“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the [valley of the shadow of death (KJV)] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”—David, the Psalmist and King of Israel (Psalm 23 NIV)
An almost cliche Bible passage at this point is Psalm 23. It’s the one we’ve probably all heard a hundred times over, whether we’re followers of Christ or not. If you haven’t heard it in church, you’ve probably heard it quoted on a crime show by a cop that’s trying to keep his faith or by a mobster trying to justify his crime. I’ve heard it said that it’s just a Psalm about the Lord guiding David through some troubles. I’ve also heard it said that it’s a Messianic prophecy (in plain English, that it was a telling of Jesus’ sacrifice).
I don’t bring up the passage, however, to dispute doctrines or theories. I just want to confront this thing called a valley. I hear the word most frequently used to describe a low point in a person’s life, something external that they’re going through and that they [hopefully] will emerge from on the other side. There is another word for a low point that brings a much greater sense of despair (of varying degree and duration), though, that needs to be confronted: depression.
Depression is that cloud that hangs over a persons head for a long time, the storm that doesn’t have wind at its back to move it along, the unshakable feeling that nothing is ever going to change, a constant lack of energy/motivation/passion or at the very least the presence of a vacuum slowly draining that energy, a desire for change but without resolve to make it happen, a fear of failure or personal endangerment or loss, a reclusion from reality, dreams without fruition, the fear/thought of not “getting by,” a lack of desire to excel, often but not always masked by feigned apathy and even bitterness to protect the part with the pain from being damaged further (which can lead to an abnormal silence from the individual in question), not a simple imbalance of body chemicals, but a state of being in which a person believes he/she is caught in a endless loop which can lead to the exhausting sensation of chaos and insanity and in the end an amplified preference to rest constantly rather than work. This is at the very least how I would define it because I’ve lived with it.
It can be a monster, and the thing that makes it so difficult to fight is that depression is constructed within our own minds out of the things that make up our own lives. Not just a monster, but a monster inside of a dungeon inside of a hole in the ground.
The easy path is to stop trying to fight it and let it have its way with you. Rest, and maybe you’ll be safe. Heck, maybe it’s just a nightmare to wake from. That’s how I’ve felt about it, anyway (I dare not say “you” without really meaning “me”).
The irony of it, though, is that it’s exhausting. You’re not resting. You’re constantly working to keep the walls from falling down, to save yourself, to hide your heart. What you once thought was rest becomes the slave driver at your back.
It’s a fact that things can bring us down, and a lot of times we don’t want to get back up and feel insane for it. It’s a fact that we can pretend not to care, to go silent, to protect ourselves. Do we really want that for ourselves, though? Wouldn’t it be better to let go and truly be able to rest?
If you’re having a difficult time lately, if you’re going through a valley, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is with you and that the valley has two sides. You will come out of it. You don’t have to deny the darkness you’re in to accept the day that is to come.