Friday, November 13, 2009

How Do You Cope?

I have been saddened to read of the suicide of Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper this week. Suffering from depression beyond his ability to deal with or share, he ended his life under a train at a spot where he often walked his dogs.

A successful footballer. Rich, married, though he had lost a young daughter some time ago, he and his wife had recently adopted a child and seemed to have so much in life. As if that mattered – which is what the reports all say.

Anyone who has suffered deep depression has been at that point of giving in. Most get past it. I’m told Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Apparently 20% of the population suffer from depression in some form, and 10% actively find themselves under its grip today.

I’ve chronicled here before how depression plays its part in my life. Reading about Enke brings tears to my eyes. I’m pretty sure most of the reports I’ve read don’t really get it; but those of us who live there do. Have I ever reached that point? Of course. So how have I coped?

You know, I often say that the point of being a Christian is not the eternal insurance policy – the going to heaven when you die. No – I mean, I believe in eternal life – but the real point is the having Jesus now. The difference knowing God makes today.

I don’t know how people who don’t have that hand holding theirs, that voice speaking softly in their ears, that smile comforting them, that light breaking through the dark, dark, darkness – I don’t know how people without all this can possible begin to cope. I couldn’t. Really, I couldn’t.

I could recall specifics. I’m not going to – perhaps apart from the blessed gift of sleep which has sometimes got me through the very, very worst hours. I will say this: “there but for the grace of God” is not a phrase I use lightly or meaninglessly. I live as best I can a life that tries to worship Jesus every day because the fruit of the acts is in the living – and when push comes to shove, at the really crucial moments, he has always been there, and somehow I have managed to see that. The seeing in the darkness, my, that's the trick.

So I write these few words as an encouragement in the light of this week’s news story to anyone reading today needing a little hope. God still loves you, even if you are feeling unloved and unlovely. I have no cure to offer – but I know that I am not alone, and that Jesus stands with me when I am lowest; so I know he is with you too. We have company – of one who understands, and loves, and listens, and stays right here.

In the midst of depression so often it's the loneliness that's the killer. But we are not alone.


Anonymous said...

How do you cope : Jesus,family and good friends. Its not easy but at the darkest moments remember Shine Jesus Shine.

Anonymous said...

What you say is so true I battled in my own strength and almost did not make it one time. God had other plans for me to know Jesus and now I know the difference. Never as lonely,never as black and never alone again. I weep for others battling this awful depression.. Enjoy yourselves this evening...joyce

Marcus Green said...

Annamarie - thanks. I'm glad to hear of your coping stratagems, but
I think I want to be careful here.

Anyone who really needs cheering up may be glad to be reminded of friends, family & Jesus shining through the gloom. For me, and I think for others who suffer depression rather than feel depressed, it can be a different issue. A hug ain't gonna fix it! The feeling of expectations all around from those closest to you can sometimes make things far worse; I think that was part of Robert Enke's problem.

I am one of the lucky ones; for me depression is a matter of cycles and ups and downs. Occasionally I get stuck but I don't live constantly in the depths. When I am there, I'm afraid I don't think I have ever known Jesus to shine!

But when I am there, the secretiveness of depression is broken by the ordinariness of continuing to pray, to read the Bible and to worship even when I feel like God has gone on holiday - because sometimes I know he has not, and sometimes I just remain plain awkward and obstinate and refuse to give in. My prayers my be cursory, my reading tiny, my songs insubstantial, yet it is the ordinariness of this worshipping life that keeps me somehow aware of the hand that holds mine. I am not alone - not because there are people around; sorry - I am very alone in a crowd somedays. It's the way this illness works. It's not my fault and it's not yours. It's just the way it is.

I am not alone because Jesus is here. Not shining; just doggedly here. More obstinate and unremitting than I, refusing to give up on me when I have finally given up on myself. The surprise of that love is like the tears of exhaustion at the end of a marathon. No exhilaration or flowers or sunshine and laughter; yet joy in a sense anyway.

So I am grateful for these kind thoughts - there are people in church who need them - and for the way these things help. They are a real gift. But I am also aware that people are made differently, and that some may not find these answers quite so straightforwards.

Yet I come back to Jesus. For we are not alone. No matter how dark the day and how solitary the moment feels.