Some very thoughtful comments from a fellow blogger prompted this post…thanks, Jennifer!
And in responding to her, I recalled meetings I had several years ago with a pastor at our church. He had referred to his battles with depression in several sermons, and I felt very safe sharing my struggles and seeking his wisdom and prayers on many occasions. We talked about being Christians with mental illness. We discussed depression as a result of sin in the world, not necessarily due to a specific sin in one’s life. He reminded me that this battle against depression has a spiritual component, and that I should daily prepare myself with the armor of God (Ephesians 6).
I still remember my reaction when he told me to pray for healing. I was shocked! Not at his comment, but at myself. I realized that somewhere over the recent years, I had resigned myself to living with depression, and had stopped asking God to heal me. Instead, I had focused my prayers and energies that He would use my depression to share hope with others who struggle, especially with other Christians. But why had I stopped asking for healing?
Sitting in Pastor’s office, I realized that I had given up hope of being healed. Don’t get me wrong – I know that in heaven there will be no depression; I will eventually be healed. (“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17, NIV) But I had accepted that I will have depression for the rest of my lifetime on this earth, and so I had stopped asking God to take it away.
Maybe I was thinking of Paul’s “thorn” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10) and that he had asked God to remove it – three times! – and God had responded with “My grace is sufficient for you.” In other words, “No. I will use this ‘weakness’ in your life to show My strength.” I don’t think Paul told us he asked three times as a magic number, and Scripture doesn’t say he asked, it says he pleaded. Implored. Begged. But still God said “No.” I thought, “Well, I’ve asked many times and it hasn’t happened, so I’ll just accept it and ask God to show His strength through my depression.”
But unlike Paul, I haven’t been told by God to stop asking. Instead, the Bible encourages me to be more like the woman who showed persistence in repeatedly asking the judge for justice (Luke 18:1-8). Keep asking. But keep working. Keep letting God use the depressions and remissions in my life to encourage others. “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4b, NIV. But keep asking for healing too.
I also remember the end of a meeting with my pastor. He laid his hands on me and prayed that God would take the depression away from my life. I prayed and cried silently, completely agreeing, with hope that God would answer “Yes,” and the depression would be gone. Pastor ended that prayer with Romans 15:13, NIV, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – the verse that keeps showing up over the years of my depressions. When he finished praying, I told him of the significance of that verse, and we agreed that it is my life verse, that I am to trust God, because the rest of the verse’s action comes from Him.
I’ve seen prayer heal depression. I’ve prayed with others for a woman whose depression went away that afternoon. I’ve had people pray the same for me, and I’ve felt the relief and comfort of my needs and concerns being given to God. My depression has not gone away. I still move in and out of depression and remission. But the verse remains the same. So I pray that I’ll trust God, be filled with His joy and peace, and overflow with hope. Certainly not of my own doing, but supernaturally, through God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think that asking for personal healing and serving God from a place of brokenness are mutually exclusive. There can be – should be – both. I think this is what my pastor was trying to tell me.