I learned the long list of the “fruits of the spirit” at a Christian church conference a few years ago. I loved the experience (this was the first time I had been to a Bible camp) but I felt a little out of place. There was so much joy for Jesus that I didn’t quite understand.
When I went to the conference I had already been diagnosed with depression. I had it for months before the conference and had it for a season afterwards. When I learned the fruits of the spirit (I knew them before but I didn’t have them memorized in order), I remember vividly questioning how I could posses these traits when it’s physical and emotionally difficult to get out of bed.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23 (WMB)
There’s a myth that if you follow Yeshua, you will not deal with mental health issues. I’ve dealt with personal shame about sharing about my struggles. I look back and the few members of my congregation who know my story have given me nothing but love and support. When my mom went to a few elders for prayer about the severity of the depression I was facing, one of them told me, “Don’t be afraid to reach out.”
I have found that it is possible to fully experience the fruits of the Spirit even when it’s difficult to get up in the morning because of anxiety, depression, and whatever else going on.
The trait that is difficult to comprehend when you are fighting depression is joy. How can one have joy when the the journey of walking in this world seems so…pointless?
As someone who’s struggled with mental health, I have devoted many hours contemplating if I was a “bad Christian” for seemingly not being able to establish this joy that I’m “supposed” to have. I mean how can I have joy in Christ when I don’t have any energy even after sleeping all night? When I do my favorite activities and yet not have the same thrill that I used to have? I can’t seem to be able to find this so called joy in anything.
Depression can feel as if you’re drowning in a body of water and the depression is pulling on your feet. It’s riding a bike without a chain or any brakes. You paddle but don’t go anywhere. It’s forcing a fake smile when you are supposed to be happy. And it’s going through the motions of life without living it to the fullest extent.
What I just said briefly explains how it feels to live with depression. I have depression and anxiety for too long now. I remember the day that depression took over. Through my own struggles, I’ve learned how to have joy in depression.
I took me awhile to fully realize that my mental health state was not ever a faith issue. It was/is a health issue. When I found out that my family health history has several names of relatives with mental illness, it started to make sense. As I did my research, I learned that I have an imbalance. I can take steps to make me better. I can go to therapy, take medications, exercise, eat right etc., but ultimately I believe that the only way I can be healed is through Christ. At times I feel as if I’ve tried everything to be healed but nothing has helped. Do I think that one may develop a form of sadness, guilt, or anxiety when sin has taken over one’s life? Absolutely. But if it is depression, I’m not really sure.
When I learned that there was nothing wrong with my relationship with Christ when facing depression, it added a different element to how I view it.
When I am going through a period of depression, I’m not going to be a peppy joyful girl. But I can take joy in my depression. I have trust that there’s a reason for me to be going through this. Within that, I can believe that He is using this for a purpose. Through the seasons of depression, I can draw even closer to HIM. Within everything listed, I can have joy in depression. I hope that you can, too.