Tim Challies, the pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, recently wrote an article in which he said that facebook is making us miserable. Not because it’s stealing all of our time, but because “Facebook is all about making life seem joyful – we “like” one another’s happy status updates, not the sad ones; we post photos of our parties, not our funerals; we use it to celebrate births and marriages and new relationships, not to mourn deaths or remember break-ups. Facebook is meant to be a happy place for happy people. But it doesn’t seem to work out so well. We all think everyone else is happy, but we don’t feel the joy.”
That doesn’t stop us from doing the same thing though. We put up our best photos, and project the best image we can of our life. And while it’s easy to do that behind a computer screen we try to do the same thing in person, even when it comes to Christianity. I was recently given a book that I think illustrates the contemporary view of Christianity. It was by a popular author on living a good Christian life. This book was for adults, but it had a lot of pictures in it. The pictures were of young, physically fit attractive people, with perfect teeth, apparently having fun. It’s pretty clear what kind of life the good Christian lives. And so in churches throughout this country, every Sunday people put on their Sunday best. They put on their smile, they’re always “doing good” when asked how they are doing, and of course they are “happy” to be in church. Perhaps this is why so many of the modern worship songs are happy upbeat songs about our experience with God.
Carl Trueman, a professor of theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, made this observation and wrote an article called, “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?”. He says, “A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party – a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is – or at least should be – all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship?” He notes that the Bible’s own hymnbook, the Psalter, has a high proportion of songs that “is taken up with “lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken.”
Scan the pages of the Bible and you will find men and women whose spiritual journey included what we call today depression. Moses, Hannah, Jeremiah, and Job come to mind fairly quickly. Martin Lloyd-Jones argues from biblical evidence that Timothy suffered from near-paralyzing anxiety. Pastor and author Steve Bloem writes, “The Psalms treat depression more realistically than many of today’s popular books on Christianity and psychology. David and other psalmists often found themselves deeply depressed for various reasons. They did not, however, apologize for what they were feeling, nor did they confess it as sin. It was a legitimate part of their relationship with God. They interacted with Him through the context of their depression.”
God’s Word has a lot to say about suffering. It’s not random or meaningless. Suffering is one of God’s chosen means for sanctifying His people and bringing Himself glory in this world. We understand that when it comes to the suffering of the body. Depression is a painful form of suffering in the heart and mind. Depression, then, can be applied to the various kinds of trials that the book of James says we will face knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
For that reason, it’s important for us as a church to consider for the next few weeks what Scripture has to say about this area of life that Christians do and often experience. We don’t want to waste our depression or any form of suffering. As Christians, we want to know how to suffer well, and to do so together, because we want endurance so that one day we might be mature and complete, not lacking anything, including the joy of the Lord.
So please join us for the next four weeks as we begin our new series on “Spiritual Depression”
Jan 8 When I Feel Forgotten Psalm 77 Jan 15 When I Feel Forsaken Job Jan 22 When I Feel Like Giving Up 2 Cor. 1:3-11 Jan 29 When It All Feels Meaningless Ecclesiastes