Trust - during rough times

By Marja Bergen

Depression can be a debilitating, torturous experience. During such times, I have to work hard to maintain my trust in God. I try not to be anxious but to relax and let God do his work in me and care for me. But it's difficult not to be afraid; it's natural to be afraid.

As my negative thinking takes over, I begin to doubt my ability to complete the projects I'm working on. I fear that friends no longer care about me and won't be there for me. I fear my depression will deepen and I might stop functioning altogether. I can't see how I could ever be cheerful again.

Fear is the universal response to suffering

Philip Yancey, in his book, Where is God When it Hurts? explains how fear is the universal response to suffering. And yet beyond a doubt it is also the single greatest enemy of recovery.' Fear is part of the extreme moods I go through, especially psychosis. The more I give in to fear, the worse my illness becomes. It is important to do all I can to escape it. The best way is to turn to God and trust in God. But it's hard.

David, the psalmist, fought similar battles. I need to pray along with him, When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God, I trust; I will not be afraid. (Psalm 56:3-4)

Since the dramatic change in my life when I began to follow Christ, my faith in God has remained steadfast. No matter how bad things become, I know God is there. But belief in God and trusting God are two different things. Trusting means relying on someone, having confidence in God's power to help me. I cannot always do this. I have to work at it, over and over again. I have to remind myself to turn to God when things are bad. Even when it seems useless to do so, I need to read my Bible and pray. A habit I developed a few years ago has stood me in good stead taking at least an hour of quiet time each morning. I start each day with Bible reading, prayer and journaling. These times do much to comfort and strengthen me, whether I'm excessively up or excessively down. Though my prayers are often awkward, though the words come slowly and with great effort, they help keep my focus on God. They help me stay close to God.

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One of the symptoms of depression is a sense of hopelessness, the opposite of confidence. At times my trust has faded so severely I thought of giving up altogether. Yet my belief in God does not die, even when God feels distant. In my heart, I cry out, but I don't feel I'm reaching God. I struggle to find the patience I need. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14) And yet, there are times when I struggle emotionally and the reverse happens. God's Word becomes more powerful than it could possibly be during stable times. Bible verses help me find great peace and hope. At such times, I read Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, (Matthew 11:28) and my entire being finds relief. I feel comforted. I know these words come from a loving God. These deep spiritual experiences sustain me during rough times; they provide memories I can go back to. I will never forget the day my friend Helen came to me at a time I felt I couldn't go on. She impressed on me how much I had to live for. She told me she loved me. Whenever I need to remember how great God's love is, I think back to that occasion. Speaking to me through this caring friend, God became powerfully real to me. When I am waiting for depression to lift, I focus on how great God's love has proven to be, time after time.

I feel a kinship with King David who, in Psalm 40, wrote: I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. Waiting patiently is the only thing I can do as I recover from extreme moods. Remembering that God loves me. Trusting.

Marja Bergen lives with bipolar disorder and is the author of Riding the Roller Coaster (Northstone, 1999). The above is an excerpt from her soon-to-be released book, A Firm Place to Stand: Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder. She is a facilitator and founder of the Christian mood disorders support group, Living Room (www.livingroomsupport.org). She can be contacted at marja@livingroomsupport.org.

May 15/2008