The mask we so easily wear…One person posted this on Facebook this week: "BUT YOU DON'T LOOK SICK???! - It's a daily struggle feeling sick on the inside while you look fine on the outside. [Do] you or someone you know [have] an invisible illness!!! (Anxiety, P.T.S.D., Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Diabetes, Crohns, Arthritis, Epilepsy, MS, Depression, Bi...polar, Borderline personality, Autism, Etc...)"
I am using the word depression today, but I am only talking in a general way, not a medical term, “I’m not a doctor, I’m a pastor” I know there is clinical depression, chemical imbalances, doctors and the medical community are wonderful, yet God is greater…. I use the word depression today, you may relate to other terms: Job 3:24, “sighing comes to me instead of food” a normal response to an extreme crisis… so out of sorts in my mind food doesn’t even taste good.
As humans, we crave stability; when changes come, or the future becomes uncertain, or the great disappointments we face, Job 3:25 speaks for us, “What I dreaded has happened to me.” It takes time to absorb the losses we face, the changes we face. It takes time to grieve. A time of depression is understandable and part of the process. If you don’t identify with the word depression, surely what Job describes in this haunting chapter could be stress, or burnout: Job 3:26: I have no rest, but only turmoil.
Here is something I’ve noticed: our heart and mind are often out of sync. Next week we will start with answers to some of Job’s knucklehead friends who try to CONVINCE, REASON with Job why he is wrong to be depressed. Job’s friends play an important role, even though they are knuckleheads, but they don’t seem to understand Job’s immediate problem is not about his mind – it’s his heart. The rhythm of life is out of kilter. Then when the depression continues you feel bad for feeling bad. If somebody is glum, we could come up with a thousand reasons to look on the bright side of life, yet changing the heart is not easy. A time of questioning, thinking, venting, is the way God has wired us to get through the difficulties of life and be renewed in our spirit. If you hear nothing else this morning, hear this: periods of depression following a crisis of change is normal.
I asked for responses this week on Facebook. One person from our community wrote: “Depression is difficult! Those that don't understand it would just say "get over it" or "think positive"! but for those that suffer from it, if they could do those things there wouldn't be a problem…I believe that with God it is possible to bear through, how wonderful if the depression is temporary but for many it is a lifetime. Thankful that depression is also expressed in scripture, which shows God knows!” –
I find it helpful to read about some of the giants of history that battled depression through-out life. Martin Luther, John Calvin, here is a story of Charles Spurgeon: One of England's great preachers (1834-1892). “Frequently during his ministry he was plunged into severe depression, due in part to gout but also for other reasons. In a biography of the "prince of preachers", Arnold Dallimore wrote, "What he suffered in those times of darkness we may not know...even his desperate calling on God brought no relief. 'There are dungeons', he said, 'beneath the castles of despair.'" Job’s depression is not unique. God never tells us he’s wrong, in fact, later in the book, the knucklehead friends of Job are the wrong ones in this book.
The 2 songs I chose for this worship service are written by William Cowper. Cowper was haunted by depression, an profound story of despair. To read his story is not pleasant, but to know the extremity of the man’s personal demons, his struggles, and then to read the words of his great hymns: READ words of Hymn 20, v. 1, 3, 4 (God Moves in a Mysterious Way).
A glimmer of hope is enough, when Jesus commended those with faith “the size of a mustard seed,” perhaps he includes those with personal demons, depression, those in despair, yet somewhere deep in the recesses of the dark night of the soul, is a glimmer of faith. And that’s enough. We all want to be basking in endless bliss of a perfect life, but on this earth, through the ebb and flow of life, dark threads are woven in… there is a beautiful theory in one school of thought of Japanese pottery: the creation is envisioned, and somewhere in the process, a flaw inevitably happens. It’s not planned, but there is the mistake. Rather than throw the pot away, the flaw becomes part of the final product as a reminder that nothing is perfect, yet somehow, even with the flaw, there is a wonderful beauty. I think that is how God sees us. What we see as imperfect, the depression, the struggle, the heartaches, God accepts and embraces and see the beauty in us anyway. Dark threads interwoven with God’s eternal purposes. Job is a real man that cried out to God from a bruised heart, yet the Lord clearly tells us a glimmer of hope is enough: “the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.’
One person wrote from our community: “You have no idea how many times I have struggled with feeling like a failure as a Christian when I have been discouraged and depressed. And that just adds to the depression.” The masks we wear. When the heart is out of sync, the despair, the discouragement, the depression. A glimmer of hope is enough.
Wouldn’t that be great if Job stopped with the first two chapters: Job is struck with personal tragedy, loss of wealth, family, health, a man of faith that stands courageously. But reality sets in, and Job expresses his grief and depression. For five years I averaged a funeral a week. My biggest regret is that I was not able to follow up with the families in the weeks and months that followed. Often, when life gets back to “normal,” reality sets in, the adrenaline subsides, and grief and depression comes gushing out. People of faith can be depressed! There is nothing here that makes Job’s unspiritual. Let’s take a closer look…
Job 2:11-13 Job does not go through his mourning alone. Job’s comforters were in place. Don’t be alone… the worst thing for depression is isolation…Not good to mourn and grieve alone. 2 Cor. 1:3-4. I am also impressed with the discipline of silence. If you have a friend that is grieving, and you don’t know what to say, then say nothing…trivia talk is hollow
Job 3:1: Job did not curse God, he cursed the day of his birth…It’s better to look inward than to blame God, if your solution is to fix God, good luck. I am overwhelmed when trying to fix an engine…, how much more God. But to look at yourself, and open yourself for God to redeem you, is far healthier. I love the little prayer, “Sovereign God, let the dark threads of my life be interwoven with the tapestry of Your eternal purpose.” Fix me, God.
When people are depressed, when the head and heart are out of sync, the crazy thoughts that swirl around, the inconsistencies, the irrational ideas, the exaggerations, the questions, the laments. Job 3:11-15 brings up the if only questions, a different past, questioning how the world would be different.
Job 3:17-19…this is no fun, Job says. I don’t like my life.
Job 3:20-22: Job questions why he is alive, what’s the purpose, what is the meaning, isn’t there some greater existence, THESE ARE GOOD QUESTIONS! I feel helpless when people ask these questions, but I have also noticed that as I go about Sumas and the larger community, when somebody expresses these ideas to me, never do they expect an easy answer from me. Somehow, there is relief in expressing the thoughts….I cannot tell you how often I’ve listened to somebody vent, I’ve said virtually nothing, and in the end I am thanked over an over for being such a great help!
I do want to point out one thing I’ve noticed as I read Job 3: suicide never enters Job’s mind. Suicide is a foreign concept to Job. That goes beyond normal depression. Through-out the book of Job, it is evident Job never loses a glimmer of hope… Suicide is never an option, if those thoughts haunt you, you need to talk....
Job is attempting to get his mind in sync with his heart, giving God ideas…giving vent to the feelings of his heart. Job 3:25-26. Job’s fear and dread.
At this point, Job probably needed a hug... But his knucklehead friends are there, and they do their best, and in their own way they help Job, even though they miss the point. That’s the next few messages. Part of the deal is mishandling the way we confront our depression, trying to put rational thoughts on irrational feelings…
Matt. 5:4 says, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. There is always hope for those whose heart is out of sync with their mind. Out of the ashes of mourning, the Lord promises the resurrection of new life. We will never fully get over pain and grief till we express it fully. It’s part of the process of healing…
How wrong to teach little boys not to cry…far better is the picket fence of Ps. 139... I am glad for the words of Job 3, even though they are painful, I am glad for the words because at the most basic level, Job 3 is a prayer to God! Listen to just a few words from Psalm 139:1-5, 23. God can take our heartaches, our pains, our depression. Talk to God. Depression is well within the perameter of a relationship with God. Your closest friends are those to whom you can say anything and everything that is on your heart. God is listening to the cries of our heart, the pain, the bruised hearts, the irrational thoughts of depression… turn your depression into a prayer…
It’s easy for us to hide the truth of what is going on deep within us. May we have deep compassion for those who can’t find their way home. Some of you are saying, “Move over, Job, I know exactly where you are.” I am there now. Depression is a part of faith. Our hearts and head get out of sync, yet a glimmer of hope is enough. Never grieve alone, and turn the thoughts of your heart to God, praying to him.
I’d like to end with a prayer. If you are confused about life/depressed, I do not know how you will ever make it well without Christ. I want to offer a prayer for those of you who have not committed your life to Christ, and for those of you who are in need to rededicate your life to Christ. Maybe, the confusion of your heart at this moment is designed to bring you to the cross. Thank you, Father, for going with us to the Valley of the shadow of death and rescuing us. (pray)