You don’t live very long before you realize just what a disappointment life can be. Most days I find myself working so hard just to survive. I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting and trying to figure out how to get through it all. One of the biggest keys to my survival has been my focus on the fact that there is no such thing as “useless.”
Okay, so here’s my not-so-little secret: I’m a wreck, a complete mess. At the time of writing this, over the last two weeks I’ve:
- Had 4 panic attacks
- Cried on the bathroom floor of a friend’s house while we were at small group
- Been afraid to leave my house for reasons I still don’t know
- Had to keep ear plugs in because any sound would trigger an attack
- Had to delete apps from my phone because the icon colors would cause me pain
- Worked the majority of the time flat on my back because of a slipped disk
- Threw a peanut butter covered heart-worm pill at the wall because my wife made me help her force our dog to eat it and it hurt me too much emotionally to force her mouth shut
Not one thing I listed was intentional. I wish none of those things happened. Remember what I said? I’m a mess.
While I’ve struggled with clinical depression for over a decade now, in May 2013 it pretty much became a full-time job just to stay alive. My wife and I quite literally work around the clock to keep things from getting worse. Not “better” mind you, we’re just trying to keep the ball from rolling further down the hill. It hurts. Words cannot describe the depth of pain that both of us are experiencing as we try to cope with this.
Here’s what I’ve learned: If I keep it a secret then I can’t use it. If I can’t use it then all the pain was for nothing – and useless pain is the worst all.
On my reluctant journey toward finding a use for my depression here are a few other things I’ve discovered about our pain:
In our pain, we either turn to God or turn from God
I have friends of all beliefs and one thing that I’ve noticed is that their struggles either become a reason for them to lean on God or a reason for them to deny God. Our human nature is always searching for meaning. “Why would God let this happen to me?” Those who don’t believe at all use it to further their denial, “What kind of God would cause such pain?”
First of all, God doesn’t cause all pain. Sinful people doing sinful things ripple through time and cause overwhelming amounts of sorrow. This is all the result of a broken planet made worse by broken people. God’s not sitting at the control panel just sending crap your way, but that’s really for another time.
God has stated time and time again that he wants us to lean on him during these times. In our pain, he wants to hold us and carry us through it. Some people choose not to follow God because they are afraid of where God will take them.
I’m afraid too, but that’s precisely why I follow him.
I follow God because I’m afraid that, without him, the pain and suffering I’ve endured will be for nothing. My God is a god who uses everything and I cannot endure this suffering if I believe it’s going to go to waste.
God is not happy that we are hurting
One of the reasons we struggle with God is that we can’t wrap our heads around the idea that a god who can stop something chooses not to stop it. We say, “If God really loved me he would have stopped ______ from happening.”
God is not happy that I’m suffering right now. Yes, he can end it. But I know he has a good reason to allow it a bit more.
Personally, I’m not searching for meaning. I’ve never once asked God “why” I have such horrible depression and anxiety. I really don’t see the point. A broken leg hurts bad. In that moment, when the pain seems unbearable, do you really care why it happened? You just want the pain to go away.
We learn in scripture that God knows what pain feels like and he hurts with us (John 11:33-35). He does not enjoy our pain but he does have the advantage of seeing the big picture. He knows when something can serve a purpose. Even something painful.
Using your pain does not make it okay
We need to be clear on this. There is a difference between reason and usefulness. I would never tell a woman recovering from years of abuse that there was a good reason for what she went through. I would never say that it was supposed to happen. That’s insensitive and diminishes the horror that she experienced.
Finding a use for our pain is not excusing the tragedies, it is simply salvaging what’s left. Ask anyone who has been through a natural disaster. First you work to survive, then you salvage what’s left, finally, you start to re-build.
Using your pain does not make it less painful…but that’s okay
There are some days where knowing this is for a reason helps a little. Most days, pain is pain and I couldn’t care less if I’m going to use it later. I’ve had way too many people tell me God has a plan or there is a reason for this. Luckily I’m often too weak to slap them.
Bottom line: Pain sucks and nothing but time or treatment makes it less painful. That doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re cursed to suffering. It is just part of the process. Do what you have to do to endure the pain. We can put it to use later.
Using your depression pain is part of the plan
True, this world did not go according to plan. Creation 1.0 got botched before it got out of beta (Genesis 3). As a result we’re living out our lives in an incredibly imperfect and often harsh place.
Thankfully our God is a master planner who can orchestrate the impossible. God made it so that, even in this harsh place, good things can happen and futures can be altered because we are able to impact others with everything we have – especially our pain.
2 Corinthians 1:4-6
Knowing these things, most of the time, doesn’t lessen the pain but it has managed to shift my focus to a positive place. It helps me get out of bed, see my life with some hope, and be thoughtful with my actions. So maybe it doesn’t give me less pain but it does make it hurt less.
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