Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Depressed?

           Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States, according the National Center for Health Statistics. Often depression has a physical or chemical cause but as a medical journalist who has done many interviews about mental conditions, I learned that even clinical depression often is accompanied by something else going on in a person’s life. For some reason, many of them no longer feel they have hope.

Hope is an emotional state—the opposite of despair. Hope is desire for something, a looking forward with expectation. Hope is different from faith because faith is confidence in something or someone and that what we hope for will occur.

Hope starts with faith in God.

 The Bible tells us “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see….By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:1-2NIV).

It seems easy for me to believe God created the universe. It’s preposterous to think that matter just appeared by itself and formed the sun, moon, stars, the planets, and the earth all revolving around in exactly the right places every day and every season. It’s preposterous to  imagine the earth with gravity, the right amount of oxygen in the air, water, and all the sustenance we need without a designer. It’s preposterous to assume we appeared on earth with the seeing eyes, hearing ears, and all of the body’s miraculous systems without Someone who loves us behind it all.

Then toss in the beauty, love and joy that humans and even animals enjoy and you really have a mystery without belief in our Creator.

How could I doubt a loving God created it all and sent a Savior to erase sin’s stain on the earth? I can’t.

BUT, let a crisis arrive in my life and I sometimes need to search around the dark places inside me for the light that has been planted there by the Word of God.

For faith comes from the Word: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, amplified version). I have to grasp the Word and believe it.

We don’t necessarily need to be wanting or needing something to have faith or hope, however. Hope for those with faith is a state of being and contentment. Yet, even Christians sometimes feel hopeless and that should not be.

 “Even your Word agrees, ‘In this world we will have tribulation,’” I complained to the Lord one day, I suppose to justify the mullygrubs that had me by the heart.

Silent a moment, I felt the agony of depression. Then the remainder of Jesus’ words from that scripture came to mind. “But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.”[1] Suddenly rapturous joy filled me. I was reminded my joyfulness doesn’t depend on circumstances or people.

What happened to your joy?”[2] Paul asked the Galatian church after they were led astray by false prophets who made them forget hope and faith.

Paul spoke of joy often, although much of his God-inspired writing was done from a prison cell. Over and over he tells the Philippians, “Rejoice!”.

In the same conversation Jesus had with his disciples about cheer, He told them and us to “Ask God for the impossible, and receive, that our joy might be full.”[3] He explained for a little while they wouldn’t see Him, because He was going to the Father. “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”[4]

 Peter spoke of our faith in Jesus filling us with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”[5] Joy sometimes came when the disciples and apostles faced seemingly impossible circumstances. Paul knew he probably would lay down his life for his faith, yet he wrote of joy.

Most amazing, Jesus for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.[6]

 In the letter Paul wrote to the Galatians asking about their joy, he listed joy among fruits that come from living for God in contrast to a life of sin. Most important, according to Jesus’ words in John 15, if we are to bear fruit such as unspeakable joy, we need to be rooted and grounded in Him and His Word. We also need to examine what we’ve been putting into our heads.

When my little branch is nourished by my Savior, joy pops out somewhere. Yet, faith doesn’t drop on you out of heaven and land at your feet like a peach from a tree.

Believing is a decision. Perhaps that’s why some call it taking “a leap of faith.” Are you ready to let go of your doubts, discouragement and jump?



[1] John 16:32-33
[2] Galatians 4:15
[3] John 16:24
[4] John 16:20
[5] 1 Peter 1:8
[6] Hebrews 12:1-3