Dark Thoughts

Dear Christian Counselor,

I have been married for over 35 years, and we have had good times and bad, like everyone else, but last week my husband said one thing to me and it killed me. I have tried with ALL my heart to trust God over the years and I even fail at that. I have had friends that I have known since kindergarten that STILL have a close relationship with God… how do people do that? I admit when I try to read the Bible I do not make it very long because I don’t understand it. I have understood four books in my life. I am making and thinking about doing some very deep and dark art.  I think that if I had God to make me feel the way all these other people have felt, then maybe I wouldn’t have to die to live. So my desperate plea to you…. How does a heart that is dying trust God?

Deep and Dark


Dear Deep and Dark,

First, if you are feeling suicidal, please tell your husband or someone else you trust or a doctor or a counselor. I can guarantee you, because my father committed suicide, that your attempt would wound everyone you know. They would carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t do that to them. It sounds like you are really depressed. Get help. You can get through this. I have.

The short (and possibly not very satisfying) answer to the trust question is that you trust God in the middle of the mess. Trusting God doesn’t mean you suddenly feel better; it means you trust Him anyway. You trust Him in your pain and distress and dark art and deadness of heart. I love that you can pour out your emotions through art, by the way – that’s a great thing to do – it’s another form of prayer. Just practice it in a way that doesn’t hurt you or anyone else so that it IS prayer.

Some people seem to have a simple connection with God that others don’t. I am not one of them. If you add them all up, I have spent many years of anger, doubt and dryness toward God in my life. Even Jesus felt that God had forsaken Him at one point. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that all the stories have a happy ending (Rev. 21:4), and sometimes that’s all we can know – not how or when or how much it will hurt in the meantime. Maybe it brings God more glory and us more reward when we barely hang on than if we had one of those easy relationships we envy in others.

As to books, it is not necessary that you read them. Only in the last few hundred years have people had access to books. There are other ways to learn. I would suggest counseling and/or mentoring. But if you are determined to make headway through reading, try some children’s books. You can read them to actual children, if you like, and learn while you are doing it.

Finally, I want to ask you to forgive your husband. He did not know what he was doing, how deeply he was wounding you when he spoke. He is not God that his words have to control you. Forgiveness does not mean your husband gets away ‘scott free,’ either. If you need to have a conversation with him first, do that, but then trust God to deal with the man for you. That’s called forgiveness, and you may have to keep doing it for a while before it sticks.

I want to repeat what I said at first. Don’t hand your pain to everyone else around you by hurting yourself. Get the help you need. You are loved. You are valuable. It’s still true, even if you don’t believe it. That’s pretty much the definition of trust.

How to Replace a Mother

Dear Christian Counselor,

Why is it that a woman who is already a grandmother still has such an overwhelming desire to know how it would feel to be loved, cared for and be given attention by a mom that wanted me? It makes me have a deep pain in my soul, and sometimes I cry myself to sleep. I can even remember being a teenager and doing stupid things to try and get attention from older mother figures in the church. I DEPISE that part of me!!!

How do you get a hug from God when you just are feeling like you can’t make it ?? (a sweet mom could if I had one). How can you look in God’s eyes and see that everything will be okay? (a sweet mom could if I had one).

alone, scared and silent


Dear Alone,

God doesn’t despise the unloved child inside you, and neither do I. Perhaps you could try having some compassion for her, too – that would be a good start toward helping her feel better.

It has taken you a lifetime to accumulate the pain you feel, and it will probably take some time to reduce it. But the good news is that you can begin any time, and you really can get better. If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be the complete, confident, joyful self you would like to be when you see Him face to face. But every minute between now and then is an opportunity for God’s grace to start that work right now. I say this because you should expect this to take some effort on your part, and you need to be confident (not in yourself, but in God) that it can be done.

  1. Start by reading A Father’s Love Letter as your devotional every morning. This simple document combines multiple Scriptures describing God’s love for you. 
  2. A second step to repairing a damaged childhood is to surround yourself with a strong and compassionate community. No one can fully take the place of your mother, but a lot of caring friends can help fill in the cracks. If you don’t have a church home, take the next month to visit several and then make a commitment to attend. After that, you need to find a small group within the church, a study, a ministry or a social group, where you can go deeper with others. 
  3. Finally, begin interacting with God in a mutual relationship. He speaks to you through Scripture, spiritual friends and His Holy Spirit in your heart. Listen! And then talk to Him about everything, even your anger. Write Him notes, comment on the Scriptures you are reading, sing Christian music around the house as your worship, thank Him for blessings large and small. I once set myself the goal of telling God I loved Him every hour. I won’t say I ever did it perfectly, but I do find myself more aware of His presence than I was before.

I’m so sorry you had such a painful childhood. I wish I could undo it. Fortunately, God is in the business of healing wounds and redeeming the broken things in our lives. I hope you will embark on that journey with determination and optimism. God really wants to give you the love you need, but you do have to come to Him in faith in order to begin to receive it. May God grant you that trust and courage.


Related Material:

The Mother Love of God

Mother-Shaped Holes

Can a Christian Be Depressed?

Dear Christian Counselor:

Can a Christian be both depressed and victorious? I have struggled with mild depression most of my adult life, enough that it’s hard to stay on task, and a disagreement can ruin a day or two. I certainly don’t feel victorious but I do continue to pursue the things of God with Bible study, prayer and fellowship. Am I sinning when I am depressed? Doesn’t it show signs of unbelief?

Praying for Strength and Relief


Dear Praying:

Every year millions of people struggle with various forms of depression. Recently, we learned that Mother Theresa considered herself to be a “saint of darkness” due to seasons of depression. Scripture shows us that even biblical characters experienced this mood disorder. Elijah, the prophet, felt so defeated that he wanted to die. Psalm 88 describes a deep depression in which the author asked if God had rejected him. Paul mentions an ache that will not leave him. Depression is real, and it happens to Christians.

Depression can happen for a variety of reasons. It can be biological, or it may occur following life changes. It can happen after childbirth or because there are years of undealt-with emotions in a person’s life. We live in a fallen world, and it affects us all differently. Sometimes, that means depression.

Depression becomes a spiritual issue when it leads us to ask questions like, “Has God forgotten me?” or “Am I truly a believer?” Christians work very hard to ‘just pray better’ or ‘memorize more verses’ to make depression go away. Christians tend to feel guilty and withdraw from others, compounding depression’s difficulties since we need the presence of caring people in our healing process.

Most people can see growth through depression with the help of counseling and the support of community. Sometimes medicine can help. A good counselor will encourage you to explore causes of depression. They will also give you space to wrestle honestly with the spiritual aspects of your mood. In God’s mysterious providence, our problems often thrust us into increased dependence on God. He is, after all, a Man acquainted with sorrows (Is. 53:3).

Jessica


Biblical Counselors on Depression (CCEF podcast)
Is Depression a Sin? (Focus on the Family)