Grieving What Is and Grieving What Isn't
As leaves fell, so did depression settle back into my heart and mind. The changing of seasons triggers a cloud, a shadow that follows me around and tints every part of my life. I expect it and yet forget to adjust my expectations of myself. This year was no different.
If I could just find the right thing, the right combination of things, then I wouldn’t get depressed like this. I didn’t consciously believe this, but take a good look at my life and one would see it immediately. You could see it in my striving, in the hours spent researching different symptoms and treatments. If I just prayed better, if I just ate better or lost weight or started exercising more, then I would be happy again.
I spent every day striving for something better, something different. But the more I strived, the more the depression infiltrated every fiber of my being. I was exhausted yet still tried to be perfect at everything, refusing help, refusing the Lord’s invitation to let him be with me.
One week was particularly bad; I only managed worked an hour. I beat up on myself for that, criticizing myself for not trying harder, for not being better. I should have been able to! I screamed at myself.
But the Lord is never content to leave me in my self-reliance and discouragement and this time was no exception.
I went to my weekly holy hour and after settling into the Lord’s presence, he very gently asked me what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing. After listing out over 30 different things, I realized just how unrealistic my expectations were.
I expected myself not only to complete every single thing on my list but do it all perfectly without any help.
I feel like my life ought to be different Jesus. I want it to be different! I want to do everything on my list and do it easily and I want it now! I’m angry because I can’t have everything. Do I not deserve a good life? I yelled at the Lord after being faced with my expectations. I didn’t leave that time of prayer feeling all good about my life like I wished. I was still so frustrated with him but he didn’t abandon me.
That evening, I asked a friend of mine if we could talk for a bit and it was in that conversation that the Lord gently brought me from my self-reliance into my grief.
My friend was so gentle and kind. She reminded me that comparing my life right now to the summer was unfair to me. The season changing affects me. She instead asked me how I’m doing compared to this time a year ago. She was right which irritated me a bit. I’m doing much better than a year ago.
It was in that place of reluctant gratitude (a part of me wanted to stay in my self-pity) that the Lord very gently guided me to my grief. He had always been so good to me and had healed so much; at the same time, my present life is really hard. There were many good things on my list, things I loved and missed, that I couldn’t do or have right now. But instead of striving after those things, spiraling further into depression, discouragement, and self-pity, I now had permission to grieve them with Jesus because I chose to trust his goodness once again.
I could grieve that my life wasn’t what I had imagined. I could grieve that I was still depressed after years of struggling with depression. I could grieve that I don’t have the energy to do so many of the things I loved.
The pain continues but the despair has lifted. The King of the Universe is present to me; he sees my grief, my disappointment and loves me in it. I remembered his goodness and now he in turn has permission to comfort my heart in its grief of what is, and what isn’t.