If You Are Depressed

Though there have been many dark days and nights in my life, I have not experienced the kind of depression Gillian Marchenko knows too well. Yet I read Still Life, Gillian's memoir, straight through in one setting because she so rawly expresses a pain all too familiar in so many men and women whom I dearly love. Read on and find hope ...


If You Are Depressed

By Gillian Marchenko

If you are depressed ...

You are not alone.

You are not a terrible Christian.

You are not making it up.

I'm a former missionary, a current pastor's wife, a mom, and I have major depressive disorder. God grabbed a hold of my heart when I was fifteen years old and led me into a life of attempts to serve and glorify him. These things I know. These things are a stake in the ground. Jesus saved me.

But do I hope in him? Enjoy him? Experience joy and peace because of him?

Not always - because of my depression.

One definition of depression is the absence of hope.

I get that, the absence of hope. For many Christians, this admission, my disbelief in and loss of hope, is problematic. How can one who knows the saving grace of Jesus not have hope when verses like Romans 15:13 exist?

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Hope. Joy. Peace. Trust. I'm in big trouble.

I don't have answers. My brain misfires. I trip and fall into pits of darkness. I imagine depression akin to the historical cholera; emotions drain like bodily fluid. The pain is unbearable. I will become gray and brittle. I fear death. I grit my teeth and crawl towards the next moment. When able, I pray like hell.

One in four people have mental illness. But still, many churches don't get it. If someone walks into a church with a broken arm, she'll be told to go to a doctor. If a diabetic doesn't take insulin, she would be urged to reconsider. But if you have depression, you're on your own. People struggle, many in silence, because of the stigma of mental illness. Oh, how this hurts my heart.

Instead of evoking fear and guilt, scripture can help us with hope. What do we do with verses like Romans 15:13?

Look closely. The verse isn't about our actions. It is about God. We aren't responsible to conjure up hope, joy, and peace. No. It's the work of the Holy Spirit.

May the God of hope fill you ... by the power of the Holy Spirit ...

God is hope. The Gospel proves it. If I take a step back, I see it. I move towards health with the help of medication, biblical and secular counseling, and people who stand by me in the battle because of God's grace. Depression may scream in my ear for the rest of my life. But that doesn't mean that Jesus isn't with me. He's always pulling me towards the light.

So friend, today, if you are depressed ...

I validate your struggle.

You are not a terrible Christian.

You are fighting an illness.

You are not alone.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

John 1:5

Gillian Marchenko is the author of Still Life: A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression. She lives in St. Louis with her husband and four daughters. Catch up with her on Facebook or at gillianmarchenko.com.

© Elisa Morgan 2020

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