Crying for the Light: Bible Readings and Reflections for Living with Depression. By Veronica Zundel. Kregel Publications (2009).
Book review by Beverlee Buller Keck
Crying for the Light tells vividly and candidly, through prose and poetry, a story of surviving depression while struggling to hang on to faith. “Depression is an illness, and because it is one that attacks the core of our personality, it also attacks the core of our faith,” Zundel declares. Folks struggling with depression need faith heroines like Zundel to speak out and into the subject of depression, which has for too long been taboo in faith communities.
Fourteen daily entries entitled, “Songs in the Darkness: Readings from the Psalms,” comprise Part 1 of the book’s four parts. Each daily entry includes a Focus, Psalm, Prayer and Suggestion. In Part 1, one entry entitled “Hunted” asks, “Do you see depression as somehow your fault? Ask God to show you what the real causes are." Zundel replies with a quote from Psalm 7: “O Lord, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands … then let the enemy pursue and overtake me trample my life to the ground.” She then recounts what might be said behind her back as a depressed person, “She’s just not trying; She’s backsliding,” “I think she just uses her depression as an excuse.” Zundel concludes, “I didn’t choose to be depressed—it’s not as if I enjoy it. “I’m not lazy—I do work when I can. Sometimes I just can’t.”
Part 2, entitled, “A Walk on the Dark Side: My Story,” recounts Zundel’s personal battle with depression. She shares with great candor and honesty, occasioned with her poetry, her “first encounter with the depression that was to be my unwelcome companion for the next 35 years and is still today—perhaps will be for the rest of my life.”
Part 3 contains fourteen entries about biblical characters, “People in Pain.” Topics included evoke the range of misery that depression represents: A Mother’s Cry, The Water of Life, Music Therapy, Low Self-Image, Mood Swings, Accepting Help, Grief and Loss, Restoration, Disillusionment, Why Was I Born, Blaming God, Disappointment and Frustration, Torn Apart Inside, How Long, O Lord? The author continues to thread the needle of depression through each of the above entries.
In Part 4, Zundel considers what a Christian wrestling with depression can do to hold onto faith in the midst of the struggle. She suggests three practical things the person with depression can do. 1) First, avoid any church where people peddle easy solutions for depression. 2) Second, ignore all voices that say, “You don’t need medical care.” 3) Third, examine your image of God and from where you got it.
“Going through depression, especially if it’s severe and long-term, is like going through hell,” Zundel writes, “and in hell it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to believe in God.” Her searching frankness throughout the book offers understanding and solidarity to persons living with depression, and challenges those who would be their companions to persist in holding onto faith on their behalf.
The author’s searching honesty throughout the book offers understanding and solidarity to persons living with depression, and challenges companions to persist in holding onto faith on their behalf. May many find hope and comfort through this worthwhile read.
Veronica Zundel is a member of Wood Green Mennonite Church, London, U.K.
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Reviewed by Beverlee Buller Keck author of Just One More Day: Meditations for Those Who Struggle with Anxiety and Depression