In light of Nanci’s departure to be with Jesus four weeks ago, a kind sister reached out to me, saying she was hoping and praying that I felt the closeness of Jesus. I told her that I do indeed sense His closeness. At the same time, grief and sometimes depression come upon me in waves. But they do not drive out Jesus or the Holy Spirit, both of whom indwell me (Romans 8:8-11). Nor can they separate me from God the Father. In fact, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
I am not simply claiming these things to be true—I normally believe them to be true and often am very aware of their reality. I learned years ago, when dealing with depression, that God not only is with me right in the middle of it, but I can sometimes, even often, sense His presence. The promises of Jesus are not mere casual reassurances; rather, they are blood-bought, guaranteed by His proven character and love. I can bank on them 100%. So can you.
Somehow when my old companion Depression visits me, I know in a special way, my Savior has entered into my world, understands me, accepts and loves me, and says, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16). His engraving tools are the nails of a Carpenter.
It’s not that my grief and depression aren’t painful; it’s that my whole world, including all my weakness and shortcomings, is in His nail-scarred hands and under the governance of His grace. Why would I be surprised to suffer, when God promises us we will suffer? “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). When you suffer don’t think, “God isn’t keeping His promises,” rather, think, “God is keeping His promise that I will suffer, and that He is right here with me in my suffering to accomplish His purposes for His glory and my good.”
This past nine days, depression has intermingled with grief. I feel profound pain of loss, but I simultaneously feel that the One who has borne my grief and carried my sorrows is infinitely larger than my pain. So as real as the pain is, I feel no despair, no loss of hope, no distance from Him. He is not only my sovereign Maker, He is also my living Redeemer and ever-present Friend who will never—no never—desert me or forsake me. As I weep, I have been thinking about the flood of His tears, for His mother when He was on the cross, for Jerusalem that said no to His comfort, for His friends Lazarus and Mary and Martha. I am so amazed by Him, so deeply grateful. It makes me sad to think that those I know and loved took their lives because they could not see God inside their depression, but only outside. No virtue in me accounts for my awareness of His closeness, but only a kindness of God’s grace that I do not take for granted for a moment. It is hard enough to bear being without my Nanci. I cannot imagine what it would be like to think I was without my Creator and Redeemer and dearest Friend.
One thing that’s brought me joy is going through old photos to pick out some for Nanci’s memorial service. What wonderful memories. While I miss Nanci terribly, I am overwhelmed with the goodness of God for giving me such a wife and for what we were able to experience together in this life. I can’t wait for what is ahead of us in the presence of Christ. Nanci got a head start on me! I look forward to seeing her again and starting to catch up. Together, we’ll enjoy that happy ending that will never end.