As I have followed the events of the Germanwings air disaster, I have felt a lot of compassion towards the co-pilot whose depression caused the crash. Mental illness. If Andreas Lubitz was in his right mind, he would never have done this. The deep darkness that overwhelms someone who is depressed is not understood by those of us who have never experienced it. I have written about my experience of depression before. Today I was reminded of it.
For those of you who are depressed, you are not alone. I thought back to a dark time of our lives that ended well.
2004. I remember it being a difficult year. Beginning in January with the death of my Mom, the year was punctuated with difficult circumstances. One of them was a season of depression. An acquaintance of ours committed suicide. Mike, who was struggling to beat off depression at the time, took it very hard and it lurched him into a period of darkness that was extremely hard to walk through. We decided to take family to the Wild Coast, hoping the rest and change of scenery would lighten the mood in our home. After 10 days away, we returned with Mike feeling no better. My heart sank.
He had been to the church for prayer and counselling and was advised that possibly he had a chemical imbalance and he should see a psychiatrist. While Mike lay in a darkened room, off his food and hardly wanting to speak, I used the downstairs phone to call the psychiatrist. After making an appointment, I remember walking into the kitchen and looking out the kitchen window into the distance. I imagined Mike on anti-depressants and wondered what effect they would have on him and on our relationship. The psychiatric spectrum is very wide. Some people are on the very mild side, while others are on the very wild side. Most people are in the middle. I wondered where Mike would fit in and if it would be permanent. It was at that moment that something happened in my mind that cemented my relationship with him forever. “It does not matter how much medication Mike is on or for how long, I love this man so much, I am prepared to walk whatever road is ahead. This is until death us do part.”
Surprisingly, up to that point in our marriage, I could never say, “We will never get divorced.” My parents had been, what I considered to be happily married for about 17 years. Then their relationship completely fell apart and when they had been married 20 years, they separated. In 2004, Mike and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. From my parents, I understood that people change. Why would we be different? Could I guarantee a happy marriage after 18 years? So in the kitchen that winter’s afternoon, when my instant response to the possibility of Mike being depressed for the rest of our life was ‘bring it on….I love this man so much, I’m prepared to do whatever it takes,’ a light bulb went on inside my head. From then on, my commitment to Mike went up a notch and I can confidently say, ‘as far as it depends on me, I will be married to Mike until death separates us.’ It was an amazingly joyous feeling! I felt I had been tested and passed!
The uncertainty of Mike’s condition hung over us. The appointment for the psychiatrist was made and then cancelled. Mike refused to go. He refused medication. He had taken 5 weeks leave and it was time for him to go back to work. He had just returned to work when a remarkable set of events were set in motion. Mike has an enormous amount of compassion for the poor and needy. On his way home, at a set of traffic lights, he was approached by a street child for food or money. Mike had none to give. He usually kept at that time, a few snacks in the car for such opportunities and he had run out. He was so upset about it. Berating himself as he continued his journey, he decided on the spur of the moment to stop at a shopping mall to pick up some snacks. He was feeling so down. It was close to news time on CCFm and after each news bulletin a Bible verse is read. He thought “whatever the Bible verse says, I’m going to do.” The news ended and the Bible verse came on. As he took the off-ramp to the shopping mall, he heard these words, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened”. He prayed, “Lord, you’ve said I must ask, I’m asking: I need help.”
He walked into the mall, distracted and in despair. Suddenly, a voice called out to him, “Mike!” He turned and there was Hugh. I didn’t know Hugh. Mike had met him because he had been at one of the church prayer meetings when Mike had gone for prayer, so Hugh knew some of the issues Mike was dealing with. Hugh came up to Mike and said, “How are you?” Mike replied, “Not good.” Hugh offered, “Would you like to come and have a cup of coffee?” Mike said, “Yes.” Very quickly, Mike realised this was an answer to his heartfelt cry for help. Hugh took him to a coffee shop and Mike poured out what was on his mind. The Lord used Hugh to speak words of life into Mike’s mind and heart and soul.
Mike came home and said, ‘you won’t believe what happened.’ I noticed immediately he had changed. His body language and whole demeanour was different. He had a lightness about him that I hadn’t seen in months. I was cautious in my expectation. In the preceding months, we had done everything to try and bring him out of his depression. We had prayed and we had praised. We had exercised and we had holidayed. Nothing had helped. The next day, Mike went off to work, much better. The day after that, Hugh phoned to reaffirm to Mike what he had said. Mike was a changed man. His depression was gone. 11 years have passed. It has never returned!
God answers prayer. He is faithful. His timing is not our timing, but we can trust Him with whatever problems we have. He is listening and He will never let you down.
Words of Jesus:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: 8For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
Words of Life!
If you identify with the darkness I have written about, don’t struggle on alone. Seek help.
God bless you!
In His Grip,