Sunday, September 7, 2014

On Depression, Part 2: An Effective Mess

"As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
- John 9:1-3
 "Why me?" 

This is the quintessential question for hardships. We associate this question with negativity and suffering, yet I believe that there may be a spiritual aspect to be considered in the midst of the hardship. 

"Why not me?"
"Why has God in his foreknowledge and power allowed this to happen to me?"
"How can I be strengthened, others encouraged, and God glorified through this difficulty?"

I have begun to ask myself these three questions regarding my struggle with depression. The temptation is to allow the depression to prevent us from living life, to allow it to weigh us down to a degree that we purposefully withdraw from society. This stems mainly from the poor response of the church to those who suffer from depression. Rather than being supported, they are seen as being unable to serve because of their condition. (More on this to come!) 

The lie of depression is that you can't be effective, that you can't make an impact because of what you are struggling with. This lie is fueled by the aforementioned attitude that many have, resulting in a spiral of hopelessness. We listen to the lie, and sadly mold our self-image to it. We live our lives in a way that announces defeat. We live our lives believing that our depression disqualifies us from having any value to serve or make a difference.

What if, on the other hand, the presence of depression makes us more qualified to serve?

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
- 2 Cor. 12:9-10

It is a strange and beautiful truth that in the midst of depression or hardship of any kind, the presence of Jesus can be seen and his touch felt more keenly. Just as our cracks reveal the treasure within, our emotional hurts reveal HIS emotional strength.

Despite our depression, we have a promise from Jesus himself that His power will be made PERFECT in our weakness. Even though our lives may be in complete disarray, HE still stands and holds all things together. (Colossians 1:17)
When our lives are seen from the outside, suddenly the perspective shifts.
No longer is our life simply a sad, ineffective mess.
In light of the Gospel, our life is a huge magnifying glass of the beauty of Christ.

While the enemy would have us believe that the depression we feel is evident in our lives, when we have Christ I firmly believe that those around us will see more of HIM if we hold fast. This is what Jesus referred to in John 9 when he stated that the purpose of the blind man's suffering was that "the works of God might be displayed in him."

Be encouraged brothers and sisters! Although you may feel hopeless in your depression, God is still working. Let us not forget that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it!" 
We are slowly and painfully being molded into the image of Jesus, so that the lives of those around us might be eternally impacted.

"For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer."
- 2 Corinthians 1:5-6

It is a difficult truth to wrap my mind around, but sometimes the reason that God allows me to experience such intense difficulty at times is not because I will grow, or that eventually I will be prepared for ministry, but simply because someone else needs to be encouraged. If I have experienced depression, yet have hope, then I may be able to impart that same hope to someone else with a similar struggle.
This is true of ANY difficulty. Our God can redeem anything. There is no sin to great, or weight to heavy, that He cannot use for His glory.
For this I am thankful.

The questions are not "Am I effective?" or "Can Jesus still use me?" or "How does this make me feel?"  but
"HOW is He using me?" 

"It takes a crucified man to preach a crucified savior." - Stephen Olford

Let us keep our eyes on Christ!
Steven Bowman (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Part 3 coming soon