I did not suffer much growing up. I endured the occasional stomach bug and the less occasional flu. My dog and cat died when I was eleven, but they were old and it was their time. Apart from a few romantic break-ups and getting cut from the varsity soccer team my sophomore year in college, I never felt like what I experienced qualified as suffering. Don’t misunderstand, I could throw a great pity party for myself during setbacks but secretly I knew I had a charmed life.
My first experience with real personal suffering came after my marriage to Marty Walker in 1998. To clarify, I am not throwing my wife under the bus. We have a great marriage. I love my wife. Humanly speaking she is the major source of my joy and sanity. I am referring to the historical context of my first battle with real suffering.
We did not want to have kids right away. During the first year of marriage we committed to simply getting used to life together. But after a year, the desire for children started tugging on our hearts. At first, we started by telling each other that, if she got pregnant we did not mind. If it happened, it happened. Another year passed. It didn’t happen. Every month we grew more disappointed and fearful.
We stopped in a mall bookstore during one of our weekly date nights to glance at books on fertility. We picked one that looked user-friendly and credible. I felt nervous and ashamed walking up to the counter to buy a book that had “INFERTILITY” written in bright red letters across the top. I worried the cashier would flash me the unbearable look intended to communicate sympathy for someone who is damaged goods.
When we returned to our apartment, we read several chapters together. It seemed we met the diagnostic measurements for the label “infertility” which now seemed written in bright red letters on us. We cried together that night.
Over the next couple of days we prayed and talked. We calmed down and decided to get tested. The testing was easy but embarrassing for me. It was hard and painful for Marty. At each stage the doctors told us things looked healthy and normal. That was really good news at first! Then over time, it proved frustrating. We realized that if you cannot identify the problem it’s difficult to know what steps to take to fix it. We felt helpless and hopeless.
We decided to pursue fertility treatments. Doctors told us we were prime candidates for success! We were cautiously hopeful. Marty suffered from side effects of the drugs. Over the long months we grew weary of all the charting, and shots and doctor’s visits especially when the tell tale signs of an empty womb mocked us month after month. We also grew poor. Fertility treatment is expensive. Our job in campus ministry does not offer a high paying salary or the kind of health care plans that cover fertility treatments.
Friends and family members started to announce their own pregnancies. Months later their bundles of joy arrived. Marty’s life was filled attending baby showers for others. She longed for her own shower, but it never came.
When the same friends and family members started to announce their second pregnancies that is when the wheels came off for us emotionally. The label INFERTILITY that I hoped wouldn’t stick seemed adhered with super glue. Somehow I’d crossed a chasm and I no longer believed I had a charmed life. I was angry.
Infertility was my first experience with real personal suffering.
After 4 years Marty and I were exhausted by our struggle with infertility. We wanted to move past the pain. We longed to “get over it” but couldn’t. We were tired of feeling depressed. We were fed up with feeling hurt by people who meant us no harm by their insensitive remarks. We wanted to bury our grief, once and for all, and move forward with the same peace and joy we had before infertility. But we felt powerless to do so.
Breakthrough came around the same time for us both. Nothing had changed in our situation. Marty did not get pregnant. She never has. We had not yet adopted. But, one question lodged in our mind and pierced our hearts. It became the final nail in depression’s coffin.
Is Jesus enough?
As followers of Jesus the question was unavoidable. Its simplicity and directness pierced the hopelessness in our hearts. We could not linger with indecision any longer. Either Jesus was enough or he wasn’t. Period.
If Jesus wasn’t enough we knew it was illogical to continue following him. Jesus did not merely claim to be an insufficient something (simply a prophet, teacher or friend etc.). He claimed to be the all-sufficient everything — “the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). After raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25).
Every Christian must face the same question — “Do you really believe Jesus is enough?”
The day Marty and I yielded and claimed Jesus as enough our depression died and our joy was reborn.
Are you ready to answer that question? The day you are ready to answer it affirmatively is the day you will bury your hopeless grief and deadening depression. The truth is Jesus is more, much more, than enough for you.
Author’s note: If you are wrestling with depression do not appeal to this article as justification for not seeking medical or professional help for your depression. That would be foolish. The fall (Genesis 3) damaged every area of human life including the brain and body. Medicine and treatment can help relieve the “foggy darkness” and help you think clearly and thus hope more fully in Jesus. At the resurrection, Jesus the Great Physician, will heal our minds and bodies completely. We won’t suffer chemical imbalances, tumors, etc. Until then God provides physicians, counselors and pastors as instruments for His healing work.