WRITING IN THE DARK
Poetic Descriptions of Depression
The purpose of my blogs on depression and faith is to beam rays of light to guide your walk in the dark.
That purpose presupposes that faith in Christ engenders hope, and God’s Word offers truths to facilitate endurance despite despondency.
Most of my posts offer resources, practical coping tips that I (and others) have learned, and biblical perspectives. But not this one. I’m giving you four bleak poems, written over a 16-year period, describing depression. (But be sure you read the concluding paragraphs after the final poem.)
It’s important to understand the dark thoughts that even a Christian—even a vocational Christian leader like myself—experiences when shrouded in depression.
When depression descends, one of two different emotional states dominate me: either extreme sensitivity and heartache that spawns bouts of weeping, or a numb, robotic condition when I don’t feel a thing, when I couldn’t laugh or cry if you paid me to do it.
While on a teaching trip to Ukraine in January 2000, the parched, non-feeling state overwhelmed me, spawning this poem.
Mourn for them. They’re dead and gone,
after living so long as skin and bone.
Order the flowers, call the preacher,
ask the paper to run a feature.
Call relatives. Try to act brave.
Put on black, and visit their grave.
Recall the days—seems long ago—
when they enjoyed putting on a show.
Then ponder what might have been
if darkness had not entered in.
On their stone, jutting from the earth,
put the date of their death and birth.
Then chisel these words as a lasting lament:
“Here lies Terry’s feelings, breathless and spent.”
Walking in the Dark April, 2016
I walk in the dark. No moon or stars
or street lights, or beams from passing cars.
No hope of sunrise; it’s twenty-four/seven.
Not even sure there is Sonlight in heaven.
There’s weight on my back, slowing my pace;
more in my heart, eclipsing God’s grace.
Can I trudge much longer without seeing,
while wooed by the appeal of not being?
A Depressing Day August, 2016
How stifling, this high humidity in my heart.
My soul struggles just to get a deep breath.
Seams of my sanity I hear ripping apart.
Today I’m on friendlier terms with death.
Hope hides behind a rumbling black cloud.
Will the Son’s rays ever penetrate it?
Loneliness envelopes me, even in a crowd.
When will my faith in Christ negate it?
A person prone to despondency, as well as anyone who lives and works with such an individual, needs a strong dose of realism. For me, some days the sun doesn’t break through the clouds. Occasionally, no matter how much I pray, or read Scripture, the “inside ache” doesn’t go away. By God’s grace, I go through the motions and fulfill my responsibilities—sometimes with excellence—all the while longing for bedtime and sleep, so I can escape the pain. Here’s a poem I wrote on such a day in 2002. This poem describes the more emotional side of symptoms.
My Inside Ache
My inside ache won’t go away.
The clouds won’t break. The sky’s all gray.
My thoughts are stern. I often weep.
I toss and turn for I can’t sleep.
I seldom smile, I think the worse.
I ride in style within this hearse;
for I am dead to joy and hope.
I shake my head. I cannot cope.
I stumble, much more prone to sin;
lament all day what could have been.
Scream in the car when no one hears.
No one so far to quell my fears.
Where is the One who’s called “I AM”?
If He’s God’s Son, the perfect Lamb
why won’t He give a little aid?
There is just rain on my parade.
He seeks to break my feet of clay.
My inside ache won’t go away.
Skim the poems again and list the symptoms of depression suggested by the stanzas.
But as I’ve emphasized in previous posts, a bad day doesn’t mean God has abandoned me. My faith is in Him, not in what He does or doesn’t do for me on any given day. Christ still died for me on the cross, there’s still a residence reserved for me in heaven, and God can still use me for eternal good in the here and now, no matter how I feel. I’ve learned that life will get better, and I will smile again. Yet in light of how my sixty-eight years have gone, more bleak days are likely on the horizon.
If you’re thinking that I just need to have more faith, and my so-called “inside ache” would evaporate for good…well, your viewpoint is almost enough to make me laugh out loud on a bad day. For if we’re honest, and if we know Scripture, we’ll admit that faith doesn’t eliminate the bad days. Yet the Object of my faith is more than capable of sustaining me through the bad days. Faith that doesn’t account for the realism of pain in a fallen world isn’t faith in God at all. It’s wishful thinking. It isn’t that I will never dwell in darkness, but as Micah 7:8 declares, “Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”
How is it helpful to read these poetic descriptions of what you or a loved one experiences during a depressive episode?
For an anecdotal description of depressive episodes in my life, spanning a fifty-year period, see one of the first posts I wrote on my blog, titled “What It Looks Like In The Dark.”