A couple of years ago my best friend at work was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was and is such a strong person that she decided to continue working throughout the process of surgeries and chemotherapy. She thought that things would actually be harder for her if she stayed at home by herself. We ate lunch together every day, so I was experiencing the emotional ups and downs alongside her through that incredibly difficult year. One of the toughest things for her during her battle was that all food had lost its taste. This sensation that we assume will always be there had left her. She just didn’t get to experience that daily pick-me-up and little joy of tasting her food.
Now obviously food hadn’t really lost its taste. I mean nothing actually changed about the molecules of what she was eating. The baked potato was still buttery and salty. The desserts were still sweet and delicious. She just didn’t get to experience it. Even if she bit into the most delicious piece of chocolate cake, there was nothing except a nice spongy texture. I’m sure it was difficult and even isolating to watch other people enjoying their food during this time. She would often say how she couldn’t wait until the day this whole process was over so she could taste her food again. She would remind herself “only three more months,” “only two more months...”
The most common faith issue is not actually the feeling that God is against you. It’s that He just doesn’t care. He left the building. He’s gone cold. If you can muster the strength to pray, it feels like those prayers just hit the ceiling and come back down. There’s no one on the other end. In some ways this can be even harder than feelings of condemnation. If you’re feeling like God is against you, at least you know He’s there. Divine abandonment is a tough pill to swallow.
Unfortunately, depression is a disease of the feelings. It kills our sense that God is with us and cares about us. Even the most logical and analytical person of faith ties some emotion to his or her beliefs. Someone who believes that there is a loving God based simply on observable facts in creation and the universe still has a sense of awe tied with that belief. Most people who believe there is a God that cares about them have a strong emotional feeling of belonging or of peace that goes along with that understanding, but when you’re deeply depressed you just don’t get access to those feelings. Unfortunately, you have to press on in faith without the emotions that used to confirm what you believed and comfort you.
It’s important to remember that God hasn’t actually left you, as much as it feels like He has. He does still care. He’s still in the building. There are actually numerous promises in the Bible that He has come close to you now in the midst of your pain. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to feel that because you’re still in this temporary state of lacking certain emotions. I wish there was an easy fix that I could give you where you could just recover your sense of oneness and feeling cared for by God, but there isn’t. You have to press through this extreme emotional dryness until more factors fall into place and those beloved emotions start returning. The best thing I can say is to think of the process like my friend’s chemotherapy. Remind yourself that this lack of emotional connection is a side-effect of what you’re going through. God hasn’t actually left you, and in time you’ll feel again that that’s true. My friend’s chemotherapy had a clear start and end that she could look forward to, but your depression doesn’t. You don't know exactly when it will end, but I assure you that it won’t continue forever. You can look forward to the day it’s done and your emotions return.