“Someone said that God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December.”
– J.M. Barrie
Depression sweeps in like a blizzard. The snow swirls, the chill freezes the mind, and the ice makes a heart, once on fire, grow cold till the body stiffens with hypothermia.
What brings on these battling blizzards? Changes in weather. Sometimes we see them coming, and other times they hit without warning. Whiteout conditions blind our eyes and sting our lungs. The path before us is covered in white; visibility nonexistent. We cry out for help, but the cold and ice burn our lungs and silence our cries. We shelter inside our car, attempting to create warmth, praying the storm will pass.
Each storm depression brings, we always hear advice: pray, it is all in your head, listen to Scripture, Christians do not struggle with depression – are you sure you’re saved? The advice doesn’t feel like deliverance, but instead like snow and ice flung at us. So we do anything to warm ourselves up hoping we do not freeze to death.
Yet, in all the ice and snow, God does provide something to warm us up in the blizzard of depression.
The Unseen Simple Command
Many times when the thoughts of depression become a battle, we first think of what we can do. We look through Scripture finding any task we may have missed or sin we have forgotten to confess. Yet, this only brings the chills straight to our bones.
240 times God tells us to remember – to call to complete memory. Psalm 42 paints a soul in desperate need of water and encouragement. Most people jump to “hope in God.” Yet, that is not how it works. We cannot just hope in something. He must first remember God in order to spark the fire of hope inside him (Psalm 42:6). The Psalms are lit up by the word “remember.” We see what happens when people do not remember God’s deeds and the hope and joy remembrance brings.
Remembrance is the flint on which hope is sparked.
In the midst of depression, it can be almost impossible to remember. Our tumultuous thoughts whisper things we would rather keep unsaid – “You are only a burden.” “Where is everyone?” “No one is communicating back, what does that say about you?” “I bet everyone only tolerates you and not really loves you.” “Those memories are not what they seem.”
Depression’s degradations feel like whip lashes digging deeper and deeper into our flesh. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but… A cute phrase to say, yet we would gladly cut our own skin with sticks and stones than be pummeled by the words of depression.
The worst thing depression says to us, “You can’t even remember God. How pathetic is that?” The deepest attack goes against the simplest command.
God doesn’t shame us for our lack of remembrance. This is clear in Scripture. There is no shame for not remembering his work. Instead, he gives us another miracle, another experience, another memory to hold onto.
Look in Matthew 15:32-39. We read the story of the feeding of the 4,000. Curious there is the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000. Why? The stories appear to be identical. Switch your view and follow the disciples. Jesus requests of them the same thing in both stories (Matthew 14:16; Matthew 15:32) – feed the people. The disciples have the exact same response in both stories, “Where are we going to get enough food?!” I imagine Jesus just smirks and leads them through the same miracle. He doesn’t reprimand them or scolds them. Instead, he shows them the same miracle.
We have the same issue. We forget the work of God in our life. We give into depression’s deception. Depression wipes the memory clean or buries our memories deep in snow. Yet, God is patient with us. He knows how desperately we need to remember so he performs the miracle again. It may be seeing something to remind us of a friend, a sermon, a song, a piece of art, or anything that brings a memory, face, or truth back in mind.
Forgetting is God’s way of saying, “Want to see me do it again?” And he will.
However, roses cannot grow in our toughest seasons without being planted. God’s can’t remove the snow in order to show us what is underneath if there is nothing there. We must plant rose seeds in order to have roses in winter.
These seeds can be pictures, an item to remember an event or person, or whatever plants that seed in your mind to remember. This is the start of remembering.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to set up memorials. These memorials were to cause stories to be told of God’s workings in their lives. The most famous story of these memorials is the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promise Land (Joshua 4:6-7). The stones plucked from the river were to spark stories and recall memories. These became the roses during their winters.
We need to plant seeds. We need to enchant ourselves with the magic of remembrance. I wear a ring with elephants on it to remind me of a group of men who have never let go. During my toughest times, they have surrounded me until I was strengthened to stand again. A wall in our home features the pictures of individuals who mean a lot to us (even if we do not see them as much as we want). I have a tattoo which says, “Burn the Ships.” I got it on the one-year anniversary after my suicide attempt to remind me how far God has brought me. These are not to guilt trip me or cause shame. Instead, they gently whisper, “Remember, you are loved.”
We have forgotten the art of making memorials. The seeds need to be planted. It may be simple as a stuffed animal bearing the name of a close friend. Whatever it may be, the seeds must be planted in order to remember.
Seeds cause the roses to be planted. God uses those seeds to show us the roses during our winters.
Warmth During Depression
Depression may seem like an unending blizzard, but we do not have to freeze to death. We yearn for something to spark the fire of hope deep in our souls. Yet, we forget the rose seeds we have planted. Depression causes us to look at those seeds with sorrow wanting to turn back time. Yet, God shows us to bask in the memory. Bask in the warmth of the love he showed us through the individuals or in the events he brought us through.
Seasons of blizzards come and go. The length may seem to last more than we would like. No matter the length of the storm, we can feel warmth during depression. It comes from the sparks off the flint of remembrance. Keep these memories close. Continually create memories to plant. It is then in our winters God reveals the beautiful roses.
Depression chills us to the bone feeling that we will only die. It howls in the wind, “Remember, you will die.”
However, God shows us the roses and gently whispers…
Remember, you are loved