Is My Depression My Fault?
Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24
We all struggle with something. Some of us wrestle with drugs and alcohol, while others wrestle with a chronic mood of discontentment, angst, and unhappiness. We all have our own life challenges which cause us misery and though our struggles are vastly different, we all struggle.
In the clinic, I commonly meet those with chronic unhappiness and unrest who are frustrated by the lack of any obvious cause. I don’t have any reason to be anxious and depressed. I have a great life. Why do I feel this way? What’s wrong with me? If that patient believes in God, there’s often another layer to this frustration. I’ve prayed a thousand times asking God to take this away and he hasn’t. Why not? Where is he?
It’s also common for that same patient to have tried multiple remedies. Some responses are constructive, while some are destructive. Some patients seek counseling, which admittedly, is a lot of work. Other patients drink alcohol to treat their mood disorder, embracing a temporary, but disastrous fix.
In today’s passage, Jesus taught that we find joy in seeking and following God. He didn’t say that it’s our fault when we experience trials, angst, and sorrow. He did, however, insist that there’s a right response to our joylessness. We may not be responsible for a discontent mood, but we are responsible for how we respond to it. So, what is our proper response?
First, we must understand that God often allows persistent need in our lives. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that all our trials are magically removed. If chronic discontentment is our life struggle, then that will likely be the persistent need that continually drives us to God. Even the apostle Paul had a chronic thorn in his flesh. Second, we must drag our mood before God daily, giving it to him, asking what it is that we must do to be obedient. Third, we must do whatever God asks. Maybe that means seeking counseling or medical (medication) assistance. Maybe it means being of service to others, getting out of our own minds. Maybe it means reaching out, meeting regularly with those who struggle as we do. Whatever it is, Jesus promised that we will find joy in our daily obedience.
We may not be responsible for the struggle we’ve got, but we alone are responsible for how we respond to it.