If you’ve been following my posts about mental health and nutrition, you know that I had to resign my teaching job at the end of January because my bipolar dove into severe depression. Now on the other side of the dark, that season of my life is helping me as I commemorate Good Friday. 

My personal Hell descended September, 2014, through January, 2015. Depression is like a demon that manipulates your body and your mind, wreaking havoc completely and without warning. The nightmares. The 11 hours of sleep from which you stir slowly and miserably, no more rested than when you laid down. The mood and energy swings. The panic attacks and obsessive thoughts. 5 months. 5 cold, tense, listless, exhausted months.

Depression was “my black shroud,” as Sufjan Stevens sings in his new album Carrie & Lowell. Stevens wrote the music as he grieved over the death of his mother. I’ve been looping Carrie & Lowell on Spotify today, thinking about my friend Karissa and others I know who have lost loved ones. Our church’s prayer alert this morning was full of death and sickness and suffering. Our black shrouds may be different, but the time comes when they drape each of us.  We all suffer. We all grieve.

I feel the weight of Death afresh as I fall in love with the person of Jesus like never before. Through His conversations with me and others, I feel His strength and care and resolve. Reliving the story of His betrayal and execution makes me ache with emptiness, as if I am losing the truest and most loving friend I ever had.

When I became too sick to attend evening small group, I joined a Women’s Bible study. We take our time to soak in the chapters of John and discuss what we can learn about Jesus and ourselves in each passage. Sharing this experience with other struggling, beautiful sisters helps me to focus on the Scripture and see Jesus’ character with new clarity and affection. I don’t want Him to die.

He brought me closer still through sermon series by Russ Ramsey, a pastor in Overland Park, Kansas. Russ is one of the most gifted storytellers I’ve ever heard and breathes to life the gospel narrative of Jesus’ last days on earth. The theme he repeats throughout the series is that “no one took Jesus’ life from Him, but He laid it down of His own accord. He had authority to lay it down, and authority to take it up again on the third day.” Jesus did what no other man could do, what no man who loved Him wanted of Him. He was forsaken, stricken and afflicted more completely than anyone else, ever.

Depression hurts. Death stings. Tomorrow, I’ll wear black and join my church family across the street as we host a memorial service. We gather to remember. Remember His life on earth, remember His love for us, remember what we cost Him.

(You can hear Russ’ sermons at http://www.rabbitroom.com/podcasts/page/9/. “Hosanna” is the first sermon in the series. Click backwards on the pages to hear the subsequent episodes.)