Sometimes you just wake up and know. You know that it is going to be a long day; a hard day. As you lay in bed you contemplate whether or not it is worth it to get up and do what you need to do. It feels dark and lonely. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Your motivation is nonexistent with the possible exception of duty. For the past year I have struggled with depression. The feelings and experiences listed above are all from my own life. I know that depression is not just something that I struggle with but something that others struggle with as well. I want to share with you some things in the Bible that have helped me when I am dealing with it.
We are going to be looking in the book of Ruth, specifically at the life of Naomi. Naomi was an Israelite woman who was married to an Israelite man named Elimelech. They had two sons named Mahlon and Chilion. Naomi’s family lived during the time of the judges of Israel and the time when there was a famine in the land. Because of the famine, the family left their home and moved to Moab. There Mahlon and Chilion found wives named Ruth and Orpah. After living there for ten years, Mahlon and Chilion died. Naomi decided to go back home and wanted her daughters-in-law to go back to their homes. Orpah did go home, but Ruth did not. All of this information comes from Ruth chapter one. In this one chapter we see Naomi suffer so much. She leaves her home and everyone that she knows. Her husband and sons all died. She had to fend for herself and for her daughter-in-law in a land and during a time in which women could not work or own property. Because of all of this we see Naomi asked to be called Mara which means bitter.
Sometimes things happen in our lives and we feel like Naomi. We feel like everything is against us. It seems like the world keeps throwing things at us and won’t let up. We feel bitter and depressed. We hurt and struggle daily. I want to point something out. Naomi, throughout the entire book of Ruth, is never condemned for feeling this way. She was never told that she doesn’t have faith or isn’t a true follower of God because she struggled in this way. When we struggle in the same way, it is okay.
Why are we not condemned when we struggle with bitterness and depression? Why was Naomi not condemned? Let’s look at what happened in the rest of the book of Ruth. Despite the hard time that Naomi was having, when an opportunity appeared for Ruth, Naomi helped and encouraged her to take the opportunity in chapter 3:1-4. Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi and Ruth’s, was interested in Ruth. Boaz would be able to give them love, stability, and care, especially Ruth if she was his wife. Naomi knew this, and she told Ruth exactly how she needed to prepare to meet with Boaz and what to do at the meeting. Ruth and Boaz got married and had a son named Obed.
So what do we see happening in the book of Ruth? We see that Naomi had some really hard things happen in her life. Those events and circumstances led to her being bitter and depressed. The Bible does not condemn Naomi for her struggles. It does not condemn her because she did not let her circumstances, bitterness, and depression control her life. When she had the chance to help someone else, namely Ruth, she put aside the bad in her life in order to help make things better for Ruth.
When we feel bitter and depressed it becomes very easy for us to focus only on what we are going through and dealing with. In those times we become wrapped up only in ourselves, and that is when our struggle with bitterness and depression becomes wrong. It is then that we cannot see the struggles that other people are enduring. When we are blind to others’ struggles, we are also blind to the ways in which we can help them. Just as Naomi and even Jesus, our Lord, did not let their hardships and struggles stop them from reaching out to and helping others, we cannot let ours stop us from doing the same.
How do we do this? Prayer is always an excellent way to start. When we pray we communicate with God. We can ask God to help us with the bitterness and depression that we are struggling with. Talking to someone, especially God, is a great way to help us verbalize and work through our struggles. It helps us to not bottle it up and keep it inside. When we bottle things up, they eat away at us until we let them out. If talking is too intimidating, another way to get emotions out is to journal. Writing down how your feelings about everything during the day helps to get them out of your head where you can make sense of them.
We can also ask Him to help us see others and their needs. When we see the needs of others and work to meet them it helps both them and us to feel better. God has created us that way. That is why we have the church. Galations 6:2 reads, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” People need someone to listen to them and support them when they are struggling with something. We can offer our help in any way that they may need. They need someone to be there for them to make them feel listened to and not alone.
When we feel bitter and depressed our first instinct is to pull away from others and isolate ourselves in our misery. We must learn to fight that instinct. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon gives us some wisdom concerning our relationships with other people. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him- a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” We must learn to both get and give help when we are struggling. Naomi is an example of doing this. She did not hide how she was feeling and struggling, and she worked to help Ruth while she felt that way.
It is not wrong to struggle. It is not wrong to feel bitter and depressed. The problem is when we allow bitterness and depression to control our lives. When we only focus on ourselves and won’t let anyone help us we are letting it control us. Instead, we should learn to talk to God and ask Him for help and support as we struggle, to look for other people’s needs that we can meet, and not pull away from our brethren when we need the support the most.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not a magic cure for bitterness and depression. This is a plan. This is a way to fight back against it. This is a way that we can work to overcome those struggles. This is hope for when we feel hopeless.