Written by Ryan Farrell
I meandered up and down the aisles of my local Talize, a thrift shop, unsure of what it was I sought. I had absentmindedly pulled into the parking lot. Did God think I needed to update my wardrobe? I asked him, Why did you bring me here? And that’s when I saw it. To most, I am sure, it looked uninteresting: just another meaningless knick-knack. To me, it was a beautiful expression of the human condition. It summarized the months of despair, discouragement and fear in which my soul had been swimming. Suddenly, the stars aligned and shalom, wholeness and peace, returned afresh to my life.
There was no debating, I had to purchase it. God had placed it there just for me.
My family physician cautiously sighed, folded his hands while leaning back in his swivel chair, turned to me and said, “It’s a fairly severe major depressive disorder, and likely a generalized anxiety disorder as well.” That’s not possible, was the thought which immediately surfaced in my mind, I’m a pastor. I cannot be depressed. I help people that are depressed, I am supposed to be the healthy one. I did not say any of this out loud, of course, I simply stared at the pale clinic walls with the same sullenness which had consumed my soul as of late.
“I recommend we start you immediately on a dosage of antidepressants. Now I need to make you aware that…” My doctor continued on, but I was not listening. Psalm 42:5 came to mind, a verse which I had read earlier that morning: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? My depression made no sense. There was nothing I could complain about in my life, I enjoyed the privilege of comfort, care and community—and yet my spirit and my mind felt as though they had descended into the very pits of hell.
The verse continues, Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. But my hope was nearly extinguished. Reacting negatively to the first set of medication, I found myself closed up in my apartment, feeling as though, in the words of Job, Sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water… I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. Thankfully, my hope was rekindled by the gentle breath of God’s Spirit on the embers dimming in my heart. Through therapy, rest, care, prayer and magnificent grace, I found my soul warmed once again with the hope of Christ.
But still. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why, good God, have I suffered this mental anguish? I found my answer in and through the old wooden crucifix I bought at Talize. On this cross, thousands of years ago, Jesus yelled out My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I saw my loving Jesus, hanging on the cross, suffering mental anguish alongside me. In a sermon Timothy Keller once said, “The Son’s relationship with the Father was beginning-less and infinitely greater than the most intimate and passionate human relationship. When Jesus was cut off from God, he went into the deepest pit and most powerful furnace, beyond all imagining. And he did it voluntarily, for us.”
I took the crucifix home and set in on my desk where I spend time in prayer daily. I have nicknamed it The Cross of the Depressed Jesus. Morning by morning, I look at this image of God’s suffering. I think about how my personal experience of “hell” is but a blip in comparison to Christ’s hell on the cross. And, even more importantly, a mere blip compared to the power of the relentless love of God.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise, my Saviour and my God. Psalm 42:5.