choice but to face my depressions head on. I cannot afford to try to ignore them by listening to “happy” music or forcing myself to do my normal activities. To do so will deny its existence, as well as cause it to build up. But there is a caution that I must take not to wallow in it as well.

 

Naively and unbalanced we want our Christianity “feel good.” We want the Bible to tell us what promises we are to receive. We even take phrases out of context and turn them into personal “up beat” declarations.

 

“As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you.” A popular saying in Christian circles typically spliced into a warm and adoring praise song. Little do most people know it’s taken out of context of David’s great Psalm 42 of anguish. He wrote during just after the death of his son. It continues, “My tears have been my food day and night, why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? I say to the God of my rock, Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?”

 

There is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or give rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him. Depression almost always leads to spiritual depression. Our faith is not a constant action. It moves.

 

We can think that the dark night of the soul is completely incompatible with the fruit of the Spirit, that of joy. How can there be room for darkness with hearts of unspeakable joy? We remember the distinct differences between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness. A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head.

 

This joy we have sustains us through the dark nights and not quenched by spiritual depression.

 

We have pressures to bear, but the pressures, though severe, do not crush us. We may be confused and perplexed, but that low point to which perplexity brings us does not result in complete and total despair.

 

The coexistence of faith and depression is paralleled in many biblical statements of emotive conditions. We are told it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief. Depression is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but must never go unchecked or ignored.

 

The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noon day light of the presence of God.

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