“Please don’t let this be another cliché ‘there’s purpose in your pain’ posts” you think, “because I’ve heard it everywhere and it’s becoming white noise. I know scripture. I can quote the usual inspiration in my sleep. But still I am gripped by my pain and this haze won’t go away, things aren’t getting better and this whole ‘having a purpose’ thing seems to be for everyone else but not me. Not like this.”
Between you and me, that’s real.
And this isn’t some 5-part how-to post with magical steps that will remove your experience or guarantee your deliverance by the end of it. That wouldn’t be honest.
But I can be fair enough to say that I get it. You’re not alone in this and you certainly don’t need to shame yourself for where you are. None of us are immune to the tribulations that come with our humanity, even Christians, and it’s time that we start embracing honesty so that we can experience true recovery. And that’s what I hope to offer you- honesty and understanding that will prayerfully lead to a real road of recovery. Because it’s the truth that sets us free.
Not the fake motions that pretend we’re fine when we’re not. That puts on a mask of faith when we deeply can’t find it. That drives us deeper into despair because we’re taking on our battles in the shadows and can’t see the road ahead. Because all that does is create a greater dissonance between our spirit and our emotions, and leaves us questioning where we really stand in it all.
I’ve gone toe to toe with depression and I fought my fight, but I can’t tell you what worked for me is going to work for you. We all have different backgrounds, genetics, physiologies and perspectives so everyone recovers in different ways and on different timetables. But I can tell you that with time, support and taking personal responsibility to get proactive about your recovery, there is another side to this thing.
So I want to share with you a few tips I hope will at least encourage you in the right direction when God’s purpose in your life seems completely non-existent.
Find your anchor.
In 5 Reasons We Stay Trapped Inside the Cycle of Depression I mention the importance of finding your anchor. When battling depression you are in a drowning state. Your thoughts are in a downward cycle struggling to grasp back onto the upside of life again. You need an anchor.
Think about it. What is an anchor? An anchor is a “person or thing that provides strength and support”. When the monsoon of despair is taking you under, your anchor keeps you above the water and helps pull you out when you can’t pull yourself out. All your problems might not be solved instantly and at first you might feel every resistance to engage with anyone at all; but if you’re going to decide to no longer live your life in bondage, your first step to freedom and purpose is finding your anchor. That would be a therapist or counselor, a support group or trusted friends and family you can share with and most definitely Christ and His word in times of despair.
Depression can bring on some real black-or-white thinking. We believe we’ll either be happy and have it all together, or life is a black hole and will suck forever. Neither of these are realistic or true for anyone. Life is both. Happy won’t mean everything is perfect and disappointing days won’t be the only chapter in your life.
If anything it will mean, life will still bring on it’s share of hardships but you’ll navigate through these things with growing wisdom and strength because of where you’ve been. So I want to encourage you to give yourself the grace to think realistically. Your life isn’t going to be all perfect or all bad. You’re going to learn to rumble through both with the strength and hope of Christ as your anchor.
So here’s what I propose. Stop measuring where you are now to the illusion of perfection because that will put your recovery in a distance that you’ll continuously feel can never be reached. Start with small steps each day and focus on progression, not perfection. Even if that just means you finally made it out of your bed. You actually stepped outside and took a walk. You built up just enough strength to ask someone for prayer. You mustered the energy to journal through the tears. You made the phone call to set up an appointment with a counselor or asked someone else to. Don’t be afraid to make small steps each day and be satisfied with them. It’s okay to be patient with yourself. We have to start somewhere to get back on track. And that brings me to my next point.
Remember that you can start over.
One day it may feel like you’ve got this recovery thing down and you’re on track and then the next day your emotions may feel like a total war zone and back to square one. This can make it feel like things will never get better or you’ve hit the same wall that you can’t get past. This is black-and-white thinking again. And that’s not how recovery works (in anything). Recovery is lined with both setbacks and victories but overall we progress. One step at a time, one realization at a time, one prayer at a time, one verse at a time, one session at a time, one break-down and bounce-back at a time, we progress. So keep going.
I’m so glad that God created time and that includes each day resetting in another 24 hours. This is a literal reminder that you can start over. Every morning we get a new shot to put the sorrows of yesterday behind us and try again with new persistence. So you had a rough day and completely lost it. You can try again tomorrow.
Press into the haze.
You may feel like your mind and spirit are in a free-fall or floating through a fog of insecurity with nothing to grab onto. This lack of direction can feel like a giant haze.
But this is also that defining moment where you either grab onto God and cling through what you can’t see or withdraw and sink. Where you say, “God I don’t know what you’re doing. And I can’t see who I am right now. And I don’t know how things are going to turn out. And I don’t know why you have me in this place, but I’m going to place all my hope in you and trust that your plan for me is still in effect.” Because the truth is you either believe God is sovereign or not. He’s either completely in control and not surprised by your hardship and has a plan for you or not. God’s word does not return void and He fulfills His promises. This is not about what God isn’t doing, this is about what you will choose to believe in the moments you have no control.
The haze was the defining moments that grew my faith. It was the place where God became enough. It was the place where I couldn’t see where I was going but I let go and decided that I didn’t need to because God’s plan is sovereign. All I needed to do was take each day at a time, continue to seek Him even when it hurt and trust that I would ultimately end up in the place He planned for me. You may also need to start pressing into the haze and letting it build your trust instead of fighting it.
Understand your purpose is present.
We humans tend to do this thing where we project everything into the future. Our happiness is in the future. Our fulfillment is in the future. Our sense of love from a mate is in the future. Our purpose is in the future and we’re constantly just trying to get there.
But we fail to realize that these things are not a final destination- they’re a journey. Love is here. Fulfillment is here. Purpose is here. It’s face to face with us every day. It’s with the people around us. It’s in the skills and passions God gave us. It’s in the places we’ve already been assigned to. We just see it all as the ordinary and mundane because we’re so use to it. But the Bible says that we’re not promised tomorrow (James 4:13-16) so we’re called to make the most of each day. Your purpose is not a destination in the far-off future, it’s living in each day in everything surrounding you. It’s what’s already on your plate.
What does that mean for the person seeking God’s purpose through depression? It means you start with each day and take it one phase at a time. Right now that may mean focusing on your recovery so that you’re in a better position mentally, spiritually and emotionally to take on more. But it’s okay if right now your only purpose is to recover. Because the truth is that we can’t pour out from an empty well. That doesn’t mean that God can’t use you either. Because trust me when I say God uses broken people like you and me to be in healing spaces with broken people like you and me. Even if all you have left to say is, “I’ve been in this place and I can walk with you” then you have found a powerful purpose that bridges souls for God’s glory.