Depression’s healing process reminds me of a scene from C. S. Lewis’ novel Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Due to his many issues, Eustace (the cousin of Narnia’s explorers, Lucy, Peter, and Edmund) morphs into a dragon, complete with layers of tough, knobby skin covered with scales. When the lion Aslan (the God figure in the story) shows up, Eustace expresses his dismay and desire to finally shed his dragon exterior. Aslan fulfills this desire.
Read how Eustace described that process to his cousin Edmund:
“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke –‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So, I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy — oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”
–From “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” C.S. Lewis
For emotions to truly heal, often times it takes returning to our most painful events and submitting to the Holy Spirit’s scalpel. Only then can we discover why all of our thick, knobly-looking coping mechanisms we’ve spent a lifetime forming have suddenly stopped working. Submitting to that process takes humility, courage, and a great deal of time.
I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but for me depression was Satan’s way of throwing a wrench in my sanctification process. God wants all of us to grow and mature into becoming more like Jesus. However, Satan orders up events that attempt to snatch us off that path. He wants us to doubt God’s ability to use those events for our good. If we’re not onto his game, Satan can encourage us to believe we aren’t good enough to be members of God’s family. He tempts us to think the people we love would be much better off without us. He turns us into rule followers so we don’t see the need for a relationship with Jesus. He enjoys watching us wear busyness as a badge of honor that masks how easily tempted we are when we’re tired and sleep-deprived. He makes us believe we can do things on our own. He isolates us so he can swoop in for the kill. Without realizing it, we try adding good stuff to our lives without ever getting rid of the bad. Before we know it, we’re so bloated that even the good stuff begins to stink.
If you’re in the middle of depression right now, get help. Don’t try to cope on your own. You think you’re strong enough, but you’re not. You need people. You need people who will point you back to God and His purpose for you. You need a Christian counselor to help you go back through your pain so you can see it in a different light. You need people who will enter into your hurt, love you no matter what, and hold you up when you can’t take one more step.
Be patient and intentional through your healing process. Trust me, it doesn’t happen overnight. Along the way, celebrate your progress. Look for reasons to brag on God, and you’ll soon begin to recognize His hand even in the smallest things. He will lead you out of the pit you’re in so that others will see and fear and put their trust in the Him. (Ps. 40:3)
On the other hand, perhaps you don’t understand depression because you’ve never been through it, but you love someone who has courageously laid down their heart in front of you and confessed their weaknesses. If so, then do what my husband and friends have done. Pray. Listen. Ask questions. Encourage. Point them to helpful resources. Remind them of God’s promises. See them as someone who has just undergone open-heart surgery. They can’t run at their usual pace without having a setback or two. Like physical stitches, it takes time for emotional stitches to heal. Don’t take their offenses personally. Share your past struggles so they won’t feel like they’re the only one. Point out the progress they’re making. Join forces with other friends in their life. This is one time they need you to be in cahoots on their behalf. Be available and be patient. And don’t be afraid to offer a proper hug if that’s their thing.
Depression is spiritual warfare at its ugliest, but it doesn’t have to define anyone. All of us could use a little undressing by God. All of us have layers of coping mechanisms the Holy Spirit is more than capable of cutting away. Wouldn’t it be nice to see an ocean full of God’s tender children swimming and splashing with dragon skins of depression, doubt, fear, and anxiety lying all around? You don’t have to wait for eternity – just lie down.
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