In my last post, I shared of my struggle with depression and how my emotions had wrecked havoc in my life. Depression can have many layers of origin – some obvious but often hidden from others and even from your own perspective. We simply ‘know’ what we feel but not the ‘why’. Digging into your depression to understand it is a journey that takes time – but it’s so worth it!
Though I am not an expert, I share my experiences with the hope that can be of value – even if only a little – to someone who needs to hear the truth.
This is my story.
Why do bad things happen to me?
A universal question with oft an unsatisfying answer. I used to blame God for every difficult trial in my life. I assumed my sufferings revealed his lack of love. It’s hard to love a God when you suspect He’s out to hurt you and difficult to trust when you believe He doesn’t care. One of the most important steps in fighting my depression was understanding why bad things were happening to me.
But to answer that, I had to go back to Genesis.
1. Bad things happen because the world is in a sinful state.
In the beginning, the earth was in complete harmony with its Creator and creation. When sin entered the world, it was not just my heart that fell under the curse of sin but also the earth around me. Instead of beauty, there were thorns. Instead of peace, there was conflict. Instead of life, there was death.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of child-birth right up the present time.” Romans 8:22 NIV
Natural disasters of every kind are a reflection of a creation that is groaning. When I suffer at nature’s hands, it is not a sign that God hates me. It is a sign that this world is longing for the return of Jesus when it will ‘be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom.” Romans 8:20
2. Bad things happen because others have sinned against me.
People will hurt me. Lie to me. Manipulate me. Belittle me. Why? Because they are sinners. Often, it’s unintentional and motivated by self-interest, but sometimes, it is purposeful, intentional, and heart-breakingly painful. Saved or unsaved, mankind has been destroying each other since the days of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). When the betrayal comes from someone I trust, I am left with wounds that can take a long time to heal.
When I have been offended, I am called to “go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Matthew 18:15 NIV
If that does not bring repentance, Matthew carries on with more specific instructions. Though not always possible or even wise, the goal is reconciliation.
The only known remedy in overcoming pain that has occurred by another is to forgive. It is hard…might even feel impossible…but it is an essential step towards healing. Withholding forgiveness has disastrous consequences on my emotional and mental health, and most importantly, my relationship with Christ. Matthew 6 warns us “if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Forgiveness is a huge topic on its own and often misunderstood. (If you are struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you, take the time to read this previous post on forgiveness. I found forgiveness became easier when I understood what it truly meant)
3. Bad things happen to me because I am a sinner.
Sometimes I am the reason for my own troubles. Though I may be loath to admit it, I tend to hurt myself just as easily as others do. I repeatedly make choices that are unhealthy for my body, heart, and mind, and then wonder how I ended up in my current state! I lie and wonder why no one trusts me. I manipulate and wonder why people distance themselves. I gossip and wonder why a friendship died. I over-indulge in eating, sleeping, and drinking, then wonder why my body is a mess.
Many times, I am my own worst enemy. There is no one else to blame, and I must own my actions before change can take place. Peace comes when I take responsibility for my actions and ask God for forgiveness.
I John 1:9 promises that “if we must confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
I make mistakes because that’s a part of living. God does not condemn me, but rather He convicts so that I have the opportunity to be changed, renewed, and ever-growing in His likeness. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
Lingering on my mistakes is unwise. My depression will only deepen when I despise myself for the mistakes I have made; there is enough grace to cover my every sin. But I also don’t expect to avoid the inevitable consequences of my decisions. Though God forgives me time and again, He often allows me to walk through the fiery furnace that I built myself, but in His great mercy, even in those circumstances, He is with me. I will never face the firing squad of my decisions alone.
4. Bad things happen to me because the Lord is correcting me.
The Bible is clear that God will bring punishment when needed,
“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations.” Ezekiel 5:8 NIV
But we also see that “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalms 103:8 NIV
“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever, though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” Lamentations 3:31-33.
Though God may bring difficulties into my life, it brings Him no joy. It has a purpose and an ending. I may chafe and rebel at the idea, but I need only to look at my children to understand that their wayward nature needs guidance and discipline for their own good. A child with no discipline brings chaos and heartache to his parents. I discipline, not because I enjoy it, but because it has lasting value – eternal value!
This is God’s heart as well. He does not delight in bringing me pain, but He will allow it! And I must trust in His character and in His sovereignty during those times when I am at the receiving end of a very unpleasant correction.
When my depression cycles hit, I had a difficult time believing that God was fighting for me and not against me. I took every hit personally believing it was delivered by God when in fact it wasn’t.
In this battle against depression, I have a choice in what I believe. If I believe God has a personal vendetta against me, I slide deeper into the pit. But when I understand God’s heart and character, I can “know and rely on the love God has for us.” 1 John 4: 16
Understanding the source of your pain is an important beginning to dealing with it. The truth, however painful, is always your friend.