Bitter cold air robs any desire to move beyond the blankets. Projects and dishes and showers become burdensome, each requiring too much effort. Thoughts swirling like snow slowly covering the grass, millions of flakes of worry and fear too tiny to grasp. Melting, landing, blending into all the others before we can arrange, analyze, construct a snowman of goals. Depression feels like the blankets, enticing, chanting “stay here where it is safe and comforting.” The mantra is soft at first, little whispers of winter winds, left unattended become howls that blow away all other voices. The joy of sparkling snow, the delight of beasts romping, winter birds persisting in the chill, all lost in a cloud of despair .
My mental health background ensures I understand the biology of depression, I know warning signs and when treatment should be sought. Sometimes I wonder though if this affliction isn’t straight from the devil, an evil concoction that stops us from being who God asks us to be. The lies of depression, that we can’t, we aren’t, no one cares, don’t even try, nothing our God would have us believe. The work of pure evil, the theft of hope. Ugly voices drown out what we know, what we trust until lies become truth, fear overcomes faith. Stuck in a chair, under blankets, we no longer feed the birds, barely ourselves.
I can’t help thinking about those winter birds who still seek food and find it. They don’t go hungry. I don’t ever see piles of starving birds left neglected, frozen, forgotten. What is the purpose of birds really? How many do you actually notice each day? They surround us, always fluttering on the edges of our view. The bible tells us this:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …Matthew 6:25-35
Winter birds in the cold Indiana snow may find some berries but depend on our feeders each day, the sight of suet draws them in, tells them God is providing. I can’t sit in my chair and wait for God to carry a bucket of seed out each morning, He has entrusted me to have a heart for the feathered ones among us, to see the hungry and take action. I am rewarded with chirps and colors to brighten the dim January view, I draw new air into my lungs, I am refreshed from completing the task and move to the next. One step becomes two. Feed another creature, hear a song, the lying voices grow fainter.
Depression needs inaction, requires all of our attention in order to be sustained. Any movement, one goal set, a bird feeder restocked, strikes a blow to despondency. A good day of activity does not bring a cure though, the night comes, another morning to be faced. Quieting the discouraging voice again seems impossible. Like a swallow or a crane I chirp; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety! Isaiah 38:14 We forget we are not alone, another lie we believe. The birds do not come to the feeders one by one, they sing to the flock that they have found sustenance, they bring friends along and share the good news.
This is how we combat depression, surely with medication when needed, but leaving the safety of the nest and trusting everyday that God will provide His infinite wisdom. Someone will fill us with enough, someone will listen to the Word of God and see the joy hidden in our breast, the delicate wings that can lift us to soar again, someone will see. Most often that someone is us. Ultimately it has to be. Mornings are tough but that is when the birds sing the loudest.
May you see the joy in you today and find your own worth to be enough. May you know you were created for more than sheltering, you are meant to fly. May the voice of the Most High speak louder, clearer, entice you to sing your own song. May you rise up today and trust the truth of God. He will provide, you just have to leave the nest.