“LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience…”
Who and Where Is God in My Depression-Anxiety?
There are many God-questions that arise in the midst of depression-anxiety. It is nearly impossible to persistently battle for hope and peace without asking questions directed to or about God. The things discussed below should not be new. They are meant to be crystallizations of what you’ve been learning. Allow these truths about God to become cemented in your story; they should increasingly feel like “givens” as opposed to “possibilities.”
Near to Those Who are Anxious-Depressed
There is a danger in reading our Bibles in search for God’s answer to depression-anxiety. It begins to make God feel like an absentee father; as if all he offers us is a letter in the mail. A letter would mean both that God cared and that he was far away. This would be both encouraging and disheartening; God’s words would seem sincere but powerless. This is why we must pay careful attention to the thing God most repeats and we most overlook when he speaks about depression-anxiety.
“Anxiety-disordered individuals are often so focused on trying to control their circumstances and avoiding some potential catastrophe that they begin to perceive God as punitive, perfectionistic, and authoritative (p. 109).” Matthew Stanford in Grace for the Afflicted
Read 1 Peter 5:6-9 and Philippians 4:5-9. The most neglected aspect of both of these passages is the nearness of God. We come to these passages seeking God’s “answer” for depression-anxiety. As we search for principles and practical steps, we miss that the first and main thing God offers is himself. When we doubt or rush past God’s presence, we begin to expect knowledge to accomplish what only relationship can provide. Yes, God does offer us strategies and truths to combat depression-anxiety, but these are not the first and most important things he offers.
Question: Where do you see God in relation to your experience of depression-anxiety? How can you remind yourself of his actual location when your fear / despair feels closer than God?
Inside Your Experience of Depression-Anxiety
Our concept of being “near” does not capture how close God is. If God were merely “next to” us in our suffering, then we would simply feel less alone. That would be nice, but less than transformative. God is actually “in” us as we suffer. There is nothing that occurs in our soul that does not immediately register with him—even before we can bring it to him in prayer. God does not begin his response to our suffering when we pray; as is if we had to alert him before he would move. God is experiencing our suffering as we do, so our prayer only alerts us to his presence and activity.
Read Romans 8:23-30. Notice that God can put our suffering into words better than we can. Why? God is so “with” us that he is “in” us. Our groans make sense to him because he experiences them with us. Actually, they make more sense to him than they do to us because he knows their origin (past), expression (present), and redemption (future). In spite of his knowing the future resolution of our anxiety-depression, notice that God does not grow impatient with our sense of being overwhelmed by them in the present (v. 26).
Question: How would your prayers change if you remembered you didn’t have to explain your experience to God?
Capable of Transforming Suffering
We often think that transformation requires elimination. That is true when a water droplet is transformed to vapor; the droplet no longer exists. But God’s transformation of suffering is usually much more like the change in our memories of a loved one during grief. These memories transform from experiences of pain to precious treasures (that may still evoke sadness). This side of heaven God’s transformation of our suffering will not be Utopia. This helps us remember that the presence of pain does not mean the absence of God’s redemptive work in our suffering.
Read Hebrews 11:13-16. Notice this awkward interlude in the midst of Hebrews 11, a chapter commonly referred to as the “Hall of Faith.” We would say that God worked mightily in the life of each of these individuals. They are the upper-echelon heroes of the Bible. But also notice that the cliff notes-highlights we read from their life are not the same as their experience of these events. Their experience of following God by faith is much more similar to your experiencing of trusting God in the midst of depression-anxiety than you might have thought.
Question: What evidences can you already see of God using your experience of depression-anxiety? What are the incomplete aspects of that redemption with which you’ll have to trust God like those in Hebrews 11?
When we dwell in the shelter of God, we will abide in his shadow. A place of refuge. And God is not just present. He is very present. The closer a train gets, the louder it becomes. The greater the trouble, the “louder” the presence of God…-Dr. Tim. Clinton