Target Audience: Fundamentalist Christians, Evangelical Christians, Conservative Christians
The book of Job in the Old Testament tells us about a man who God considered righteous because of his faith but Satan challenged God. So, God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith with one disaster after another. The story is quite familiar even to people who are not “religious” or Christians. There were a number of so-called friends who hung around Job during his trials. These were people who told Job to curse God and die, and other cheerful tidbits of advice. They became known as “Job’s comforters”, a tongue-in-cheek term for those who bring people no comfort at all.
As of this post, I am still in the pit of depression. I have things I need to get done today, but I really don’t want to do them. I have chores that need to be done, but I really just want to stay here in my apartment, alone, because I feel down. Someone asked me last night why I am depressed, as if I had a precise answer, or I felt comfortable talking about the irrational feelings that are running through my head at this point. I struggled to give this person an answer. This person finally said that it was too bad that I didn’t have a “professional” in my life that I could talk to, as if a professional counselor had a magic wand that could make everything better. This person is genuinely concerned for me and does not want me to be down or sad or blue or isolating in my bedroom. I sensed, though, beneath the surface a discomfort with my depression. I got the sense that what this person really wanted to do was “fix” me in some way and when it became clear that this was way above their pay grade, the idea of a professional counselor seemed to make this person feel much better. I would be under the care of a professional. No need to worry any longer, a professional was on the job.
This brings me to a Christian friend who I’ve known for over 30 years. He also genuinely cares about me but like the person in the paragraph above has no idea how to handle the situation when told someone is depressed. He feels an equal amount of discomfort or helplessness when confronted with an issue of mental illness. In my friend’s case, he is not entirely convinced mental illness really exists, particularly with respect to Christians. I have a feeling he believes that mental illness is an invention of the liberal media to explain spiritual phenomena. When I told him that I had been depressed and that I just wanted to “catch a break this week” he immediately launched into an impromptu sermon on how, being a Christian, just having Jesus means we all have caught a break. Had I let him continue talking he would have soared higher and higher into the heavenlies with theological platitudes designed to convince me that God does not want His followers to suffer in this life, that Jesus came to bring healing (which He did), and that simply by praying a simple prayer God will make all the bad stuff go away, in the same way that if you closed your eyes as a child you could make all the vegetables you didn’t want to eat vanish from your plate. This is the fundamentalist Kool Aid, the grape juice that if you drink enough, that life will be this blissful experience. According to the Apostle Paul, quoted below, it is fiction like Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. My apologies to those who still believe in those guys.
The Apostle Paul writes:
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11 NASB)
Does God want those of us who follow Him to be happy? I think He does, but God has never promised us a life without suffering or pain or hardship. Does God want Christians to be depressed? I don’t know, but I believe He wants those of us who experience depression to look for Him and find Him in the darkness of depression.
What I am feeling this morning is apathy. I just don’t want to go shopping. I hate the idea of being in crowded stores, yet I know I need to buy food. To be honest, I am not even looking forward to taking a shower and getting cleaned up, but I hate the way I feel right now. I don’t really want to go to church tomorrow. The thought of being around hundreds of people in one place is almost a suffocating thought, but I know that I will probably feel better if I go. I want to sit here and continue writing, but I know I need to put one foot in front of the other and get moving this morning, or it will be gone and I won’t have the chores done that I need to do and that will make me feel even worse.