It was already a dark night with no moon or stars to light my path. There was nothing to guide me in this complete darkness and then it hit, out of nowhere, it came crashing up against the bow. A storm the size of the Empire State Building crashed up against my little fishing boat. I tried to pull back on the oars, it was foolish for me to be out in the middle of this sea at this hour anyhow, but I was trying to make it across this 8 mile stretch to the other side. I knew that this particular location was prone to these types of swells, but the coast was clear when I pushed off earlier this evening. At first, I didn’t panic, I knew what I was doing – after all, I was an experienced sailor. I grew up on the sea, this wasn’t my first rodeo on the waves.
Fortunately, also, I wasn’t alone on this boat, I had my companions with me, most of them were experienced in fighting these waves also. I took solace in the fact that together we could beat this beast of a tempest. As we heave-hoed it was hard to hear each other over the roar of the wind. We went into automatic survival mode at this point, looking at each other with fear-stricken faces barely visible in the pitch-black night, we pushed on doing the best we could to keep our little boat from going under.
As our muscles continued to strain to bail water out and keep our boat afloat, I realized something, I realized that I wasn’t going to win this battle. It was too much for me to handle – even as I looked around that tiny boat that was adrift and powerless against the evil billows that had formed, I leaned over to my colleagues and said, “we aren’t going to make it”.
“On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him. ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:35-41, NKJV).
Life’s storms are rarely predictable and hardly ever easy. It can feel like you set out one morning doing your every day routine, something you have done a thousand times before, but then something changes. A mistake is made. A job is lost. A divorce is finalized. A child becomes ill. A friend betrays you. Whatever storm approaches your calm sea and makes it an agitated turbulent squall, it can happen suddenly and make you realize, “I am not going to make it”.
Depression is often overwhelming. At times you can sense its approach like clouds brewing in the mid-west sky bringing lightning and thunder from the west with them. Sometimes, depression comes upon you suddenly, out of nowhere, like being stung by an unseen bee – its force brings you down quickly, sinking as if the solid ground beneath you was like trying to walk on water. The tricky thing about depression is that you don’t know its duration. It can last for moments or for days – months – years. It can go as quickly as it came, or it can last as a constant companion, looking over your shoulder at every move you make, judging you – condemning you – reminding you of your worthlessness.
Just like those sailors so many years ago were caught in the whirlwind of uncertainty on the Sea of Galilee, believing their very life was about to end, depression doesn’t let you see past the waves of uncertainty in your life now. Depression sets in, darkening your view, limiting your ability to see past your immediate challenge. With each passing moment, like water pouring into a sinking boat, depression continues its rage – piling upon you an extreme weight, sinking your life deeper into despair. As you toss back and forth, struggling for air to breathe against the onslaught of waves, depression continues its relentless gauntlet of telling you that you will not make it through. Depression robs you of your present, limits you in your ability to see a way out of your present and steals your hope of a future.
With this reduced ability to think clearly, you start to panic. Just as the disciples neglected to remember their Savior was in the boat with them, the dread of depression will also make you feel alone, isolated, left without courage. Depending on your severity of depression, your own thoughts drown out other advice, other ways to see life in the moment. Just like the disciples could not “choose” to make the storm that they were submerged in go away, depression is not a choice that one can decide their way out of. It was at this juncture that the disciples had only one last ditch effort, and in the end, those of us with depression, it is often our last-ditch effort as well.
Amid your episode of depression, I can guarantee one thing if you are religious – you will eventually, in that last moment, call out, “Teacher, do you not care that [I] am perishing?” Well, maybe you will use different words, like “God, where are you?”, “God, I need help.”, “God – save me.” Actually, that last phrase mirrors Matthew’s Gospel in his rendition of this story where the Greek says, “Lord – Save – We perish.” (see Matthew 8:23-25). When you are at your lowest, at the point where you cannot see past the here and now, the last words of the religious 12 on that fishing boat were “Lord, save – we are going to die.” Nothing else mattered in their world. All their years of experience left them with three words in Greek: “Lord – Save – [we] perish”. When you are at what seems to be the end of your life, when depression tells you this is it, this is the end of the road, cry out to Jesus, who sleeps in the boat, “Save – Jesus – I can’t make it.”
I want to pause here for a moment and remind my readers, I am not a counselor, I am not a psychiatrist, I am not a psychologist – I am a pastor and a teacher. I do not claim that this blog post will solve or treat your depression. Rather, I claim that we all feel like these disciples at times on the boat. Drowning in a sea of chaos within our minds, unable to see the shoreline and feel helpless and hopeless on the sea of depression. If you are struggling with depression, depressive thoughts and deep – dark issues, I urge you to seek professional help. Depression is a disease, just like diabetes, both need medical attention, both are serious, and both require your immediate action.
The Bible will continue to tell us that Jesus calms the storm, but then He also tells the fearful disciples something. Jesus will look at His closest friends, those that He picked to follow Him, and say, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
I don’t believe that Jesus rebukes his followers like He rebuked the wind and the waves. No, rather, Jesus asks why they have no faith – when the disciples were at their last-ditch effort, they claimed that they would perish. Jesus, in asking why they are fearful, asking why they have no faith, is inquiring about their trust in Him, or rather, lack of it.
Let me explain another way, for the Christian, we will have storms that come upon us as we journey across the sea of life. Christians are not guaranteed an “easy” life. Just because someone has Jesus in their boat, in their hearts, as they traverse the path of life they are on, doesn’t mean life will be free from heartache and heartbreak. Jesus, in his rebuke of the disciples, is asking that even though the storm of life was seemingly life-ending at that moment, with Jesus, there should be peace in that storm.
This is MUCH harder said than done. To have peace is the last thing that you have when you are in the depressive state in darkest times. To remember that Jesus is in the boat of life with you, seems so simple. It seems like I should be able to say, when I believe my life to be in danger, “It’s ok, I got Jesus.” But instead, I usually, like the disciples, scream, “Lord – I perish” or even worse, as Matthew’s Gospel claims, “Don’t you care, Lord, that I’m dying?” How then, can I have peace in depression?
Many times, we try to manufacture our own peace in times of depression. We grab the buckets of addictions, like alcohol, smoking, porn, sex, to try and bail ourselves out of the storm our mind places us in. We try to desperately grasp at anything we can do to save ourselves and dig ourselves deeper into depression. Instead, the Bible tells us in this story, have peace.
The 107th Psalm tells us “They [people] reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet…” (Psalm 107:27-30). Jesus isn’t upset the disciples called out to Him. Rather, He is pointing out that what matters is what we say when we call out to Him.
In my depression I need to call out to Jesus – but I shouldn’t doubt that He is with me. Even more so, I shouldn’t make accusations that He doesn’t care if I perish or believe that my life will end because He doesn’t care. He is sleeping, not because he doesn’t care – but because of His confidence in His peace-making abilities. My believing that He can make peace in the most seemingly peace-less situations is a test of my practical faith – faith where I put into practice what I believe.
I cannot tell you that in the middle of the sea, when you are in your room at night with your head in your hands, crying tears that seem to be unending and unable to see past your present storm, that doubt will not creep back in. I cannot tell you that when the skies seem bright and sunny, and the sea as calm as glass that a tempest like you have never seen or felt before won’t take you by surprise. But what I can tell you – that the Peacemaker Himself is in your boat, turn as ask for His help in your storm.