Friday, August 9, 2013
There are so many places I could go with this but I will keep it personal because I can only share my own personal experience. My husband lives with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and mild obsessive compulsive disorder. His thoughts are often unrelenting, boulders of negativity that cause him to lose (a lot of) sleep. And because of the nature of OCD, he fixates on those thoughts. I say this with absolutely no hyperbole: it can be an exhausting existence.
Let me draw my red line here and now concerning this kind of thing, however. This is not a situationally-based depression caused by sin or by disobedience. It is not caused by a host of bad choices or even one bad choice. This depression is physiological. Yes, events of life have deepened the struggle, but not caused it. Too often, the Church gets it mixed up, misdiagnosing symptom for root cause; because while depression and GAD deeply affect spirituality, the origin is not there. That's not to say that spiritual growth can't be stunted by these issues. It surely can. But let us call a spade a spade.
As the spouse of someone who lives with these raging internal battles, it can be equally exhausting to be the unending (physical) voice of encouragement. It can be discouraging and lonely to know that there will be days in which my generally cheerful disposition feels like an unwanted guest in my home.
But like many other relationships in life, God uses marriage to sanctify us. In fact, marriage may be the one place where sanctification gets real, right quick. So many times, the Word tells me how to do it:
*Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:2-3)
*Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (Prov. 17:14)
*Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)
*Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.(Eph. 5:24)
*However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph. 5:33)
Today, I confessed to my husband that I my relatively good mood gets squelched when he's struggling with anxiety and depression. What a thing to say...I mean, really. "Listen, I know you're having a hard time with your thoughts on a day-to-day basis, but your sadness is really killin' my happy buzz..."
But I am human and I falter. And I get selfish. Now, I'm not saying my needs are unimportant. Of course they aren't. But I find, being married gives me opportunity after opportunity to lay my own needs or rights or preferences aside in favor of my husband. Considering this is the entire foundation of my faith, and the God-calling to a life of faith (Romans 8:28-30), I can't ignore a chance to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2) by the kind of love and sacrifice that is only possible with Jesus. And there's the key. With Jesus. When I start thinking about MYself, MY needs, MY desires, I get lost and frustrated and feel the isolation the most. When I let Jesus love through me, I am focused on Him and doing His work.
The struggles my husband lives with are real and they're permeating. It can be so hard for him to see the light and the joy. I mentioned, today, the idea of posting around our home visual reminders of God's provision and sovereignty and love. I likened it to Hayden's need for visual reminders. If you've been in our home and used the restroom here, you won't soon forget the visual schedules posted for "How To Use The Potty" and "How To Wash Your Hands." It's not that she doesn't know how but being so focused in on something else causes her to operate often, only on muscle memory. And she can forget steps. Those visual schedules are there to help her remember.
So why not post scripture and hymn lyrics and even slightly off-color posters emblazoned with an encouraging phrase and perhaps an expletive or two? The idea is to put in front of his face what his mind has a hard time recalling.
God commanded Israel to do this (with only slightly more holiness than what I have in mind...) when He told them, "these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deut. 6:6-8)
So I start with this meme I've posted. My Love, depression IS a lying bastard. Life WILL be brighter again and whether it's bright or gray, I'll be here, holding your hand no matter what. And God will be here, too, holding us both, giving us exactly what we need for this season.