What did you expect when you found yourself expecting?*
Years ago, I imagined motherhood would be full of joyous milestones and memorable moments. What I didn’t expect was so much hurt, heartbreak, conflict, and disappointment. I’ve often felt clueless and incapable. I’ve beaten myself up for not being the mother I thought I should be—the kind of Christian woman who can handle whatever comes her way with pep in her step and a smile on her face. That’s one of the reasons that I wrote this book. I wanted to debunk the notion that faithful believers never groan as they wearily plod through the miserable muck of life. God knows they do. Frequently.
Although much of what I share in these pages is relevant to suffering saints in general, I offer Midnight Mercies specifically to depressed mothers because there are so few biblical resources that give voice to their experiences of despair. Suicide attempts among pregnant and postpartum women are a real and pressing issue. That “mommy needs wine” to cope with stress and sorrow has become a highly marketable and socially acceptable message in the United States—even among professing Christians. As a mother whose story includes suicidal ideations and alcohol use in depression, I want to bear witness to Christ’s light in the dark night of the soul.
Depression is no respecter of persons—moms of all ages and stages can find themselves walking through a season of unexpected and lingering misery. So if you’re a Christian mother whose world has gone dark, and you feel guilty or ashamed that you can’t figure out how to turn the lights back on again, I pray that the Lord will use this book to lift that burden off your back. Let’s not focus on how you think you “should” be feeling right now. Instead, let’s start by giving voice to the hurt in your heart.
Maybe today it feels like you’re being forced to bear up under the impossible. Maybe you feel so utterly burdened beyond your strength that you despair of life itself. Or maybe you just feel sad and disheartened by the trouble and disappointments you’ve faced as of late. It’s okay to admit where you are right now. It’s much more helpful to be honest than to pretend that life isn’t hard for you today. The sorrow, pain, and confusion you’re going through are hard—you are suffering.
Maybe your groans sound like these:
I’m misunderstood and mishandled by others.
If only I was different, I’d be worthy of love.
If God was good, I wouldn’t be suffering.
I’m a failure and a burden to my family.
No matter what I do, nothing changes.
I feel like I’m praying to a brick wall.
I feel unwanted, unseen, and unclean.
My sorrow has swallowed me whole.
My life has no meaning or purpose.
I should be doing better than this.
I’ve forgotten what happiness is.
I can’t live like this anymore.
I must not be saved after all.
Life will never be different.
God is disappointed in me.
I’m at the end of my rope.
I’ve ruined everything.
The future is bleak.
There’s no hope.
I know I’ve groaned each one of these statements before. Sometimes silently with a stiff upper lip. Other times with red cheeks and a roar of rage
Although you too may identify with some (or all) of these statements, what can be harder to identify are the emotions that underwrite them. You may look at these words and conclude, “I’m depressed”—and that’s not an incorrect phrase to describe how you’re feeling. But the word depression is a term that encapsulates a multifaceted human experience. This means that much more could be said to describe what it feels like to be you today. Maybe you’re feeling hopeless, or weary, or sad. Maybe you’re angry, or anxious, or ashamed. Maybe you’re feeling lonely or some muddled combination of the entire lot.
Because depression skews our perception and interpretation of reality, it can be difficult for us to see ourselves rightly or describe our experiences accurately. But with God’s help, acknowledged emotions can become more manageable emotions. Thus, I’d like to help you to connect your groans to someone who went through a similar experience and consider if their groans reveal something meaningful about your own. I’ll do this by sharing my own story, as well as composite characters based on real people and their real experiences that give us glimpses into the lives of mothers in the throes of despondency. More important, I’ll focus on unpacking biblical narratives that provide a big-picture view of how God mercifully engages desperate people. By selecting key stories—ones that depict raw and relatable moments of human distress—I hope to bring you comfort for your journey and counsel for your next steps.
As you read the stories that follow, you may be tempted to think you have it easier than those who are walking through “more severe” suffering. But I want to caution you against this comparison trap. Just because it could be worse for you doesn’t mean it isn’t hard for you. And what’s hard for you specifically—be it a trial, trouble, or temptation—is a real affliction that has God’s focused attention. If it burdens your spirit, it burdens him. Because Jesus loves you and cares about the war waging within you, don’t discount the difficulty of your problems by comparing them to someone else’s (1 Peter 5:7).
You’ll see that I often make summary statements—just like the one in the paragraph above—that reference specific Scripture verses or passages. I encourage you to look up these parenthetical references. If it’s too cumbersome to search for them as you read, consider revisiting them as fuel for personal devotions.
Sister, there are no new problems under the sun. Although no two experiences of depression are exactly alike, despondency is a distinctly human problem. Though the path through this darkness is daunting, it’s also well-traveled. Generations past have made it through, and out, and, by the grace of God, up. It’s true. The “huge cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) includes despondent believers who made it through the dark, and out of the dark, and up from the dark alive. The light of life came to them in time. And by God’s midnight mercies, it will come to you too.
You’re going to make it. You’ll see.
“And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16 ESV)
*This post features the complete introduction from Christine’s new book, Midnight Mercies: Walking with God through Depression in Motherhood, published here with permission from P&R Publishing.