The Long Night: Readings and Stories to Help You through Depression by Jessica Kantrowitz
July 11, 2020, 8:00 AM

Last Month for my Birthday Present a dear friend sent me this book. The Long Night: Readings and Stories to Help You through Depression by Jessica Kantrowitz. It came hot off the presses and I was excited to read it. Yes, I know that is weird. Remember I have an undergrad in Social Work and the author of this book is a theologian, so to my friend this was a gift of love and respect towards my profession during a difficult time when we were not able to have in person worship at church.

What I discovered was this book is an example of Grace. You know the old hymn, “Grace Greater than Our Sin” by: Johnston and Towner?  “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!” There are different types of grace but the one I want to look at comes from the instructions of Jesus. In Mark 12:30-31, Matthew 22:36-40, and Luke 10:26-27 we hear the words of the second most important commandment in the Bible “Love your neighbor as yourself”. When I first read this I went to the concept of being kind and helping my neighbor, but as I look at it again I realize that I am unable to fully love and care for my neighbor if I am unable to love and care for myself with God’s help. Do we offer ourselves grace?

Verse two of the hymn says “Sin and despair, like a sea waves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss; grace that is greater, yes, grace untold, points to the refuge, the mighty cross.” How can we point others to the cross if we are not willing to sit at the foot of the cross ourselves?

During this time in our world of pain from isolation, during the pandemic, during this time in our world of racism and hate during deaths, during this time in our world of destruction and pain, during riots and protests, and during times of anxiety and depression how do we offer grace to ourselves and then to our neighbor? 

Jessica Kantrowitz offers a way to look at this through her own experience with depression. She is open and bold about her own experience of what she calls the long night. She walks through how God suffers with us, how to pray, searching for safe places and people to share with, finding your calling and battling the lies we tell ourselves. On page 146 she states “God doesn’t answer our questions, but instead gives us God’s presence. And that is what we need from each other too; Not answers, just presence – understanding, listening, acceptance, and presence.” God’s presence, God’s grace.

Grace that seeks us out during our long nights, grace that calls us to change from our sin and despair, and grace that continues to flow as we seek to live in God’s presence. During these difficult times may we crush the stigma of depression, anxiety, despair, and seclusion with grace. God’s grace offered to us and when we receive it then, then we can love ourselves and then our neighbors.  

Romans 5:20b – “Where sin increased; grace abounded all the more.” I am not saying that depression and anxiety and despair are sin. They are valid medical conditions and if you think you are experiencing these symptoms please reach out to a professional for help. What I am saying is if we hide ourselves and never offer ourselves forgiveness, then we are not able to truly love our neighbors. If to love our neighbors is the second commandment then we must love ourselves. You are loved, you are valued, you are worth it! This is what my friend was saying to me when she shared this book for my 40th Birthday. She loves me as her neighbor and so I in turn offer this reference to you.