The Overwhelming Thing
"But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed." —Amy Carmichael
On June 28, 2008, Kazakh supermodel Ruslana Korshunova committed suicide by jumping from her New York apartment building. Her mother told reporters: "She didn't have a single reason to do this and 1,001 reasons to live."
Ruslana was only 21, on the top of her game in the modeling world, and had recently become enamored with a new boyfriend. Yet in spite of Ruslana's outward signs of "success," her frequent Internet postings reveal a deep hopelessness. She wrote: "I'm so lost. Will I ever find myself?"
This young woman's death is tragic on so many levels. My heart grieves for this person who had achieved everything the American dream could offer, only to find herself emptied of the strength to live one day more. Her death reminds me of the suffocation of trying to survive without hope.
I realize my naiveté in assuming that others have not felt the weight of depression. Shifting emotions are so common—even the spiritual heroes in history have experienced them.
Isobel Kuhn, the bold missionary to China, wrote in her autobiography of a period before her salvation, when she contemplated suicide:
"‘There is that bottle in the bathroom marked Poison. A good long drink and your troubles are over.' A good idea. The only sensible solution. I jumped out of bed and started for the bathroom.... My hand was on the door knob when a deep groan, twice repeated, broke the silence of the dark. It was my father, moaning in his sleep in the next room.... He had been such a dear, kind father to me all my life. Dare I make him such a dastardly return? No, I couldn't be so mean and selfish. In agony I turned and sat down on the edge of my bed and faced the darkest moment of my life. I didn't want to live and I couldn't die! Oh the black despair of the Misty Flats [an area symbolizing to Isobel her life of complacency and compromise]. How little did I know the golden sunshine pouring on the High Way above them!" (By Searching)
This depression isn't the exclusive property of unbelievers. David once cried out for God to "restore" to him the joy of his salvation. (He had lost it.) Jeremiah bemoaned his own condition: "I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is" (Lam. 3:17). Francis Schaeffer, the Christian philosopher, implied a close acquaintance with the feeling himself, when he responded to the letter of a troubled former student:
"I do cry with you—and I know the depression, of the moving of the waves, in the ocean of each individual....
"It will not do merely to say stop turning inward. This is both cruel and unrealistic. Yet there must be some way to go on, by finding the objective realities of God's existence and the work of Christ in history. With none of us is the way of going on steady and unbroken. But neither must we panic. Nor must we underestimate our subconscious deliberately tempting us—whether the temptations be physical ones or, strange as it may seem, the desire for tears. Nor must we spend a lifetime looking inward.... The balance is honesty under the searching of the Holy Spirit; and [at the same time] living in an objective perspective, in the objective realities I have mentioned before." (Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer)
In other words, question yourself. Try to find out why you're feeling so dejected. But don't let it end with yourself. Ultimately, you must cling to the absolutes that you know are true, even when you do not feel them.
Here is shown an apparent difference between the depression a Christian can experience and the depression of a nonbeliever. Where the nonbeliever has no biblical absolutes—no anchored faith—a Christian has an immense advantage. Whether we feel it or not, Christ is our hope. Even when we feel hopeless, Christ still remains our hope—our one faithful Defender in the time we call for help, as well as in the time we are too sapped of strength to cry.
On a day I felt completely and utterly low, I found deep encouragement from Ephesians 3:20–21: "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."
Read that again, slowly.
Are you succumbing to depression? Have your emotions gone through the roof? Or do you feel a numbness of spirit that seems to continue on and on? Keep in mind the tremendousness of that verse. God is able "to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think." He can surprise us (and often, He does) with His love and graciousness. Just when we think we've reached the end of God's love, He lavishes more upon us. There is a Hope for the hopeless, and He knows you by name.
Don't forget Schaeffer's advice, either. If we're bogged down by our feelings, I wonder if it has something to do with us not dwelling enough in "objective realities." Maybe we're not standing confidently on the truth we know. Maybe we've neglected to remind ourselves of the unconditional-ness of God's grace, His faithfulness, and the joy that should naturally flow through us as a response to being near Him. "Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning" (Ps. 30:5).
Does that seem overly simplistic? I know how it sounds, and I know that, somehow, no words really fit to summarize the despair. I don't have all the answers. I'm not even sure how to end this. But this I do know: There is hope for the Isobels and Schaeffers—a hope that says we have no need to join the statistic of the Ruslanas. There is a certainty we can grip onto with our own two hands; a confidence that we won't be allowed to let go. And at the end, when the waves of emotion have passed, we'll find that our anchor held fast. We'll have "proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm." And then we will meet a glorious sunrise.