I’m delving in to something real today. Personally, I am mildly uncomfortable talking about my depression. There’s a fine line between hiding who you are and understanding that you can’t be defined by one piece of yourself; but regardless, like many others, I’ve gotten relatively good at projecting happiness outwardly regardless of how I feel inside. Because when I do share this part of myself with people only to be met with:
“Depression? No way. You’re so happy.”
And while that’s discouraging to hear, I can’t fault people for not understanding when there’s not much representation readily available. Media has made caricatures of a lot of groups: women who are either nurturing or successful but never both; sassy black or gay friends; doofy husbands who can’t identify a wife’s haircut; or mental illness as either laughably dramatic or a straight up lunatic. But here’s the truth: depression isn’t about being happy or not happy. Not exclusively, anyway.
It’s the weight of pain I feel when I look at my life–a wonderful, beautiful life full of hope, love, opportunity, and blessings–and I feel no joy. It’s the days I would rather stay locked up in my room, talking to no one, doing nothing because the thought of even talking to another person makes me physically sick. It’s a constant battle of powering through a heavy emptiness that leaves me exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically.
That’s why despite the fact that I know people don’t mean anything bad when they say “but you’re so happy”, it has no effect on me from internalizing these words. When I try to share this piece of me with another person and they reject it with such disbelief or surprise, it feels like I’m deviating from their idea of who a happy or successful person is meant to be. Or worse, deviating from their idea of who I am supposed to be.
This thought leads right into the notion that a part of me is broken. That I cannot control my own mind. That my brain is defective. And therefore, I am defective.
So I pray, Lord fix me.
Lord, please, just fix me.
And nothing changes. So what? The Lord doesn’t want me to be fixed? The Lord doesn’t think I am broken to begin with? He’s just flat out not listening? He has bigger fish to fry?
Of course not.
The Danger of Comfort
One of the greatest challenges of having spiritual faith with a human sense of logic is trying to put the Lord into our boxes. Just like media paint certain demographics into certain roles, this way of thinking has become so common that it’s nearly impossible to come up with any other way of doing things.
So I (like I think a lot of us do) end up giving God ultimatums in prayer. I say, Listen up. Am I broken and you won’t fix me? Or am I not broken and you just dropped me in a world that thinks I am?
The answer, thankfully, is neither. And here’s why:
These questions assume one very wrong fact: that we were created for happiness, ease and comfort. Or that when we can achieve a state of understanding God’s will and being without sin, then and only then are we free to help other people meet the Lord and get to heaven. But as the great Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said:
You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.
Earthly happiness and heavenly fulfillment are vastly different. The former is actually incredibly easy to attain. Being happy isn’t hard. We believe it to be hard because it’s not what our hearts are actually searching for. At the core of creation, our hearts are searching for to be fulfilled, but we end up trying to fill that need with things the world tells us will make us “happy” like food or friends or money or a job. It’s no wonder the emptiness accompanied with depression is so palpable and common.
If we were to let go of the notion that perfection–by whomever’s standards, be it ours or society or even what we understand the Perfect Christian to be–is our call, the freedom would be astounding. Truly. If we said to ourselves today, “Perfection is not what I’m called to” our lives would change substantially We wouldn’t be chasing perfection anymore; we’d be chasing truth. We wouldn’t be hunting for happiness; we’d be searching for true fulfillment.
This all came to mind today because I saw a video by Ascension Press, featuring Fr. Mike Schmitz (you can see it at the end of this post). In the video, Fr. Mike addresses the question “Will God heal us?” As someone who feels broken or defective a few times a day, I was drawn to this. Yes, I thought, Fr. Mike, authority of the Church, please give me the right prayer to say to defeat depression and become the version of myself that is so strong and confident, I can finally be who God created me to be.
And that line of thinking is exactly what he addressed. Fr. Mike asserted that we as modern Christians live in a head-space that tells us we need to be “done” or “ready” to be disciples. But the Mass doesn’t end with, “Go, fix your problems, deal with those issues, then report back here for the real call.” And praise Jesus it doesn’t. Because then nothing would ever get done.
We are called exactly as we are to do exactly what God has planned for us.
Let’s take a brief pause to talk about the Apostles.
Listen, I have nothing against the 12 apostles. They were holy men by their devotion to Christ. But historically, I have struggled a lot with their role in the gospels. As a fellow follower of Christ, it doesn’t make me feel any better knowing that Peter was scared or that Thomas was a doubter or that Judas was just sort of a jerk. Because these guys were with Jesus every. single. day. If these guys couldn’t get their act together, how on Earth am I supposed to? I’m not fishing with my Savior every day. We’re not gabbing over a campfire breakfast together. We aren’t traveling the world as a gang, totally immersed in the mission.
Truth be told, I’m barely even talking to Jesus every day as it is. I have emails to send and groceries to buy and friends to catch up with and Netflix to binge. Our days fly by so quickly and to fend off my depression and anxiety, I keep every waking second packed to the brim with activities to distract my mind. So by the time my head hits the pillow, I’m ready for sleep, and it isn’t until my mind begins to slow down that I remember, Oh did I pray at all today?
It’s weakness. All of it is weakness. My depression, someone else’s family struggles, Peter’s inability to let Jesus get a sentence out without trying to (inaccurately) guess what He was about to say–it’s all weakness. And the great news is we aren’t called to fix any of it. It’s not our job to be strong.
Take action! Or, don’t.
Exodus 14:14 says
The Lord himself will fight for you. You need only to be still.
God’s taking care of the big stuff. In the meantime, our call is to invite God in and allow Him to use our weakness to do what He’s calling us to now. Not when we’re perfect. Not when we’re done. Not when we have more time, or less pain, or more financial stability–right now. Today.
For me, God asked me to use my weakness today to share this post. It meant being a little more transparent than I’m usually comfortable with so that I could share about weakness in a totally vulnerable, personal way.
Take some time to be vulnerable in prayer today. Ask God who he wants you to be, and how your gifts, talents, and weaknesses will help you become that person.
Check out Fr. Mike’s video here and leave your thoughts in the comments. Praying for each and every one of you. 🙂