I am learning a lot about spiritual life since I retired. I am also learning about depression. I have not sunk into that by God’s mercy, but I have skirted the edge of it now and then, and have dear friends who have to cope with that on a year in year out basis, who are incidentally, lovely, filled with the Spirit Christians, some of them engaged in powerful Christ honouring ministries; they have shared much wisdom with me in the last few months especially.
I believe that depression is an illness like any other and those who suffer from it should be regarded with the same compassion and love we would have for anyone in any other type of suffering – only perhaps more so, for it carries stigma that is sometimes more cruel in the church than in the world. For me, part of the walking the edges of that has been that for reasons of physical lack of energy and health and capacity, I could not go back the way to what was; certain things are cut off from me now, whether permanently or otherwise I know not. The problem is that though I know I cannot go back the way in terms of life or ministry, I am not yet into the future, whatever that may be, and that can carry a certain amount of angst. A journey has started but I don’t know where it is going yet. I see now that many who go through a certain type of true depression are by no means weak: they are courageously trying to make a move on from the “past” forced or chosen, gladly or reluctantly; a past which may have been good or horrific, which held many good things or on the other hand harmful or destructive things. For all sorts of reasons continuing or returning to the past is not an option for them; it is not the answer…but they are not sure how to make the journey, or where they are going, but they are moving somewhere…it takes courage to make such an uncertain journey that you perhaps cannot see an end to.
You know probably that I am charismatic by scriptural conviction, belief and by experience – though not as much experience as would wish; but it has been real. I find that by dreams, God often confirms or highlights for my blessing themes that are there in Scripture. Putting together a few dreams I have had lately, I know God has confirmed for me that returning to previous ways of living or ministering are not His will for me. In these same dreams I have seen well meaning friends treating me with real honour and trying to help me get back into the same type of ministry I had, to bring that to life again, but not managing to do that successfully. However a theme that comes through time and time again is that this phase is meant by God and that at times I am fighting against that simple fact. He shows me in beautiful ways what the Scriptures promise about the people of God; His wings are over me and there is shelter there. In His hands there is not only shelter, but air to breathe and a safe place from which to see. This is not a shelter that smothers, but one in which there is light and air and vision as well as safety and rest and nourishment.
I guess I am just sharing that because some of you might have to accept where things are at this moment. Sometimes we are fearful of saying we accept something not pleasant in case it shows we have no faith for a change, and some well meaning believers will probably barge in and say we must not accept such things and if we do we are cursing ourselves! It doesn’t mean that at all; but you can find God there, for sure, even if it is not the place you would have chosen for yourself to find Him or the place you will be in for all time! We sing about God wrapping Himself in light, and that is a wonderful truth, but the bible also tells us that our God wraps Himself in “deep darkness.” Joyce Rupp says that there is a “holy darkness,” and I think she is right. There is a dark darkness which seems to be dominated by the enemy’s intention, but there is a “holy darkness” where God can seem to be absent in familiar ways, but He is there with some treasures He wants us to discover that perhaps we would have never come to know save through walking through this valley of holy darkness. Well-meaning and loved and lovely supportive friends tell me that my ministry is needed still – the extent to which they feel it is needed varies in scale from a parish to the whole world!! Anything like that sounds too daunting as at this moment! I am grateful for their encouragement, but for the time being, I know this is a time for me to be consciously under His wings, and trying to accept with joy the goodness of His will, His presence and His blessing. My ministry is not as needed as my need for God in this place where I am beginning to find Him in a new way. I think there are beauties to be discovered here and perhaps shared one day. I have started to ask each morning that I might see the beauty of the Lord. Since I started asking that, something good seems to be rising up.
So, I am asking you, could it be that some of us are going into or through a holy darkness, when at first we thought it was a dark darkness? There is a joy and a hope that comes when we can truly say we think that is the journey we are on by the grace and help of God.
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