Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Battles with Depression

"Why, God?" seems to be the subject of a lot of my prayers.

"Why was my little sister born unable to walk or talk?  Why will she never get to do the things everyone else gets to do?  Why did the therapy from all those years never work?  Did I sin against you?

"Why do my parents have to bear this heavy burden day in and day out?  Why does our family have to be dragged down because one of us is confined to a wheelchair?  Why couldn't Mom and Dad show us all the adventures, sights, and experiences the world has to offer?

"Instead of my parents taking us to the national capital, the Grand Canyon, awesome conventions and symphony orchestras...we spend our 'vacations' in doctor's offices.  More appointments, more surgeries, more hotel rooms.  Instead of peaceful family mornings over a cup of coffee, we're mopping up bloody vomit off the kitchen floor.  What did we do wrong?  Are we cursed?

"Why did you give Hannah to us?  So we would feel envious of everyone else?  And why was Hannah even put on earth?  So she could suffer for other people's sins, until one day her little heart stops beating?

"God, what's the point?  Why did You do this?"

I think about those things a lot.  I cry about it.  I pray about it.

On occasion, as it did Christmas 2011 for instance, it drags me into a state of anxiety and depression.  Sometimes it makes me angry - angry that my family was robbed of so many good things we could have had were it not for Hannah.  Angry that we spent years and years praying that God would touch Hannah and heal her.  You know, those stories on the news where the impossible happens and proves that the Divinity must be out there.  And all those years and years, God was silent.  And Hannah kept screaming in the middle of the night, making messes at the most embarrassing times, and sucking all the energy out of both of my parents.

And I ask God, why?  Is this punishment for something I did?

But then...something happens inside me.

I see another kid in a wheelchair, unable to communicate with anyone.  I see a photograph of an infant in South Africa, a tiny body stricken with AIDS, who will not survive their first two years.  I see a homeless person with tears in their eyes, holding out an empty cup as a last resort for a fix or a meal.  I see a man or woman who will never be loved, never be understood, and never be treated as a human being.  I see all these people who were never given a chance a life, and it isn't even their fault their lives are so full of evil and sin, and all these quote-unquote "Christians" walk right by them without so much as a glance.

And when I see those things, something inside me snaps in two, and I break down.  I just can't take it.  My heart literally aches for them.  And deep down, I know that if I did not dedicate my whole life to serving those people, no matter the personal cost, I could never live with myself.  I have no choice but to serve them, I tell myself.  I have to get on the mission field.  I have to volunteer at the shelter.  How could I not?

That is the moment a thought occurs to me.

"Would those things break my heart, if Hannah had never entered my life?"

Suppose - just suppose - God was not cursing me, but blessing me.  Suppose He was preparing my heart for something much bigger than myself...that if I did not have someone like Hannah for a sister, I would be cursed.  That is, I would be cursed with a hardened heart that did not know grace, compassion, and mercy.

What if all those unanswered prayers were just preparation to open the door to my soul?  What if all this suffering, depression, and anxiety are what it is going to take to crucify my sinful self, and replace it with Christ?

What if that is what it takes to follow Jesus?

Now, I'm not saying that this is the only reason Hannah was given to us - probably just one of many, many more.  I'm also not saying that anyone who doesn't have a handicapped child has no chance of having a compassionate heart.  Good grief, no.

What I am saying is that, often times, what we think is a curse from God is actually a blessing in disguise.  It's always hard to see at first.  For fourteen years, and even now, I still can't see some of it.  But so often we don't realize our spiritual muscles are going through a fast-core workout.  We don't realize that sleepless nights, battles with depression, and unanswered prayers are what it takes to bring us closer to our Heavenly Father.

God loves us that much.

So when the anxiety and depression start to seep in again, I have to step back and look at all God has done to my heart.  I have to remind myself that His blessings often feel more like curses.  Then I can look at Hannah and see her as the best thing God has ever given to me and my family.  And then I can genuinely lift up my hands and shout, "Praise God!"

Praise God!  He is so good to me! :)