I have heard this same question many times over the years. It is a very good question I might add. In fact, when I was going through my own valley of despair, God wasn’t on my radar. All I did know was that I was feeling hopeless. I was at the bottom of a deep dark pit. Isolated and scared.
Fear was at the center of my thoughts, 24/7. I thought that I was losing my mind. I wasn’t able to formulate anything that made any sense. It was beyond my state of mind to envision the light of a possible escape from the prison, taking away all hope of ever recapturing the person that I once was. Basically I lost all hope as my helplessness swallowed up everything that I felt was me.
Still unknowing the reason for my complete emotional and physical collapse I begged God, the God of my understanding to do something–anything, that would free me from the day in and day out grip of this unseen demon. Because of what I felt was happening to me, like feeling I was in the power of this demon who was cutting off any bit of strength that I had left. I also knew that Alcoholics Anonymous was built upon spiritual principles which Bill W., and Dr. Bob called the Twelve Steps of recovery. In fact, they wrote that it is our belief in a Power greater than ourselves that would restore us to sanity. And this belief is my belief.
So, to many of us, we had a hard time to see how God could do anything about our depression. Some of us really didn’t believe in God or if we did we weren’t so sure if possibly God was just a figment of our imagination. But after we admitted that we needed help for this sadness, which was taking us, like a circling watery whirlpool deeper into the depths of blackness and despair to our utter destruction.
The God of my understanding took me seriously when I asked for help and I admitted I couldn’t do what I need to do alone without some godly help. So for me, my belief in this Power greater than myself began to free me from my depression experience. And yes, this belief brought God into my life in a very powerful and healing way. In fact, Bill W., who was an agnostic (didn’t know if there was a God or not) had a spiritual awakening in his hospital room where he said that he met the God of the preachers. And it was this singular spiritual event that gave him an infusion of hope and power to let the God of his understanding lead him on that daily path of sobriety and recovery. For the millions who use these spiritual principles of recovery in their daily lives, they each and every one find a new beginning and a sane and sober way to live out their lives. And in turn, as a result of their recovery, they turn and help others, who like themselves, had chosen to do it ” their way.” As most of us are so painfully aware, our way was to keep on digging a deeper hole. And so, the first spiritual principle, namely Step One tells us that “We admitted that we were powerless over depression , and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Now it is at this next Step that God enters the picture. Actually, we call God, this Power, who is greater than ourselves, who we let come into our life, where “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”
And whatever notions you may have about God, you can be assured that there is something that happens to people when they start the journey of working the 12 Steps of Depressed Anonymous. It is here that we learn how God has everything to do with our battling depression in our life. If you read any of the more that 30 stories of people who worked the 12 Steps (Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition) and who testify to the truth that God does respond to their plea for help. God helps turn our life around and brings us a peace that a clear conscience and a faith in something bigger and more powerful can make happen in anyone’s life who believe.
A sociologist by the name of David Karp interviewed 50 people who indicated that they had received a diagnosis of being depressed from a physician. And by spending time with these many people of all ages and professions he learned about their beliefs about their own depression experiences. and which he wrote about in his book Speaking of Sadness. It is a very interesting and captivating account of how persons respond to the pain and despair that comes with being depressed. But the thing that amazed me the most is what he said about spirituality as playing an important role in the coping and living with depression of those whom he interviewed.
“At the same time that my conceptual consciousness was being raised about the connection between depression and spirituality, I would leave many of my interviews awed by the courage and grace with which certain people faced unimaginable pain and loss. I was especially impressed with those who spoke of their depression as a gift from which they had learned valuable lessons. While I would not relate emotionally or intellectually with visions of incarnation or explanations of depression as central to a god given life mission. I left many interviews with a sense that spirituality engaged individuals were in touch with something important. The issue was not a matter of evaluating the truth of their particular brand of spirituality. What I felt was a measure of envy of those who displayed an acceptance that seemed to me incongruous with accounts of exceptional pain. These people possessed or knew something that I didn’t.” David A. Karp. 1996. Speaking of sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the meanings of Illness. Oxford University Press. Oxford. Pgs 190-191.