I remember what it felt like to be in the middle of the struggle with depression. I remember wondering how in the world I was going to be able to endure this intense struggle for the rest of my life. I could barely think about the next week and how I could climb through the hurdles of a few days, let alone years and years.
I also remember occasionally having very distinct impressions that this struggle had a purpose and that there would be something in the future that would help me to understand the purpose in my fight with the depression monster. I had a hard time believing it. After all, during the most difficult times of the fight all I could do was just move to the next moment, the next hour, the next day.
Yesterday I read a story that captures a very defining understanding in my life. Unbeknownst to me while I was battling a 12-year monster, I was being prepared for what I am doing right now–planting seeds of hope for those battling the monster. And so, the battle of many years ago gave way to fanning the flame–the flame of hope, the flame of a purpose in the struggle, the flame of something greater at work…
The story I read goes like this: a young college student was studying medicine. It was his greatest desire to help other people, to save lives. In the midst of his studies, he had to undergo a heart operation…which meant he had to drop out of school as well as accumulate massive amounts of debt in order to pay doctor bills. For years he battled the disappointment of not becoming a doctor. He felt like a failure because he was not doing what he really thought he could only do by becoming a doctor. Instead, he became president of a company that made medical devices.
This man and his wife had a young son, an only child, the light of their lives. He was only six years old when he became ill and it was discovered that he had the same heart defect that his father had. Long story short, the father had a dream about how to construct a heart valve that could save his son’s life–and thousands of people thereafter. It was brilliant, it was inspired, there was a purpose. The valve was placed in the young boy. The doctor was extremely hopeful and awed by the process of the development of the valve. The doctor and the father had been friends since medical school. While the father was irritated that he could have been the doctor to operate on his son and possibly save his life, the doctor friend pointed out that because he was not the doctor he was actually in a position to develop the valve that saved his son’s life.
Sometimes it’s easy to believe that life’s challenges derail us from doing or being what or who we really want to be. The father in the story really believed that he had failed because circumstances caused him to leave medical school and follow a different path. For a very long time he believed that he was not living true to who he really wanted to be. The irony is that his challenges prepared him to be in a position to save his son’s life–years and years later.
I will always remember the times during my fight when I thought, “This is not me. Who am I turning into? Something is so wrong. I just know this isn’t me…” I thought the depression was keeping me from doing what I really wanted to do…
The key to recognize is that your challenge has a purpose–a purpose that has yet to unfold. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. You are being prepared for something…
(first published Dec 28, 2014)