Gratitude Day 11 // Gratitude in the Darkness

Image by Cailin Valente

Image by Cailin Valente

 Psalm 88

This is not gonna be an easy reflection, sisters in Christ. Gratitude is something that can be found in happy times, in the lessons that we learn from the trials we face, through other people and the things we do for others. The hardest place to find gratitude, however, is when we find ourselves inside a dark pit of lies that tells us that God isn’t with us at all, that he doesn’t exist, and that our lives don’t matter. There are times in our lives where all we can see is a constant darkness and our hearts are burdened with a pain that feels unbearable. We don’t exactly feel sad or angry. In fact, it’s more that our emotions have completely shut down. In other words, we are depressed.

Today’s Psalm captures the despair within the people who have depression and anxiety. If you feel like you’re crying out and the Lord doesn’t seem to be with you at all, know that you are not alone in your despair.

Thomas McDonald of “God and the Machine” wrote a wonderful article about what it’s like for him to live with chronic depression. This particular part of his blog post stands out to me:

“Before God, we shouldn’t try to numb the pain away. Before God we should be naked and exposed, as we were in first innocence. That much, at least, we owe him...Depression scours the mind and the soul like a hard desert windstorm. It reduces you. The intellect is compromised. The emotions are laid bare. You’re pushed to the very edge of a gaping pit of despair and forced to look. As Christians, we need to think differently.”

Cry out to God right now, even if you feel like He is not there. He knows the pain that is in your heart. Acknowledge that you are not strong enough on your own. He loves you in the darkness as well as in the light. If you feel like your prayers are empty, read Psalm 88 out loud and make that your prayer.

So the question I bet you’re all asking is “How can we find gratitude in the darkness? How can I be grateful when I am anxious and depressed?” The answer can be found in a wonderful movie from Pixar called Inside Out. (Spoilers for the movie if you haven’t seen it.) The movie centers on a young girl coping with moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. Inside her head, her emotions all try to work together to help her adjust to the change. However, Riley eventually lost interest in things that she once loved and pushes her family and friends away. She decided to run away from home and her emotional center starts to shut down.

It’s not until Riley acknowledged the sadness within her that she decided to return to her parents. She cried to her parents about how much she misses her old home and her parents react with understanding and compassion. As she shared a hug with them, a new core memory formed, one mixed with joy and sadness. At the end of the movie, Riley has adjusted to her new life in San Francisco and develops a new sense of emotional maturity.

Our depression are ways for us to reach out to others for help. We reach out to our friends, our family, and to God.  If you are suffering from depression, seek out help. Find a psychiatrist and a spiritual director. Pray often, even if it’s just the Psalms or angry rants at God or cries of despair. God hears all of them. He is holding you so close to His heart right now. And you are not alone. Many saints and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have suffered from this same depression and they’ve turned to God for His help.

Listen to Danielle Rose’s version of Psalm 88. It’s a beautifully tragic song that captures the despair of the Psalm. I pray for all of you who are still in the darkness, especially those suffering from depression.

God is with you, dearest sisters in Christ and He loves you!

Study Questions

1.Have you ever suffered from depression or know someone who has? Why do you think it’s such a hard condition to deal with?

2.In Inside Out, Sadness is able to help Riley’s imaginary friend by showing empathy to him. What are some ways that you can combine empathy with gratitude?

3.Think of a time when you felt like you were at your lowest. As hard as it sounds, do you think you could be grateful for that moment? Why or why not?