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The Mental Health Coal Mine

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May 2022) and the theme is ‘loneliness’. Even though feeling lonely can make us more at risk of mental health problems, I would also say mental health problems can make us feel lonely. As I write this, I am almost five days clear of one of the worst depressive experiences I have had so far in my life. The weekend brought with it a deep darkness and, in my mind, I felt more alone than I have ever felt. Thoughts of inadequacy came thick and fast, and all of the small problems seemed to multiply and get out of hand. The big problems just seemed to get bigger.

Lord, where are you in this deep darkness?’, I thought, as tears kept rolling down my face. I felt like I was in a coal mine deep underground, with nothing but darkness all around. Maybe it’s all of the grief and loss experienced in the last two years rupturing to the surface as creases of pain on my face. In those moments that roll in like a storm, reason seems out of reach as I take the weight of every struggle upon myself. In those moments I don’t want to open the Bible. I can’t bring myself to think beyond the struggle. But in those moments, I am learning to surrender and trust God in the dark.

As I have reflected upon the weekend, I came to think of the Lord like a coal miner, coming in with a head torch after me. The head torch was a faint glimmer of light – of hope. If I kept my eyes on the Light – on Jesus – the light would get bigger and brighter and the darkness all around will cease to be as dark as it was. Even the dark is light to God (Psalm 139:12). My God keeps me and sustains me, even in the dark and messy times. I am precious to Him and worth mining for.

I don’t understand all the reasons behind suffering. But I do know that the more I think upon who God is and His promises, my mind is renewed. I can’t shift the darkness by myself, but I am trusting God will meet me in it. Maybe it’s not in the way that I want him to in the midst of the intense pain, but He promises never to leave me or forsake me, and that He is my helper (Hebrews 13:5-6).

The enemy of God and His people, Satan, and the powers of darkness can use the oldest trick in the book and whisper ‘did God really say…?’ (Genesis 3:1). Sowing lies and doubt in the mind of humanity is not a new tactic. It’s the one which cuts at the heart of the relationship that God has with his children. If the enemy can get us to doubt God’s love for us, the truth of His Word and any other number of assaults on our mind, he cannot cut us off from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39).

The Lord catches my tears in a bottle. Psalm 56:8 (NLT) says, ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.’ My sorrow is deeply felt by God. Sorrow is not a distant reality from a disinterested deity. He is the ‘man of sorrows’. Isaiah 53:3 (NLT) says, ‘He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.’ It was humanity that despised and rejected God.

So often we think or speak of God as if He were the one who despises and rejects us. He doesn’t care about us, we mutter. That’s how it feels. Yet, the actions of God throughout the Bible show us a God who is patient, longsuffering, sacrificial, kind. The ultimate act of love was a suffering Saviour on the cross for His people. Our sin held him there, but it was His love that kept Him there. He willingly died in our place because He is love itself (1 John 4:7-21).

Two songs that really have been a source of comfort from the darkness are by Casting Crowns. Have a listen below, and if you’re feeling in the clutches of the darkness, may you know that you’re not alone. Do speak to someone about your struggle. I have found people to be so kind and compassionate in many different ways. Be gentle to yourself as you walk through this. Get medical help if you need it, and don’t feel ashamed. More than anything, know that the Lord will meet you in your circumstances – trust Him in the darkness. He will not let you go. Let Him be your light and hope in times of hopelessness.

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