When the Bible Condemns
In the same vein as misinterpreting my internal voice, I also had a terrible time with the Bible during my truly depressed years. This book that was once such a source of comfort and joy had turned against me too. It was another huge blow to take. I had built my life up to this point on the bedrock of my relationship to God, and the foundations were coming apart. When my close friends would point me towards helpful scripture verses I would try to read them, but they just didn't give me any comfort. This, of course, would leave me feeling even more broken and isolated wondering what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t be like everyone else. Where others would see divine love I would only see condemnation.
The most telling example of this for me was the book of Romans. If you’ve never read it before, it’s one of the most heady and theological books of the Bible. It gives an overarching picture of God’s dealing with mankind from the beginning of the world until the present day for the apostles, and it was just too difficult of a book for me to read when I was depressed. It didn’t help me at all. It really left me feeling worse. One day in the midst of my depression, I heard a preacher say that he thought Romans was one of the most loving books in the Bible. I was incredulous. What is this guy talking about, I thought. Isn’t it mostly about God’s wrath? I literally felt confident that the word love didn’t appear in the book.
Reading Romans again after I had escaped the dense fog of depression was a surreal experience. I swear it wasn’t the same book. People must have come in and added verses to my Bible while I was at the store or something. Sure there were sections that talked about how mankind deserved God’s wrath and why, but the point of the book is that out of love (it was in there) God hasn’t given us what we deserve. He’s holding off on our punishment and actually gave us a free gift in Jesus so that we don’t have to face that wrath if we come to him. Again, it was just surreal. I could now see the extent to which my depression amplified all the negative verses to the point that they were all I could see. They were the only ones that sunk in. All of these positive verses just couldn’t get through.
During my battle, though, Romans wasn’t the only part of the Bible that I struggled with. There were plenty of other verses that would leave me feeling defeated. In particular, the verse “to whom much is given, much will be required” kicked my toosh on many occasions. After spending most of my day in bed or on the computer because the depression was just too much for me, that verse would come to mind and a terrible sensation of just how disappointed God must be would wash over me. It was all too common a feeling. I knew I had been given much, and that I wasn’t living anywhere close to my potential.
The breakthrough came for me when I finally internalized what grace really meant. One day, in the midst of another attack on my worth, a kind of understanding hit me that this verse wasn’t meant for me, at least not in that way. A lot of the verses that scared me were actually directed towards people that thought that they were really impressive and better than everyone else. The one blessing that came from depression for me was that it stripped me of these kinds of feelings. These frightening verses were actually meant to push people towards the fact that they needed help, which I already fully understood and accepted. The beauty of grace is that while yes I am absolutely not living up to my full potential at the moment I am still covered. Jesus bridged the gap between where I should be and where I actually am. I don’t have to keep taking mental beatings over it anymore.
This can take time to sink in, but as we discuss here there's a difference between an urging towards repentance and a tearing down of a person. God's voice does warn and rebuke but there is an underlying foundation of love that goes along with it. A voice that simply tears you down is not God's, even if it sometimes uses scripture. We see in Matthew 4 that Satan can quote scripture too. Don't turn away from the Bible as there is so much life and wisdom that you need there, but if you're underneath the cloud of depression just be mindful of the way that some verses can be twisted.
On a final side note, I just want to say that I struggled for a while wondering if depression wouldn't have come to me if I didn't build my life on a foundation of faith. Maybe things would have been easier if I wasn't seeking God. I wouldn't have cared what He thought so all of these issues would have been moot. I feel confident now, though, that depression just came and attacked what mattered to me most. If I was a model, I would have dealt with attacks on my image. If I had built my life around popularity, I'm sure I would have been convinced that no one liked me any more, etc.