The Pit of Depression: June 16, 2024

The Pit of Depression

June 16, 2024

Psalm 139: 1-18

          Have you ever been there? Alone, lonely and sinking into the pit of depression?

          Are you there right now? Alone, lonely, and sinking into the pit of depression?

          I remember a day many years ago now. It was November 30, 1999. Not only was it the ending of a millennium, but I was facing what I thought at the time was the ending of a 20 year marriage.

          I was sitting in our living room looking at the Christmas tree the kids and I had just put up. I was thinking of all the Christmas’ we had spent around that tree. When it was just Lori and I and we were dreaming of having children. When our kids were just a year old and it was all about playing with the boxes. The year our kids visited Santa at the mall. So many memories.

          I also remembered what had transpired three months earlier.

Lori and I sitting at the Hacienda Restaurant in Benton Harbor-St. Joe. We were discussing our marriage.

          “Something has got to change,” I said.

          Lori suggested, “I’ll just move out for a short period of time, Michael. Maybe that will help us.”

          Three months later as I sat by that Christmas tree, I believed it was over. We hadn’t divorced yet, but we hadn’t gotten back together.

          I was alone, lonely, and sinking into the pit of depression.

          I wrote in my journal at the time: “God, I feel like my world is broken and shattered. The pieces of glass are all over. They’re cutting me over and over again. The pain is so great. I want to run away. I want to find some way out of this pit of depression. It’s like I’m lost in a deep cave with no way out.”

          Alone, lonely and sinking into the pit of depression.

          Have you ever been there?

          Are you there right now in some way?

          There’s scene in the movie What Dreams May Come that highlights this loneliness and despair.

          It’s about a young woman who lost both her teenage children in a car accident. She can’t handle it. The guilt and silence are too much. Ann is sitting on the grass out in front of a psychiatric hospital. Her husband, Chris, comes by to visit:

“Ann, they told me to come. You mentioned something about divorce.”

          “Chris, I think we’re too different to stay together.”

          “But Ann I love you.”

          “Then why aren’t you here, Chris? Why didn’t you go crazy after that accident?”

          “I’m sorry, Ann. I thought I was supposed to be strong.”

          “For who? Strong for me? How does that help? I want to know why you aren’t here with me, Chris?”

          Ann is alone, lonely and sinking into the pit of depression.

          The Psalmist who wrote our Scripture reading today was probably in a similar spot. Alone, lonely and sinking into the pit of depression.

          I know that was my prayer in 1999 as I sat in front of that Christmas tree – “God, help me. I need you.”

          The Psalmist heard from God in the middle of their pit of depression. God showed up and the Psalmist praised God saying,
          “Where could I go to escape from your Spirit or from your sight? If I were to climb up to the highest heavens, you would be there. If I were to dig down to the pits of hell, you would also be there.”

In that movie What Dreams May Come four years after their two children were killed, Ann’s husband, Chris is also killed in an accident. After losing both her children, she loses her husband. You talk about all alone in the world. She struggles for a while and eventually can’t take it anymore.

          Chris is in heaven when he gets the news.

          “Chris, Ann’s dead. She killed herself.”

          “O’kay. She’ll be o’kay now. I can’t wait to see her.”

          “But Chris, you’ll never see her. She’s not here. She’s gone down to hell.”         

          “I’m going to find her.”

          “Chris, you don’t understand…”

          “It’s not about understanding. It’s about not giving up.”

          “Chris, no one has ever brought back someone from hell.”

          “Stick around, champ. You’ll see.”

          Now, I don’t believe in an actual hell or underworld after this life is over. And I especially don’t believe that people who commit suicide would go to such a place. But that’s a part of our culture and that’s a part of this movie. Chris’ wife Ann is in an underworld of hell in this movie.

Chris travels down to the underworld. Down in hell there is fire and ugliness and moaning all around. Finally, Chris gets a glimpse of Ann and follows her to this broken-down house she’s living in.

          Chris wanders through the shambles until he finds Ann. Ann doesn’t recognize him. Chris keeps talking about experiences they shared during their lifetime. Ann just screams, “Get out. Get away from me.”

          But Chris keeps talking. “I’m sorry Ann for all the things I never gave you. I apologize for pushing away the pain so much that I disconnected myself from you. I’m sorry for leaving you alone as you went through your grief. Forgive me Ann for every time I failed.”

          Finally, Chris says, “Ann, I promise I’ll never leave you alone again. I’d rather be here in hell with you than any heaven without you.”

          Suddenly Ann recognizes him, “Chris. My Chris.” They embrace.

          I love the metaphor found in this part of the movie. In a similar symbolic way, I believe God comes down from heaven and even goes as far as the lonely pits of the hell of depression to reach us and love us.

          Like I said before, I don’t believe in hell after this life is over. But I do believe we have experiences that seem like hell in this world. In the midst of those places of hell – God shows up.

          That’s what I discovered years ago as I was sitting around that Christmas tree on November 30th. All of a sudden, I sensed that I was not alone. That God’s spirit of love was surrounding me, holding me and drawing me close in a warm embrace of love.  

          I found out the truth of Psalm 139:18 where the Psalmist says, “When I awake, I will find you nearby.”

          When we feel the farthest from others…

 When we feel the farthest from any loving connection…

When we feel the farthest even from God…

          God shows up. We find God near. We find God here.

          On the first day of December of 1999, at about 2:30 a.m. Lori got up and discovered there was some problem with the sewer system at the place she was staying at in South Haven. The toilet would not flush and none of the drains were working. In fact, dirty water was coming up her bathtub drain.

Lori said to herself, “I don’t have to stay here. I’m intending to come home someday soon. Why not now?” So she started packing up boxes and carrying them out to her car.

          Meanwhile, God decided to wake me up at 4:00 a.m. I never wake up at 4:00 o’clock. But on this morning, God woke me up at 4:00. I tried to get back to sleep, but I couldn’t.

I decided I might as well go over to the church to get some work done. I quickly slipped on clothes and headed down the hallway.

          At 4:15 a.m. on that morning, I opened the door of my house to go over to the church. I was startled to see the headlights of a car pulling up right in front of me. I said to myself,” Who is here at this hour of the morning?”

          The car door opened and Lori walked toward me. I asked, “What are you doing here?”

          She said, “Michael, I’m home.”

          We hugged and I got out the words, “You know, I’m the luckiest man in the world.”     

          Love was reborn that morning.

God shows up in the middle of our loneliness and pits of depression. We find God near. We find God here.

I came across this poem:

                    Do not be afraid of the night
for night is when the light shines brightly
do not be afraid of the silence
for it is the silence in which God speaks
do not be afraid of the solitude
for it is the open space where Divine grace enters
do not be afraid of the journey
for it is the journey that draws us home.

          Let’s listen to our special music as we reflect on God’s presence with us even in the loneliest times of our life.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *