I know the journey seems so long
You feel you’re walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone
Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting…
(lyrics sourced here)
For more than a few months now, I’ve comforted several women struggling with Postpartum Depression who have also found themselves struggling with fitting their experience into the constraints of their Christian faith. Over the past few years, stories shared with me have ranged from uplifting and powerful to heartbreaking when the church has literally turned their back on a woman as she struggles with the very real condition of a Postpartum Mood Disorder. These experiences have led me to write this post today for World Mental Health Day. Please start the video above as you read…it adds a powerful aspect to the post.
Depressed? Christian? PRAY HARDER. Fall to your knees. Lie prostrate on the ground. Weep. Wail. Gnash your teeth. Live for Him and nothing else. Beg for mercy. Pray. Read your Bible. Lean on Him. He’ll save you. You’re not leaning hard enough on God. There’s nothing wrong with you beyond a distorted and failed relationship with God. Don’t believe in a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s malarky. Your faith isn’t strong enough and that’s why you’re struggling.
If I had a dollar for every woman who has ever shared any of the above anecdotes with me? I’d be rich. Okay, well, maybe not rich but I’d be able to afford Starbucks for quite awhile. Yes, falling away from God may cause issues in your life but a psychiatric disorder after childbirth is NOT one of those. Hell, a mental health issue period is not one of them. There is no shame in a diagnosis. Not to shame them for taking medicine. Not to shame them for admitting to struggle.
Jesus walked the Earth to love those who were lost. As Christians, we are to follow in His example. To love people WHERE THEY ARE. Not to judge them. Not to guilt them into shame. Not to further add to their already overburdened lives. But to Love. To relieve their burden. To help. To accept. To LOVE.
The Bible is filled with people who struggled with depression for a number of reasons…. Cain, Abraham, Jonah, Job, King Saul, Jeremiah, David, Paul… and God still loved them. He guided them out of their darkness and into their light. Now granted, they didn’t have Xanax or Prozac back then, but God still loved them WHERE THEY WERE. They were provided for during their recovery.
I don’t view my episodes of Postpartum OCD as punishment. Instead, it is a point in my life during which I learned a lot about the depth of my strength and about the grace of God. I learned to lean harder on Him, not because I had sinned, but because He was there. I learned how to pray, not because I had forgotten, but because He was there. I learned how to live for Him, not because I had failed, but because through living for Him, I found solace and hope. In Him, I found hope, solace, and love.
God creates us in His image and knows what our life holds well before we do. He loves us even when we don’t love Him back. He knows where and if our path returns to Him even if we do not. When I first struggled with Postpartum OCD, my path was far away from God. But through my experience, I found my way back to Him. I crawled up into His lap much as an exhausted child does at the end of the day with a parent. I rested my weary body and soul in Him so that I might heal. He did not judge me. He accepted me. Did not question my past. Forgave it. Loved me just as he did before.
I hope against hope that one day, within the faith community as a whole, there WILL be a day when all will be accepted equally. When those of us with mental health struggles will not be told we can solve it with simply praying harder. That we will not be told medications are evil. That there will be a day when, instead, we will be loved, accepted, cherished, and given a place we can rest as we heal.
There will be a day.
But to get to that day?
We must not let our voices be silenced. We must speak up. We must share. We must tear down the stigma of mental illness within the Church. Within the walls of our faith. We must refuse to accept the judgment of those in the Church against us. We must rise up and love them even when they do not love us. It won’t be easy. It won’t make our journey less difficult. But one day, for someone, somewhere, it will lighten their load. It will make a difference in the life of someone else. And one day? It might make a difference in yours too.
There WILL be a day… “with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears.”
(If you are a woman of faith struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, please visit Out of the Valley Ministries. I would also highly recommend picking up a copy of The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression by Sue McRoberts.)