Let's be real. Life can be really tough. It can be so good, but it can be incredibly tough.
Some trials come and go. We face them, defeat them, and have a lesson learned that lasts for the rest of our lives. But some trials never seem to end. For some of us, we endure our trials day in and day out. These permanent trials can be excruciatingly overwhelming.
It's hard to really remember when my depression began. Trying to sort back through my childhood, I can't really pinpoint an exact time. Mostly, I just feel like it's always been there, and then my anxiety came along during adolescence.
So, while I don't exactly know when my depression started, I do remember when I was diagnosed and when I realized it would never go away. I remember being 18, and finally seeking professional help. I had gone to the university's psychologist for counseling and help with my eating disorder. She asked me to first fill out a detailed questionnaire first. When I had finished, the therapist went over my answers with me. I had depression. I mean, I kind of knew that, but I hadn't realized how bad it was until she was going over that questionnaire with me.
You mean, most people don't struggle just to get out of bed in the morning? Most people don't cry themselves to sleep most nights? Most people don't feel like a raw, jagged hole has been burrowed through them? Most people don't have ways of punishing themselves? Most people don't fantasize scenarios in which their life could end? That's not normal? Oh, I'm not normal.
I sat there for 2 hours with the therapist as we went over some coping strategies, and then the psychiatrist prescribed me a medication. I remember him saying, "Hopefully with time and finding the right medications, this will help. You will probably always need medication to help you."
It's hard to explain. There is definitely a huge difference between being on medicine and trying to survive without it, but it more just takes the edge off. It can't cure you. It can't make you happy and satisfied all the time. It helps, but you still have depression. And this goes for all mental illness.
So, what do you do when your trial is lifelong and there is no end in sight? What's the point?
I've been thinking about this a lot. Whether the trial is a mental illness, an incurable disease, or a physical ailment: how do you learn from a trial that you'll never overcome in this life?
I don't know all the answers. I don't know why some people seem to have it harder than others. I don't know why some trials are brief and some are for a lifetime. Here's what I do know...
I know that every single person endures trials in their life. Everyone. Do not be fooled by the glamour of social media that makes you believe that someone else's life is perfect. Many trials are invisible to others. And what may be a trial for some, may not be a problem for others.
I know that God loves each and every one of His children. I know that His love is always present, especially during times of great difficulty. My depression is not a punishment from God. I did nothing wrong that warranted Him giving me depression as a curse. God wants us to learn, to grow, to become enlightened. We could never accomplish that without trials and tests. God must allow us to suffer difficulties, but He never makes us suffer alone. We can seek Him in our trials. We can pray for comfort and guidance, even if the trial cannot end. We, like Christ, can pray, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." And, like Christ, in the event that our cup cannot be removed, God will send us strength. (Luke 22:42)
I know that our trials are tailored to each of us by God's discernment and love.
Neal A. Maxwell said, "God loves us and, loving us, has placed us here to cope with challenges which he will place before us. I’m not sure we can always understand the implications of his love, because his love will call us at times to do things we may wonder about, and we may be confronted with circumstances we would rather not face. I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularized challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like." He will tailor the trials as well as our strength to rise and meet the challenge, if we will just let Him guide us.
I know that there will be highs and lows. There are times when I can power through, and times when I feel like I might be defeated. But when I lean on the Lord for strength, I manage to make it.
I know that there are blessings even in the worst of trials. When I seek with spiritual eyes I can see blessings even in the darkest times. I am more empathetic towards others. Because I have gone into the darkest abyss, I can more appreciate the light. I am grateful more for little things that bring joy, because I am so grateful to experience it.
I know that our trials have a purpose, a reason, even if we don't know it yet.
So, when the answer to prayerful plea of "remove this cup from me" is "no," keep praying. Pray for peace. Pray for comfort. Pray for understanding. Pray for strength. Pray for help. I can promise you that, while the Lord may not always remove our trials, He will never leave us comfortless.