The mental anguish and emotional upheaval of a depressive episode are not usually direct consequences of a person’s sin. Nonetheless, for me, the pain of depression often pays spiritual dividends, especially in my constant warfare with sin.
How is that possible?
One of the two dominant forms a depressive episode takes for me is hypersensitivity. My heart breaks, almost as if there’s a physical source of the pain. I may weep at the slightest provocation, or jump to wrong conclusions about a person’s attitude toward me. There is less capacity to cope with the normal stressors of life. I cry out more often to God, if for no other reason than to seek relief for the despondency. A desperate dependence on Him is my primary means of sustenance.. It may sound trite and oversimplified, but life just hurts.
Ironically, the depression that pommels my heart and tries to pin me to the mat also softens my heart–and that is a good thing! A positive consequence is that I’m more apt to hear God’s Spirit speak to me. There isn’t the thick layer of pride covering my heart that makes it hard for God’s message to penetrate my awareness.
One way He speaks during such times is to convict me of sin (but not for the depression itself!). He exposes a wrong thought, a selfish motivation, or a hurtful deed that grieves Him or affects others negatively, prompting my confession and repentance. More than once, tears I shed due to the heartbreak of depression morphed into tears generated by a godly sorrow for sin, tears that served as a cleansing agent for my soul. Without the hurt associated with the despondency, which puts me in a “seeking God” mindset, I doubt I’d hear His convicting voice.
In addition to making me more sensitive to the Spirit’s loving efforts at conviction, depression also drives me to the Word of God for perspective and comfort. Memorization of God’s promises–especially those ensconced in the Psalms and prophetic books–instills a disciplined study habit that carries over even after the depression has lifted. I’m reminded of the hard truth in Psalm 119:71, that affliction of any sort can deepen my dependence on Scripture: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”
Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 also illustrate this point. In response to the excruciating persecution he experienced, he wrote, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should trust not in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
I’m merely using depression as a case in point. Potentially, pain of any kind draws us like a magnet to God’s Word, and to greater intimacy with God Himself. That’s why I can thank Him for the pain, as explained in the original poem that follows.
Thank You for the Pain
Thank You for the broken heart;
it is softer than before.
Since the pain ripped it apart,
it’s insensitive no more.
How can I welcome the pain?
Now I’m more prone to pray,
to yield to my Savior’s reign,
and to let Him have His way.
I have no choice but to depend
on the Lord’s sustaining grace.
He will pay a dividend
for each tear upon my face.
God accepts as a sacrifice
a heart that is broken in two.
He has already paid the price
for what I am going through.
There is no way that I would choose
the hurt, all the times I have cried.
Yet it is a gift I won’t refuse,
for it cleanses me inside.
I am driven to wield Your sword,
to give the Spirit His due.
So thank You for the pain, O Lord,
for it draws me closer to You.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
therefore, I have hope in Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the person who seeks Him.