By Jim Nichols
In 1994, Tom Hanks as the character Forrest Gump uttered a phrase that would forever define a decade: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what your gonna get.” Now he gave credit to his “momma” for such a pithy and profound statement, and for years I thought it was right on. Recently however my box has been hijacked. My circumstances have shown me that my box of chocolates has been the victim of a massive prank. To loosely paraphrase the comedian Jim Gaffigan talking about chocolate candy, “I got the one with toothpaste in it.”
I think a lot of people carry around this depression that eats at our souls. It’s a cry for something–something we may not even know how to verbalize or explain. It’s a feeling that carries alongside of it an insatiable desire to be fixed. It can be a depression caused by someone else or a recently-experienced loss. It may be a general frustration at the world as it limps its way around the solar system and the little hope that seems to be in it. It may be because your cat howled all night long, and you ran out of pillows to throw at it. Whatever the case, most of us have days, or sometimes several days looped together, where we have this funk attached to us, and anything can trigger it!
Now, I don’t want to sound like there is a huge black hole that is over my head–what I really want to know is how does someone who claims to love and serve Christ find himself in a place where he’s near the point of depression? More importantly, and because I assume that I’m not the only one who finds myself in this place, what do we do when were there? How do we look into the box and deal with what we’ve found?
In a really ironic way, I find hope in my little box of depression. One of my pastors recently reminded our small group that when things are rough, she remembers God’s story. Now this isn’t a just “trust through it” moment. What she meant was: He has been faithful to so many people long before she was even in the picture. In His Word are the stories of His faithfulness to those who’ve gone through hard times, and those stories belong to us; they are our stories too.
If that’s true, then the times when they were depressed and looking at life with more of a smirk then a smile, those times are our stories too. We are there when Elijah motors away from Jezebel and heads to “God’s Mountain” and asks to die. We’re there when Job is sitting in ash listening to his moron friends trying to pour blame down his throat. We’re there when Noah’s leaf withers. We’re there with Mary and Martha when their brother has been in the grave four days.
This is where I find hope–others, often times great people of great faith have been down, frustrated and ready to take the next train out here. Some of these people talk to God, and He reinvigorates their focus–sometimes with a gentle whisper, sometimes with more of a loving jab and sometimes with silence. In most cases, God doesn’t just say, “Hey kid don’t be down, be happy.” No usually it sounds more like, “Don’t fear, I’m here with you, suffering alongside of you, and we have a choice to make.”
I guess this where the other part comes in–He is faithful, even when we can’t feel it, see it or believe it. He is right there with us. When I’m unlovable and grumpy–He’s loving me! When I want the world to be totally flushed–He’s still loving me and giving me a choice. When I wake up in the morning, and I want to stay in bed and hide from the world–He’s there, not condemning me or making me feel guilty.
I love that God can look into our situations and be frustrated with us. Maybe that’s how I deal with it. When the depression comes, when the loneliness sets in, when the last straw has been snapped, He’ll be there–a Father that comforts us even when we bite into our chocolates and find something we weren’t expecting.