I have Hope

It’s probably come up from time to time that I have issues with depression and bi-polar disorders. It pretty much sucks.

Despite being a guy who prefers peace and quiet, I am pretty involved in stuff around my community. One of those organizations is Peace River Search and Rescue. I’m the Jeep team. My Jeep is useful for getting to places with more speed than a horse and more maneuverability than larger vehicles, such as an ambulance. It provides a platform for removing team members from the field or getting personnel someplace in a hurry. Finally, it’s a way to bring a victim to their loved ones quickly.

PRSAR hooked me with the Jeep, but they really reeled in the family when they convinced my daughter to begin training her dog, Cowgirl, to be a search and rescue dog. Rebekah, Cowgirl, and I have been learning the basics of SAR the past several months, including a lot of dog training. We’ve met some really neat people and amazing dogs.

One day two of those neat people were discussing a dog they weren’t bringing to training. She had been a police dog, working for a sheriffs office her in Florida when her handler committed suicide while they were in the patrol vehicle. The dog was presented to the widow who struggled to provide the care the dog required. Eventually she passed the dog on to the neat people I know, but they couldn’t figure out what to do with her. Well, they talked to me, and then talked to me some more. What she needed was someone who would be around A LOT to give her love and affection and break the trauma of her past and teach her a new way forward.

Jesus has been breaking me free from the trauma of my past and teaching me a new way forward for a while now. Part of that way forward, I’m pretty sure, involves dogs. I love dogs. We have two here. Well, had. Now it’s three.

Sometimes I ask God to give me hope. He answered. Hope is the latest furry addition to our family. I don’t know if she can help me write more or better. I don’t know if she’ll ever perform for the community as a service dog of some sort ever again. I don’t know if she’ll put up with the puppy’s crap from one minute to the next. But I do know I love her. Every time I look at her I’m reminded how tough things have been for her and how she needs to be handled appropriately. Eventually that understanding leads me to remember that lots of people have had stuff happen to them and they need to be treated decently, too. Finally, I remember that just because I’ve had it rough doesn’t mean it will stay that way. I mean, just look at Hope. Things are looking up for her.

Hope

Finding joy in the midst of depression

Depression is trying to tell me my dreams are dead.

And I want to listen. I’m tired and outside influence on my schedule is working against me. I barely have time to get done things I have to get done, like assignments for school, let alone the stuff I’d like to get done, like writing this.

Depression likes to suck the life out of everything. Don’t take my word for it, though. Feel free to ask other people who suffer with depression.

We live in a broken world and I certainly believe that part of my depression is in response to my environment, but it’s also, in part, chemical – something inside me that’s broken.

What to do about it? Well, in part, seeing the right doctors and taking the right medicine helps. The other thing, the one that keeps me going, is Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1 

There is joy and hope in knowing Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-9Galatians 5:22,  and Psalm 51:12.

Sometimes I struggle to find the strength to carry on with my dreams, but is these verses, and many more, that remind me that I can go on. Christ sustains me. Like in Philippians 4:13 where it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” These verses serve as reminders that the darkness doesn’t win and we don’t have to let it win in our daily lives.

I’ve heard that Billy Graham is famous for (among so many other things) once saying, “I’ve read the last page. God wins.” That’s a comfort for those of us who walk with God. He is, as it says in Psalm 46:1, our ever present help in time of need.

I don’t know about you, but I feel needy often. I need help to overcome depression. I need help to overcome bad habits. I need help to figure out how to make the money we have cover the bills. I need help feeling grateful and being forgiving. I need help sometimes just loving my wife and kids. God is there for that. Thankfully. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go this alone, with just doctors and medicine to make me right. Just thinking about that makes me feel more depressed. Seriously. My doctors are in the VA. The psychologist position at my clinic has changed hands five times in the last two years, maybe more. The psychiatrist blew off my problems, behavioral issues, to want to look for the roots of my depression.

Look, dude, I know the roots of my depression: it’s living in this messed up world. I’d love it if they’d focus on things like overcoming addictive behaviors or developing my skills in anger management. I took a great class on that at my church. I used to feel guilty about being angry, which just fed my depression, but then I learned a great verse, Ephesians 4:6, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Couldn’t even get the VA doctor to talk about anger.

Anyway, the point is, I have joy in my life despite the depression. I have a wonderful wife. Incredible kids. I’m about to finish my bachelor’s degree. I have great friends. Even though I’m unemployed, I’ve had some really great opportunities to go do things, meet people, and experience lots of cool stuff. Just in the last 18 months I’ve been able to be a part of the work done by a number of incredible ministries like YoungLife, Inca Link, World Vision, MudLove, and more. Later this year I hope to take my youngest daughter on a mission trip to Moldova with Operation Mobilisation.

I may not smile all the time. Life’s going to be hard, but through all of this I have learned a few things. The obvious lesson, of course, is that God is always there. Another, perhaps not as obvious lesson, is that happiness and joy are two different things. It’s possible to have depression issues and still experience and have joy in your life. Finally, that there are people out there willing to listen when things get hard. Please, please, if you are having serious problems with depression, turn to a friend or find one of the many help lines out there.