…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

turning sad June 21, 2013

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , , , ,

“Some people turn sad awfully young,” he said. “No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.” –Mr. Jonas to Douglas in Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

I’m struck with a deep, profound sadness sometimes. There’s no discernible trigger, no circumstance. Nothing “happens.” It just is. A dark emptiness falls and casts its heavy shadow over every part my living. This sadness, it happens a lot to people like me. People existing with this insidious illness called depression. It saps the life and energy clean out of us, as sure as any other “real” disease. Simple things like getting out of bed or eating become overwhelming, monumental tasks. And a hazy fog settles over life, distorting the days or weeks or months with a thick veil.

And the light of a thousand candle-prayers can’t chase it away.


For nearly twenty years I’ve fought this darkness. See, people who’ve had one major depressive episode are increasingly more likely to relapse, making my odds of relapse about…100%. The funny thing is most people have no idea. I’ve gotten really good at pretending. At dutifully wearing a mask of happiness, because “nobody wants to see a sad face.”

And I’ve heard nearly every reason this illness is my fault. And usually those reasons come down to I’m not doing enough to be a good Christian. I’m not praying enough, I’m not reading the Bible enough, I have some sin I haven’t confessed—and if I just had more faith, I’d be healed. Because good Christians—real Christians—don’t get depressed.

I have high blood pressure too. Is that a result of lack of faith? If I prayed more or studied the Bible more, would my blood pressure return to normal? Do real Christians not have high blood pressure? 

See how silly that all sounds? I can’t pray away depression any more than I can pray away high blood pressure. So why do I keep secret the pills that regulate the chemicals in my brain but not the ones that lower my blood pressure?

Because I still think it’s my fault. That there’s something in me that’s lacking and surely, someday, I’ll find that last piece of the puzzle and be well.

I think I found it.

See, Jesus, he never promised life wouldn’t hurt. He promised the opposite—“in this world you will have trouble.” And that means that disease and illness and sorrow and pain are a part of life. Bad things happen, sometimes for no apparent reason. People get sick. Worlds go dark. Life is messy and hard and ugly and nobody ever talks about that because it doesn’t fit with our idea of abundant life. But the upside of that promise of trouble is the guarantee that he has overcome the world, and that my strength and joy is found in him and his power. Ultimately, he wins. And Jesus is what makes life beautiful. He takes hold of the ugly and shakes it right out until his beauty shines in and through life.

It takes whole lifetimes.

So those days I wake up feeling fragile, and that homesick, heartsick longing for home creeps in, that yearning for a place I’ve never seen but know because he set it in my heart from the beginning; I can grab hold of the promise that this is not the end.
And when I struggle to believe what I know is true, when I’m wrecked and bruised and all I’ve got is a strangled, broken “Jesus…” I have to trust that it’s enough. And it is, even though it doesn’t always appear to be. Because I’m never anywhere the Lord doesn’t know about and isn’t right in the middle of with me.

And just maybe it’s him pressing in, drawing me closer.

© stephanie g pepper, 2013
for a thorough, serious yet amusing, spot-on blog post about depression, visit Allie at Hyperbole and a Half.


7 Responses to “turning sad”

  1. mojofan Says:

    Thank you so much for this, Stephanie. This is definitely a battle that generations of my family have fought in, and at least one died in, that I know of. Thank you for sharing your insight here–it’s not one I had really considered, at least it relates to depression. One of His multitudes of promises–“you will have trouble,”–kept me away from Him for a very long time. But thankfully I’ve learned to take complete comfort in knowing that He has and will save me from it…one day.


    • Stephanie Says:

      Thanks for reading, Allison. I have run myself ragged trying to make sense of why I still battle depression. And only recently I’ve come to accept that this may be something I deal with my whole life. And it doesn’t make sense, if God always has my good in his purpose why I walk through darkness so much. I guess the thing I’ve come to realize is that in the darkness, when I can’t see, I have to let him carry me. But like I said…this is not the end. 🙂


  2. I have a book on my reading list that I wanted to share … I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve liked what I’ve read about it.

    Not sure if the link will come through, but the title is Darkness is My Only Comanion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness. It’s written by an Episcopal priest. Fortunately, Episcopalians as a group are pretty open minded and non-judgmental regarding mental illness, generally speaking at least.

    I’ve suffered as well, for twenty-five years and am always looking for insight! I’m also a Christian.

    Rebecca Jones (saw your blog posted on McRae’s facebook wall.)

    Also, have you read the Momastery blog? I find it very helpful!


    • Stephanie Says:

      Thanks, Rebecca! I’ll definitely check that book out. I’m always on the look-out for a book from the Christian perspective that doesn’t boil mental illness down to spiritual causes without considering the ramifications of “blaming the victim,” so to speak. I feel so fortunate that the church I’m in now (which is a Presbyterian Church of America) is so welcoming to messy people. I’ve found a very supportive group of people, including my pastor, who have walked these last few years with me. That hasn’t always been the case. I just wish we could break down the stigma of mental illness so that more people could find help and comfort from the one place that should be the most welcoming. (Sorry for the rant…I get a little fired up about this.) 🙂
      And, yes, I love the Momastery blog. 🙂


  3. Sharman Pepper Says:

    Stephanie, continue to rant. Rant for all of us. Daddy suffered from depression, despite a faith that defined faith. His devotional routine, his prayer life, his work for his Lord didn’t prevent depression. Several of my cousins, and one in particular, constantly struggle despite deep faith. My own mental illness has tended more toward severe anxiety, but I have experienced depression at times, certainly often enough to completely understand the struggle to accomplish even the most basic task. So, I repeat…rant on.


  4. Marissa Noe Says:

    I just came across your blog here for the first time today and my goodness it was EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I felt depression for the first time when I was pregnant with my last baby and recently again when I weaned her. I always feel that it must be something I’m not doing- and what is it? This was such a comfort to read and filled with such good reminders about the love of Christ.


  5. sisterless Says:

    Thank you.

    There are so many amazing and true things here and I can’t wait to discuss it more in depth face to face.

    Until then, I leave you with two thoughts.
    1) a quote from C.S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a deisre that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

    2) Jeremiah 29:11 promises God has a plan to prosper you, to give you hope and a future…but he doesn’t promise it will happen here on earth. The hope of eternal life and all that comes with it fulfills the promise. Happiness (not joy…that’s different) here on Earth is icing, you know?

    Again, thank you.
    Talk soon.


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