On the other side of despair ….

Because so many are talking about the depression that led Robin Williams to end his life, it could also be the reason the actor who shared the screen with him in Patch Adams (Philip Seymour Hoffman) chose to “accidentally” end his life through a drug overdose. I am moved to share my thoughts based on years of working with so many people struggling with depression, and I remembered the Book of Job. Not being able to imagine how devastating the illness/disease can be, read it anew. Job was released from God’s protection and was beset by the powers of Satan, and Satan uses what is available in this earthly world. Using the American Standard Version (ASV) of the King James Bible, I found strong examples of the types of “noise” that possibly troubled Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman and refused to release its grip on its prisoner. All that negative noise found in Job’s story is symbolic of what can be spinning and replaying inside one’s head. The “noise” refuses to be silenced much like what we find in Job 2:11-13 where we find the report of the words and behavior of Job’s friends, and we all have well-intentioned friends much like Job’s. They are described as coming to minister to Job “…So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him for they saw that his grief was very great (v.13).” I chuckled to myself when I thought of this in today’s words – Job threw a pity party and his friends actually came, but they came to see what he would do and found themselves learning about God. In Chapter 3 of Job we find that he was so greatly distressed (we call it depression, sad, having a bad day) that he cursed the day he was born. Job 3:24 is a conversation and intense prayer Job used to tell God just how bad it was when he said: “…and my groanings are poured out like water…” which often times is the sensation many who experience depression will report. On the other side of his despair, when Job refused to give in to the overwhelming despair and the pleadings of his well-intentioned friends, Job turned to the Lord and voiced praise despite the tempting of the negative voices when he said: “…he setteth up on high those that are low, and those that mourn are exalted to safety…” (Job 5:8-16, v. 11). Job knew his God would keep His word, abide by His law and His love for His children. So how low can a manic state of mind be? In Job 17: 1-2, Job describes it as “My spirit is consumed, my days are extinct, the grave is ready for me. Surely there are mockers with me …”, then continued by adding that “My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me … (Job 19:14-15)”. Even though Robin Williams had the ability to induce laughter in millions, entertain audiences with his brilliance and style, he still felt as if he were alone, like Job, and he could not find hope; without hope, all is lost. The deepest portion of Job’s depression is found in Chapter 30, verse 16 when he tells God that “…my soul is poured out with me, my day of affliction have taken hold upon me …”. Both Williams and Hoffman had success by society’s definition, family, and the ability to find help – which both had been in rehab for their addictions – their addictive behaviors led them to lose the ability to function and cope in a healthy manner, instead choosing a path of destruction as a way to end their emotional turmoil and pain. What I learned from reading the Book of Job anew came only because of my own faith journey that gave me a clearer understanding of his story. Job was released from God’s protection so that he would have a ministry to those who were watching his reactions and attitude; God never stopped loving Job. Job did plea with God, he questioned God but he never walked away from God or his commitment to God. What I would suggest is that as we process the losses we have had recently, would be to take the time to ponder on Job’s trials and tribulations which would serve to help us when we experience seasons of depression. Take into account all the things spoken by his wife, family and friends combined with Job’s own spoken despair and transpose that to what is locked, trapped in the brain of a person with depression that is not managed. The Book of Job does a great job of taking us through the thoughts and problems a person can experience during depression. In Chapter 6 of my book, “Asking What: No More Whys and Soaring on Eagles Wings over Labels, Cancer and Anger”, I provide a look at depression that comes with loss, not the heavy, overwhelming, encompassing depth of Manic Depression. God showed us through Job’s experiences how difficult the disease can be. I know that we have Christ to heal us, but so many of us experience that old cliché of “God will take care of you” or “God will not put more on you than you can bear” and cannot find our way out of it because they have become oversimplified, over-used phrases. Depression is crippling, difficult and unkind. I challenge you to read the Book of Job with different eyes of comprehension and understanding. And yes, I know God can and will heal and make us whole, just as He did for Job, who at the end of his life had seventeen times more than when his journey of affliction began. We are to learn from God’s words set before us; learn the lessons that strengthen our faith as we experience life’s problems, and yes, even the heckling of our friends. We can then face the experiences that will come with renewed hope and strength – strength that comes when we learn the “what” of life’s lessons. Job described the victory of allowing his hope to remain deeply rooted in God and is found in Chapter 23:10 as he reassured the negative forces in his life with these words: “But He knows they way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous] (Amplified Version).”

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