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Monthly Archives: September 2013

On the rare occasions that I blog, it tends to be provoked by either something going on in the world, or a song. I’m pretty sure that music touches an area of my brain that nothing else is able to get to.

There is a song called ” A Reason to Sing” by the band, All Sons and Daughters, which is all about experiencing loneliness, what would appear to be depression and a sense that God is absent. 

Over the past year, I’ve been struck by just how many people have been struggling with depression, anxiety and poor mental health in general.  There have been eight people within my social circle who have taken or are currently taking medication and receiving counselling for one or a combination of the above.

I’m not a stranger to struggles with mental health myself – in the past I have suffered from depression.  There were a whole range of things that it did to me which I really resented – the emotional instability, the physical tiredness…  and the feeling of weakness. For myself, I struggled with admitting that I was in such a dark place. There is a history of depression in my family – I found it difficult growing up around it, so when I saw it in myself, I was mortified.   I feared other people’s judgement – as I myself had judged those I knew with depression.  Once I was told by a friend, “I thought you were fixed” – I could see the disappointment in her eyes – it mirrored the disappointment I had in myself for not being stronger. But it also amplified the feeling of chronic loneliness which I think is one of the worst parts of depression.

I think I would put loneliness up there as part and parcel  of the struggles with mental health. I have a number of friends who have experienced a sense of God’s absence –  the pain on their faces is perhaps some of the worst pain I’ve seen from a depressed person, as they are experiencing loneliness on a whole different level.

Feeling the absence of God is not something which many people talk about openly as far as I’m aware. I remember reading an issue of Time magazine which had extracts from Mother Teresa’s letters to a friend where she poured out her pain at God’s apparent silence.

Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.

— Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

At the time I was flabbergasted – this was an amazing woman of God, who had dedicated her life to following Jesus through serving the poor. She is probably one of the most famous Christians who has ever lived. Yet it was clear that she went through periods of great spiritual depression – great loneliness.

I thought about it though and realised somebody more famous within Christianity experienced the same feeling –  when Jesus was being crucified, he cried out “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  Until that point, Jesus‘ trial and execution had been marked by his silence – or very few, carefully chosen words on his behalf. But at this point – Jesus becomes very emotional and calls out in pain. The loneliness of not experiencing God’s presence was another painful cross for him to bear.

Of course, in hindsight we look back and know that God had not forsaken Jesus – but in that moment, he felt completely shattered.

The song which I started with, has the lyrics:

When the pieces seem to shatter

To gather off the floor

And all that seems to matter

Is that I don’t feel you anymore

No I don’t feel you anymore

I need a reason to sing

I need to know that You’re still holding

The whole world in Your hands

I need a reason to sing

When I’m overcome by fear

And I hate everything I know

If this waiting lasts forever

I’m afraid I might let go

Will there be a victory?

Will You sing it over me now?

Your peace is the melody

You sing it over me now

Oh Lord

I don’t feel like this song really has a resolution – which is probably best as I don’t think there is a simplistic answer to the experience of spiritual loneliness and depression. But there is another song by the same band which starts with the lyrics:

Lord I find you in the seeking

Lord I find you in the doubt

And to know you is to love you

And to know so little else

Oh how I need you

In the midst of depression, whether it be mental, emotional, spiritual or a combination  – it is hard to see things through a different framework other than our own experience. I guess that’s what mental health struggles create though – a broken framework, a tinted window as it were. But in seeking God, in the straining to see through that tinted window – God can and does break through.

Another verse says:

Light, glorious light
I will go where You shine
Break the dawn, crack the skies
Make the wave right before me
In Your light I will find
All I need, all I need is You

I don’t want to pick out random verses…I don’t want to be trite…but stepping back and looking at history as a whole, God has shown himself to be faithful – and incredibly patient – with Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Peter…the list goes on.  I believe that didn’t stop with Mother Teresa – and it didn’t stop with Jesus – and I believe it will not stop with us.  God has demonstrated seemingly endless amounts of compassion with humankind – and his compassion extends to those of us being plagued by our own minds…with the church having the potential to be the embodiment of that unconditional love and support. But Christ also has a different perspective to that of our own, a different framework on life – he’s God so we can never fully get our heads around it. But in the straining, in the seeking – I believe the light starts to break through.