From Depression to Joy and Consolation

"Most of us experience some measure of what the scriptures call “the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10; 1 Ne. 20:10). Some are submerged in service to a disadvantaged family member. Others suffer the death of a loved one or the loss or postponement of a righteous goal like marriage or childbearing. Still others struggle with personal impairments or with feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or depression. Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become' (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, October 2000)

by Jennifer Hughes
Depression is a topic that a lot of us feel uncomfortable talking about. Even those of us who struggle with it can wonder: Is it my fault? Is it a chemical or hormonal imbalance? Am I just not trying hard enough to feel good? Why do I have to endure this?

This is a sensitive and very personal topic, and I don't claim to have all the answers. Many books have been written about causes, effects, and treatments of depression, and this isn't the place for those discussions. I can only speak from my own experience--that what keeps me going each day is my faith in Jesus Christ and my knowledge that He knows the plan for my life and that there is a purpose for all of the refining pain we go through--that we come to know the Lord through our trials.  I pray that something I say might speak to you as I honestly share a little of how I deal with this ongoing struggle in my life.

This last spring I found that the effects of my antidepressant medication were wearing off. This has happened to me before and usually it means trying new medications and waiting and trying to figure out if I feel better or not. It can be a time-consuming and difficult process. I had been thinking a lot about the atonement and wondering if I was truly relying on Christ and His grace and trusting Him like I should. In answer to my prayers about what to do, I felt like instead of trying a different medication immediately that I needed to step out onto that ledge of faith and trust that the Lord would be there for me and carry me.

I'm not saying that anyone should stop taking medication that is working for them. That can be a lifesaving element of a treatment plan. But for me, the answer at this point in my life was to trust God and follow Him in faith and believe that He would lead me through this in a different way for now. When I weaned myself off the antidepressants, and through increasing my scripture study, sincerity and frequency of personal prayers, and temple attendance, I found that I may not always feel fabulous, but I feel centered, more peaceful, and like I can handle life.
I felt like I needed to purposely fill my life with as much light as possible to crowd out the darkness.
I know that the Lord is always there reaching out to me, so I reached back. I started praying again, every morning and night. I haven't been consistent in my personal prayers for many years. I started reading my scriptures on my own morning and night. I insist on keeping these habits. And I increased my temple attendance dramatically. I found other ladies who wanted to go to the temple weekly. I felt like I needed to purposely fill my life with as much light as possible to crowd out the darkness.

Attending the temple often restores balance to my life. It empowers me to deal with the things that life throws my way. I feel like I have a better understanding of God's plan for me, and that helps me keep my perspective.

I feel increased help from those on the other side. As I am able to put my children's names on the prayer roll, I see a difference in my family. I know they are being blessed as a direct result of my service. I feel power from the temple ordinances and covenants being extended to my posterity, and that makes me feel joy. Which is a miraculous thing to feel compared to depression.

When I go to the temple, I don't usually have big, profound  experiences. But what I do feel as I sit quietly in the temple is like I'm getting a big hug from my Heavenly Father. Why would anyone not want to feel that every chance you got?

What would you give, or do, to feel that right now, to feel his arms around you and be overwhelmed by the love and peace and joy in that embrace? Is something holding you back from feeling that right now? I took out a few less important things from my life and added in a few things that are not a huge sacrifice of time, but it demonstrates to the Lord where my heart is. God truly draws near to us when we draw near to Him.

In the Book of Mormon we read, "Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God" (Helaman 3:35). I want my soul to be filled with joy and consolation! I'm willing to do what it takes to be able to feel that way.

A hymn says, "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven." I feel like my small sacrifice of time  is blessing me with an added measure of hope and resilience in my life, that it is turning my heart to my ancestors and my children (and also my kids excited about genealogy) and giving me a greater love for them. It is blessing my family by turning their hearts to the Lord and making them excited to go to the temple--thus giving them strength and the solid foundation they need. It is increasing my faith as I see the many ways I am being blessed because of my deliberate decisions to follow God.

Is it easy? Not always. Is it worth it? It is worth more than anything else to me to return to my Father in Heaven and to help my children "find the way ... to live with Him someday" and be together forever as a family. I am so grateful for the way that the Lord blesses me daily and carries my burdens as I do my best to follow Him.