The Book of John talks about how despite the fact that the Light of the World had arrived, people still were inclined toward the darkness (John 3:19). This certainly isn’t the first or the last time that the Bible uses the idea of light and dark in such a way, but it is a spot that I often find myself contemplating, which is why I want to expand upon it in this week’s Faith & Healing, the weekly series that examines the role of faith and mental illness.
And I want to look at this concept of being inclined toward the darkness because, in addition to its frequent biblical uses, darkness is also the perfect metaphor for depression. And when one is in the midst of a depression, it doesn’t matter how much people try to bring in the light, the fact is that the natural tendencies of depression pull us back towards the darkness.
Other theories put forth physiological, or a least partially physiological, theories of depression that similar suggest that we might be inclined towards the darkness, or, ‘in love with the darkness,’ as John says. These theories argue that while there absolutely might be environmental factors at play, depression starts with a genetic pre-disposition, which could be a sort of genetic way of saying what John is trying to say.
Because whether it is the darkness of sin, or the darkness of depression, it is hard to believe that God wants us to stay in that darkness. It says so explicitly a few lines earlier in John, in what is one of the most iconic phrases of the Bible, “for God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whomever shall believe in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Yet what else can be taken away from John is the persistence Jesus has in his ministry. Facing doubt and growing oppression from the Pharisees, Jesus carries on, confident that his Father walks with Him. Even when the story reaches the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus has obvious doubts about what is to come next, he carries on.
Christians talk often about walking in the footsteps of Christ. However, we all fall short. None of us are truly devoid of the darkness. Few of us would likely have the strength Jesus shows when he carries on despite knowing a violent death awaited Him. While I have see other remarkable displays of strength, the truth is that depression sometimes makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning much less go to the cross. Yet God doesn’t ask perfection from us, He asks for faith. He asks that we carry on whenever we can.
And perhaps this is why I dwell so much on the writings of John. Not just because of the similarities that exist between darkness in the bible and darkness in depression, but also because of the example given in John of how Jesus is the Living Water, the Saving Light, the promise of victory of death and disease and even depression. We just need to carry on.
It can absolutely be hard to do this. I know, I get it. Yet I promise it does get better. Faith helped it be better for me, as this post shows, but there are many things that can help make it better, regardless of one’s Faith.
All you need to do is keep going.