Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
– Psalm 31:9-10 (NRSV)
I do not wish the Pit of Despair on anyone—neither The Princess Bride version, nor the poetic biblical version, nor the version I’ve experienced: major depressive disorder. The depth of depression’s hopelessness is a Mariana Trench beneath a vast ocean, a place in which there are no guiding lights, a pressure under which breath is labored, a reality so far removed from others that it seems certain no one can hear you scream.
In the depressive distress of such a Pit of Despair, strength of spirit and body fail—even though we might still appear to function at full capacity in daily life.
In the chasm of grief, joy in life and purpose is utterly sapped—even though some of us who live with depression continue to laugh and nod in conversation.
In the vacuum of depression, any possible doorway of escape seems hidden or inconceivable—and every friendly gesture seems a mockery of our isolation.
The psalmist is consumed by the fatigue of her body, hopeless with the dread of adversaries and neighbors alike, locked away from community by the delusion of worthlessness.
Only one remains trustworthy: “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’” (31:14). Only one can navigate the Pit of Despair to find the psalmist: “Let your face shine upon your servant” (31:16). Only one shows up faithfully: “My times are in your hand” (31:15).
Thanks be to God, who not only shows up in the Pit of Despair but also in the grace of therapists and the miracle of medicines. Thanks be to God, for the incarnate presence of friends who shine for those of us drowning in the trench, that we might be encouraged that a way out is possible.
Be gracious upon our minds, bodies, and spirits when we are depressed and weary. Even in the deepest chasm, remind us that we are not alone.
written for the 2020 Lenten Devotional
(a Stillspeaking Writers’ Group product)