In 2006 I went through a depression. Never mind the details of how or why. By God’s grace, I got through to the light at the other end of the tunnel. April 26th marks the 8th anniversary of the darkest moment in my emotional/spiritual/physical battle. I like to look back to remind myself of how far God’s brought me, and how He came through for me at that time. One of the ways God helped me in the midst of my pain was through the concept of story. Story has a way of putting life in perspective.
Stories through the movies seemed to comfort me. I saw my spiritual battles illustrated through the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I could identify with various characters: Frodo’s perseverance in a journey with a heavy burden; Gollum’s Smeagol; King Theoden overcoming the influence of Wormtongue… We often can’t see the spiritual realm and battle going on around us. But watching good battling evil on screen gave me some motivation for hanging in there. Other movies that helped me were Love Comes Softly, and The Greatest Game Ever Played (stories of characters who overcame).
I seemed to be drawn to the Bible story of the Israelites at the Red Sea. During the darkest moment of my depression, I felt that God was whispering in my ear, “Stand firm. Don’t be afraid. You will see the deliverance the Lord will bring to you. Just be still and know He is Lord. For the victory will be His, and the joy will be your’s.”
I was able to glean encouragement through the fiction books I read of characters who struggled through their own tough times. And I was immensely helped by reading the non-fiction stories of others who had gone through their own depression (the stories of Jan Dravecky, William Cowper, Christine Wyrtzen,, etc.). Even just hearing about historical figures such as Winston Churchill persevering during the dark days of WWII gave me a shot in the arm to keep going. I remember being greatly impacted by hearing the testimony of WWII vets who fought through the horrors at Iwo Jima (spell?) and suffered PTSD, but yet were still grateful for God’s blessing of life through it all. These stories gave me hope that I could make it through my trials, perhaps even helping someone else later on down the road.
I would remind myself that the dark moment I was in was only a fleeting chapter in the larger scale of things. I told myself that if I could just hold on, I would be able to get to the next chapter in the story. And that maybe the next chapter would make sense of the previous one.
When we read a novel, we read of characters who travel through a plot. The story has been written by a (hopefully) wise and gifted author who knows what they’re doing and where they’re taking their make believe people. Halfway through the story, the characters are usually struggling through some hard and difficult circumstances. There would be no interesting plot if there wasn’t some element in the story that would give the characters opportunity to grow and become better people for it.
And so it is with us. I’m so grateful that I have an Author who planned for my existence and salvation before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4,5). God is the author and finisher of my faith. He began a good work in me and will be faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6). Jesus Christ is my Redeemer and living hope. He gives me purpose and a story (Jer. 29:11). All of the hard things in this world is temporary and cannot be compared with the glories of Heaven when we shall see His shining face (2 Cor. 4:18).
Have you ever read a book that was so suspenseful that you just couldn’t take it anymore and had to skip ahead to the last chapter to see how it ends? We can’t really do that for this life. But for those born again in Christ Jesus, we have His promises that we will ultimately have a happy ending. In Revelation 21:4 we are told that after God has eradicated all evil, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will have all eternity to look forward to with Him. It will be a brand new story! Actually, this temporary earthly life is but the prologue to the life to come! During my depression, I decided that when I go to heaven, I want to hear the Lord’s warm, smiling voice say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Matt. 25:21) I wanted to receive the Crown of Life, which is promised to those who persevere through trials because they love Him (James 1:12). These are the promises I cling to in my hard times.
How have stories helped you through life?