Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Concerned that Depression Might Return

Dear Aunt Dara,

I have a terrible choice to make that seems to have no good solutions!  I hope you can help me.  About three years ago I was feeling very depressed and all I wanted to do was disappear from my church and social life.  I was feeling it might help to get involved in my church choir and joined.  I have been so thankful since!  It has helped lift my depression, and I found that unlike most things, your voice improves in middle age!  With the encouragement of the choir master, I began to get solo parts and a lot of attention.  I was never very comfortable with the attention, but I also realized vanity began to become a problem.  I'm sure I'm as vain as the next woman in most parts of my life, not that I'm excusing that, but I found myself really ashamed in this.  In singing praise to God, at times I've been sinfully singing "Me, me, me, me, me!"  I've prayed about this and thought I could get through this by praying for forgiveness and wisdom, keeping the right frame of mind, and loving my friends in the choir who have helped me as much as the singing has.

Just when I thought I had all of this under control, along came another problem that has tested me.  An assistant pastor and his wife came to our church and they have asked that she should sing all the solo parts.  She is very aggressive, even telling the choir master that I personally really have no interest in choir (I come every week, even when I don't feel up to it), that I make all sorts of technical mistakes (I sing front and center not three feet from him and he would correct me if I did), and bad mouths me to the other choir members.  They let me know these things, since she's not much nicer to others in the choir and transparent in her envy of me.  I promise I have tried to love this person and incorporate her into our choir, even including her in a special part this week, but she goes her own way with her own timing and notes to make her part more noticeable and it falls apart.  She gestures broadly while singing to draw attention to herself and makes faces for the same purpose.  When I gently mentioned to her that I had a hard time keeping time with her and could we work on it between services, I practically saw steam come out her ears!  She refused, and I let it go.  But at the second service her husband, who sits in the front row while we sing, was glaring at me solidly through the song!  I'm not sure what she said to him during the break but I know it must have been awful!

I can tell she's a very unhappy person and I'm trying to be kind and patient, but she is running me over in a very personal way.  Telling lies about me to people who know me and like me isn't getting her very far, thankfully, but I don't know everybody.  Actually it doesn't concern me as much that she is using her position as the pastor's wife to ingratiate herself to the people she feels matter and intimidating others to put herself ahead.  Unfair as that may be, God is who hears me whether it is in the front row, the back row, the lobby or down the street!  The personal attacks hurt most and I'm still pretty vulnerable from the depression and self questioning about my own struggles with vanity.  I really feel tested and the terrible choice I mentioned is whether to quit choir before the whole thing sends me into more depression or to stay and fight my way emotionally through the pain and self doubt.  So far I think I've taken the high road and prayed through it.  I know God gave me this gift of a voice and I should use it, but I'm not sure I'm strong enough for this fight either.

Thank you for your consideration,

Choir Conundrum

Dear Choir Member, 

Being in the choir has helped to alleviate your depression because it gives you a purpose and a way to serve God while uplifting others.  You have been given a gift from God and you are using it.  Singing brings you joy, as it should.  I believe that when Christians sing praise to God, the Holy Spirit within us is singing also, just as the Spirit helps us with our prayers.  The joy that you feel when you sing is coming from the Holy Spirit, and the reason that your singing is improving is because the Holy Spirit is working through you.  However, singing well brings praise from others, which is inevitable.  You may feel uncomfortable with praise and attention that you are receiving, but feeling joy in singing, knowing that you are singing well, and receiving praise and recognition from others are not evidence that you have a problem with vanity.  Here are some things to consider in determining if you are singing for the right reasons or if you are doing it for the attention that you receive:

  1. If you don’t receive any compliments after you sing, do you worry that you didn’t do a good job?
  2. Are you happy to just be another member in the choir and let others sing solos, even if they are not as good a singer as you?
  3. Do you criticize other singers because you believe you could have sung the song better than they did?
  4. Do you need to be up front and center in the choir, or are you just as happy to be in the back?
Regarding the situation with the assistant pastor’s wife, it could be that God has placed this woman in the choir as a test to see how you will handle it (you acknowledged that you feel tested), thus helping you to overcome any vanity that you may have.  I know that it can be frustrating to sing with someone who is less talented or less skilled as a singer than you are.  The assistant pastor’s wife is aware that her singing is inferior to yours, and that is why she is insistent that she do the solos and that she is heard above others.  Her envy of you is the reason she is saying unkind and untrue things about you, and you recognize that.  Do not allow her negativity to bring you down, even though she is saying hurtful things and criticizing you.  God knows the truth.  Those who know you also know the truth.  Even those who don’t know you will have respect for you if you overlook her unjust criticism and continue to do what is right.  Please study Colossians 3: 12-17 as your guide in this situation.

I suggest that you continue in the choir, because the depression is highly likely to return if you suppress the gift that God has given you.  I also suggest that you allow the choir master to choose who does the solos and make it clear to him that you are willing for the assistant pastor’s wife to do all of them.  I also suggest that you avoid doing any duets or other special singing with the assistant pastor’s wife, because she will likely do anything to try to outshine you.  To deal with the pain and self-doubt that you are feeling, I suggest that you read a few chapters of Psalms each day and pray for God’s peace to permeate your heart and your life, stop trying to judge yourself, continue to pray for God to bless the assistant pastor’s wife, and treat her with kindness.  Finally, whenever you sing, forget everything except God’s love and sing with joy and gratitude.  Nothing else matters—not what others say about you, not what others think about you, whether good or bad, and not even your own self-doubts.  All that matters is that God is using your voice as His instrument to praise Him and bless others.   

God bless,
Aunt Dara