Our experience and understanding of God is not “one size fits all.”
Many years ago, one of my favorite seminary professors suffered the sudden death of his beloved wife. He went to the student body and announced that he had lost all faith. Rather than discredit him for his loss of faith, a fellow professor said, “It’s OK; we will have faith for you.” In time, the grieving professor learned from fellow teachers and students that the gift of their faith would draw him back to God and the people who loved him.
As the days grow shorter, people frequently make reference to depression and some of the SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) realities of darkness. Too often people living with such realities isolate themselves or seek unhealthy solutions on their own that only deepen the pain. As we bring our unique realities, both individually and as a community, to our times of brokenness, we need caring people who can gift us with compassion, understanding and faith.
For many of us, a sign of spirituality is the joy we feel in our life. Faith is interpreted as bringing tranquility and closeness with God. Depression limits our ability to experience joy. Life is gray like so many days in Juneau. There is emotional distancing. We may doubt our relationship with God and others may question our faith.
Depression can cloud reality and disconnect us. It causes disruption in our family, friendships, work, leisure, worship and faith. The easiest solution may be to distance ourselves from the one who is in depression. Yet during journeys through despair, the need is greatest to be able to lean on the faith of others so that one’s own faith survives.
If joy is our measure of spirituality, or if peace and harmony are seen as requirements for a relationship with God, than we are excluding many people from feeling “in touch with God.” Our places of worship need to be “places of safety” that respect and affirm people as they are. If joy, peace and harmony are seen as criteria for faith, then all of us are in danger of exclusion.
When we find ourselves in the darkness of our lives, God is with us. God’s unconditional love is a light in our moments of darkness. We are not always aware of our disconnectedness while we flail around in the darkness, but that is when God’s light shines through others who enter our darkness with us and “carry our faith” for us.
Brokenness is very painful and offers nothing to celebrate. Brokenness can arouse our sense of being incomplete and inadequate. When we accompany one another through messy realities, we are presented with opportunities for profound healing and wisdom.
May we all discover that our journeys together, with all their messiness, can bring us closer to our deepest selves and God.
Life is filled with many paradoxes. Even in our spiritual lives there is a mixture of joy, light, darkness, grayness, hope, peace, harmony, despair and depression. It is precisely through both our joy and brokenness that we touch God and one another. May we embrace those living with brokenness and be ready and willing to gift them with our faith and strength.
• Pastor Larry Rorem is a retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor living in Juneau. Laura and Larry are members of Resurrection Lutheran Church and are advocates for those living with brokenness. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.