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  • Writer's pictureRobert Phillips

Seasonal Depression Is Real and Good Friday Doesn’t Feel So Good

There are several different types and sub-types of depression. From depression rooted in trauma, to depression born of physiological struggles, to situational loneliness and despair, there are many reasons why someone may wrestle in their spirit. I have battled through nearly every type of depression disorder and have a patience and compassion for every type…save one. I have given little thought or space to those who suffer with Seasonal Depression Disorder.

It’s not that I don’t believe in it, it’s just that this type of depression appears to be the easiest to remedy and outlast by definition of being seasonal so that it appears to be temporary and relegated to a set of circumstances that will probably change. The reality of seasonal depression is far from that simple, and I think it is important that I give space for the depth of struggle to my fellow depression fighters.

I’m writing this piece during Holy Week. It feels appropriate because this week elicits strong and varied emotions if one is following this week in history as a believer in Jesus. We kick the week off with a triumphant Sunday in celebration of the King of Kings entering Jerusalem. On Monday and Tuesday our minds turn towards preparation for sacrifice, just as in Jesus' day as the lambs were being brought into Jerusalem. Depending on your view of the timeline of Holy Week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are spent in feeling the heaviness of Jesus declaring His intentions to die, being betrayed, going on trial, and suffering an unjust death for our sins. Saturday is that quiet day of hope, and Sunday we turn the page to life, joy, victory and celebration.

Holy Week isn’t too dissimilar to our annual cycle of life. The Christmas season gives way to the deep dark of winter. In a normal year, we climb out of winter into spring, Resurrection Sunday comes, and then summer! For most, autumn leads to family assembling, lots of celebration and Christmas once again. At least, this is how the year is supposed to feel.

If you live in the Northern part of the globe, March tends to be a "Jeckel and Hyde" weather phenomenon. This last week, I was planting grass on Monday in shorts and a t-shirt. On Saturday I was back out with my snow-blower dealing with over 2 feet of snow. On Friday, I sat there looking out at our yard and watched the snow fall. Every hour I watched, I could feel the weight of depression loom over me more heavily. I had already survived winter and smelled the scents of spring. I saw green shoots. I heard birds and saw noisy geese flying north. I had enjoyed the sunshine on my skin while doing yard work. Now I was looking at more weeks of winter recovery.

If you don’t battle seasonal depression, your tendency is to say “Common! Spring will still come. Just work on your attitude and find joy because you’ll be back in the sun in less than a month!” Yes, I know that truth and trust that truth. What you don’t know is that seasonal depression is difficult because it is actually a rumination struggle that taps into every other type of depression there is. If I can’t go out and exercise and get Vitamin D, I sit inside and my thoughts become pre-eminent. With those thoughts come the temptation to remember and ruminate over every struggle I have that is tied to my depression. The battle is real, and oppressive and discouraging and can be so overwhelming that it will claim the lives of its victims if not kept at bay.

This winter storm was soul-crushing for me, and as I sat in the depression, I couldn’t help thinking about the depression of the disciples after Jesus' death. The storm, after all, was a Friday storm. The disciples had been told again and again by Jesus Himself that His death was not the end. He would rise again! He would fix the sadness. He would make everything okay. Spiritual spring would come. Yet, the disciples ran, wept, cursed and struggled to believe. The beauty of the Gospel is the patience it brings to our struggling hearts. Jesus did rise, but rather than a scolding attitude, He brought to His struggling disciples an attitude of grace, patience and compassion. He spoke with kindness. He let them feel His scars. He even made them breakfast. The Gospel is the only hope for healing in our spirits. Jesus gave Himself to His disciples, and so we must give Jesus to each other.

I know the snow will melt, and flowers will be sprouting underneath. It will happen because it must happen. In the meantime, I remember Jesus and His love for me which results in Him being patient with me as I wrestle my mind into remembering truth. I feel all the feels, and I preach to every feeling the truth of God’s goodness and faithfulness to me.

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