Even though I Walk through Darkness
Psalm 23:1-6 (NIV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
For the majority of my college years I struggled with heavy depression and at times I really couldn’t see a purpose or meaning at the end of it all. My depression was a gradual process. As a child, I always had this overwhelming sense of loneliness and emptiness, and it only grew as I got older.
The darkest moment of my life happened two years ago. To physically describe depression, it felt like a heavy fog – an overcast that always lingered wherever I went and whatever I did. Everything just seemed gray and bleak. Getting out of bed got increasingly difficult and all I wanted to do was just sleep everything away. There were days when I stayed in bed all day and I would lie to my family saying I just had a bad cold. The last thing I wanted to do was explain myself to my family.
My self-confidence and worth went down. I absolutely loathed myself and started to believe that I was really nothing. As it got worse, I remember just crying every day, breaking down on my train rides to school, out of nowhere. I remember not being able to sleep because of anxiety and would blankly stare at the wall until sunrise and I would knock out from exhaustion. My thoughts grew so dark and I felt insane. I opened up to very few people about what I was going through but I only felt emptier. I also opened up to one family member and I remember being called selfish for feeling like this – that our family had bigger things to worry about. I wanted to crawl into a hole and just shut myself out from the world. I began to have suicidal thoughts often. My thoughts grew so dark that I would have constant nightmares every day.
I remember one night, crying for hours, yelling at God asking why He even created me to begin with. I felt like such a burden to everyone around me. I started to distance myself from those close to me and I grew very irritable. I felt like a liability and I told God that everyone would be better without me. “Why did you make me?” “Why am I like this and why am I going through this?” People tell me it’s all in my head and that my depression is not valid. Yet it was so crippling and heavy I just wanted it to stop and I wanted to disappear.
There was a moment when I cried asking God to take it all away – to lift this darkness from me. The next thing God said took me aback. I felt Him asking me, “Do you really want to give it all to me?” I was so hurt and angered by the question because it felt like even God didn’t understand.
It took a while for me to realize that actually, I was holding onto my own darkness at one point. It’s not that I wanted to be depressed. But over the years, I’ve grown so numb and actually comfortable with my dark thoughts. It grew normal. Being so unsatisfied with life, being unhappy – it didn’t bother me. If anything, when things looked up, I grew anxious because I felt like I didn’t deserve it and that it would be taken away from me if I enjoyed anything. I grew so accustomed to the darkness that that the light bothered me. It felt foreign. And so I unconsciously was bound to my depression, bound to feeling utterly empty, and crawled back to my depression because it became my normalcy. I was actually scared to not be depressed, as crazy as that sounds. I didn’t know what my life would look like and I didn’t know what God had in store for me. During those seasons, I began to have trust issues, always assuming that people’s intentions for me were bad and that God’s intentions for me were not the best.
During a summer retreat, I remember God asking me the same question. It was so hard to give it up or to even tell Him that I trust Him. But I forced myself to say it. I forced myself to declare that God is for me and that His ways, though I cannot see, is always greater than my own.
My depression didn’t disappear that moment. However, that moment was a declaration that although I may be depressed, depression would no longer define me. It was my acknowledgement that I know God is with me. Those nights when I couldn’t say or do anything but cry because I was hurting, I know that God was there next to me, knowing exactly how much it hurt.
I turned to many things and people to fill up the void I had for so long. I still struggle with my worth and I still fall back. At times I still question why I had to go through what I did and why I still struggle. But I hope on the promise that God will use me and that He will grow me into something beautiful. Despite feeling so alone and being in despair, looking back, I see that God has been so good to me – that He was faithful in the midst of it.
My circumstances change and my struggles will always be present, but God doesn’t change and He will always be present. I’m still learning to understand how deep the Father’s love is for me and the weight of it all. I call myself worthless, undeserving, and a burden. But He calls me worthy, righteous, and beloved. God has called me His beloved. I pray that that fact alone may radically change me and my heart. I still struggle to grasp the fact that God loves me unconditionally and so deeply – and yet, whether my heart fully understands that or not, the truth of His love for me is unchanging.
For Your Reflection
No matter how you may feel, God is always with you and you are His beloved. That is the truth. This truth remains even when you go through the darkest moments of your life. You may not see, hear, or feel God; but He is still with you. Do you feel lost or lonely? Are you confused or afraid? If so, declare this truth and speak it out loud to yourself again and again: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Let truth triumph over all the lies of the enemy.