The Wounded Heart: Walking With God Through Depression & Anxiety

Anchorman may be, at least in my opinion, one of the funniest movies of all time. This particular scene had my gut laughing more than a few times.  I can relate to the movie because I can look back with hindsight at times where I felt like I was really in a glass case of emotions. Perhaps you know what I am talking about. A tragic circumstance or event occurs that turns your life upside down (dealing with terminal illness, death of a loved one, a break up, losing your job, etc.). Sometimes we cannot get a grasp of the tidal wave of our emotions. We come to a place where we do not feel in control of our emotions or of life.  You feel so close to people but yet they feel so far away. When depression hits us, it’s like a tidal wave of hopelessness that submerges our hearts. It’s seemingly uncontrollable and totally unbearable. The Bible talks about this feeling of brokenness and a crushed spirit. It says, “the human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14). This proverb means that outer circumstances could be going great. But if you have a crushed spirit, who can really bear it?

It is also difficult because it seems sometimes that people who are close to you (or in general) do not understand what you’re going through. It’s hard to explain or even articulate to others the depression and anxiety that weighs on your heart. It’s not so much that one is embarrassed by what they feel. For me at least, when I feel depressed or have anxiety, (it is) not so much I am afraid of expressing my emotions but rather, will people truly understand my emotions?

Sometimes people do no simply understand what’s going on. So they will simplify you and reduce your problems in order to relate to you. “Oh I have been through that similar situation and you just have to do x, y, and z and you will feel better!” So you do the dance of trying to keep busy and jump through the hoops in order to fill the whole. But then it doesn’t work out. As a result, we give up. We accept the fact that this is how it is always going to be. In order to hide our morbidness, we put on a mask so to speak to hide our emotions and how we really feel. We hide who we really are from others. We feel like no one really understands our feelings and our brokenness. We isolate ourselves. We are close to those that love us but yet feel so far and distant from them all at the same time. We wear a mask to cover our brokenness and we get comfortable with wearing our mask and inevitably accept our brokenness as part of our identity.

But masking our pains does not make the situation better. On the contrary, it makes it worse because our brokenness never really gets healed. We become numb to it. God created the desire in our hearts to be known and to be loved. But because of sin and shame, we are afraid of letting people see who we really are out of fear of our brokenness scaring them away. We wear masks to hide our true self. But if you wear a mask, it is only the mask that can be loved and not who you really are.

A recent story that really broke my heart talked about a young 19 year old girl named Madison Holleran. She was described by the news paper articles as someone who was smart and beautiful. She was a scholar-athlete. The mask she wore was instagram. Her posts indicated she was living a perfect life circumstanced wise. She was living the dream.

But it wasn’t perfect and she wasn’t living the dream. On January 17, 2014, Madison Holleran jumped off the ninth floor of a parking garage and died.

My heart is in anguish for her family’s loss and for what Madison was going through. But it brought me to this realization of how we wear this mask to cover up our brokenness and depression. Everyone that knew Madison asked “what would drive this girl to do this? She was living the perfect life! She was so young, seemingly full of life, so much potential, why would she tragically take her own life?” Life may seem like it’s going well for others, but deep down there is this deep morbidness we feel. Madison was wearing her mask but on the inside experiencing the raging tidal wave of anxiety and depression. In the midst of the pictures of her smiling and boasting in her accomplishments, there was a deep sorrow in her soul that drove to such a tragic end.

There are countless of people like Madison. We mask our sorrows with “selfies” and laughter. The Bible speaks to this that, “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief” (Proverbs 14:13). I know this all too well because I am guilty of this. There would be times I would post stuff on social media that indicated that life was going great. But deep down, my life was in turmoil, experiencing a deep loneliness and anxiety that I felt like no one could really understand. Social media became a way for me to mask my pain. Maybe you know what I am talking about and may be asking, “What is the solution and cure to our crushed spirit?” How can we cope? As I already alluded previously in this article, humans have the great desire to be known and to be loved. But we sometimes feel that our brokenness is unique. We think at times, “No one understands my brokenness, no one can heal my brokenness, and no one is willing or is able to walk through my brokenness.”

This is why I think the gospel is so nuance in answering deep cosmic hurts we have. The Bible is getting after something that we modern people are obsessed with. Today’s society thinks of happiness as something that has to do with external circumstances. Happiness is not determined by external circumstances, but by the way we view, process and address them. Modern psychology and self-help will try and reduce you. “It’s just your self-esteem, your outlook, or circumstances.” Where as the Bible is so much more complex and relevant in it’s approach to psychology. The Bible says, it’s complicated.
So how does the gospel help us? This is the subject of my blog and what I’ll be discussing. In light who Jesus is and what he’s done, your brokenness is not unique to him, he understands your brokenness, he will heal your brokenness, and he will walk you through your brokenness.

 

1.  God knows your brokenness and it’s not unique to Him:

Now you read this first point and think, “wow Brendan you are so insensitive to how I feel. Nobody is going through what I am going through right now!” But I want you to hear me out on this. I think one of the great lies that Satan has been successful in perpetuating is that your brokenness is unique. Not only that, but your gifts are somehow ordinary. You may hear an accusatory voice saying in your mind that, “you’re junk” or “you are an absolute mess.” This voice somehow convinces you that your gifts are not really all that great. Sometimes there may be truth to that. Because after all, the greatest lies are usually rooted in half truths. Satan will convince you that your gifts are ordinary and your brokenness is unique. But the truth is that Jesus says your gifts are unique and your brokenness is ordinary. No one said it better than the great reformer Martin Luther in his commentary of Galatians:

So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares you deserve  death and hell, tell him this; “I know I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know the One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus, the Son of God! Where he is, so I shall also be!

-Martin Luther

This is because our acceptance in Christ is not conditional on us being clean. But that Jesus has made us clean through his work on the cross. Jesus has made you righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). I love Ephesians 2:8-9 where it says that salvation is a gift apart from works so that none can boast. His love and grace is freely offered. Paul continues in Ephesians 2:10 and says, “for we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Did you hear that? When God created you, he said it was very good. Not only that, but he created you to do great things. God created the universe, all of creation, with His word alone. But when it came time to make you, He couldn’t speak. He got in the dirt and made you with His bare hands. Imagine that, the Creator of the universe speechless at the thought of you! This is what the Psalmist meant when he said, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)! We are born in the image of an infinitely restorative and reconciling God. The whispers that accuses and condemn us do not really need to be set right because they are just lies. God doesn’t take time to create junk. You are God’s original masterpiece. He is ravished and amazed by you.

 

2. Jesus sympathizes with our brokenness:

It says in the Bible in the book of proverbs, “a person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2). You know what that means? It means YOU DO NOT EVEN UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN HEART! The heart, which is the inner being of one’s soul, cannot be fully understood by others or even by you. You do not even know what’s going all down there. That’s why the prophet Jeremiah said “the heart is deceitful above all things, who should know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Which is a scary thought because as I said before, our basic human need is to be known and to be loved. But if that’s true, that is to say no one can understand our heart, then that means you are utterly alone. People will constantly misunderstand you and reduce you to your simplest form. They can never see past your mask that covers your brokenness.

But the good news is this: Jesus knows exactly what you’re going through this very moment. He see’s past the mask you are wearing. He is the High Priest that understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus is your High Priest. What does that mean? When the Jews wanted to approach God, they would have someone who was called a High Priest. This was a guy who  who mediated between them and God. But it provided a barrier between us and God since we could not approach the tabernacle where the presence of God was located.

This is a big deal. For the longest time, friendship with God was impossible. Aristotle the Greek philosopher made this argument. He rationalized, rightly so, “that friendship would be impossible with God. For being someone’s friend means that both parties are equal and no one can be equal to God.” How can we relate to God and be his friend? In the Old Testament, Job cries out “He [God] is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together” (Job 9:32-33). But the amazing truth of the gospel is that God became Emmanuel “God with us.” Jesus Christ came from his most high place and plunge himself into death and darkness for you. At infinite cost to himself, Jesus stripped himself of his glory so he could relate to you. He became weak and suffered so he can relate to you as not only your king, your high priest, but as your friend. Jesus says that, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). No matter who you are or how broken you think you are, you can have friendship with God. The curtain or veil that separated the people and the presence of God is gone.

Which is absolutely baffling and scandalous. Think about it for a second. Jesus knows everything about you. That means he knows the very worst things about me. He see’s the ugliness that most people (thank God!) cannot see in me! Despite all of what Jesus knows about me, he still desires to be my friend. If that is true, Jesus is the one person who knows the very worst about me but he is also the one person who loves me the most. He more importantly understands my depression and my anxiety. When we cry out “why God,” we can take comfort that Jesus cries out the same when he was being crucified. He cried out,”my God my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Why did Jesus go through all that and experience suffering and agony? For you and me. He took upon the infinite physical and inner turmoil that we deserve on the cross.

Jesus hates your depression, anxiety, pain, suffering, sin, and death so much that he was willing to die in order to destroy evil without destroying us. His motivations was out of love for you and the desire to have a relationship with you. This was the God of the universe becoming totally vulnerable to the point of him experiencing suffering and death so he could relate to you. He knows your pains and your hurt. He sees the very depths of your ugliness and he loves you to the stars.

Jesus is inviting you to take off your mask, to be known by Him, and to be loved by HimJ.I. Packer in his famous book Knowing God, says it best: “The wonders of wonders is not that we know God but that God knows us.”

3. Jesus will heal and walk you through your brokenness:

Jesus wants you to unmask your brokenness to heal you. When you read the Bible you see this constant theme in the Old Testament of uncleanliness. Brokenness if you will, is winning out before Jesus comes. Things that were originally clean become unclean. What was whole becomes broken. But then Jesus shows up. He encounters a leprous person, someone who was ceremonially unclean, and heals him. At that moment, the tide has turned. The light is winning over the darkness. The point I am making is this: you can bring your brokenness into the light. Jesus is the light. He wants you bring your brokenness into the light not to shame you but to heal you.

That is the hope the that the Christian has in the resurrection. That is, God is going to make all things new. Ephesians 1:10 says  “when the times reach their fulfillment–to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Jesus’ resurrection proves that God is going to restore all that was originally lost to us and distorted and destroyed by sin. That God is not only going to literally bring heaven to earth together, but he is going remake us. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says  that the dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who remain and are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies. You are being remade without blemish or brokenness.

Because of the resurrection, we can put our hope and faith in Jesus that he will do this since death could not contain him! While we wait, God is going to be walking us through our pain and suffering. The prophet of Isaiah reiterates the faithfulness of God:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God,  the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.

God is going to walk you through it all. Even though you feel like you are going through a fiery furnace or tidal waves of emotions, God will never leave you. God’s immutable and unchangeable promise of him being faithful to you will never be revoked. You cannot scare God off or make him love you any more or less. His feelings of love and Him rejoicing over you will never stop. He’s crazy in love with you. God’s promise to believers is not “you won’t go through deep waters,” but rather, when you do go deep waters, “I am with you, loving you, and lifting you with my victorious right hand.” Through the suffering God will refine you, give you character, and a inner strength that will enable you to endure all things.

You may say, “wow that’s inspiring. But how do I know this is true?” It’s not until you get to the cross that you will realize this timeless truth. Jesus went to be with us in our affliction.  On the cross, to our astonishment, God subjects himself to weakness and death. He suffered everything we have suffered and infinitely more. If you want to know how severe and destructive sin was, just look at how severe the solution was. God had to send his Son to die for you. But if you want to know just how far, how deep, how wide, God’s love for you is and how much you mean to Him, look at Jesus. Look at his hands, feet and side where they pierced him. Look at Cavalry for what Jesus has done for you.

When you realize someone as great as that, went through all that, for you and me, it humbles me. To know that he was also glad to die for  me affirms me infinitely. Bring your hurt your and brokenness to Jesus. Take off the mask and live in freedom knowing that no matter what God is rejoicing over you and is working in your life.

“Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble.”

Jeremiah 31:9

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