The question “How are you?” has morphed into a shallow greeting not meant to elicit an honest response. Those who do wish for an honest response have to probe further to uncover the mysteries that lie beneath the masks. Perhaps the more appropriate question to ask would be “How is your soul?”
If I am honest with myself, my likely answer to that question is “My soul is groaning.” I can tell you what my daily stressors are and why my life is hard, but that barely scratches the surface. Beneath the top soil of my heart lies the tough clay surrounding the root of my struggles, which sometimes not even I can define. Words are not sufficient to describe my feelings, my yearning for something I do not know how to find. And often this translates to depression.
I do not deny that chronic depression is an illness, a chemical imbalance of the brain that should be addressed. It is a battle I have fought for many years. Those who wrestle with depression feel differently from those who do not, even if it entails periods of numbness. There is a depth to the darkness that lasts indefinitely, casting a spell of fog upon those who experience that darkness. One could even argue that those who are depressed feel more deeply in certain ways. But suppose this is not a bad thing? Suppose we looked at depression from a different lens?
What if depression is not merely an illness, but a deeper realization of what it means to groan for eternity? That my soul longs for an unearthly love not yet realized? The material woes and issues of this life are but a thumbnail of a bigger picture which has yet to be revealed. A rocky relationship may propel me to fear that I am not loved and will therefore be alone. A dwindling bank account may scare me into thinking I will not be provided for.
Often we realize and express these anxieties only on the surface level, hoping that if we could just make more money or get along better in a relationship that our problems will be solved. We cling to these tangible issues because they are the some of the only ways we know how to express the deeper feelings of our hearts.
Truthfully, solving the issues on the surface may make life more convenient, but it will not satisfy the underlying ache that permeates the very fibers of my being. To place my hope of fulfillment on my surface saviors is a burden none of them were built to bear.
Many who aware of their deeper feelings have come to this realization, that nothing on this earth can fully meet their most intimate needs. As a result, people have ended their lives as a sign of giving up on this world, longing for a sense of relief and rest. They are right to realize the emptiness of life, but as most therapists will say, suicide is not the answer. What is has been debated over centuries, because this life as we know it is simply too limited for us to completely understand the human spirit. This much is clear: we are meant for something greater; what that entails remains to be discovered.