***originally published on Whole Magazine November 6, 2014***
What I am, though, is a follower of Christ who also happens to suffer from depression.
It is actually a perplexing paradox for me, because we are people of joy and strength and peace as Christians, but with a thorn in our sides like depression, it sure does make this sort of living difficult.
We know the Truth, and yet, there’s this thing in our lives that is constantly trying to rob us of our joy.
We are also people of prayer and I know that we are praying for deliverance. We are asking God to take this yoke from us. Others are also praying for us, sisters.
Trust and know that there are believers all over the world praying against this condition, rebuking it in the name of Jesus Christ to see you and I healed.
In some cases, though, months and months of prayers go up, and it seems…we’re still here.
It’s still hard to face the morning, we still cry sometimes for no reason, and we still feel the pain.
Why? We’re praying and believing a healing and deliverance is on its way, why isn’t it here?
We’re delivered to people often who need our testimony, and God has delivered someone to me: the Apostle Paul. Paul knew the struggle of praying against a pain, a trouble, and a yoke of something – he doesn’t say specifically what – and not exactly getting the response he was looking for. In 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9a he wrote:
“…So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away, each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’”Speculation exists as to just what it was that troubled Paul, but it seems to be something in his soul. It is unlikely to be physical, in my opinion. He was suffering from a spiritual attack that was bad enough on at least three occasions for him to literally beg God to take it away.
God did not answer Paul’s pleading in the way that Paul had hoped. Instead, He said, “My grace is all you need.”
Probably not what Paul wanted to hear, I imagine. Paul wanted deliverance and instead what He got basically said, “What do you need for anything when you have My grace? And besides, I’m working here. And I work better when you’re not trying to be so strong.”
I picture Paul’s reaction to be similar to mine: a shot of conviction filled with hope. I’m so humbled by the response God had for Paul because, He’s right.
What other than His grace do I need?
He says His grace is sufficient to cover me, and therefore to cover my depression and the pain I suffer because of it, and He promised that no pain will come to me that He is not using.
This is echoed in Isaiah 66:9, which says, “Before she went into labor, she had the baby. Before the birth pangs hit, she delivered a son. Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Has anyone seen anything like this? A country born in a day? A nation born in a flash? …Do I open the womb and not deliver the baby? Do I, the One who delivers babies, shut the womb?
”Similar to the pain felt by a mother who is in labor prior to bringing forth new life, sometimes there is a painful process we must endure that we may reach that goal to which we are striving, even begging for.
God promises here that He will not allow our labor pains to go in vain. He will use our pains for growth, transformation, new life, and eventually, maybe even for deliverance. If not, it will be used for our benefit, because even the hard times we face in this life will be used for our own good (Romans 8:28).
This comforted Paul and encouraged him: “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, and persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, He is strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10).
We are weak and susceptible to hard times, persecution, and yes, even depression in this fallen world of despair.
Yet, we have hope, because when we are less, He is more
(John 3:30). We have the hope that a power greater than us is working in us, and we have the security of knowing that when we do not always get it all right, there is mercy for that. While Paul said that he believed he was allowed this thorn in his side to keep him from becoming too proud, and while that makes sense for the role he played in the formation and growing of the early church, I am coming to a totally different realization about not being delivered from depression.
Maybe deliverance isn’t coming, not only to keep us humble and in need of the Lord, but also because God is trying to meet us in our pain.
It reminds me of being a kid and falling off of my bike and scraping up my hands and knees. Mom would rush in with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide or something else that just burned to touch the wound. However, the things that burned and caused a wince or even a few tears brought healing to that wound in time.
Similarly, we must allow Jesus into our wounds, even if it is painful. We’re allowed to wince and we’re allowed to cry – His grace covers that, too.
It’s not a test, I don’t think, but it does in a way test our faith to walk through the pain of depression and trust Jesus in it.
Do we trust that He knows what He’s doing by allowing this pain?
(Note:allowing, not causing).
Do we trust in His goodness and love? Do we trust that He is faithful to do that which He has promised?
We trust in His faithfulness and love, and in His ability to deliver us, but we should be cautious to not put our trust in the deliverance itself.
We don’t follow the gifts, we follow the Giver; not the provision, but the Provider; not the story, but the Author and Finisher (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus, I believe, knows our struggle as well. Scripture tells us that He was tested and tempted, and suffered because of it in Hebrews 2:18, among other places, but nowhere is this more evident to me than in Luke 22:42. Jesus was soon to be arrested, beaten, and crucified, and He lay on the ground praying to God the Father: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” He knew what was ahead for Him and He asked for another way, any other way. Dying for us what not a glamorous thing, and probably didn’t feel as glorious in that moment as it seems now, looking back more than two-thousand years. It was hard, and being that He was fully God and fully man, He was no doubt troubled by it. Nonetheless, He was committed and obedient to follow the Father’s will to the very end. He could see the other side and He knew what would come from the pain He was suffering in His time on earth.
In closing, I want to share with you a scripture that has carried me through some very dark times (Isaiah 43:1-13). It is beautiful in almost any translation, but here is the Message translation. It tells of His protection for us in hard times, not from hard times. I pray that God’s word may write itself on your heart, as well as mine, and remind us of His promises and His love for us. Let Him meet you, sister. He is faithful to heal us.
“But now, God’s Message,the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel:“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back; trade the creation just for you. So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.”
Original publication: http://www.wholemagazine.org/posts/what-to-do-when-deliverance-is-not-coming