What If I Can’t Make You Happy? (A Word for Survivors and Those Experiencing Depression)

And what if I can’t make you happy?

What if with all my face on the floor, kneeling at my bedside, screaming in the car alone, waking in the night terrified, scripture-informed, spirit-filled, in Jesus’ name intercession you still can’t find the strength to hold on

and you let go?

What if I have to survive you?

What if all the questions that accuse me in the dark or when I first wake, all the wondering about what I could have done, could have done better, sooner, more often, right the first time, perfectly, in the power of Jesus, with more love, with more strength, with better limits, firmer tones, softer voice, clearer expectations, eyes wide open, more forgiving, tougher love –

what if you go, and all I have are the questions, the gnawing sense of failure, the black hole where you once were, and the fear that the answer to those questions is yes?

Yes, if I’d just done that one more thing

Yes, if I’d just done it right

Yes, if I’d tried these words, that medication, those doctors, this method, another prayer, one more confrontation, or changed in this way, then happiness would have descended on you like a dove from heaven and freed us all?

Even now, I still believe in that one more thing.

Persistence pays, right? So, I’ve invested everything. My emotional portfolio is heavy with stock in I-will-never-give-up-no-matter-what-because-you’re-worth-it, but what if you divest early and my market crashes like a Malaysian aircraft?

What if, when I grab your hand, you take us both off the ledge? Where will God be in the free fall?

Yes, I know He sees everything, knows it all, loves with a love like fire and water and stronger than death. But the enemy, the destroyer, is rampant, insidious, virulent, malevolent, and devoid of soul; on this side of the veil, he appears to rule

And while the truth is that Jesus reigns, the visible says that here in these parts there will be no mercy shown. At least, that’s what’s written on your door –

the one that stands between us, sealed shut – your heart and mind, your bedroom, the doctor’s office, the therapy room, the hospital ward, the prison cell, the coffin.

I’ve read, with great longing, how Jesus, after He rose, could walk through locked doors and that is what I’ve prayed, that my soul could touch yours through all the doors slammed shut between us. Will it only happen when I rise?

Waiting on the other side of this door, knocking, pounding, weeping, shouting, sliding down, my face pressed up against it gasping sobs, I now know that hope is a double-edged sword and holding onto it as the blood flows is harder than just letting go.

Jesus fell on that sword. He held out hope for the universe and His hands still bear the scars.  But what will it do between Jesus and me if you let go?

Unanswered prayer is one thing if it means rain on my picnic or a parking space further from the store or no giant check in the mail, but what if your happiness, your freedom, your heart continuing to pump life into your limbs – what if this is my unanswered prayer?

How will I ever face Him? Will my prayers taste forever like sawdust? Will my failure in the quest to find you happiness turn me to stone? Will your loss negate all I’ve gained in Christ?

And if you leap from this life reaching for happiness will you take mine, like an unopened parachute, over the cliff as you go?

There are some, I know, who have no concept of this twist of suffering. I wish it was one I didn’t know. Locked away with you inside the darkness of your search for joy, for meaning, for a reason to go on, I can only say that still, even here, I do see light.

Jesus is impervious to doors or walls or the darkness that is like a cell.

Jesus passes through unhindered – into your unhappiness, into my agony, into your desperation, into our fear – He is here where no other human can stand and so we are not alone no matter how we feel. There is this – His presence. (Psalm 139)

So, if He will never leave me (and this I do believe) and I cannot hide or flee from His presence, then neither can you.

I can shed this weight, the weight of the darkness cloaking you, like a chainmail cape, knowing that He can even enter your imprisonment – the place that I cannot go – and reside with you there.

Your happiness (or not) is His business, His work, His field of harvest. When You and He are alone, if you let go, He still holds your soul and has the final Word that is the ultimate answer.

And if He is with you where you are, and He is with me where I am – then that is where we will meet, you and I – in Jesus. That’s where I’ll see you then, standing in His light having entered into His joy that banishes all our darkness.

Though you may let go, He will forever hold on – to your heart and to mine.

This is a good day to intercede for people who love someone locked in depression, for people working with the depressed trying to find a healing solution, and for all of those who have lost someone they loved because their loved one could not hold on any longer.

Jesus hears our prayers. He is with us in suffering, in darkness, and even in death. Evil and sin don’t get the last word on this life – Jesus is the Word, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is able to heal and to comfort even those who survive.

If you’re carrying guilt because you have not been able to free a loved one from depression, take that guilt to Jesus and let Him free you from it.  It’s a lie that you are not enough.

We don’t have all the answers here. Depression can come from many sources and like other diseases that affect the body, mind, and soul, not everyone finds a cure this side of glory.

If you are the one experiencing depression, think small. We can live without happiness. We don’t need years without pain. We just need to endure to the next moment. Make a cup of coffee and sip it slowly. Turn on an old movie and watch it to the end. Open the book of Psalms and read until the sun comes up.

Don’t think about the coming years or months or days, but just this moment take a small action to seek help to survive the next moment.

Make a call to that loved one and just say, “I need you.” Text a loved one the word “Help.” Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a trained counselor. Go to a church, even one where you’ve never been, and just tell them “I need God right now.”

Open the door just a crack. Even a small light may dispel the darkness of this terrible moment, so you can survive to the next one.

Let all of us, those of us experiencing the terrible darkness of the soul and those who love us, let us all stand together in this moment and hear Jesus whisper, “You are enough for me. Hold on, loved one, I’m coming.”

What did one domino say to the other? We don’t have to fall.

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    The Conversation

  1. Jim Klock says:

    Thank you so much for this potent blog. Depression runs in our family and it is insidious. Medication helps….counseling helps….but Jesus helps the most.

  2. Paul Taylor says:

    I lost 1 brother and 1 friend to suicide and felt guilty for both. It took a lot of prayer and a lot of time to almost get over. It’s a journey with Jesus.

  3. Lori, You wrote this about those who chose to leave through suicide, but it’s true for those who chose to leave through divorce. Depression and the quest for happiness factor into both. And for those left behind, the pain is devastating.
    Thank you.

  4. paula says:

    “This is a good day to intercede …”


  5. Jan Clough says:

    Dear Lori
    I applaud you for writing about a subject which is often taboo in Christian circles, after all don’t we as Christians have the ultimate protection from depression. We put on our happy faces not wanting to air the true feelings of our hearts for fear of what the world ( and dare l say, our brothers and sisters in Christ) may think of us.
    Even in grief many feel they have to be overcomers and move on, after all don’t we have to prove that all is well with our souls.
    Depression can be compounded as Christians, more often under the weight of guilt, however, we only have to look to the bible to read of the anguish of so many who cried out to God in their darkest hours.
    We need to be real and honest when all is ‘ not ‘ right with our souls. We also need to be more alert to each other’s needs, after all isn’t church supposed to be our home, our safe haven.

    My daughter a mother of 3 children had a complete breakdown and as you can only imagine, perhaps not having experienced a situation like that, it was one of the most difficult times in my life. My daughter also a Christian, sadly received little support from her church, in fact on finding courage to speak to her pastor that she had suicidal thoughts, he told her to make an appointment. I wonder what would the outcome would have been had she taken her life that day. Thank God for the love and power of praying family and friends.
    Her recovery took time, much patience and above all much faith,but l knew from past experience that God was able to pierce the deepest darkest abyss and bring her back into His heavenly light. Today she is indeed basking in His light and is a source of love and encouragement to others.

    I can now thank God for the valley experiences in my life in the knowledge that nothing, nothing, is too difficult for Him Amen!

    Be aware of brothers and sisters around you, many wounded souls have happy faces.

    Jan Clough