People with depression can feel so dejected, they prefer the peace of death to a life of suffering. Unable to control their suicidal mood, or acts, they take their plight to be permanent, instead of a temporary swing. They may have felt depressed all their life. They may have experienced a series of losses, such as death of a treasured person, the end of a relationship, the termination from a job, or a medical condition.
Wanting To Die
Biblical Job also felt that depressed. Having lost his businesses, employees, family, health and wealth, Job in Chapter 3 wants to die. In that chapter, he curses his life of suffering (verses 1-10), and five times asks, “Why?” (verses 11-26. The fifth “why” in v. 23 is not in the Hebrew original, but is understood, and so inserted by the NIV translators). The piling up of loss after loss, which can happen to any of us us, plunges him into deep despair. Job speaks for us when we experience unaccountable mounting losses; we feel desperate. Like Job, we question the purpose of our life.
Old age can look a lot like depression. The person gives up their home, their social relationships, and normal activities to live in a “retirement community.” There, the staff cares for their every need. Except their need for purpose in life. The losses wear away at their resilience, leading to searching questions about why they are still “here”, i.e., alive. Many isolate themselves in their room, take their meals only there, not in the dining hall with other residents, necessitating others to take responsibility to check periodically on their welfare.
A Reason To Live
In a previous blog (End of Life Issues, March 17, 2017) I relate the question of one resident who attended my presentation on Job at her retirement center. At 96, having lost her younger sisters, she wanted to know, “Why am I still here?” At my third presentation this week, the residents and staff discussed how the presentations affected them. They reported that the group sharing their stories and their getting to know one another enabled them to feel more alive; the group gave them a purpose for living. This time, when she remarked how much more alive she felt, I asked the 96-year-old about her earlier question. She recalled asking, but couldn’t remember what she had asked. After I reminded her, she acknowledged her question, but, because of what had transpired over the three sessions discussing Job, sharing one another’s stories, and getting to know one another better, she no longer questioned her reason for living. Having answered her own question, she had now moved on with a new purpose to live.
[Credits- Depressed man: images_of_depression_treatment_-_google_search. Group: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Obywatel(ka)_Senior(ka)_03.jpg]