Over the last 30 years I have walked with countless numbers of people as they journeyed through the darkness of depression. There was one woman, who in her darkest hours taught me much about faith, hope, and love. To the rest of her world she seemed peaceful, generous, and happy. Although I’m sure the happiness she displayed wasn’t bubbling over with exuberance. Yet in the privacy of the counseling room the true depth of her suffering was evident. At one point she fought off suicidal thoughts. At another she fought off delusional thoughts of self-contempt and a deep sense of unworthiness that bordered on paranoia. No one ever knew except her doctor and me. She purposely kept it that way because she wanted her children and grandchildren to remain carefree in faith, and see grandma as a role model of Christian joy and service.
It wasn’t her courage facing the illness or her generosity in putting her family’s wellbeing before her own that impressed me. It wasn’t even her perseverance in sticking with treatment or her humility in following and collaborating with her doctor and myself during her journey to health. It was her faith that put me in awe, specifically her prayer life. She felt nothing. She gleaned no comfort, no satisfaction from praying. In fact, her experience was that God had abandoned her and it was her fault. Her response to this was not to hide in shame or stop praying. In other words giving in to the distortions of depression. Instead she prayed the following as a mantra all day long every day. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits for his word. My soul waits for the Lord more than a sentinel waits for the dawn. More than a sentinel waits for the dawn let Israel hope in the Lord.” It was a paraphrased version of Psalm 130: 5-7a.
She eventually got well. Predictably, she prayed, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name. O bless the Lord my soul, and thank Him!” (Psalm 103:1 paraphrased)
Would that we could all have such faith!
Picture by Heinrich Seufferheld (1866-1940), public domain. Retrieved on Wikimedia Commons.