Our Preacher this morning spoke on John 11, vv 1-44. Very cool passage. Lots of stuff. Doubting Thomas, ready to die with his Lord. Lazarus dying. Martha, trusting. Mary, rebuking. Jesus weeping. God working, Lazarus living. All good stuff.
Drawing on his own experience, he told us about a time in his own life when he had been deeply depressed, and how a vision he had had of Jesus weeping with him had been the start of things turning around for him. I'll go along with that. I don't know why there's so much suffering in this world, but I know absolutely that I'm never alone; that for every tear I might shed, Jesus is right there beside me, and He knows all about it and feels it all far more deeply than I do.
There is huge sorrow in this world. And my God is bigger than all that sorrow. But that doesn't dispel the sorrow, it just means I'm not grieving alone. And there is huge joy in Christ - but that doesn't take away the sorrow either. Jesus wept. Jesus weeps. Wholly human, and wholly Divine, He shares in both our sorrow and our laughter. Which is, on the whole, pretty awesomely amazing and excellent.
But our preacher also suggested that this current "epidemic of depression" is because this generation of depressed younger women do not know Jesus. And I have to take issue with that.
I know Jesus, I walk with Jesus and trust in Him and believe in Him and love Him as Lord and Author of my Life. And yet, I've been deeply, profoundly, depressed at times. I've been depressed and on anti-depressants, I've had counselling (both Christian and secular), I've seen psychiatrists and I've spoken to concerned and loving friends. And I am disappointed that a man, who has himself suffered from depression, should suggest to the congregation - and therefore to those within the congregation currently struggling with depression - that depression is due to lack of knowledge, or lack of faith in Jesus.
I'm fairly certain this preacher would not suggest the same thing about cancer, about 'flu, about physical or learning disabilities. So why make that assumption about mental illness? I know that Jesus heals - but even 2000 years ago, He didn't heal everyone. When He went to the pool at Bethsaida, He spoke to just one of the men lying around the pool. I'm sure He could have waved a hand and healed the lot, or spoken to the waters and commanded them to heal all who drank from them. But instead He picked out just one man. Was that man better than all the rest? Did he happen to have the one form of disability which was fixable, as opposed to all he others? Were the others worse sinners than he? Was he simply the nearest to Jesus as he walked by? Or the loudest? Or, after 38 years of lying by the waters, the most disabled? I've no idea. But I'm pretty certain God loved the un-healed ones just as much as the healed. And I'm pretty certain He was just as fond of the dead He didn't choose to raise as he was of Lazarus.
Depression is an illness. It can be disabling. It's overwhelming. The Lord is my refuge and my strength, and He walked with me through the valleys of the shadow of death. But the Prozac restored the chemical balance in my brain; the pills helped to overcome the depression, just as my daughter's antibiotics clear infections from her lungs, and her anti-epileptic drugs subdue her seizures. Yes, God could have done it in a sudden miraculous supernatural healing. But He chose not to - and he walked me through it instead. Just as He chooses to walk with my daughters through their own illnesses, both acute and chronic. It is not my girls' lack of faith (nor their birth parents') which caused their disabilities. And it was not my lack of faith which caused my depression.
Jesus saves. Jesus heals. Jesus brings hope and light and life, and it is my prayer that everyone might one day come to know Him. And the young woman with depression may find Jesus as much of a comfort and a companion as the older woman with cancer. But it would be irresponsible to suggest that cancer patient stop treatment and rely solely on prayer.
God made man, and gave Him the tools to treat illnesses - from the most basic first aid through to the most sophisticated and futuristic medical procedures. And of course prayer is important. If I'm going on holiday, I might pray for a safe journey. But I won't get anywhere at all if I don't get into the car and drive.
And this post has ended up at a rather different destination to the one I originally thought I was heading towards. So I'll leave it with a request please for prayer for a few friends I have who are themselves in hospital right now, and for a few different friends who have children in hospital, and who are having to make difficult decisions this coming week. For friends who are not in hospital but who possibly should be, for friends who are facing the reality of life without their treasured children, and for other friends who are starting different chapters in their lives just now. And if this is cryptic, I apologise. But God knows the details.