“Behold we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” –James 5:11
When I ask friends or classmates “What are you excited for in the future?” or “What are your future plans?” I usually receive responses along the lines of the profession they are pursuing, or a specific event in the future they are looking forward to such as having a family, getting married, traveling. When I am asked the same question, my typical answer is, “I’m not sure.” Although this too is a very common and acceptable answer, it does not reflect my true thoughts. Since the last semester of sophomore year, whenever I think of the future, it is very bleak and tinged with hopelessness. Sometimes, I do not desire a future. Instead, I desire a future where I do not exist.
I have struggled with mild to severe depression consciously for seven years. When I was younger, the future was an escape for me when the present felt too unbearable. I envisioned that the future me would be happier and not weighed down by self-hating thoughts, feelings of alienation, or lack of motivation. I did not know how that would happen but just hoped that it would. But, as I progressed into the “future” I had imagined, that picture I had shattered. I was still the same. I still struggled with the same thoughts and emotions or void of emotions—but it felt somehow even worse with the added stress from being a college student, the difficulties that naturally arise in life, and the shattering of my vision. As a junior quickly approaching my next decade, I ask myself, “Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like? A future where I will continue struggling and alternating from one treatment to the next? A future where I will wake up many mornings wondering why I’m alive without the motivation to even get out of bed? A future where I can switch from being cheerful to apathetic midday for no reason?”
As a Christian and a believer in the Gospel, I try as hard as I can to resist these thoughts and ideas. I believe that the Almighty God who makes no mistake in His Creation has lovingly and meticulously created me and everyone else in this world. I believe in the Gospel that states that even though mankind has rejected and rebelled against God, God showed grace and unconditional love by becoming man to relate with us and to die for us on the cross so that we could be in a relationship with Him once again as He intended. These are truths that I know and believe, but still, I am caught in an extremely draining struggle that I consider my own personal spiritual warfare. A spiritual warfare wherein I constantly have to recognize the lies inside of my mind and reconcile them with the truths that God has given me. But God has provided even more for me than these truths, he has provided for me real people and stories from the Bible to relate to, to find strength from, and to help remind me of His character.
One of these stories is the Book of Job. The Book of Job was one that I found initially too intimidating to read and I misconstrued it as merely a story about suffering. However, near the end of this summer, I happened upon it on a day when I felt overwhelmed and very tired. I ended up searching Google with the phrase “Christian struggling with depression” and the book of Job came up. My first thought was that reading Job would make me more depressed, but my curiosity got the best of me. And after going through the book, analyzing it, and talking it over with others, I found the Book of Job to be more than just a story of suffering, but a book about faith triumphing despair.
In the Book of Job, Satan seeks to turn Job away from God and so he wreaks chaos in Job’s life. Job loses his wealth, his home, his children and his health, yet never curses or renounces God like Satan desires. Even in Job 3:11-13,[i] when Job curses his own birth and existence, his faith in God does not waver. However, Job is a human and like all humans, he slips. He begins to doubt God and demands that God explain Himself for causing the unfairness in Job’s life. God does not answer Job directly, instead, in 4 epic chapters, He reminds Job of His omnipotence. The Lord describes the mysteries and wonders of life that no mortal can understand or perfectly explain. He reminds Job of how He has created everything and how intimately He knows each of His creations. “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does? Can you number the months that they fulfill and do you know the time when they give birth, when they crouch, bring forth their offspring, and are delivered of their young?”[ii] He reminds Job of the weakness of mankind. “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?”[iii] To other people, this answer to Job’s question may seem arrogant but truly, how can we, who reside in His universe and whose lifespan is a mere second in comparison to the whole existence of God, question the way God runs this world? God asks, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”[iv] And Job, understanding of this and in awe of God’s power, responds humbly,
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”[v]
Job responds in this way because he knows the truths about God. He knows that ultimately God is good and faithful to His children and that He is in control of everything even when things seem chaotic and despairing. There are many times when I question and doubt and seem so close to giving up, but I too know these truths about God and I know this even more because I have been given the Gospel. I know that I have been saved through the Cross and have been so loved—and continue to be loved—by the Almighty God.
I no longer hold the naive mentality that life will be, in comparison to the present, more peaceful or bearable in the future. I know that I will continue to struggle; that the theories I have about my future may or may not come to fruition and that there will always be a spiritual warfare going on inside my mind. I may not completely understand why I am afflicted with a mental health issue or go through times of suffering like Job and I definitely do not constantly desire to go through them, but I will endure like Job because I know who God is and the truths He has given me. I know God to be all loving, all-powerful, and always in control. Though the future may seem bleak, dim, and unsure, God and the Gospel are unshakeable. I can place my hope in the Lord and His promises. My prayer is that throughout my life, I can remain steadfast like Job as he is praised by James in times of suffering. Also in Romans, I am called by Apostle Paul to rejoice during those times. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” My hope is that by enduring my hardships and rejoicing in the Lord, God’s glory would shine through my life.
[i] Holy Bible (ESV) Job 3:11-13
[ii] Holy Bible (ESV) Job 39:1-3
[iii] Holy Bible (ESV) Job 41:1
[iv] Holy Bible (ESV) Job 38:2
[v] Holy Bible (ESV) Job 42:1-3
academia, college, depression, despair, hope, love