If you had to describe hell, where would you start? A Lake of fire, the stench of sulphur, the wailing and gnashing of teeth? Hell for me is where I go when I am depressed. It feels like I am careering down a black hole to oblivion. The blackness and emptiness sucks out all life, light and hope. It is a desperate place where God does not exist and creativity is impossible. It always makes me think of the very beginning of everything recounted in Genesis chapter 1, verse 2, “…the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…”
People say they don’t believe there is anything after they die. Is that the hell I just described? Is it the absence of God and life without even the potential for newness and goodness? Despite the occasional descent into this pit, a world without God is, in reality, impossible to imagine, even for the most ardent atheist. The manifestation of His glory and holiness are everywhere! If “every good gift is from Him” then can we really envision a world without love, beauty, kindness, colour, light and the desire to express the best of who we are through what we conceive and create?
I had a really lovely e-mail a week or so ago and I hope the person who sent it won’t mind me quoting it. It was from someone who used to be into tarot. She says of being a volunteer on my outreach team, “Freshers Fayre went nothing like I imagined it! But it was incredible I am looking forward to seeing what else God is going to do. Thank you for showing me the Jesus Cards. I am very interested in getting trained…Thank you for showing me that the past I had is very redeemable! I am so excited for the future.” I believe that God can take any fear, failure or deliberate act of disobedience and turn it inside out and upside down in order to heal us and work through us to reveal His perfect plan and purpose. Does that include my depression? My head says yes, but I would have to admit my heart is not sure!
Yet, this “thorn in my flesh” keeps me humble and dependent on His strength and guidance. It gives me an insight into the pain of others and helps keep my heart soft. If it can also motivate me to share the hope of salvation so that oblivion and nothingness might not be the final word in the lives of those who do not yet know Christ, is it really such a curse? I guess that in itself is an example of the redemption possible with God. “He works all together for good for those that love Him.” But I don’t believe that God wants me to stay depressed either. Someone once said you will only be able to help people attain the level of freedom that you yourself have received. I want total freedom in Christ for those I am in relationship with and for myself! If God can turn around the betrayal, abuse, torture and murder of his beloved only Son, He can help me become whole and bring inspiration and strength to others through the testimony of my healing!
In the meantime, as I do the hard work of confronting what causes the spiral downward, I hang on to these words, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (from Psalm 139). While I might not feel His presence, the truth is He is always there, He always was and He always will be.