One of the first things we have to do when we dip into a depression or funk or mood is determine what is the right response. For me is it always a combination of quietness, reflection, and writing about it. I’m not seeking encouragement from anyone, I am writing only because the writing helps me and because I’m trying to give you the best “up close” look I can give you of as much of this journey as possible.
Tried to sleep for a while, but well-meaning nurses kept interfering, you know, by taking outstanding care of me. They have all been blessings. Sleep not coming, depression continuing to dance around the edges of my mind. When I listen closely, it says things like this:
“You’re washed up.” “Why pretend you’re okay with this? You’re no hero.” “You’re never going to be as good again as you were a week ago.” “You’ve had your last good day.”
But rather than focus on the messages I am hearing, I hope you will think about the ones you hear. Because we all hear these kinds of messages at times. That’s normal. The big question is when you hear these voices, do you listen? Do you indulge these thoughts? Do you believe them?
The Biblical word “Satan” means “The Accuser.” These kinds of messages come from a death-force, something that is utterly antithetical to the life and love of God. God whispers love and peace, the accuser speaks of hatred and destruction. God whispers contentment, the accuser speaks of anxiety and angst. God whispers comfort, the accuser stirs up conflict.
Peace, tranquility, joy, and love are already mine. I have been living in them this whole time, until some small issue comes up and steals my mojo. That is often when the accusations begin to fly, and always when we are most vulnerable. So what do we do?
We cling to who we are. My name is David, which literally means “beloved.” I am the beloved of God and whether your name is David or not, so are you. We begin by seeing with our spiritual eyes where the accusations come from. They are not real. They are shadows. They come from a place in all of us which still doesn’t know fully who we are yet. Give them no quarter, or they will take you down — into despair, confusion, painful doubt, anger, frustration, even a sense that you are not the beloved at all. That is the only direction these accusations can ever go once you start entertaining them. This ignorant part of you is immature and wants others to take care of you, to tell you your value. It believes it’s not good enough unless circumstances are right or others are constantly praising you. That’s why you so often see people taking to Facebook to say things like, “I guess I’m just the worst parent in the world.” Others always kindly rush to their aid. “No, you’re a GREAT parent.” It’s fine to be encouraging, but a person posting this needs to realize the source of these accusations, and get back in touch with who he/she really is. They need to learn to draw their identity from God, from a place of loving stability that never changes.
A lot of people (most) believe these voices when they hear them. That is why most people live in emotional turmoil — they accept whatever comes into their minds as reality about who they are. But no human being has ever risen to greatness by accepting what their minds tell them about reality. Every person must learn to ignore the accuser, learn who they really are, and live in that identity. Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. All the great stories feature this very struggle.
So you identify the source of the accusations. You reject them as you hear them. Above all, you do whatever you must do to return to peace and love. It is these things alone that can keep you in God (“in love”). Entertaining your dark accusations against yourself might feel “rational” and like it’s just time to “get real,” but it will never lead you anywhere but over the cliff. Sometimes you’ll give in and go over the cliff, and that too is human. Just make sure that you wave a loving goodbye to yourself as you charge off the edge, and love and forgive yourself for it.
When you’re hearing accusing voices, what gets you back into love and peace? If you don’t know what that thing is, and you wish to live a truly spiritual life, finding out the answer to that question is your first order of business. This is perhaps the master spiritual struggle. Jesus in the desert and again in Gethsemane. Jonah under the tree after preaching in Ninevah. Eve talking to the serpent. Elijah in the desert. The question is the deepest one we’ll ever encounter. “Who am I really?” Ironically, the voices you listen to as you answer that question for yourself determine the person you actually become.
I am David, the beloved. I am loved by my brother, mother, father, wife, children, and thousands of students, readers, and friends. I have a disease that is difficult but gives me a chance to learn how to suffer, how to let go of what is not mine to begin with, how to be patient. I have influence in the lives of an increasingly large number of people and a chance to be one of precious few voices of truth and integrity in their lives, all by simply being honest about my own. I have a chance to say with my life, and then my words, “God loves you and that means something.” I live in the center of blessing. Nothing, nothing, nothing can take that away from me, other than my own deliberate and fearful acquiescence to the accuser. And if I were to do this, what would remain? None of the good things I am, and only my worst fears, the fulfillment of all the dark things in me which I dread. My spirit and strength would wither, and everything I had found beautiful in the world would be lost. Nothing is worth that.
That is not who I am, and not who I will ever be. In traditional language, the question is, “What is going to happen to your soul?” I have chosen. My soul stays with God, and lives in beauty and love. It is held there by Christ who also had to answer that question definitively for himself.