You need to deal with this. It’s not fair on your husband, your family or the church, he said.
For a moment, time stood still as I stared. Had he completely misunderstood what I’d finally managed to say? Wasn’t this older Christian supposed to be able to make sense of this, to encourage me, to speak wisdom into this brokenness?
Then, as I breathed out, time speeded up again. The ache of the emptiness was stronger now. I’d opened my heart in vulnerability and the message sent back to me was that this was my fault. Christians, it now seemed, should not be depressed; it is not fair on these around them. So, swallowing hard and fighting back the ever-threatening tears, I did the British thing: upper lip stiff, I changed the subject.
Later that day, I cried. Two and a half hours of tears. I know because I journalled it. That whole time there were voices in my mind, accusing me, telling me that I was a failure and that everything I did was wrong. I was too young, too female and too rubbish ever to do the things that God had whispered over my life years before. How, the thoughts taunted me, did I think I could one day become a church leader if I couldn’t even hold my own life together?
You see, my friend had told me that all he had said to me about ‘dealing with’ my already two-year-old depression was to help me to operate in God’s call. And I don’t doubt that he honestly believed that, and I have never questioned that his motive in this was good. I know he spoke out of love.
But he also spoke out of naïveté. He spoke out of a belief that depression is weakness, the conviction that all you have to do is pull yourself together and snap out of it. He spoke, I suspect, out of a hope that it might prove this simple.
Yet it was not this simple. I don’t suppose depression ever is. As it happened, that depressive episode lasted another two years; in fact, the darkest days were, at this point, still to come. Nevertheless, the darkness did not last forever. There was hope, though I could not see it then.
And, one day, despite being too young, too female and too depressed, God did give me a church to lead.
A church of precious, vibrant people living joys and brokenness much like mine.
A church of troubled saints who need to know that Christians can be depressed or sick or lonely or self-harming without being told that it is not fair on those around them.
A church of the beautiful broken who need those who will speak a different word over their wounds than was spoken over mine.
This is the call he gave me, a call which took this depression of mine and redeemed it, a call which reminds me that even what is meant for evil can, in his hands, be turned to good. He has done it for me and he will do it for you.
And so, to him alone, to the One who redeems all things, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations forever and ever. Yes and Amen.
Chloe is a church leader and PhD student who blogs on life and leadership at http://theartofsteering.wordpress.com.