Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

Where is God when I’m depressed?

I sat at a stoplight, trembling with anxiety’s rattle and hum. The sky was bleak; charcoal clouds seemed to mirror my soul. The familiar fog of depression had rolled in and I was weary of the struggle. It’s exhausting: wrestling to be whole, never shaking the bone-deep loneliness.

There’s an excruciating physicality to mental illness that’s rarely acknowledged. But this pain was nothing new. I couldn’t remember a time before depression’s waves rolled through me. I’d grown accustomed to smiling, saying I was just tired, going through the motions while my chest burned and my body felt like lead.

Still, the worst part was the questions that carved out my insides. God, are you there? Why can’t I be different? Why won’t you fix me? I know you can. Underneath those questions, I told myself a different story: God doesn’t want this mess and neither does anyone else. I knew that if I didn’t smile and be okay, I would lose my people…and even God.

When I tried to share glimpses of my darkness, well-meaning Christians said things they didn’t understand. Happiness is a choice, they told me, as though it were a switch to flip.

But choose joy turned into snap out of it in my head, and I couldn’t force that, no matter what I did. Believe me, I’d tried. So I kept the ache to myself, hiding questions and unkempt prayers until I could let out the mess.

I found that place in my old Taurus, a messy sanctuary in all my here-to-theres. Empty paper cups rolled on the floorboards. Clothes were strewn over boxes of books and trinkets. Despite the clutter, that old car was my safe place. There was no need to smile, no show to put on. Nobody to hear or judge. I could relax and say out loud all of my unkempt prayers.

There, at the stoplight, I felt crushing shame. The gray and weight and cloud were pressing and I couldn’t make them stop. I don’t remember specific pleas or if I said anything at all. But I do remember the sweetest words, clearer than anything I’ve heard whispered in my heart.

“The darkness may always be there, but I will always be there in the darkness.”

Tears welled up, a rare and welcome occurrence. But they weren’t sorrow. They were hope, bittersweet hope.

What sounded like a death sentence was, for the first time, a promise of life. That whisper in my heart, “The darkness may always be there,” told me to stop fighting to fix myself. Stop burying the pain, stop hiding. The darkness exists. It’s okay that it’s there and it’s okay that it’s so hard. It’s okay to face bravely into it, to let go of denial and learn to live with it.

The second half of that whisper was sweeter still. “I will always be there in the darkness.” It shook my soul like tectonic plates shifting, foundations rearranged.

God isn’t disappointed in me.

He’s not tapping his foot and looking at his watch, impatient for me to get it together. He sits with me in the darkness. I remembered a favorite verse from Psalm 139: if I make my bed in hell, you’ll be there.

Those words released me from so much guilt and fear. They pledged that I’m not so profoundly screwed up that the God of the universe would ever back away. He isn’t afraid of my depression.

He doesn’t lose patience with my pain.

He isn’t uncomfortable when I share dark thoughts, telling me to snap out of it. Nothing I can do, nowhere I can go will ever push him to abandon me. Instead, God welcomes honesty. He runs toward my pain and questions.

That day in the car, my tearful voice shook in hopeful response. “Okay. If you promise to never leave, I can walk through anything with you.”

Sometimes God doesn’t heal, and it’s not anyone’s fault. Sometimes sickness is just the ugly reality of living in a broken world. My hope doesn’t rest on the actions of God, on the miraculous or a mystery I can’t comprehend. I don’t have to be healed to trust him. My hope rests on his character, who He’s proven Himself to be time and again.

Sometimes, it takes more faith to believe he’s good and kind and present when he walks through darkness with us instead of plucking us from it.

I’ve learned to cling to the Lord come hell and high water, and they both surely will rush in. I know to press my face into his clothes and breathe in deep. When I’m terrified or my chest is filled with the burn of depression, I lean into Him and listen. “It’s okay. I’m still here, even in the darkness.”

And, much as I would love Him to wave His magic wand and put my soul back together without cracks and scars, I am grateful. I know the Comforter because I have been comforted. I know a God who sees me and is present with me. He’s proven it by showing up in my car when I needed Him most.

If the darkness will always be here, so will God. He’ll sit in its midst with me, holding my sometimes-desperate and flailing heart. I won’t be alone. That’s all I need to get through.

About Sarah

Hi, I'm Sarah. I love coffee, pancakes and street tacos. I'm a learner, a traveler and a creative mess. I've got a thing for redemption and seeing broken people living beautiful lives. That's the story I've lived, and the one I want for you. Let's be friends!

7 Replies

  1. Babes, this is soo damn good! I’m soo proud of you and adore you.
    Way to go BE!
    ~WB

    P.S. You’ve got me and Jesus, I’m not going anywhere either 😉

  2. Janet Robinson

    So much spiritual maturity contained in those paragraphs! Deep stuff. Things that, once you know them, I mean really know them, no way can the devil shake them loose! They will carry you from here to there and back again. I have begun a practice that really helps me. I’d like to share it in hopes it may help someone else. Each and every day, I say – out loud – “I love you, too, Jesus. I love you, too.” Too, because I know that He has already said it to me. In a myriad of ways. Thank you!

    1. I love that practice, Janet ❤️ it’s amazing how much we are changed by the simple things, like just saying what we know to be truth out loud. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. I can relate to this to this SO much. I felt like God told me the same thing when I was going through a time of depression–that He was with me in the darkness. It was all I needed to hear. Thanks so much for sharing this! The world needs more Christians who will talk honestly about this topic.

    1. Sara, I’m so glad you had the same experience. It’s amazing how those kind words really do change everything. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I’m honored to have you here ❤️

  4. Well, here is another Robinson response – all that I will say: what Indescribable Beauty – what Great Love – what Faithfulness & all well beyond any persons ability to adequately express – The Love Of God. Keep Looking To Jesus.

    1. He is so faithful ❤️ Thank you, Dennis!

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