On Thursday Feb 28th I was back on the trail again after taking a day off at Neals Gap. I was feeling somewhat down as I walked in the rain. That night in the tent I broke down and cried and felt like it was all a waste of time. That was my depression talking again.
On Friday March 1st I walked 8 miles and my pack felt like a brick. It was water logged from all the rain. My gear is all in dry bags so it’s fine. Today I met up with Rick, Waffle and his thirteen year old son Hawkeye.
Saturday March 2nd it was a beautiful 12c and sunny. I hiked up two good sized mountains for a total of 10 miles. I met Wildflower /Villa Bloom from Germany. We had fun comparing my Low German and her High German. For some reason she found it fascinating to find a guy who could speak Low German on the trail. I got trail magic, a hot dog and coke at one of the road crossings. Trail magic is the hiker
term for people who out of the kindness of their hearts feed or do other kind things for hikers.
Sunday March 3rd I walked 8 miles that started out in sunshine but ended in pouring rain and a drastic drop in temperature. I did walk with Rick for a few miles and found he was a Christian and worked as a pilot . He is out here trying to get a grip on being a workaholic and refocus his life on God.
This morning March 2nd my tent poles were so frozen together I could hardly get them apart. A lot of people were pretty cold last night. I have to say I was cozy warm. We walked out to the road and caught a shuttle in to Hiawassee and am staying at Budget Inn with Waffle and his boy Hawkeye. The past three mornings I have awoken with no anxiety attack!
The last few days I have been thinking about how a person with depression can experience God. What is it that I expect from God? I was a pastor too long not to know that Christians suffer. I have seen much heartache during my pastoral years. The first funeral I did was of a beautiful cherished 18 year old girl killed by a drunk driver. What is more senseless than that?
I accept that we are not immune to suffering. In fact many NT passages speak to suffering. I think what I desire is a sense of
peace, His presence and a sense of purpose in the midst of it. This I believe God promises: “the peace that passes all understanding”. This peace is difficult to experience when you struggle with anxiety. I have never felt so alone and far from God and everyone else as I have in my depression. It is hard to see purpose when all you want to do is give up, lay down and die. How can God be experienced by a person whose very sickness causes him to feel that all of these things are not true? If God cannot meet a person in the midst of their depression, is he still God?
I have often heard people speak of how they have experienced God in the midst of suffering. I have personally given testimony to this. I long to experience this in my depression. As the psalmist writes, l long to experience the joy of the Lord when “I am still in the land of the living”. When I am out on the trail I find I sense the presence of God. Somehow the exercise and being in the beauty of creation
opens my heart to God. I think however, that people with mental illness have to live by faith. Their feelings are so messed up they can’t be counted on. It is an opportunity for us to live in faith like few people will ever experience. Because everything about depression beats away at the truth that God cares and that there is any point too life. This faith honors God.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
As people battling with depression we have this opportunity to live by faith which according to Peter is of incredible value to God. I can testify that as the demons of depression have inflicted my life it has been a horrendous battle of my faith. In my darkest hours I have wept in despair feeling completely abandoned by God. And yet every time when I see a glimmer of light my faith revives to carry my through another day. At times I feel guilty that I cannot face my depression with a greater measure of joy. At this point I would settle for peace in my heart that God has allowed this in my life and although I do not understand why I can trust that I am in His will and purpose.
Behind every beautiful thing, there's been some kind of pain
~ Bob Dylan
Though at the time I sensed no purpose in the waiting, I’ve come to appreciate that dark time as an expression of God’s loving purposes for me—a time when my tired faith was validated and then infused with a fresh vitality. Deep inside I knew that God was in control of my chaos and that I was loved.
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