To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part...
The above picture was when we were in the car getting ready to leave for our honey moon. We had just gotten married and were so excited. You can almost feel the excitement bounce from our faces. We had begun our fairytale. It really is amazing that we say the vows we do. I know when I said mine I never really expected the poorer or sickness. Of course, I knew death would come but after 60 years of wedded bliss, right? Oh, how naive I had been. We had lots of hard times in our early years of marriage. We had to grow up together, learn how to be partners and decide to follow Christ individually and then together. It took us about 10 years to fight, love, and grow in God. We had not arrived to perfection but we absolutely planted our feet on the Solid Rock. We had ups and downs like anyone. God grew our faith in Bible college and answered many prayers. We truly felt we were finally in a good place. Then my darkness came. When you are in depression, it doesn’t just affect you. It changes you and causes pain and hurt to those that love you.
Shaun watched me struggle. At first, he gave me time to grieve the loss. Then he watched me go through the motions of the holidays and finally he watched winter spread outside but also in my soul. I constantly went to him with doubt. Doubt of God’s calling and goodness. Thankfully Shaun has a very strong trust in God. He believes God is in control and with that belief He never worries. He never doubts. He trusted God to be God. At the time, it frustrated me but looking back I am so glad that his walk with God could not be shaken by me. He helped around the house more than normal. Often he tiptoed around me so that I could have space and time to heal. After a while, he did become impatient. He did not know how to help me and he did not understand my depression. We had gone through worse before; how could this loss shake me in a way that changed me completely? His once over-achieving, compassionate, driven wife had turned into a lazy, numb, and bitter person.
We would argue. He would point out the blessings of life and I would scream the negatives. He declared the goodness of God and I struggled with feeling abandoned. He carried the weight of the church and home on his shoulders and I collapsed by the weight of the world on mine. We could not be sweethearts during this time. We could not communicate. We were left trying to get by each day not knowing what or how we would survive. There were times we did not like each other very much. We were struggling.
I asked Shaun recently what was the hardest part about my depression and he said “I felt so helpless.” He could not help me. He could not fix it. This was my journey and all he could do was watch me walk it. We did survive. We came through stronger than ever. If you are someone that is watching a loved one battle depression I have a couple of suggestions. First, don’t give up on them. Be their cheerleader even if it is from a distance. Second, know that this is serious and not a matter of will power. Love them but do not try and rationalize it. Depression is not rational. Lastly, pray like you never have before and get help. Even if your loved one doesn’t want help, you need the support. Fight for your loved one because they don’t have the energy or desire to fight for themselves.
Reflection: Looking back I am so thankful that we took our vows seriously. Our vows were not only a promise to each other but a covenant with God. Though each of us has failed to be what we should, we did not give up. I now see that I wanted Shaun to have all the answers. I put an impossible expectation on him. I realize today that the darkness of life will either break your marriage or make it stronger. I am so thankful it made our marriage stronger.
Response: If you are not struggling with depression today I plead with you to build a life on Christ. The saying “trouble shows what you are made of” is true. When you go through a darkness it reveals who you really are. Today you have to read your Bible, go to church, pray. Today you have to invest in your marriage. You must date each other, learn to communicate, seek God together. You have to not expect more from your spouse than you can deliver. Kiss everyday and forgive often. When you fight, make a point to always make up. Marriage is a representation of Christ and the church. How are you representing Jesus today? If you are struggling with depression, remember you are not alone. Go through the motions of Bible reading and church. Do not disappear. Being alone may be what you want but it is not what you need. You are a fighter! So fight!
Resources: If you have a struggling spouse, I highly recommend the Love Dare. This is a great resource to help you show love. I also recommend The Ministry of Marriage by Jim Benny. This book has helped me so much. Another great book is The 5 Love Languages. This book will transform your communication. If you have a partner who is struggling, then contact my husband firstname.lastname@example.org. He will help you walk through it. And of course I am here always, email@example.com. Satan screams to you that you are alone. I am now screaming through my keyboard, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Practically speaking, you have to work on your marriage. Try to date often and talk. Look at your wedding pictures or say your vows again. Let each other know that you meant your promise. For better or worse. And remember with God you can have victory over the worse.
Next week: I will share the beginning of my healing. What I learned about myself and God.
April Minnix, daughter of the king