Have you ever considered the sound of darkness? Perhaps that is an odd question for you. Usually darkness is associated with color, not sound. Actually, darkness doesn’t really have a color. Darkness is probably best measured in the absence of light. When we see color, what we actually see is the reflection of light. No light. No color. Darkness. So then, perhaps darkness includes the absence of sound. Sound needs a medium by which to travel and thus to be heard. In the darkness of Space there is no medium for sound to travel through. No air. No sound. Darkness. You can open your mouth and scream. Nothing. You can cry and shout your saracustas, your empty hallelujahs, and they will not echo even once.
I have been dealing with depression for a while. I think it first decided to show up sometime in 8th grade. Mr. Springer, my algebra teacher, had the privilege of my presence in his early morning “home group” – a catch all class period where the administration hoped to get to the students the extra stuff they could not justify fitting into other courses. The “home group” curriculum called for the students to journal each day. At some point I wrote in my journal words along the lines of, “I don’t care about my life or about anything anymore! I’m going to blow something up.” Well, bless Mr. Springer’s balding scalp, that got me a free trip to the school counselor and a phone call to my parents. A week or so passed and it blew over as “foolish adolescent behavior” and I was warned never to write anything like that again. They told us we could write anything in our journal. Yeah right!
For the record, I had no intention to blow anything up. What I wished I could have told them was that there was some-thing dark and stifling warring for my mind and keeping me from being the “A” student that I was previously known to be. Over the rest of that year that darkness would paralyze me in class from participating in the usual ways and even some of my favorite activities. I would sit alone for hours at a time in complete silence. Every breath I took was an attempt to scream at the top of my lungs. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Every heart has its secret sorrows which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold when he is only sad.” Try as I may to ask for help or escape the darkness, I was eventually labeled as a good egg gone bad. I became the “cold one” in the shadowy corner.
I’m 29 years of age now. The darkness of clinical depression has gone in and out of my life since I was 13-years-old. oSometimes it lasted for days. Sometimes for weeks. I don’t know how many times I’ve contemplated suicide to end the unquenchable pain that pierces my consciousness. There was that time I held a handful of medicine in my hand staring at myself in the bathroom mirror… Or that time I sat in my car at the stop sign, waiting for a truck on its way to bring me liberation… There was that time I parked my car downtown, drunk myself stupid, then walked toward that bright blue bridge… A few years ago the depression decided to make a more permanent stand taking me to the deepest, longest, and darkest hole I’ve even been in. Oh how wide, how deep, how long, and how high it was!
What’s wrong with me? Don’t I care about what’s happening? Why doesn’t anything motivate me anymore? Do I still believe in God? Is my faith not strong enough? Why won’t He take this away?! Am I not man enough to confront myself? These are the questions I asked myself over and over. People are counting on me. I fail them. I am a failure. They think I don’t care enough. I sit in my bed because I am worthless. They are counting on me. I can’t get out of bed. I fail them. They think I don’t care. I am worthless. I can’t get out of bed. A foul spiral, wrapping it’s control of my destiny.
Angel of God, my guardian dear
To whom God’s love commits me here
Ever this night be at my side
To light, to guard, to rule and guide.
I want to live. And I want to live the abundant life God has for me. Suicide is no longer an option for me, and it hasn’t been for while. I want to serve God. I want to love him with all my heart and soul and strength. This is the battle I have chosen to fight. Perhaps John Perkins didn’t have depression in mind when he said it, but yes, “Love is the final fight.” This is why I am choosing to use medication to combat my clinical depression. This is why I choose to maintain regular counseling sessions, learning fighting techniques. This is why I write this reflection now, because if I can’t hear my own voice, then maybe
I can see it and show it to others to help them understand what I am going through. To help lift both my arms as I declare victory in Jesus’ name.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor. 12:7-10
I pray for my deliverance every day. I’m not sure that my depression will ever completely go away. I don’t blame God for this thing that pursues me. No. We must all wrestle against principalities, powers and the rulers of darkness. Even the Apostle Paul had his thorn. Maybe this is mine. I fully believe that the love of God is larger than any silent cloud of darkness. But, the reality for me is that some days I find it harder to come to that conclusion. And unlike some of my peers, right now I need medication to help me see that reality of God’s love. At the same time, I have learned much about God’s grace. He knew that at this point in my life, I would be wrestling in the night and pleading for a blessing. And yet, He chose me to lead His people. God has allowed me to see that no matter how talented and gifted I am for ministry, I need Him so much more than my gifts and talents because without Him I am nothing. Therefore, the challenge to my faith is now producing more faith. Though I may be shrouded in darkness, God wraps himself in light, and though my voice be empty, at His voice darkness trembles and hides.
This article originally appeared in the Kerux, the student publication of Calvin Seminary.