I am writing a message to deliver at a church this week on depression and anxiety.
I am thankful because this is a topic we need to talk more about, in and out of the church. Depression and anxiety are real illnesses-- needing to be taken seriously-- and so I hope I always do those topics justice in this space.
I am swimming in notes on spiritual depression. I've been pulling apart Psalm 42 because it's a song of real suffering. As I read the Psalms, I realize how relatable this man actually is. He's happy and then he's sad. He's all over the place sometimes. But he always returns back to God. He always finds his true north there.
David is feeling all the feels. In Psalm 42, he asked the question we've likely read a million times before in church pews: Why are you downcast, O my soul?
I came across a quote about that verse by Lloyd-Jones:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says,: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” (Spiritual Depression)
These words are critical for someone like me who deals with depression and anxiety.
Daily, I am tempted to listen to the little voice in my head that says I am helpless or I am worth nothing. I know it has nothing good to say to me but the voice is so familiar. I feel like it knows me so well. That same voice wants me to sleep in and not get out of bed. That voice wants me to cut corners and only give half of my efforts to this day.
It's not the voice of God. I can't claim to know everything about God but I believe this: God's voice is one of encouragement and love, motivation and power.
God does not whisper half-hearted anthems into our ears or taunts us to give up. So why do I listen to this voice? Why do I let it wake me up and speak to me before I've even had a chance to pour the coffee?
I want to be like David in this Psalm. I want to be able to stop the noise in my brain that wants to define my worth and say, "No, what's going on with you? Why are you so upset? What are you letting in?"
I want to be smart and switch the script, tell myself I am capable even when I don't fully believe it.
I am never going to claim you shouldn't speak to someone if you are grappling with anxiety or depression. It's important. But I think every battle with mental health is lined with proactive steps worth taking.
A proactive step: I must take responsibility for how I speak to myself and what I allow to speak to me. The voices we listen to possess power.
It might be the voice of a person I thought was a friend. I am learning friends do not beat you down or tell you-you're not good enough. Friends don't make you feel like you are walking on eggshells. Friends cover you in truth, even when you don't want to hear it, but they do the work beforehand to draw close to you. I don't think we can go around and try to bodyslam people with "truth." We must be willing to hear the whole story and walk in shoes that make us uncomfortable.
It might be the voice of a parent or a sibling. Still, I think we need to turn the volume down when they are unkind or mean to us. God said we need to learn to love people with our whole hearts but what if that also looks like better boundaries?
It might be some false voice, one I think is God. In that case, I need to make it a priority to seek the true voice of God and apply it to my life. I think every one of us reaches a point our faith where we have to stop listening to podcasts and sermons given from a stage long enough to find the voice of God. God will be personal with you.
Here's to switching the script. If you feel like you're not there yet, if you can't find the words to encourage yourself, then borrow these. Read them over you if you like:
Why do you feel so defeated? Why are you kicking yourself down, not really giving yourself a fair shot? Whatever the reason- that's okay. I can't blame you. I've been in that spot before where the noise is deafening and the lies are loud.
But I hope you know today that you are not an accident. The furthest thing from it, really. You woke up today. You got another shot. Let's make something beautiful happen.
Macklemore says (yes, I am quoting Macklemore), "Don't try to change the world, find something that you love. Do it every day, do that for the rest of your life. And eventually, the world will change."
Don't get bound up to what it means to just "be good" or "be perfect." Don't try to be what others expect you to be. Just be.
Show up today and try to love people with every square inch of your heart. Be kind to yourself. Say thank you. Let go.
The pressure is off.