Some years ago I wrote a blog post about a book that seemed to be reading me, reaching deep into my soul and mirroring to me what lay there.
Recently, I’ve been reading two more books by the same author (three if you count the lovely devotional study guide), books in which I feel seen, and held, and accompanied. Isn’t that what we all want: to be seen—and seen as beautiful even in our fragility—and loved and accompanied in our journey, no matter how raw and challenging it may be?
The author is Sharon Garlough Brown, the books are Shades of Light and Remember Me, and my favorite thing about them might be the way she manages to portray the beauty and courage as well as the frailty of the main characters who experience depression and anxiety either themselves or as they walk alongside family members or close friends.
Or my favorite thing might be the way Vincent Van Gogh’s phrase, “Companions in misfortune,” echoes through the book, reminding us that though suffering feels painfully lonely, we do not in fact suffer alone. As Wren, wrestling with anxiety and depression, writes in a reminder letter to herself,
“When you get discouraged and feel like there’s no hope, remember that there is a communion of sufferers. And Jesus sits at the center of it.”Shades of Light, p. 328
Or perhaps my favorite thing is how the characters wrestle with many of the hard questions around living with depression: How do we care for others who are hurting while keeping healthy boundaries? Where does the self-focus that is inherent in depression become the selfishness of sin? Where is God in the midst of our own darkness, or when we feel helpless in the face of a loved one’s suffering?
There aren’t easy answers, but there is a communion of sufferers.
And Jesus sits at the center of it.
This, I think, is what we most need to know in those dark places: We are not alone. The place of suffering is shared not just by other humans (though that in itself is gift), but by our God who loves us enough to come and sit with us in those painful places, and carry us through them, leading us into life.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”Psalm 34:18