“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know“
– Lauren Daigle, Vocalist/Songwriter
I am sure that there are many readers that may not know this about me, but I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager. Sometimes, my depression comes from obvious circumstances that I am dealing with. Other times, it seems like my depression comes out of left field. It’s during unpredictable times that I’m not sure what to do about my depression. When I can pinpoint a cause, it gives me something to attack, to pick away at until my pain goes away. Man, do I hate the days when I feel like there’s a fight going on in my head, but I can’t tell who is throwing the punches. What really puts a wrench into the mix is that same old question that I ask myself every time I am depressed, “how am I going to be a dad on a day like today?” I struggle to determine how I will give my best on days when I am not at my best. This week, I want to share what has worked for me to continue being a loving, invested, and approachable dad on days where I am feeling depressed.
Before I begin, I need to make a big *DISCLAIMER*. As I am sure you are aware of by now, I am unapologetically a Christian that draws strength from my relationship with God. If you ask anyone that knows me, I am comfortable sharing what I believe. They will also tell you that I understand that not everyone believes what I do and that I do all that I can to show respect and dignity in conversations I have. I realize that, for some readers, what I am about to discuss will bring peace to their minds. To others, they might see this post as a complete waste of time. I can’t control what will be taken from my words. However, I would be lying if I said that my relationship with God isn’t what has helped me to combat the thoughts and feelings that depression burdens me with.
Now that you know my heart as I write these words, let me share what gets me through my days of depression.
One thing that I think everyone can agree on is that I can’t let my emotions run my day. If I did, I would be led to stay in bed all day watching sad movies about people and dogs dying. Don’t ask me why- that’s just where my emotions would take me. Instead, I know that my children need me, even on the days where I am emotionally and spiritually weakened by depression. There is a plethora of scripture in the Bible that helps me to gain control over my thoughts/emotions/actions and provides me with clarity about how to respond to my circumstances. Here are some pieces of scripture that I use to prepare myself to be a father in times of depression:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Often, when I am feeling depressed, my thoughts go to building myself up. I start focusing on things that I am good at to convince myself that I am a valuable human being and worthy of the respect of others. I start pursuing things that I know that the world says makes a man attractive and charismatic. This usually leads me toward pride and vanity. I quit caring about others and how I am treating them because these days become about me. As the passage indicates, I am called to pursue others with humility in my heart. As the highly renowned author, C.S. Lewis, put it- true humility is “not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” This allows me to put my focus back on my family and not merely on myself.
“I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”
In context, the writer of this passage (most likely Jeremiah the prophet) is talking about being in despair because God is bringing suffering to his life due to the writer actively living in sin. However, the writer states that calling out to God and, as is inferred in the passage, confessing his sins to God opened up the opportunity for God to release the compassion that He had stored up for the writer. Sin refers to things that we pursue that take us away from God and what he wants for our lives. From this, I understand that actively pursuing sin in my life may be robbing me of peace and freedom from unnecessary suffering. In these times, I need to confess these sins and modify my life to abandon what God has said is not good for me.
“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah shares that God had chosen the Jewish people and made a covenant with them that He would care for them. God has extended this relationship with gentiles (those of us that are not Jews but have been adopted by God, through our faith in Jesus’s payment for our sins, to be His people) by His new covenant, called the “New Testament.” God has made it clear that he does not want us to fear or to be dismayed because He will be there for us. This chapter also reminds me that other things that we might put our trust in cannot do what God does for us.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
In the hymnal, My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less,” it says, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” I put my trust in God for the day, because He is what makes me Rock Solid as a father. When I accept that God has me taken care of, I can put my focus on loving my family. This helps me when I can’t see how I am going to get through the troubles that I am facing.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.“
When I don’t know who I am at war with in my mind and in my heart, I try to remember this passage. Not only does this passage help me see that the battle is spiritual in nature, but it also gives me a battle plan for victory for the day. By putting on this armor, I am equipped to take on anything that might come my way. How many people can say that with confidence?
So, by following this path of thinking, I am freed up to be available for my family. This is how I, personally, give my best, through God’s strength, when I am not at my best.
Now, if you have given me the grace to follow me this far down the post, I would love to hear what gives you strength when you don’t believe you have what it takes to be a loving, invested, and approachable father by leaving a comment.
As always, stay Rock Solid, dads!