Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray,
that with thy wonted favour thou
wouldst be our guard and keeper now.
From all ill dreams defend our eyes,
from nightly fears and fantasies;
tread underfoot our ghostly foe,
that no pollution we may know.
O Father, that we ask be done,
through Jesus Christ thine only Son,
who, with the Holy Ghost and thee,
doth live and reign eternally.
Latin, tr. J M Neale (1818 – 66)
Night-time can be an awful time of day for some. I know that when I have been deeply depressed, my sleep becomes disturbed, and either I sleep far too long and deeply, and never seem to quite wake up or else, and I think this is worse, I cannot sleep, and lie awake with fearful thoughts in my mind. I think of suicide, of self harm, of all the hateful things I believe about myself and I think over and over that God does not love me, that he cannot love me, not I. The world seems so dark, as though the light will never come again, and I can see nothing and no one to comfort me.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”… the trouble is, with depression, the morning may be better for some (it generally is for me) but it is not greatly better, it is not the same as being better. Those dreadful thoughts from the night can be deflected somewhat, by other people, TV, eating, drinking, whatever activity we can find, but they are still there, and they still oppress.
In the day, I know – even if I cannot feel – that God loves me. I know and understand what the Bible says about how Jesus sees us (we are his friends, not his servants, he loves us enough that he died for us) but in the night, all that seems far away. The love of God and the promises of the Bible seem like ghosts in the night, and the nagging voice of doubt and “I am not worthy” is louder than the voice that tells me God is with me.
In the night, in the deeps of depression, I understand sin. I understand the separation sin causes between God and man, I deeply appreciate that God cannot abide with sin — but I miss the understanding that God removed that barrier of sin when I believed in Christ and his sacrifice. That belief is the only thing I need to do – the only thing I can do – to receive God’s grace. I fail to understand that it is not the amount of faith that matters, that even if my faith is, as is written, as small as a mustard seed, then it is enough. That even to wonder if I have enough faith is in itself an indicator of having faith. All this is a bit lost on me when I am ill.
The only thing I could think of to do was to repeat to myself the promises of God, to repeat “God loves me”, even when I could not feel the truth of that promise. Sometimes belief seems forced – but it is still belief, and at its core, a belief I have to discipline myself into having is a belief, it is a trust and a belief in God that makes me want to have that faith – which is one of the absurdities of faith!
It is fairly early as I write this, but if you are facing a dreadful night, think on the words of the hymn above, it can be used as a prayer (I would love to hear it sung). I cannot offer many suggestions for the dark nights of depression, but I did find some comfort in repeating certain truths about God, in talking to him and in reading the Bible. Depression tries to twist Scripture and faith and use it to condemn you – but know that God does indeed love you, as much as and more than a parent. He says he is your friend, he likes you and he thinks you are wonderful. God is crazy about you – even when your mind makes you (and me) a bit crazy!
Peace of the Lord be with you.