Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Turning the Tables on Depression

          I’m feeling a little bit ticked-off at depression right now.

          It bothers me that, when people get depressed, we don’t question Satan’s character and wonder how such a being could turn away from the glory of God and set out to cause so much heartless, ruthless pain to the creatures God made in his own image. Instead, we question God’s character, as if it is his love that has grown cold, and his arm too short to save, and his memory that has lost track of us, and his heavens that are sealed by a titanium shell of self-protection.

          It bothers me that, when people get depressed, we have no problems turning to food for comfort, filling ourselves up with the most unhealthy food-samplings the world has to offer, without ever complaining that these companies are preying on people’s deficiencies of body, soul, and spirit, in order to promote and encourage bondage to health corrupting chemicals. At the same time, we think we have every reason to complain against the bread of heaven that would satisfy our deepest hunger, and the spring of living water that would quench our greatest thirst.

          It bothers me that, when people get depressed, we suddenly have time for any kind of music the world has to offer, any kind of video games that captivate and destroy relationships with God and people, any kind of movies no matter how damaging they are to heart and soul, and any kind of technological time-wasters that steal, kill and destroy faith. At the same time, we believe that depression is such a big and terrible giant in the land that we are helpless to fit in time for God.

          It bothers me that, when people get depressed, we don’t feel any anger towards sugar, or fat, or smokes, or tattoos, or drugs, or alcohol, or bars, or advertisers, or musicians, or actors, or bad company, but we suddenly feel anger towards God that justifies our lack of anger towards the enemies of God.

          I guess the bottom line for me is that there is something wrong when we believe that depression gives us some kind of reason to be numb from God, numb from bringing our pain to God, but not feeling numb about doing things our own way, or replaying our hopeless stories over and over again in our heads and hearts. Even the prodigal son eventually came to his senses and preferred his view of his father, incomplete as it was, to the pig-slop he was wallowing in without any satisfaction to his own hunger.

          I just wonder why it is that, when we get depressed, we don’t feel this irresistible urge to find our delight in God instead of in food, or entertainment, or solitary confinement. Why not God-confinement? Why not God-seeking? Why not resting like a child in God’s arms rather than resting in the arms of a drive-thru window? Why not calling Satan the liar and God the one unchanging source of truth and hope? Why not call the world a disgusting enemy of the soul, quite willing to destroy our lives on the altar of its idolatry, and call God the friend of the brokenhearted who heals us and binds up our wounds?

          Why not complain about the emptiness of the world that has had centuries of time to prove how hopeless it is, and how dishonest, and how fleeting, and deceptive, and disappointing it has been, and look up through the clouds to the one who is seated on the throne and thank him that he has yet to give up on such a sorry-mess of people who think so small of him that we would rather have a big old hamburger than the bread of heaven that gives life to our souls?

          Why am I feeling this way? Because depression is a joy-stealer. It is a wolf taking away my sheep. It is a lion dragging away the little lambs. It is a Goliath taunting whole churches into fear and trembling so that no one dares to take up five smooth stones to finish off him and his brothers.

          This week I have just discovered that I have the resources of the whole host of heaven ready to speak to me in my depression, ready to speak into whatever trial and heartache the church is facing, and tell me the truth about reality. While my depressed soul, cheered on by a depressing world, and encouraged by my own deceived and dishonest flesh, thinks that everything I think, see, and feel, is reality, and a hopeless enough reality that I want to sit in silence and disappear into the nothingness I believe, the heavenly throne room tells me that there is such a glorious One sitting on the throne that a ray of light shining from his glory would dispel depression and banish it from the Promised Land for as long, and as often, as a few people are willing to keep on walking in the light.

          The heavenly throne room tells me that I have four friends in these living creatures that never cease to tell me the truth about God, that he is holy, that he is eternally holy, and that he is worthy of depressed hearts becoming those true worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth.

          The heavenly throne room tells me that I have twenty-four elders surrounding the throne of God, representing the depressed people of God before the one who sits on the throne, and representing back to the depressed people of God the glory of the one who lives forever and ever. These twenty-four elders are ruling and reigning with Christ, delighting in him, overwhelmed by his glory, and appealing to us with their testimony to fix our eyes on heavenly things, not on earthly things. These twenty-four elders include the hosts of witnesses who have gone before us, and now line the racecourse with their testimony of the glory of God, hoping, trying, and seeking to build us up in the most holy faith, so that we will shine to the glory of God.

          What is the common-thread issue in depression? That right now I believe that what is going on with me is beyond God, and so I take it into myself, my flesh, and harbor all manner of thoughts against the one person who can help me. I believe the world without difficultly, but believe that I cannot believe God. I trust my flesh is telling me the truth, but believe that the God of truth cannot be trusted. I believe the devil must be right to question everything God says, while I don’t realize that I am trusting everything the devil says about the one person who can only say what is true, for he is the way, the truth, and the life.

          While there is no doubt that there are contributors to depression from the worlds of body, soul and spirit, there is also no doubt that there is a cure to depression in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No matter how hopeless someone believes their depression to be, this is simply the next thing to bring to God as the body of Christ that is determined to surround all God’s people with the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

          So, here is my contribution, my one smooth stone aimed at the giant’s head, trusting that God is bigger than depression, and the God who enabled a little shepherd boy to cut off the head of the giant with the sword the giant kindly provided, can turn depression on its head, so to speak, and bring good news to the poor”, “bind up the brokenhearted,” “proclaim liberty to the captives,” open “the prison to those who are bound”, “proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God,” “to comfort all who mourn,” to give to those who mourn, “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,” to anoint them with “the oil of gladness instead of mourning,” to put on them “the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.”[1]

          Please join me in being ticked-off at fast food outlets, and TV sets, and online entertainment, and fickle friends, and booze, and drugs, and money, and fancy clothes, and new toys, and pornography, and the world, and the flesh, and the devil, and let’s put our depression into the hands of the God who can actually lead us into the truth so that what is broken is built-up, what is ruined is repaired, what is wounded is healed, and what is confused is brought into the fear of the Lord that sets us on our way into wisdom and knowledge.

          At the very least, don’t go believing whatever depression tells you! After all, we don’t even know who this guy is and where he comes from! Go to the one the four living creatures never cease to worship as holy, and the twenty-four elders never cease to worship as worthy, and see if there might just be some way that God could surprise you with a gift of grace that your sight-seeing depression simply could never have imagined.

          From my heart,


[1] Isaiah 61:1-3

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