How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
Lake Michigan is 1,180 cubic miles of water, 923 feet at its deepest, and more than 100 miles across. Meaning you have to go more than half way across the lake to see the other shore. By all accounts and measurements it is an enormous lake, and a huge portion of the worlds fresh water. It is an unfathomable, in-tamable, and frenzied piece of God’s creation. Hundreds of boats and thousands of lives have been taken over the years by Lake Michigan. Yet, it can also be serene, peaceful and beautiful in an indescribable way. A kind of beauty that only exists in something that can also destroy.
I’ve spent my life on the Michigan shorelines and have seen first hand the elegance and destructive powers of the lake. I’ve spent untold hours swimming, boating, fishing and sitting beside her. She has become a symbol of home. A symbol of belonging, meaning, and understanding. The best times of my life have been with her, but so have the worst. Lake Michigan has also become a symbol of something less pleasant, Something that most prefer to lock away in a closet or dark cellar. Depression.
Depression: Noun, feelings of severe despondency and dejection. Depression is a word with many meanings. Many emotions, many opinions, and many stories attached. A large portion of the population struggle with depression, some forms of depression affect as much as 7% of adults. For me depression is a part of daily life. The words of King David in Psalm 13 capture the emotional state that I often find myself living in. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”
Lake Michigan and depression have much in common. The unpredictability and fierceness of the lake are a nearly perfect allusion to the emotions that exist in the mind of a person struggling with depression. A beautiful day full of sunshine, family, and good food, on one of the many beaches of lake Michigan, can in a moment, be tossed into a spiral of chaos by the lake, or by the unrelenting grasp of depression. I’ve spent many hours sitting on the Pentwater pier looking at the deep waters of the lake and asking questions of the water that no one can answer. The pure quantity of the water makes lake Michigan unknowable, in-graspable, and unpredictable. Having depression causes you to live in a mental state that is the same way, causes you to sit by the water and wonder about things you cant really describe and certainly never understand. But, thankfully, we can know someone who can answer the questions, someone who can bring peace to the mind of depression, someone who can walk on water.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:25-27.
The disciples were out on a lake, at night. In a literal sea of darkness. when a storm came down on them. Chaos and pandemonium were ringing out through the sea of confusion and terror. When through the darkness a solution appeared. Salvation appeared. An answer to the literal storm of the lake, and an even more satisfying answer to the storm of depression appeared. Jesus the living man, fully God, fully man arrived to the rescue of the disciples. This same living being has arrived to my rescue and he exists, waiting to come to yours.
I have been rescued by this Jesus. My life has been met with traumatic and sudden loss. I could spend many words telling stories about the loved ones I have lost along the way. But that is not the point of my story. If I was still lost at see in the storm of depression, and being tossed about by the waves of loss, those stories would be all that I have to define myself by. And what a sad existence that would be. Great rescue is the new definition of my life. My identity does not lie in the storm of the lake. My identity lies in the one who calms the sea. My identity lies in one who loved me first, in one who offered his very life as a perfect sacrifice for me. And for you.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
King David, in his youth, wrestled with lions and bears to protect the sheep he was charged with caring for. Later in life he wrestled with deep depression. In the Psalms we see the words of a man who is lost at sea, who is scared of the darkness of questions and sadness the lurk around him trying desperately to toss him into the waters. But just as the disciples, just as I, and just as you can, he found peace in the arms of the one who walks on water.
Don’t spend your life lost at sea. It may be depression, it may be fear, there are a thousand problems that can bind us away in the darkness and hide our joy, peace, and love deep in the cellars of sin. Don’t let that be the definition of your life. Today, this very moment, grab your phone and look up the gospel of John, grasp onto the one who walks on water. As David wrestled bears and lions for his sheep, Jesus will wrestle them for you. Leave the sea behind, and take hand of the only One who holds the answer.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.