Words of Hope: Modern Day Pilgrim’s Progress

If you read my Dad’s Words of Hope you will see how much he cared for those going through depression or cancer. Dad struggled with depression, and he understood the tenacious hold depression can have on a life and spirit. He called it the “black box.” I could tell when Dad was struggling in the black box. His tongue would be thick, dry, and heavy in his mouth. He was not himself. There are many reasons Dad struggled with depression—genetics, family history, life circumstances. I think he would also admit that he waited too long before seeking help. He began to feel down and felt he could use willpower to pull himself up into a positive mental attitude. This cycle of effort and shame created a deeper and darker trap. This is so common. How much does our pride, our reliance on our own inner power, our desire to appear perfect drive us deeper into our pain and suffering? 

I believe if my dad could have physically seen the mountain of generational, cultural, behavioral difficulty he was facing, he would have never ventured into this wilderness of depression alone. He faced depression thinking he would overcome it with sheer indomitable will. Instead, it thrashed him around for a few years until, gracefully, he was able to emerge.  

When he discovered he had stage 4 cancer, he knew he could not face the suffering by himself. He needed real mentors, plans, and daily habits in place. He could not approach cancer with the same cavalier attitude he approached depression. In some ways, this was easier than depression. Asking for help to navigate cancer is socially welcomed. Even though depression is a true and biological response to unresolved pain, it still carries shame and secrecy.  

Dad would say he believed his anxiety became depression and his depression became cancer. This of course is not necessarily true. Reasons for cancer can be multitudinous, but through cancer, Dad was able to map out and understand more his earlier slide into depression. He could objectively study his struggle without shame but with hope, curiosity, and wisdom. Dad could even thank God for his journeys into dark places of suffering. I am so proud of the incredible work Dad did to draw closer to God in authentic and true ways. His openness and his transparency help me to see more clearly on my life journey. Dad could say, “Watch out for this bog, this is what tripped me up, take care not to try and solve this alone, and whatever you do, don’t turn away from the One who loves you best.” Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, Dad could identify terrain and challenges in my genetic history, the proclivities that may ensnare me. Dad didn’t try to appear perfect, or to cover up his struggles. I am grateful for his open book to help me on my way.  

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”  

-Proverbs 14:8