Exciting Announcement and New Blog Series

2020 with snow background
Happy New Year 2020!

Welcome to my first blog post of the year. And since this is January 6, Happy Epiphany/Dia de los Reyes (whichever term you prefer).

I have an exciting announcement. The original version called Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain, won the Nonfiction Category in Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published Ebook Awards. I’m still almost in shock. I say “original version” because I did some tweaking to it. The main reason for changes was I needed to add more material to make it viable as a print book. So even if you have a paperback, it’s the same material as the award-winner and more. I would recommend waiting until Tuesday, January 7, to order a copy, because that is when the “award-winning deluxe” version will be available.

There are four passages in Isaiah called the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.” I used these in two of my four principles for recovery. I’ve found the Suffering Servant to be a great source of comfort, so that seems like a good place to pick up the blog.

But Isaiah is a long, complicated text, written over a period of more than two hundred years. So first, you should have a good overview of when, how, why, and to whom it was written. This is called context, by the way, which is pretty important anytime you do anything with the Bible.

Three Isaiahs?

Experts generally divide Isaiah into three sections.

  • First Isaiah: Chapters 1-39. Before and after the fall of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) to Assyria, ca. 738-687 BC
  • Second Isaiah: Chapters 40-55. Near the end of Exile of the Jews, ca. 545-539 BC.
  • Third Isaiah: Chapters 56-66. After the return to Jerusalem, ca. 520-515 BC.

You won’t see these divisions in the Bible text itself. However, differences in tone, language, and references indicate each of these sections was written in different historical circumstances. If you are used to just reading the Bible without referring to the historical background, this may sound confusing, or you might think we are making it unnecessarily complicated. “The Bible doesn’t mention First, Second, and Third Isaiah. It’s just called the book of Isaiah.”

I understand why you might object to this. But I’ll say there are very good reasons for this “three Isaiahs” theory that come from the text of Isaiah, along with just basic knowledge of what was happening in Israel and Judah between the eighth and sixth centuries BC. Hopefully, that will become clearer as I walk you through it.

And yes, while this is fun for me, I know I’m in the minority. So believe me when I say I wouldn’t drag you through this preliminary history and textual analysis if I didn’t really believe it was necessary to understand not only the message but the comfort the songs of the Suffering Servant can offer. So, I’ll try to make it as interesting as I can. And I promise, it will not be a waste of time. So if you’re ready, let’s dive in.

The songs of the Suffering Servant all come from Second Isaiah, but I think it’s important to understand First Isaiah to get the full impact of it.

First Isaiah: What You Need to Know

As I said, First Isaiah refers to chapters 1-39 of “the book of Isaiah.” He said he received his call to be a prophet in the year king Uzziah died, about 738 BC (Isa 6). He continued to prophesy and write until about 700 or 687 BC, depending on the date of his last word to the king Hezekiah. This entire time, the nations of Israel and Judah were in crisis because of the Assyrian empire. Isaiah’s message to both nations was, repent of your injustice and unrighteousness, or God is going to send Assyria as the hand of judgment.

Assyria was the hyperpower of its day. They built a juggernaut of an army that no one could stand against. They conquered all the land of Mesopotamia, then turned their attention toward the land of Canaan. The nation of Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BC. After this, Isaiah’s warnings to the nation of Judah became more urgent. Repent of your injustice and unrighteousness, or you will be next on Assyria’s list of conquered cities and nations. The people didn’t listen until Hezekiah took the throne. He was known as a righteous king.

Even under Hezekiah, Assyria wreaked havoc through Judah. Isaiah warned them they would, but with one caveat: Because of God’s covenant with David, they would not take the city of Jerusalem (2 Sam 7:1-17). Isaiah proved right on both counts. Assyrian records said they took forty-six cities from Judah. When they got to Jerusalem, they laid siege like they had to hundreds of cities before. Until then, the result was always the same. The city fell, its treasures were plundered and sent back to the capital city, Nineveh, and the people were either slaughtered, tortured, enslaved, and/or exiled. The people within the walls of Jerusalem thought the same would happen to them, but Isaiah’s word proved true. The Assyrian army left with the city of Jerusalem still fully intact.

After First Isaiah

Now how do you think the people of Jerusalem responded to this remarkable salvation? They were probably grateful at first. But it didn’t take long for them to become arrogant. “This is the Temple of the LORD,” they said of the great structure Solomon had built over 200 years before. “No one can touch us, because this is where God has chosen to dwell on earth. Not even Assyria can stand before our God.”

Even the righteous king Hezekiah became so arrogant he foolishly showed all the treasures of the city, the palace, and the Temple to the king of Babylon. Chances are, said Babylonian king recorded them in the archives, so about 150 years later, king Nebuchadnezzar knew exactly where to find all the riches when he took the city.

In the meantime, people all over the Assyrian empire got sick of living under their iron boot. Assyria constantly had to put down rebellions throughout their territory in Whack-a-Mole fashion. No matter how brutal they were in crushing rebellions, they could not stop people from rising up to throw off their yoke.

Finally, in 612 BC, an alliance of Medes and Babylonians overthrew the capital Nineveh, and with it, the territory of the Assyrian empire became ripe pickings for the neo-Babylonian empire. No Jew shed any tears over Nineveh, that’s for sure. That is, except for the prophets who knew what would follow.

The Unthinkable Happens

Jerusalem, the chosen city, the one with the Temple of the LORD, the city God had chosen for his name to dwell on earth, the city even the king of Assyria could not conquer because of God’s presence there, fell to king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The immortal, impregnable, indomitable city of David, was conquered, torn down, and plundered. Even the Temple, with its great and huge stones, was torn down so not one stone was left standing on another. Its gold, silver, and bronze furnishings were all brought back to Babylon in about 587/86 BC. And the people were sent into exile, mostly to the city of Babylon.

If Isaiah had been alive at this time, the people probably would have said, “WTF, Isaiah? You said this couldn’t happen!” But Isaiah’s word concerning Jerusalem was for Isaiah’s time. The prophets of their time, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, warned them in stark terms, “Do NOT think God will save you this time. You have not repented of your unjust and unrighteous ways. Do not think the Temple of the LORD will save you. God has removed his glory from that place.” Even with his high view of Zionist theology, Isaiah probably would have said the same thing.

Second Isaiah

Like many other prophets, Isaiah had a school where he taught others to receive messages from God as a prophet. The school likely continued after his death. Over the years, they preserved his writings and teachings. They may have continued to write in his name. This was actually common in the ancient world. Students of a particular school, if they had mastered the founder’s teachings, might write new documents in his name.

Around 545 BC, there was a new major player on the world scene. Cyrus, king of Persia, looked like someone who could challenge the might of Babylon. As he racked up victories on the battlefield, a new hope arose for the Jews in exile, because unlike the Assyrians and Babylonians before, he acted with justice and righteousness.

In about 539/8 BC, he conquered the city of Babylon, and all of Babylon’s territory became part of the Persian empire. Two things are remarkable about Cyrus’s victory. One, the people of Babylon opened the gates for him, so he took the city without bloodshed. Two, one of the students of Isaiah’s school predicted his rise to power.

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him– and the gates shall not be closed:  

I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 

For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

(Isa 45:1-6 NRS)

This is Second Isaiah, responsible for chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah. He appears to have written between 545-539 BC, before Cyrus’s ultimate victory over Babylon. Second Isaiah predicted Cyrus would succeed in taking over the Babylonian empire, because the LORD had chosen him to rule and to free Israel, God’s chosen. He also predicted Cyrus would allow the Jews in exile to return to Jerusalem. And so his chapters are filled with hope and anticipation. “It won’t be long now. We will go home, thanks to our God and his chosen one, Cyrus.”

When the LORD Restored the Fortunes of Zion …

I have taken you on this brief journey back in time in the hopes that you could have some sense of how dreamlike it was to the Jews in Exile when the student of Isaiah told them they would return to their ancestral home of Jerusalem. The sense they had of being God’s chosen people and nation had burned down with their beloved city. For decades, the Babylonians had mocked them, saying, “Where is your God?” and they had no answer.

Now, God is promising deliverance through a foreigner named Cyrus, and they are seeing it come true. City after city either falls or surrenders to him. God calls him his “anointed,” like David. God calls him by name, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is all so strange. They are not used to hearing God talk like this about a Gentile king. And yet, if this was how God chose to deliver them from Exile, I don’t think any of them would have complained.

Comparing First and Second Isaiah

When you read First Isaiah, there is a strong sense of looming judgment. And it was no mystery how it would come. Assyria would steamroll them like they had everyone else. Though there is hope in Isaiah, it’s mostly directed toward a future king, a Messiah, who would execute justice and righteousness for the people (Isa 9:1-7; 11:1-9). At times, it seems Isaiah believed the Jews’ present king, Hezekiah, could have been that Messiah. But for the present, he is mostly gloom and doom. Repent! Judgment is coming! Repent! Judgment is coming!

Right from the beginning, he says,

Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil, children who deal corruptly, who have forsaken the LORD, who have despised the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged!

(Isa 1:2-4 NRS)

What is the result?

Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.

(Isa 1:7 NRS)

Why has judgment come?

How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her– but now murderers! … Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them.

 (Isa 1:21, 23 NRS)

That’s a small sampling, but it tells you mostly what you need to know about why God is angry, and why judgment has come for Israel and is coming for Judah.

… he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry [of distress]!

(Isa 5:7 NRS)

But later, when you turn the page to chapter 40, suddenly the tone is entirely different.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

 (Isa 40:1-2 NRS)

That is the tone through most of Second Isaiah. The thrust of First Isaiah is judgment is coming. The thrust of Second Isaiah is judgment is over. First Isaiah makes sense when there is an enemy like Assyria, looking at them like a wolf licking its chops. Second Isaiah makes sense only after they have received their punishment. Now, God says Jerusalem has received double for all her sins. Their debt is paid in full. There is nothing to prevent them from returning home to Zion. He goes on to say,

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

 (Isa 40:4-5 NRS)

God will clear the way home for them. They had just been through the longest, darkest night in their history since the period of slavery in Egypt, and they were about to come out of it.

The Dark Night of the Soul Is Over

I don’t know where you are in your journey. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you finally see yourself coming out of your own dark night of the soul, like the Jews when Cyrus conquered Babylon. Maybe you are still so deep in darkness you can’t see the deliverance yet. I was there just a few years ago myself, but I can see it now. There were many years when the Jews thought they were stuck in Babylon with no way home. So don’t give up. Sometimes it’s just about living long enough for your work to start bearing fruit.

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

 (Psa 126:1-2 NRS)

Now that you have the background, next week I’ll talk about the songs of the Suffering Servant and what they mean in the context of Second Isaiah and recovery.

Translation Notes

וַיְקַ֤ו לְמִשְׁפָּט֙ וְהִנֵּ֣ה מִשְׂפָּ֔ח לִצְדָקָ֖ה וְהִנֵּ֥ה צְעָקָֽה׃ ס

 (Isa 5:7 WTT)

… [God] expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! (Isa 5:7 NRS)

There is a pun in the Hebrew text not apparent in any English translation. The word for justice here (as in most cases throughout the Hebrew Bible) is mishpat. It carries with it the same meanings as in English. Justice, as in the justice system and its execution through legal process. Justice in a more conceptual sense of fairness and equality. It can also refer to following established customs and procedures. In this context, it is a synonym for “righteousness.”

The word for “bloodshed” is mishpach. Halladay’s lexicon defines it as “a breach of law,” so it is the opposite of mishpat. BDB defines it as an “outpouring (of blood), bloodshed,” the inevitable result when a society abandons mishpat. So to show the pun, I’ll say it like this.

He expected mishpat, but saw mishpach

The word for “righteousness,” here as in most places in the Hebrew Bible, is tzedakah. It can mean right behavior in general, honesty, integrity, or doing the right thing. It is often paired with mishpat (as in this verse), making it a synonym for justice. In the plural, it often refers to acts of generosity. The box in the Temple for collecting donations for the poor (Mark 12:41-44) was called a tzedakah box, and they are still found in synagogues today.

The word for “a cry” is tze`akah. Halladay’s lexicon defines it as a “cry of wailing, call for help.” It is the same word God used when God told Moses the cry of the Israelites living under slavery in Egypt had reached God’s ears (Exo 3:7). So Isaiah is charging the nations of Israel and Judah with being just as oppressive to the poor, the slave, the widow, the orphan, the stranger and alien as Egypt was to them. So again to show the pun,

… [God expected] tzedakah, but heard tze`akah.

Book Fairs–My First Time as an Author

My character study on Abraham is finished. I really learned a lot from it. The approach I took was trying to understand what his stories meant to the author and who they were originally written for. There were a lot of surprises, even for a lifelong student of the Bible like me. I gathered a lot of material that I think will make fodder for publication in magazines or maybe a book.

But now the question is, as far as my blog is concerned, what’s next? This week, it wasn’t hard, because I had my first book signing on December 7. (But I’m already worried about next week). The Anderson County Public Library held an event called the Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair. I’m pretty sure it’s an annual event, too, so I plan to come back next year.

David Anderson at the Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair
At the Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair at Anderson County Public Library

If you haven’t had a book signing yet (or wonder what it’s like for authors), here is how it came together.

Behind the Scenes

From one of my writing groups, I got an email notice about a book fair at a local public library highlighting local authors, book crafters, and publishers. I wanted to get in on it, so I went to the website and filled out the application. The organizer noticed my book was only listed for Kindle and asked if I had any print books to show. I said I would by the date of the fair.

I talked some about the trials involved with that in my last newsletter. To recap:

  • I uploaded the cover to KDP and the formatted manuscript for my print-on-demand (POD) paperback. I tried to link it to the Kindle version already on Amazon’s website.
  • The paperback and Kindle versions were supposed to link together on the sales page, but they weren’t. They linked my paperback to another author named David Anderson.
  • Once that was straight, I ordered three proof copies to be sure they were ready for sale. After days past the delivery date, they still had not arrived.

Later in November, I checked the tracking. The last place it was known was somewhere in Ohio. I’m in South Carolina. Maybe that was the other David Anderson. The date for the book fair was coming up. I didn’t have time to check, so I ordered twenty author copies (without the benefit of seeing proofs first) and prayed for the best. They arrived November 27, and they looked great (thank God!). I had the paperbacks I needed to have a table at the fair.

A couple of people stop at my book table
A couple of people stopped by. I’m not really as worried as I look.

One author and friend who has self-published for years saw my matte book cover and asked how I did it. I told him I published through KDP. They give you a choice of glossy or matte. He wants matte covers because they don’t show fingerprints. But he’s been using Lulu, and that’s not an option with them. I think matte is the default option with KDP. I didn’t really know what I wanted, so I went with it. He confirmed to me I made the right choice.

A view of the front and back cover
I was pleased with how the front and back cover looked. I may have convinced my friend to switch to KDP.

It was fun. I got to meet potential readers, other like minded authors, and a couple of local publishers. My wife helped me with the table décor. It looked a lot better with her touch.

part of our display, two candles on a bamboo roll out mat and some mints
The mints, the candles, the sheer black table cloth made the table more welcoming.

I got to talk about the book with several people. The paperback is available on Amazon for $6.99. I told people it’s $7, or only $5 if they sign up for my email list. Some looked at me skeptically like, “I’m on to you.” But they signed up anyway.

I went around to meet some of the other folks. Several authors from the Foothills Writers Guild were there. I took a few photos of my favorite displays. Maybe they will give me and my wife some ideas for the future.

That doll is Shirley Temple, who stars in Kathryn’s mystery novels.
…and coffee lover.
…and fellow Foothills Writers Guild member

Next Event

There’s another book signing coming up at McDowell’s Emporium, one of our local independent bookstores, on December 21. Events like this are great for getting out there. I could not have done a book signing by myself. People only come out for one author if they already know and love. Steven King or Danielle Steele could do book signings by themselves and draw hundreds of people. Until we reach that level, I think we’re better off joining in fairs and events with multiple authors.

Authors, book crafters, and publishers at the fair
Not sure we got everyone but the library photographers probably did.

What are your opinions about book fairs and book signings? Leave a comment below.

holding my box of author copies

My First Book Signing!!

Story Lines Author and Small Press Fair, Anderson, South Carolina.

Saturday, December 7, 2019, 1:00-4:00 PM.

Anderson Main Library
300 N McDuffie St
Anderson, SC 29621

I rarely use exclamation points, but an author’s first book signing is a big deal (for him/her, at least). I will be at the Anderson County Public Library this Saturday along with other local authors and book publishers. My author copies of Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain came in just in time.

holding my box of author copies
Arrived and ready for book signing on Dec. 7!!

The paperback may be unavailable for a few days online. Go ahead and check, but just in case it’s not there, check again in a couple of days. I’m working out a few kinks, not in the book itself but in the distribution. But they will be available at the book signing. So if you’re in the Anderson area on Saturday, come by and meet not only me but other local authors and publishers.

Last Day Free & Excerpt

My latest Kindle ebook, Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain, is still available for free, but only for today. Here is another except. This is a chapter that exposes the voice a clinically depressed person is likely to hear in their brain. Understanding this voice is, I believe, is the most important factor in recovering from depression.

If you want the book, this is the last day you can get it for free.

The Voice…That No One Wants To Hear

Posted October 28, 2016

Do you have a voice in your head? If you have clinical depression, you probably do. A lot of people claim they don’t. In fact, they think hearing voices is a sign of mental illness. Personally, I don’t believe them. I think everyone has a voice or even voices in their heads. And those who say they don’t are either lying or in denial. Then again, I’ve already admitted to having a mental illness, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask.

I don’t know how the voices in normal brains talk. However, if you have clinical depression, that voice in your head is your worst enemy. It’s the opposite of a motivational speaker. It tries to convince you you’re worthless and no good to anyone. If you pray or try to live by faith, the Voice tries to convince you the reason your life sucks is God is against you, not for you. “God hates me. God has given up on me, and I don’t blame Him. I’m like the tree that bore no fruit, so God has cut me off. I’m cursed. And there is no God anyway, so why do I care?”

If you know that voice, let me tell you something it doesn’t want you to know. That voice is a liar. This is not something I believe. I know it. Let me tell you how.

Medication And The Voice In My Head

Taking medication for depression is still controversial for some people of faith. When a psychiatrist first recommended it for me, I had some reservations. However, he had just told me I tested high for depression in every possible way, so I took his advice. Sometimes I have wondered if it was really working, especially at times when I have been sad, moody, anxious, just fill in the blank with any negative emotion.

I can still say, though, that medication does make a difference for me. I know because a couple of times I have changed medications. When you change from one antidepressant (AD) medication to another, you first have to wean yourself off of your current med. That usually lasts two to four weeks. Then you can start the new one. It can take several days for the new medication to start taking effect. During that transition, those depressed thoughts you had forgotten about can come back, along with other possible side effects.

The first time I switched medications, I had suicidal thoughts. I can’t say it was the first time (for suicidal thoughts, I mean), but it was more frequent and intense than ever. Is the new med not working? I wondered.

My doctor said it was a low dose and suggested trying a “medium” dose. Within a few days, the suicidal thoughts stopped. That medium dose worked for me. But without talking to my doctor, I might have thought it was the wrong medication.

The second time I switched meds was more recent. Bad thoughts came but in a different way. Instead of feeling depressed in the way we usually think of (deep and persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, etc.), it came in a way I had forgotten about: anger. I was angry much of the day. Angry at family and friends over past slights that my balanced brain had forgiven long ago. Angry at people for the downward spiral the world seems to be in. Unreasonably angry. But when the new medicine kicked in, I was back to being happy. And I am proud to say I did not take my anger out on anyone.

The Decision

Why did I not act out my anger or my suicidal thoughts during those times? Before I started transitioning medications, I made a crucial decision. Until I know if the new med is good for me and until I get my brain normalized again with either the new or return to the old, I will not believe that voice in my head.

I got the idea from the movie A Beautiful Mind. Russell Crowe plays Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who was found to be paranoid schizophrenic. He had more than just a voice in his head. He had full-on hallucinations of three people telling him all kinds of conspiracies. When he was diagnosed and got medication, the hallucinations disappeared. However, he was having difficulty with the side effects. He told his wife and doctor he wanted to go off the medication.

But those imaginary people will come back.

Yes, but this time he will know they are not real, and he will absolutely refuse to believe them. It was not easy. Those hallucinations had a life of their own. They tried really hard to convince him to listen to them. But he remained resolute. You are not real. I won’t listen to you. I won’t believe anything you say.

Because of past experience with depression, I knew I needed to reject, ignore, and otherwise neutralize those thoughts temporarily. Let’s review what happened in these two instances.

  1. I stopped one AD medication.
  2. The Voice in my head that fuels my depression went from being a surly kitten to a roaring tiger.
  3. When the new AD medication kicked in, the Voice calmed down, the bad thoughts sunk back to a manageable level, and happy thoughts returned.

What is going on? I’ve talked about the chemical imbalances that exist in a clinically depressed brain. It is a medical condition where your brain does not get normal levels of “happy chemicals,” so the “stress chemicals” overwhelm it. Medication helps your brain produce and absorb more happy chemicals. When your brain chemistry is balanced, your emotional state can get back to normal–in a good way.

The Revelation

That last experience changing meds really drove something home for me. The Voice in my head did not bother me when I was on meds. But when I was in that transition phase, the Voice came back with a vengeance. Now that I am on meds again, the Voice is gone. And that’s when it hit me like a revelation of Biblical proportions:

That voice in my head is the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

If you have that Voice, too, let that sink in. That Voice in your head that tells you, “I’m no good. I’ll never get anything right. I’m a burden to everyone who loves me,” or even worse, “No one loves me. I might as well kill myself.” Or maybe you have that angry voice, like I experienced. And you believe it, don’t you? It is the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

The problem is not so much the voice itself but that we believe it so readily. In thinking about this, I was amazed at how anything we hear inside our head, we just believe it. We don’t question it; we don’t evaluate it. We just accept whatever it says, even when it has no basis in reality.

“Everyone hates me.”

Oh really? There are 7.5 billion people in the world, and every single one of them hates you? Unless you’re Hitler, that’s not possible. Maybe you just meant everyone in your school or in your town. But still, how many people is that, a few hundred? A few thousand? A few hundred thousand or a few million if it’s a major city? How could every one of them hate you? Simple logic should tell you that’s not even possible. But you believe it. Why? Because it comes from your head, so it must be true, right? Wrong!

That Voice Is A Liar

Are you telling me I’m lying to myself?

That’s exactly what I’m telling you! That voice in your head is the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

My angry voice said things to me like, “They always disrespect me. They never listen to me. They’re idiots. They don’t care about me, so screw ‘em all.” (That’s as politely as I can say it). And again, it was the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

And bottom line: Don’t believe a chemically imbalanced brain, even if it’s your own. You’re just as likely to get the truth from a Magic 8-Ball. If it is telling the truth, that’s purely by accident.

{Don’t ask me. I’m a ball.}

I suppose this begs the question, If you can’t believe your own mind, what can you believe? How do you know what the truth is? There is no simple answer to that, and anyone who tells you there is is setting you up for failure. But I will reiterate the four principles I gave you in the introduction.

  1. God is for your recovery and healing, not against it.
  2. God will not kick you when you’re down.
  3. Some kinds of faith are good for recovery, and some are bad. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. With the right help–spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and perhaps medically–you can live a happy and fulfilling life. You just need to learn how to stop your depressed brain from sabotaging it.

That’s all the truth you need for now.

Grace and Peace to You.

P.S. You can download the book to your Kindle device or app with this link.

Book cover-Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Living with the Depressed Brain by David Anderson

Book Excerpt: Dark Nights of the Soul

Book cover-Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Living with the Depressed Brain by David Anderson
Free on Kindle until July 28

I have published an ebook on Kindle. It is available for free through July 27. Since I am self-publishing, I can show you an excerpt without asking the publisher for permission. I am the publisher, and I give myself permission. The book is called Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain. You can use the link to go straight to the page on Amazon to download it.


Depressed Christian, Part 1

There are a lot of misconceptions about depression that prevent people who suffer from getting the help they need. In my own experience, religion sometimes brought healing and comfort when nothing else would, and sometimes it made my depression worse in ways nothing else could. And so I say I am in recovery from two things: depression and bad faith.

The first misconception is thinking depression is only an emotional state. Typically, people say they’re depressed when they are very sad. So depression in this sense is extreme sadness. Anyone can feel depressed after the death of a family member or friend, loss of a job, divorce or breakup, or some tragic event in their lives. This is situational depression.

But depression in the sense I’m talking about is not that kind of sadness. It is a medical condition. It is not something that happens because of life. It is an ongoing condition of the brain. This is clinical depression.

The Depressed Brain

Did you know that your brain processes more than 100,000 chemical reactions every second?[1] Obviously, that is too much to describe in detail here. For most purposes, you just need to know that an important part of this activity involves the production of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. I will refer to them generally as “happy chemicals.” You have happy chemicals and stress chemicals. The brain processes them, but most of them are actually produced in the gut. This is why people with depression or anxiety often have gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses as well.[2] Regardless of where they come from, when your brain does not get normal levels of happy chemicals, the stress chemicals affect your mood. You live in a constant, underlying, and invisible state of depression–even when there is no reason for you to be sad. This kind of depression is a medical condition, not an emotional state where you can just “cheer up” or pray your way out of it.

I did not know any of this until I was professionally tested. The psychiatrist summed up the results like this: “You tested high for depression in every possible way.”

It was one of those moments when I knew my life would never be the same. How I viewed myself, life, the world, God, and everything changed forever with that one sentence. I only felt mildly depressed, and I still tested high in every possible way? I never thought it could be that bad. Yet, as the psychiatrist explained it, I saw how it was not only possible but explained a lot about my whole life.

Clinical depression is not about how you feel at any given moment. It means you need help in creating a healthy level of happy chemicals. Without that help, I walked around numb, moody, temperamental, irritable, and looking angry even when I was not. I isolated myself and either dreaded or loathed social interaction. I thought all kinds of bad thoughts about myself, friends, enemies, family, strangers, the world, God, and life itself. I suffered from anxieties for no good reason. I thought no one understood me, so there was no point in talking to anyone.

Of course, I did not feel that way 24/7. It would have been easier to recognize if I did. I had ups and downs just like everyone, or so I thought. My emotional/mood spectrum felt normal to me because it was the only thing I had ever known. This is what it’s like to live with clinical depression and not know it.

If any of this sounds familiar, especially if you can’t identify any good reason for your sadness, irritability, apathy, or hopelessness, you may be one of the millions of people living with undiagnosed depression of some kind. How do you know for sure? Since it is a medical condition, it needs to be diagnosed by a medical or psychiatric professional (See Appendix B). But if people close to you think you are depressed, even when you don’t, you should seriously consider getting tested. I only got tested because my mother and sister urged me. If they hadn’t, I would still be undiagnosed, still moody and depressed, and still thinking it was normal.

Bad Faith

Clinical depression is not about feeling sad or anxious. It’s about living with a brain that does not get enough happy chemicals. It is very important you understand this, because when religion gets mixed up in depression without understanding what it really is, it creates more problems than it solves. An article on Beliefnet said it well: “As we consider the causes of depression, those of us in the church must face the ways we might be responsible for creating it.”[3]

I’ve experienced some of those ways that church/religion/faith–whatever you want to call spiritual life and practice–can be responsible for creating it or making it a lot worse. I thank God from the depths of my soul that He led me out of that and into a church, faith, and spiritual practice that helps my recovery and healing, rather than beats me down for not having “enough faith,” whatever that means. Because the only thing worse than living for ten years (in my case) in a faith or religion that will only acknowledge “spiritual” causes of depression is living in that kind of faith for ten years…and one day.

A New Mission

What I say next, I don’t say lightly. I’m not the type of person who goes around saying, “God told me this. God told me that. God has called me to do this.” So many times I have heard people say things like that and thought, I bet if I could hear God as well as you claim to, right now I’d hear God saying, “Leave Me out of this!”

It’s not that I believe God does not talk to people. I believe God talks to us all the time, but hearing God is tricky. I’ve learned from hard experience that I don’t hear nearly as well as I would like to. Probably because it’s being filtered through a clinically depressed brain.

With that disclaimer, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I believe God is calling me to help others who are in the same position I was. People who know they are depressed and are trying to be happy. People who don’t know it but have a sense that something is wrong with them. People who think it’s normal because they have lived with depression all their lives. And especially, depressed people who have been hurt by religion. I believe I am in a position to help point you to what is helpful–and away from most of what is hurtful. I don’t think I will ever say I am healed of depression. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they call themselves recovering alcoholics, not recovered.

Just recently, I have been able to look at my life today and realize I have come a long way on this road of recovery, though I have by no means come to the end. This journey has been a quest for happiness, purpose, and meaning in spite of a brain that is tilted toward depression, and God has been with me through it all. There are some lessons I have had to learn the hard way. I hope to spare you some of that drama. The greatest happiness, purpose, and meaning comes from helping others, so I pray this will in some way help you.

Grace and Peace to you.

P. S. The book Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain is available for $0.99 on Kindle for a limited time.


[1] “How Many Chemical Reactions Occur in the Brain Every Second,” Answers.com, http://www.answers.com/Q/How_many_chemical_reactions_occur_in_the_human_brain_every_second

[2] “The Brain Gut Connection,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, retrieved March 14, 2019, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

[3] “Christians: Take Depression Seriously,” Beliefnet, July 26, 2016,  https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/health/emotional-health/christians-take-depression-seriously.aspx