Last Monday was a designated a special day on our calendar, it was designated ‘Blue Monday’, nothing to do with the band New Order, but a day worked out by a rather dubious equation that stated statistically people feel more depressed in the winter and that the 15th January this year would be their lowest point. What you may not know is that this equation was invented and the term ‘Blue Monday’ made popular by Sky Travel, in a cunning attempt to sell you a mid-winter holiday in the sun!!
Whilst the equation and reasons behind Blue Monday may be suspicious it is absolutely true that in the bleak midwinter people do suffer from depression and feel down more than any other time of the year, especially in January when we face the new year with long, dark nights. Of course, we won’t admit to it because we are British, but I bet there are more than a few people in our communities who suffer in this way.
A close relative of mine has suffered from what we now call SAD (seasonal affective disorder) since I can remember. They have also been a Christian for as long as I can remember so I have seen close hand how much this can affect people.
I remember being told once by a church goer in my younger years that being a Christian made you happy, and indeed a lot of the people in that church were happy. The trouble is they weren’t really, it was all false smiles and nicety, whilst complaining about things that didn’t seem to matter. My view of Christianity got distorted by them, and as a child I remember thinking that my relative couldn’t have been a Christian because they weren’t happy at the time! Over the years as I got older, and possibly a bit wiser, my opinion changed. My relative, around this time every year would get very depressed no matter what anti-depressants or treatment they would give them. There was only one thing that got them though those times ..
They didn’t tell me this, it was just the way they lived their life. God was an anchor and the lower they felt, the more they seemed to recognise it. It was if they would be clinging to God by their finger nails for a few months of the year and only able to life their heads when the first signs of spring arrived. Only then would hope would start to bubble up to the surface.
They have always inspired me and my own faith.
In fact, I often wished I had their kind of faith – until something happened, the kind of thing that brings you to rock bottom very quickly and I discovered something amazing about the universe. I found God in a new, and profound way. I came to realise that whilst it is good to be happy, you never really know the presence of God until you are in that place where you are empty enough to receive him. When all else seems to have failed, God shows himself to us in new ways. For the first time I understood and it changed my life.
I now get the privilege of working with people who are in that same place, often rock bottom. As I do, I constantly glimpse God at work profoundly in their lives which inspires me in new ways every single week. It has helped me come to appreciate that we should not dismiss those times as quickly as possible, but that they are a vital part of our journey in life and that just as we meet God in those dark places, it also overflows to others around us.
If you are in that place at the moment, know you are most definitely not a failure. Don’t rush and pretend to get better. Be kind to yourself. May you feel God’s presence with you today in new ways never before thought possible.
If you know sometime else in that place, may you be blessed as you spend time with them. Not in an attempt to cheer them up or make them better, but just to be there alongside them, listening and sensing God at work in their life.
The buds of new life are coming my friends, hang in there.