Depression can be a killer — or it can be a life-giver, enhancing a burst of spiritual growth in volumes that would not be produced without its painful impetus. Painful, yes. But without pain, how could we know something dire needed addressing even unto life and not death? Emerging from such experience(s) can produce an explosion of new light, new life, and clarity of new insight that never could occur if held in a static state of low-level comfort or ennui. Whether physical or spiritual, painful is gainful if it leads to life more abundant.
From my journals of written record interviews of various Christians that suffered from or had known drug/alcohol addictions. In group settings or individuals.
This narrative, as experienced by a third person who briefly related his experience.
This person knew some very sincere souls, who in a rapturous inspirational moment, proclaimed how they would like to get so close to God it would be no effort to listen to His voice, see His eyes directing, or follow His leading in any way He called them.
He made no fault of them for not having a real understanding of what they desired or what that may mean. As in martyrdom, closeness with God is a noble goal but not to be lightly romanticized. As the Savior says, “count the cost.”
Many who are drawn of a close, personal walk with our Lord may experience what is referenced as a Dark Night of the Soul. This “dark night” was written of and described by St. John of the Cross in his 16th-century work by that very name, “Dark Night of the Soul.” In it, he represents his personal experience and interpretation of that event.
But as in most things, we each have our own personal experience of similar occurrences in our relationship with the Lord. If you experience this, it will be your encounter. And it may not be a one-time phenomenon. It may happen more than once to different degrees of depth and longevity.
Moreover, the suffering brought about by this dark night experience will bring the result of knowing God more purely, more just, more deeply. It is a place where old loves are shed and replaced with a new and more profound appreciation for Jesus – and others. The Lord is continuously working to develop, shape and fashion our souls according to His desires for us throughout our life on earth, and some of this work is going to be understandably very intense and painful. It’s not a pleasant experience but very necessary.
This person remembered his episodes as both vivid and wintry-like haze.
There were two which happened both concurrently and separately, but so closely related almost blended. This person had a five-year episode of alcoholism that was very deep, though it was relatively short-lived compared to some heard about from other’s experiences. This ended when he entered a long-term faith-based Christian live-in recovery program (The Mission). Being in this program and getting the call to go on-staff after graduating, was his second expedition through the “dark night.”
He considered himself in “God’s woodshed” of discipline.
His bout with alcoholism, he now interpreted as an ignorant rebellion against the Lord. Naive because he didn’t realize at the time, he was rebelling against the Savior. He thought it was against other persons, only.
But ultimately, rebellion is rebellion. Ignorant or otherwise. God hates sin because of the destruction and pain it causes to us or others. When we inflict pain, whether, upon ourselves or other people, the Lord feels it keenly.
It’s no light thing to crucify the Lord of Glory a second time. Nor is it a minor thing to trample underfoot the blood of Christ. Just so – his first round with the Dark Night of the Soul was brought on by his rebellion against the Savior.
However, his second was the result of discovering the personal pain that obeying Christ can bring. (“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered”-Heb 5:8) He did not want to serve Christ in the way and the place that the Savior bid him go – or in this case – “stay.”
He did not desire to remain in the place of his disciplining by going on-staff as a counselor/mentor-pastor/teacher.
Although he was well qualified, it was something he did NOT want to do. Be that as it may, through obedience alone, he succumbed, and through obedience only of Christ’s calling, he said yes to the invitation. And although over those of whom he was made shepherd — those put in his charge — responded very well to his leadership and counsel, a low level of depression began settling over him, piercing his heart.
He was learning a more in-depth discipline. The discipline of obeying the Lord when he truly did not desire to go in the direction the Lord was taking him. He believed it very likely that darkening depression was now going to be his life-long companion. But he was also willing to bear even that if that was what it meant to trust and obey the Savior of life and soul as He led him.
The numerous blessings that came about because of this perseverance are too many to list. However, it could be seen that Christ’s determined faithfulness was always evident.
A promise of impending bright sunshine chasing away the darkness was never guaranteed nor even hinted. It just happened – suddenly. One morning he awoke, and the night was gone! He was still alive when he assumed being at death’s door. The Lord had brought him through the dark, dank cold forest of midnight into the warm sun-drenched spring meadow of renewal. He saw his Savior in the land of the living. “My Redeemer lives!”
This was his memory of, but an abbreviated depiction to the full story of his experience with the Dark Night of the Soul. But his most notable lasting, and recurring recollection is how he counts it all worth it. He would be willing to go through it again for the treasure revealed in his life. And how the whole story is God’s story of redemption through His Son.
“I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)