There are some characters in the Bible that I can identify with more than others. There are many I wish I was more like. There are also quite a few that I hope and pray I NEVER even faintly resemble. As I read the book of Job, I have struggled with where he falls on that spectrum. In complete honesty, it kind of hurts to identify with him. It hurts to live with that kind of pain and despair. I struggle to relay his story with the silver lining that a person in pain wants to know about. Then, God has blessed me with a dear friend who shared an experience with me that made the whole thing crystal clear. Please hear the account of a modern day Job, courtesy of one courageous soul…
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10b)
On January 3, 2007, I got out a brand new journal and wrote: “Sometimes I wish that nobody had any expectations for me. Then no one would be hurt by my actions.” I had always been a journaler; not daily, but pretty close. I had always found comfort in writing down how I felt, what I was thinking, my hopes and fears. I had no idea at that time how different that journal would be from the others, that in that journal, I would write down my anxiety, fear, and ultimately I would write about my despair. I had no idea that as the journal entries grew farther and farther apart, yet another symptom of my depression, that I would go from thinking I was selfish, to useless, to unlovable, to a waste of air. I had no idea that the last entry in this journal on January 28, 2008 – just over a year from the time I started it – I would be waking up in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. But that’s kind of how depression is, people, including you, just have no idea.
When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up? The night drags on, and I toss till dawn. (Job 7:4)
From the outside I had this wonderful life, great family, good grades, plenty of friends, everything should have been fine. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy. I felt like I was going crazy, I felt worse and worse every day but nothing was wrong. By February of that year, I’d had my first panic attack, by April I was writing journal entries at 2 o’clock in the morning because my insomnia had gotten so bad. By July, I had started cutting myself. I was so numb inside it was better to feel pain than nothing at all. In October, I was barely eating. I would go to bed at night believing that there was no way I could go on like this. How could I feel so bad and still be living? I learned to lie about everything. There were people around me trying to help, parents, teachers, and friends, but I felt so guilty for burdening them with my problems, that I stopped telling them the truth.
I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer, I stand up, but you merely look at me. (Job 30:20)
As quickly as I lost my grip on day to day life, I lost my faith. People would tell me to pray more, that I just needed to have faith. But I had long since started to question that God even existed. Who exactly was I praying to? Even if He did exist, I felt small, trivial, and worthless before the God of the universe. People would tell me that God is good, that God loved me, that God does not make junk. I remember thinking that God had not made junk, I had done this to myself. I had made His creation junk. Throughout my depression, I told myself a lot of lies, that I was worthless, that I was ugly, but the worst thing I ever told myself was that I had messed up so bad that God couldn’t love me. I had been on a downward spiral for months, but the day I believed that lie was the day my spiral turned into a plummet. My existence was no longer valid. I pushed away everyone around me and I pushed away God.
My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. (Job 42:5)
After I was hospitalized, things slowly got better. I learned that I wasn’t crazy, I was sick. I learned how powerful sleep and the correct medication can be. I found a therapist who helped me process the horrible lies floating around my head. There were days when I teetered dangerously on the edge of falling back into the spiral. I remember feeling happy and then being surprised that I felt that way, that I could feel anything. For months I was terrified to go to bed because I thought I might wake up and not be better. In the midst of all that lingering pain, I was finally able to look back at everything that had happened and see the grace that had carried me through those times.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years;
he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. A
nd so he died, old and full of years. (Job 42:16)
When as a hurting 17 year old, I wrote that journal entry in January 2007 it’s true, I had no idea what was coming. Sometimes I think, if I had known, I could have changed it, I could have avoided all that pain for me and for those who loved me. But I know that as bad as it hurt, I wouldn’t change what happened, because God knew. On the days when I was certain I wouldn’t even make it through 1st period because I was hurting so bad, God saw me 7 years later, writing this letter. On the days when I planned how best to go about ending my worthless life, God saw so much value that he planned out every friend, every therapist, every doctor, and every pastor I would come in to contact with that would help me. When you are suffering from depression, people like to tell you that God won’t give you more than you can bear. It’s not true, depression can be and often is unbearable, but I am astounded at the number of people He put in my path that carried just a little bit, and sometimes a lot, of my burden. The person I am today would be unrecognizable if it hadn’t been for that time. I found strength that I’d never known I had. As I look back on it, I see how much my parents, family, and friends love me. My childhood faith shattered and God shaped it into something that has carried me through every other challenge since then. When it comes to depression, people don’t really know how you feel. They can love you, they can listen, they can help you as best as they know how, but they don’t really know. God knows. Whatever you tell yourself, whatever lies you believe, know that God knows how you feel, and no matter how bad you hurt, no matter how dark it gets, He will not let you fall.
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon 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)
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