Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

This is what you need to know if the darkness never lifts

I sat at a stoplight, trembling with anxiety’s rattle and hum. The sky was bleak with charcoal clouds seemed to mirror my soul. The familiar fog of depression had rolled in and I was weary of the struggle.

It was exhausting: wrestling to be whole, never shaking the bone-deep loneliness. The fog formed a dense wall, hedging me into isolation. Most days, it seemed nobody, not even God, can break through.

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, doing my best to show up for my commitments while my chest burned and my body felt like lead.

Still, the worst part was the way secret questions carved out my insides. God, are you there? Why can’t I be different? Why won’t you fix me? I know you can.

It wasn’t just the questions, but the story I believed underneath them: God doesn’t want this mess and neither does anyone else. I knew that if I didn’t smile and act okay, I would lose my people…and even God.

“Just choose joy.”

When I tried to share glimpses of the darkness, well-meaning Christians said things they didn’t understand. You have control over your emotions. This is a choice. Choose joy, they told me, as though it were a switch to flip.

Depression is so self-focused. How can you be sad with all God has done for you? You just need to serve others.

God answers prayers given in faith. Just speak life. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, even about yourself.

Those words left my skin flushed hot and nausea rising in my throat. I’d tried, so hard, to make myself better. I just kept failing.

Countless begging prayers with all the faith I could muster hadn’t changed the ache inside. Years of spending every free moment in ministry, serving and caring without rest, hadn’t filled the gaping void. Instead, I felt even more strangled by the unforgiving pace.

And, in my mind, choose joy sounded an awful lot like snap out of it. I couldn’t force that, no matter what I did. 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 – I was always moving in those days. 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 was running ministry errands that day, grateful for a reprieve from interaction in the offices. My heart raced with a sinking question: What if I never get better? Shame seared my flushed skin. Nobody wants this. How do I live like this forever?

There at the stoplight, my body trembled as the gray and weight and cloud pressed in. My thoughts spiraled and buzzed. The bony hand of anxiety started to close around my throat.

Then clear, sweet words whispered in my heart,

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

My mouth gaped open, eyes wide with suddenly welling tears. But it wasn’t sorrow. It was hope, bittersweet, shocking hope.

To some, it might have sounded like a death sentence. But not to me. It was a first-time 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. I reeled from the shock of realization.

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. The rattle & hum quieted, vibrations and tension slowly fading. I remembered a favorite verse from Psalm 139: if I make my bed in hell, you’re there. The heaviness in my chest lifted as I drew a deep breath.

Those words released 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 shrink from the darkness.

God 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.

In a messy, old Taurus, 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 can’t rest solely 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.

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 or 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.

Maybe today, you’re wondering if God is present in your pain. It may not be depression or anxiety. It could be loss, failure, illness, or injustice; at one point or another, we all come face-to-face with these big questions. Are you here? Are you with me?

In the midst of anguish and ache, God doesn’t condemn you. He is not disappointed or impatient with you. And, though he often doesn’t bring a sudden change of circumstance, he’s sitting with you in your pain.

God is with us. He isn’t leaving. He isn’t giving up.

If the darkness will always be here, so will God. He’ll sit in its midst with us, holding our sometimes-desperate, flailing hearts. We won’t be alone. Maybe that’s all we need to know to get through.

Feel stuck, broken, or discontent?

I have some hope to share with you. Can I send you a short manifesto for imperfect lives?
It means a lot that you trust me with your email. I won't share it with a soul Powered by ConvertKit

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!

14 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!

  5. Barbara

    Sarah,
    I can’t say much more than…Thank you so much. Maybe when my head comes up from under the water. I will be able to tell you what I really feel. But, for right now, I wish I could give you a hug. I will settle for crying and saying thank you.

    1. Oh, Barbara ❤️ I so wish I could give you a hug, too. Knowing it means something to you is all the thanks I could hope for!

  6. Jeff McMorrough

    I’ve felt and feel so many of these these things. I haven’t had that response from Him yet, but maybe reading this is a part of it. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Charlotte

    I received almost the same thought / message from the Lord just yesterday ! I had taken my fiancé to the hospital for a procedure . Dreading this trip as it was the same hospital my husband died in four years ago after a battle with cancer . I had to park a long ways from the hospital and walk after dropping the patient off . As I walked along underneath the trees memories flooded my mind . Dark memories . Then suddenly I feel a gentle breeze and in my
    Spirit I heard “I have never left you and I never will . “ I felt such peace ! Peace that I’ve needed for four years .

  8. Lynette Mendoza

    Thank you for the difficult subject you have shared. Your words mean so much to me, especially God telling you He is with you in the darkness. Two years ago, my life shattered into a million pieces. I lost almost everything, including 92% of my eyesight, so my darkness is also physical. I’m learning to live with my physical and visual limitations, but it isn’t easy. Sometimes, the darkness is so deep and the depression so intense, I feel like I can’t breathe. I love my Lord. I truly believe He is with me through everything, but it’s difficult to always “know” He’s there. It’s hard when people tell me I should be thankful to be alive. I want to be thankful, but most of the time I’m not because I don’t really feel alive anymore.

  9. Courage

    Oh, what a gift you and your writing are! I’ve just discovered your blog today. Will read in depth … but one thing I want to say right away is Thank You for acknowledging the physicality of this condition we call “depression.” I was born with it, and its basis was biological — a two-month premature birth with serious medical crises which required three months of isolation — in the late 1950s. My mother was not allowed to touch me; we did not bond. I’ve been paying for that loss of attachment my entire life. The form of depression (often considered “treatment-resistant”) is anaclitic depression — aka “failure to thrive.” I am amazed that I am alive…and every day, I tread water to stay alive. I was handed down a terrible legacy that was no one’s fault. My spiritual life, and my faith, have helped me to stay in the world…and they have been steep challenges to maintain. How to sense God’s love when my beginning was devoid of human/maternal love? ~ Yet, somehow, I hang onto a slim thread of belief.

    So, thank you, and bless you, Sarah. I will read more deeply. I feel that I’ve been handed a lifeline. There is God, prodding my soul in a salving direction…

  10. I stumbled across your blog after a friend on Facebook shared a post. It is so familiar to me…like words I could’ve written myself. You articulate the struggle so beautifully and honestly. The see-saw between desperation and hope in Jesus is so exhausting and confusing. Your bravery is amazing. Thank you for sharing.
    I have an anonymous blog, http://www.squarepegsdrumsandbuttholes.com, where I empty my thoughts. Don’t be distracted by the “buttholes” part…it’s in reference to the saying “opinions are like buttholes, everybody has one”, lol. Many of my posts mirror your own, though I am anonymous and I tend to have a trash mouth when I am down in the murky depths of depression.
    Pray for me and I will pray for you and this monster will not overtake us. Thank you for reminding me that Jesus is there in the darkness with me. -hugs-

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.