Random Dissonance 5 - Help for the Hurting

"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly.  Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively.  But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."    C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
It's been raining again.  It's the second day of Spring and the skies are covered with clouds.  The rain came in the dark hours of night when sleep had already captured me in its tantalizing spell.  From then on, without a break, the tender drops have fallen relentlessly.  Here in California, a gentle rain may as well be hurricane force winds.  We just cancel everything except work and stay home in such formidable conditions.  While we, beneficiaries of Father Serra's mission exploration, can keep walking and working through a 6.2 earthquake without missing a step, rain seems to disable us.  I don't know how we might handle such conditions as freezing rain or white-out snow.  I suspect we might just surrender to the elements.  I guess that's why we don't live in Minnesota.  No surrender for me.  Today was Sunday.

While mild rain seems delicate as it falls, its collective effect can be quite destructive.  Experts tell us that it is the collective effect of long-sustained rainfall that causes mud slides with the strength to carry million-dollar homes down beach-side cliffs.  It's also this seemingly amiable precipitation that causes midwestern rivers to swell over their banks, crushing levies, and obliterating historic communities.

It's hard to know how to respond to someone who is hurting with depression.  And it's hard to know what's really going on.  Are they "just down?"  Maybe they are having a "mid-life crisis?"  Perhaps it's a "spiritual issue?"  Another part of the problem with responding to someone who is going through a season of depression, is that the depression causes an internal desire to retreat from people.  I guess it's obvious that it's an arduous undertaking to love and help someone who wants nothing more than to be left alone, drenched in the bone soaking sorrow that sometimes pours inside them and other times drizzles with relentless persistence.

In my experience, I discovered another troublesome aspect of trying to help someone who is bound up in the throws of that beastly storm called depression.  I think we underestimate the power of depression.  And I think we, for convenience sake, under diagnose depression.  I don't mean that we don't recognize it as depression often enough.  While that is possibly true.  I mean that we see depression as a relatively simple thing: singular, one-faceted, shallow, and easily fixed.

Some of us think of depression as an emotional problem rooted in the troublesome experiences of our past.  If this is our mindset, our approach to encouraging  a depressed person is to go back into the recesses of their memories, dig up some painful memories, relive them, and talk them out.  Perhaps we see the darkened, cloudy storm as a build up of mental problems like stress, worry, failure, fear, anxiety or the like.  In this case our approach is to suggest that the depressed person consider asking their physician for prescriptive psychotropic medications to relieve the physiological causes of the storm.  Often in the Christian world we diagnose all such storms as a spiritual issue.  (Let me say that in my worldview, everything is spiritual and thus every issue is a spiritual one.)  Our tendency is to assume that unaddressed sin is the cause of the darkness that shrouds depression's victim in the shadows of the soul.  Or perhaps that there is a kind of demonic oppression that needs to be addressed through a deliverance ministry.  We then pressure someone who is already a victim to "confess" to something so that they can receive God's forgiveness and restoration, or we endeavor to pray out an evil spirit that we presume to be present.  And then a few of us see depression as a relational issue and counsel its victim to pursue reconciliation.

Looking through the rain-drizzled window pane, past the breaking clouds and now resting under blue skies, I can see that depression finds is power in the collaborative effort of multiple forces working in concert.  And I want to add that I believe in my case that the collaboration was neither accidental nor disorganized.  I believe that Satan, the great opportunist, found just the right season in which to manipulate my mind, heart, and soul through deceptive circumstances and overwhelm me with a torrent that could have drown me.  But the flood did not come in a single downpour.  Instead, in slow constant rain, happenings and hurts, situations and stress, demons and discouragements came at me with relentless determination.  My mind was attacked, as was my spirit, as was my heart, as was my body.  Those who loved me enough to speak up and try to get in to help, missed the mark because of misunderstanding.  In their attempts to address only one area of my struggle, blind to the others, they missed the diagnosis and became part of the rain: stepping on one wound while trying to bandage another.

Ultimately, I would have to read the story of another Christian pilgrim struggling through a much shorter lived depression, before I could identify the multi-faceted weather pattern that had embroiled me in a battle for my survival.  See Shaun Groves' complete story here.  In coming upon this awareness, I had been given the battle armor and spiritual weapons to stand up in the deluge and press against the current.  I stood.  I prayed again.  I addressed spiritual forces in my mind, my heart, my spirit, and my body.  And the clouds cracked.  They only cracked.  But beyond that crack was a golden light that bid me, "come."

It's raining outside again today.  It's raining and I want to put on some bright yellow galoshes and run around kicking up the puddles.  It's raining.  It's pouring.  I love the rain!
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.    Isaiah 55:9-11


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