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Monday, October 14, 2013

Jesus Is Depressed

Jesus lived as a human (John 1:14).  As such, He experienced emotions.  He displayed these emotions frequently.  Just like us!!  We are emotional beings.  Love is the basis of our faith.  Love.  Love is an extreme emotion, and when we open ourselves up to one extreme, the opposite (anger and grief, for example) is also possible.  Not only did Jesus experience these same extreme emotions as us, but He showed us the proper way to handle them.  With that, I am spending a few weeks focusing on the human emotions of Christ and how they relate to us.

Charles Spurgeon: “We do not want rain all the days of the week and all the weeks of the year, but if the rain comes sometimes, it makes the fields fertile and the streams flow.”  Basically—without sadness, you can never truly experience joy.

If we have the capacity to feel something as extreme as joy then we are just as likely to experience the polar opposite: grief or even depression.  Did you know that the brain cannot differentiate between physical pain and emotional?  To it, pain is pain, and its response is usually tears.  Crying is the body’s natural reaction to an extreme emotion.  It can happen when we’re sad, frustrated, stressed, confused, even proud and laughing.  Dr. Jodi DeLuca says, “(Crying) is a signal you need to address something.”

The Bible notes three times when Christ cried (not counting Matthew 14:13, where Jesus went off to privately mourn the death of John the Baptist):  In Luke 19:41, He showed His sorrow for the anticipated horrors that were going to reign down on those murdering their Messiah.  In Hebrews 5:7, when He was likely reflecting the dread of His holy soul as He contemplated bearing the consequence of sin and separation from God.

Then, of course, there’s John 11:33-35 where we receive the famous “Jesus wept” verse.  The misperception here is that Christ was weeping over the death of His friend Lazarus.  He wasn’t.  Why would He?  Jesus knew that He was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead.  No, Christ is crying because of the emotional pain of Mary and Martha (Lazarus’s sisters and also close friends of Jesus).  “Jesus wept” is so much more than the answer to a trivia question.  Those two words tell us more than some books.  Jesus wept because He was sad for mankind.  Jesus wept because He was so full of love.  Jesus wept because He was so proud of those two women for not only loving their brother but also for their love and faith in Christ.

Do you see it yet?  Christianity is the only religion whose God suffers with us.

Judah Smith: People’s last words are usually significant.  Matthew 28 records some of Jesus’s last words on earth, and he chose to finish his book with these words: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  We don’t have to beg God to come to us.  We don’t have to plead with him to pay attention to us.  He is with us all the time.

At no point does the Bible tell us that we will never grieve, but it does tell us that in our grief, God will never leave us.  That’s why Philippians 1:12-14 is so important.  It’s okay to grieve.  It’s okay to feel sad.  But it’s how you do so that shows your faith.  It’s okay to ask God why.  It’s okay to ask for understanding.  It’s not okay to accuse.  It’s not okay to claim that God has wronged you in some way.

“Some of us go so far as to think God gets a kick out of our suffering.  If I were that kind of parent, I would be put in jail for child abuse” – Smith.  Parents do not enjoy watching their children suffer, but they understand that sometimes it’s necessary.  Sometimes, they have to punish their children when they misbehave.  Sometimes, they have to take away an item that their child loves.  Sometimes, they have to sit back and allow their child to make a mistake that they know will cause pain.  It kills them to do this, but it is necessary for that child to grow and learn.  That is how God deals with us.  He hates to see us in pain.  He hates to see us grieve.  But sometimes those pains are needed so we can grow and learn.  He weeps for us during those times—and it’s okay if we do as well—but we also must learn to trust Him, as we do our parents.  God does all things for good (Romans 8:28).  Plus…like all good parents, He’s there to help us back on our feet.

It’s okay to feel sad.  It’s okay to grieve.  It’s okay to be depressed.  When suffering happens, you can respond in one of three ways:
1)    Ignore it.  That’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.  Suppressing this emotion only makes it worse.
2)    Play the victim.  A constant pity-party.  This is when we allow the emotion to become selfish.
3)    Use it.  Grief allows us to show compassion towards others.  It allows us to display Christ to others.

I have experienced nearly everything a person can experience (either myself or going through it with a friend/relative).  I have been arrested.  I know people who have spent time in jail.  I have known alcoholics.  I have known drug abusers.  I have thought about suicide.  I know someone who has attempted suicide.  I knew someone who did commit suicide.  I know numerous cutters.  I know a number of people who have (or still are) struggled with an eating disorder.  I knew someone who was murdered.  I know someone who was raped.  I know someone who was physically abused by their parents.  I know someone who was physically abused by a boyfriend.  I know someone who had an abortion.  I know multiple people who have had miscarriages.  Steph and I cannot have children.  I know multiple people who have battled cancer…and won.  One of my grandfathers has been fighting Parkinson’s for over fifteen years.  I have lost a grandmother, a close friend, and a sister-in-law to various forms of cancer.

I could fill this entire post with the pain and suffering I have endured myself or with a friend/family member/former student.  Consequently, many come to me for advice.  To vent.  When they need help or just an ear.  My past grief has allowed me to help others when they’re in need.  It allows me to show how Christ has worked in me.  Through me.  I could be a total mess, but God’s grace has led me here.  Others see that and it speaks volumes for Him, not me.

Smith: Without a doubt, bad things happen to good people.  Life is not always easy or pleasant.  When we understand that Jesus is here, however, we can make it through anything.  People who know that Jesus loves them, who know that Jesus is with them and for them—those people can not only endure pain and loss and difficulty, they can come out the other side stronger and better people.

Some Christians believe that depression is a punishment from God for your sins.  Some believe that only the weak suffer depression.  That true Christians, wrapped in the joy of Jesus, would never really go through that emotion.  A Christian friend of mine once said, “I don’t believe in depression.”  Flat-out, did not believe in it.  That people who claimed to be depressed were just “feeling sorry for themselves and needed to snap out of it.”

Yet the Bible is loaded with heavy-hitters suffering bouts of depression.  Abraham.  Moses.  Elijah.  David.  Jonah.  Job.  Paul.


Christ says in Mark 14:34, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  Sounds like depression to me.  Obviously not in the conventional sense, but He’s clearly feeling a deep sadness here.  Grief is weighing heavily on Him.

We are going to be struck with heavy sadness throughout our lives.  It’s inevitable.  You’re not perfect—you can feel depression.  Jesus was perfect, yet He still felt pain, suffering, sadness, grief, and depression.

Perry Noble breaks down what typically leads us into a state of depression in a pretty outstanding sermon.  (If you have an hour, it’s worth a viewing.)
1)    An unrealistic pace.  Think of a car that you’ve floored.  At some point, those RPMs go too high.  They hit the red, and the engine shuts the whole thing down.  Same with us.  We go too fast.  We do too much.  We go too far.  And at some point, our minds and bodies just shut down.  We seem to forget that in the Ten Commandments, God spent more time explaining the need for rest than any of the others.
2)    An unrealistic expectation of others.  When you’re depressed, everything that’s wrong in your life is someone else’s fault.  (My example here): A few years ago, I was miserable at school.  I loved the kids, but I was exhausted from dealing with everything else related to the job.  Instead of dealing with that issue, I began to focus on all the areas I felt Steph was falling short as a wife.  I thought it was her fault that I felt depressed.  For over a year, I allowed our marriage to suffer by putting my problems on her shoulders.
3)    An unrealistic view on life.  They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different result.  The world around you is not going to change.  You can’t expect things to get better on their own.  If you’re depressed, you need to change something because what you’re doing presently isn’t working.
4)    An unrealistic desire to be liked by everyone.  You’re simply not going to make everyone happy.  Stop trying.  The quickest way to forget what God thinks of you is to focus on what mankind thinks of you.

Noble: The message here is not “Get over it!!” because it’s not that easy, is it?  Life has baggage and yours might be larger than mine.  But if you want to get out of depression, it’s going to have to come from the choices you make.  You’re going to have to stop being a victim, and identifying yourself as depressed.  As long as you say it, you will be.  If you want to get out of it, you have to freakin’ punch it in the throat.  You have to take ownership over it.

On the TV show How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Barney Stinson once said, “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if it really worked that way?  That we could just flip a switch and it would all go away?  While it may not be as easy as just being awesome instead, perhaps we can begin to recognize depression for what it is: Satan attacking us.

Satan doesn’t believe in the old adage that you shouldn’t “kick someone when they’re down.”  In his mind, that’s the best time to kick them.  When we’re down, we fail to see joy.  When we fail to see joy, we fail to see God.  Hence, the longer we’re down, the further we drift from God.  What we must do is recognize our struggles and turn to God.  Don’t tolerate Satan’s actions.  Get angry and “freakin’ punch it in the throat.”  Ask God to help you kick Satan in the butt so he leaves you alone and you can return to the joy of Christ (Ephesians 6:13 and James 4:7).

Fight through it, knowing that something better lies ahead.  I have been depressed twice (once in high school and the aforementioned few years ago).  Each time—my life was significantly better when I came out of it than it was before the depression hit.  In high school, I was on a dangerous path of reckless behavior.  When I came out of my depression, I recognized who my true friends were and found a better understanding of who I was and who I wanted to be.  A few years ago, I was on a path towards a new career.  When I came out of my depression, I found renewed joy in my job, my marriage, and my personal relationships.  Without those bouts of depression, who knows where I might be today.

It sounds strange, but one way to fight depression is by helping others through their struggles.  Few things in life bring more pure joy than assisting others in their time of need.  It’s hard to feel sad if you are experiencing joy.  Plus—if people see you helping others when you’re down, they’re more likely to come to your aid when you need it most (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Jesus did not merely come to earth, teach a few lessons, and go away.  He showed us His wounds, the slanders, the manipulation, the injustices, the body blows, the mistreatments piled onto Him.  Spurgeon says, “If we had never been in trouble ourselves, we should be very poor comforters of others.”  We think that life beats us up?  The world displayed the worst of itself on Christ—and He just took it.  For you.  For me.  He showed that despite His mistreatment, He still loves (Romans 5:8).  We can do the same.

How did Jesus handle His depression back in Mark 14?  He prayed.  He took it to God.  Not only did He pray, but He grabbed His three closest friends and asked them to pray as well.  In short—He shared His pain.  He asked for help from His closest friends.  He handed His grief to God.  Reaching out—admitting that you’re struggling—is not a sign of weakness.  Even Jesus grabbed His closest friends in His time of need.  That’s why we have friends—to share our pain as well as our joy.  If your friends are only there for the good times, they’re not really your friends.

Meanwhile, you can always call upon God.  He never leaves you.  He never abandons you, even if it feels like it.  Even if you can’t see Him.  Smith writes, “You don’t think God is for you, even though he gave his Son for you?  He’s so for you that he died for you.  What other proof do you need?” (emphasis mine)  If God was willing to allow Jesus to die for us, should we not be willing to live for Him?  When the darkness of the world swallows you and you feel like you’re about to suffocate, Jesus will occasionally grab you and simply lift you out.  Sometimes, however, He wants you to reach out, find His shoulder, and blindly allow Him to guide you out (John 8:12).

For the record: If your level of depression is to a point where your doctor and loved ones think medication will help—there is nothing wrong with that, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  You want to feel better, right?  Some need meds for that.  Me?  I’m asthmatic.  Without certain medication, I don’t breathe correctly.  Don’t tell me that the two are different examples.  You’re wrong.  In both cases, without the proper medication, our bodies will not function correctly.

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