Throughout the past few years, I have traversed a valley familiar to many. It’s a deep valley, with little to no light, known clinically as depression. Searching for some kind of mental health wellness has been a long slog, consisting of a few ups and so many downs. Here, at the end of years of trial and error, I am edging closer to a recipe for stability and clarity, which includes but is not limited to several different medications and regular check-ins with medical professionals.
Recently, however, I failed to take these necessary medications after a long and busy week. I woke up in a fog and proceeded to spend the day struggling to do simple tasks, my thoughts muddled and slow to catch up. I soon recognized what was happening, and realized where my misstep had taken place. I made sure to take my pills before heading up to bed that night, and as I lay there next to my husband, I quietly confessed my struggle with the reality that I needed these pills to stay steady. I begrudged the fact that I feel completely out of control of my own mental state, especially when user error can lead to days and nights like these, where my incapacity to will myself out of this fate is laid before me. I can want to feel better until I’m blue in the face, and yet, depression will still take me slowly and silently into a dark cloud.
As I lay there, my mind wandered to the only thing that helps me make sense of this powerlessness. Who does God say that we are at our base level? Drop into any book of the Bible and it’s clear that our factory setting is broken beyond repair. The fracture that spilled out of the Garden of Eden has disjointed our souls, making it impossible for us to will ourselves out of that broken condition, no matter how much we may want to. It shuts down any avenue that may contain something life-giving, leaving us, for all intents and purposes, dead. And we are helpless to stop it.
My mental state is a byproduct of this historical and spiritual fracturing, yes, but it’s also a picture of it. If you’ve ever felt the incapacitating and unavoidable pull of depression or any mental illness, you are familiar with this feeling. This unforgiving illness displays a clear reflection of our spiritual predicament. We are sliding down a cliff into the dark, no matter how much we bloody our hands trying to keep ourselves from falling. Our great need is for someone outside of us to steady the ground beneath us, to bring light to our darkness, and to revive our flatlining hearts.
Christ’s work on the cross was a bloody affair, the scandal of eternity. Who would have thought that the God of life would cover himself with the stench of our broken decay in order to save those who didn’t even know they needed saving? On the cross, Jesus stretched out his hand and healed the fractures that left us broken and dying on the side of the road. The price was enormous, but he was willing to pay it, bleeding out under the condition of our disease. Isaiah laments about Jesus, calling him “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (53:3). In other words, he didn’t just see my depression from the mountaintop; he lived it in the valley. And up from the valley, he bore my cross — your cross — on his back, planting it on the hill of Calvary where he would exchange his death for our life.
There in my bed, this truth didn’t miraculously heal my broken brain, but it did turn my face to the greater miracle. The miracle of the cross shines on despite the trouble that I may face here on this earth. Jesus’s pierced hands reach through the fog, regardless of my ability to see or feel them at any given moment. My temporary sickness will one day give way to eternal joy, and for that, I rejoice. But in the here and now, the vastness of God’s mercy and grace is enough. So while I take my medicine, see my therapist, or visit my doctor, I quietly rejoice over this picture of my greater need, and how it’s been resoundingly met in Jesus.