“God is the only one who can make the valley of trouble a door of hope.”
– Catherine Marshall
Little Shop of Horrors
If you are into musicals, then this is a underrated classic. Little Shop of Horrors tells the story of Seymour and Audrey, trying anything, to escape the life on Skid Row. Unfortunately, Seymour discovers an alien plant which can only be fed human blood. However, the plant begins to bring in excitement and business, but Seymour must continue to feed it. What they thought was their way out of Skid Row trapped them.
Please watch the opening song before you continue reading – “Skid Row”
Where your life’s a joke
Where relationships are no go
When your life’s a mess
Where depressions’ just status quo
The lyrics to this song describe life for our characters in Skid Row. However, these lyrics represent our lives as well. When we struggle with depression it can feel like living on Skid Row as shown in Little Shop of Horrors.
As you watched, did any of the lyrics stick out to you? “I keep asking God what I’m for, and he says, ‘Gee, I don’t know.'” Depression feels like this. We feel we cannot escape and we will suffocate on the smog as we continue to pray for someone.
The Reality of Depression
Depression is real, and it is a killer. Many Christians want to say, “Since Jesus is your light, Christians don’t struggle with depression.” This sentiment slaps the face of those who can tell you it is very real as they try to find any escape out of the smog.
The struggle with depression is not due to one thing. It is not from lack of faith or not trusting God enough. These are fruits which can be birthed out of depression. It is a core reality as an individual deals with who they are, their past, and how they can’t escape. It deeply chains itself to the very heart of a person. There is no root cause that is the same for everyone who struggle.
Depression feels like you are stuck in Skid Row. You are forced to live there. You hope to escape the smog choking the life out of you. Dark shadows haunt you as you live there. No peace, no hope, no light – only ghosts whispering in your mind. When people try to help, it feels like a Christian giving a tract to a homeless person, but never helping. You scream to be rescued, but the smog chokes out your screams and blinds others to your tears. You would do anything to escape “Depression Row” – this leads to you using drugs, alcohol, porn, shopping, relationships to escape. However, when you realize these things only keep you there, you are shown one door out – death.
This is a reality for many who struggle with depression. How can we bring light and hope to clear the smog?
Where Your Life’s A Joke
This statement is a key phrase uttered over and over again to someone who is lives in “Depression Row.”
It may be said differently, but the core of someone feeling their life is a joke, failure, or burden suffocates them. As they sit with their thoughts screaming at them, a person walks by and hands them a piece of paper – written it says Jeremiah 29:11. Like a slap in the face, they crumble it up and throw it away. “How can God give me a future? It seems like his plan was to place me here.”
The verse is a great truth of Scripture. But, there is one thing missing. Jesus leads by example. He personally brought the ideals into reality (John 1:14). He helped many people experience the reality of God’s Word – healings, miracles, life lessons, his own death and resurrection. We hand those struggling with depression the ideals and say ,”Escape your cave, and head to the light!” (Sound familiar? Plato’s cave) This way of handling people is not biblical. It is based in ancient Greek philosophy.
God never wanted us to just think about the ideals and escape our caves. He brought the ideals into reality. Romans 1:20 proves to us that God wants us to experience his attributes through experiencing his creation. We were not meant to only lock ourselves away to contemplate his truths. Instead, we can see God in creation and in those around us.
“To love another person is to see the face of God,” is one of my favorite quotes from Les Miserables. When someone believes their life is a joke, help them to experience God’s purpose for them. Come along side them, pick them up by the hand, and walk beside them pointing out how they have purpose. Show them the reality of God’s truth. When they see reality, even if it is a small candle of light, the smog can begin to dissipate around them.
When You’re Life’s A Mess
This is another saying out of “Depression Row.” Lives are messed up, shipwrecked, and no hope for ever getting out of that vicious cycle. It hurts to go after hope only for it to be grabbed out from under you as you burn another bridge or shipwreck another dream.
Similar to “your life’s a joke,” this statement really hits home in the church. In the church reside many untold stories of how people have messed up their lives. However, just like with the pandemic, they wear an everyday mask so other Christians won’t look down on them. When Christians smell the blood of failures, they become like sharks ready to rip and shred.
The church today has become nothing more than the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). But the issue is, no one wants to admit they are the tax collector. This leads to many to struggle with depression. When openness is a facade for consequences, getting rid of the unwanted, a gossip platform, there is no grace and no room for true growth.
When we act like we have nothing serious in our lives or are not open about our own failures, then those struggling with depression feel their life is too much of a mess to have any hope. Would you rather trust someone who walks around like they are perfect or someone who admits their imperfections, but you see them living in grace?
Clearing the smog of depression requires openness on behalf of one trying to help. We need to be vulnerable with each other. Can we show the reality of how our own messy lives have been redeemed and transformed by the grace of God? Or are we too protective of our image?
Depression suffocates individuals as they believe their lives are a mess without hope.
Someone Show Me a Way to Get Outta Here
Many who struggle with depression do not want to stay there. But, the cry for help is not for a verse or a prayer. It is for someone to show them a way out.
Jesus took time with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and Peter to show them a way forward (John 3; John 4:1-42; John 21:1-19). Paul describes the church in I Corinthians 12:12-27 as a body. A body is made up of many parts, and when one is hurting it feels like the whole body is hurting. But what happens with someone struggling with depression? Usually, the church cuts off that part, and tells them to work on themselves before they can be reattached. “I am praying for you,” or “Here, read this passage or this book,” are all common things said. Is that acting like a body? No. The body runs to the rescue of a hurting part.
Struggling with depression and wanting help is not a cry for a piece of paper with directions. It is a cry for someone to physically show them the way out. It means we have to walk along side of them through it all. I Corinthians 13:7 declares through the fog of depression love bears all things and endures all things, and love gives hope.
God always provides a way out of darkness and into the light. He did not just give us his Word. He also gave us the church to answer those cries for help.
The Great Escape
Seymour and Audrey wanted to do anything to escape Skid Row. Those in “Depression Row” feel the same way.
There is a way out, and we need to be the guide. However, we are too caught up in our image and our perceptions to be that guide.
What did God do for us? He moved heaven and hell to come into our darkness and physically show us the way out even though it cost him his own life (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) Yet, there are times we find ourselves lost in the fog again. Yet, does God just give us a list of do’s and don’ts to get out? No. He gives us Jesus our mediator who will forgive us and restore us (1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 1:9).
Those who struggle with depression will find themselves back in Skid Row. They will again feel the smog. They will again feel haunted by voices and thoughts. Yet, since Jesus is there with you (and we are called to be like Jesus), then we need to do the same for others (Ephesians 5:1-2). It is not enough to hand them a list of verses (even though that can help). If we are the light of the world, we are also the light for those whose lights are being choked out.
God does make the valley of darkness and trouble into a door of hope; however, we must be ones who help others to that door.
Escaping Skid Row is difficult. I have been there, and have a residency card for when days are spent back. When Christians said I was not reading my Bible enough, or believing enough, I felt slapped in the face. I felt like a Christian who could only be used as a bad example. None of their words spoke hope. Yet, the ones who reached out and said, “There is always a hand reaching toward you. There is always grace available. There is always a chance to begin again,” were the ones who brought me out of the smog of depression. When I was loved on, even when I lashed out, I truly saw God’s love for me and the light began to shine. The light didn’t come through a list to follow or a book – it came through people (the church).
The burden becomes lighter when love bears all things and endures all things. If we are to be like Christ, then we should invite other to share their burdens with us and help them lighten their load.
Depression is a killer. It feels like you are trapped in Skid Row. How are you going to respond? Are you going to be like the priest who walks on the other side; throwing a tract as you do? Or are you like the Good Samaritan who bandages and takes care of another person who is struggling? Luke 10:25-37
How are you going to help people escape the Skid Row of depression?