Of whom I am often one.
I have periodic feelings of despair and inadequacy, a day-long (or more) sense of gray, irritating, fearful despondency.
A sureness that I am pointless, and that the people and environment around me are either indifferent or hostile.
What should I be doing in response to these feelings, in spite of them, and to assuage them, in light of my Savior?
Now, I am not proposing a panacea, here. This is not a certain cure for every inexplicable, long sadness.
But it is the most overlooked potential cure for depression.
We need to praise God and receive His goodness and mercy in Christ.
Can I phrase it another way?
The cause of a great deal of seemingly inexplicable gloominess in our lives is that we are praising and worshiping things not meant to be praised and worshiped, and that we are seeking love and acceptance from things that cannot offer them in the ways we most need.
David starts Psalm 146 this way:
“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.”
2 things there: We should praise God, and we shouldn’t put our ultimate hope in other created men (or things).
We were built to sing the praises of God, to intimately love, proclaim, shout about, and rest in the glory of God. And until we are doing that, we will probably have a seemingly causeless sense of disappointment, a vague but obstinately real lack of fulfillment.
We were given the minds and hearts and voice boxes and cellular walls and central nervous systems we have to glorify and worship the good Creator of all things, to be restored from our cold and darkened sins into the beautiful warmth of His light.
Spending all our time watching NetFlix or thinking about our girlfriends will almost certainly lead to feelings of smallness and purposelessness because those are small ways to live and those are not our purposes.
We should be thinking of, reading, writing to, singing about, praying to the God who authored us to enjoy and glorify Him.
This may sound crass, but it is Biblically true: Like a screwdriver, you were designed for a purpose. And until you fulfill it, the joy and peace and hope and love you seek will elude you, the longings of your heart won’t be fulfilled.
And that leads me to looking for love and acceptance where we shouldn’t.
What we need, and what I believe most of us instinctively know we need, is forgiveness. Reprieve. We need to be given mercy for our treacheries.
When you’re a traitor to your King and homeland, and you’re awaiting your just execution, when you’re inside your grim and damp cell (a cell which you’ve tried to pretty up with Earthly trinkets), you know what you don’t need?
The traitor in the next cell saying, “It’s okay, brother. I think you’re wonderful. You’re free to go. Your future is now bright and you can return home.”
That’d be a swell, but ultimately meaningless, sentiment.
The acceptance or respect of a fellow flawed human can’t free us from what we need to be freed from, can’t heal us where we’re most deeply wounded, and isn’t what we were finally made for.
No, what we need is what only God offers in Christ Jesus.
The King whom we’ve sinned against steps into our dirty and deceitful cells. Cells with walls covered in soiled magazine pictures of things we tricked ourselves into believing were real and satisfactory, a dank hole we tried to tell ourselves we could make into a home. That King enters, picks us up, unlocks our chains, and sends us back with full pardon and complete reprieve. Then He puts those very chains on His clean, innocent, powerful wrists, and receives the execution we deserve.
The love of other human beings is at best a beautiful thing, but at its worst, when we let it rule our hearts, it’s a transient, flimsy mirage in that deadly and darkened prison cell of ours.
The love of humans can be a false cure for the hopelessness sin inflicts.
We regularly chase love and meaning and peace in the affections and respect and admiration of our bosses, wives, husbands, and fathers. We want our Twitter followers to think we’re pithy and our classmates to think we’re gorgeous.
No love or admiration from them will quiet our souls. They are not the ones we’ve most ultimately wronged, and they are not the ones we were created to most ultimately be intimate with.
The King who offers rescue from sin and wrath and death is the only One who can fix our broken minds and fulfill our listless souls.
We should praise the God we were made to praise and receive the love of Christ that can actually rescue us.
Honestly examine yourself for a moment:
How often do you love and adore the goodness and bigness of Jesus Christ? Have you ever?
Do you sing to God? Pray to Him? Think about who He is and what He’s done?
How much does what other people think of you drive your behavior? Your fears? Your Facebook posts?
Have you rested in, breathed easy because of, the grace that you have asked for from Jesus?
For my own soul, I know that (1) a lack of worship and (2) running after the love and respect of other humans are some of the darkest causes of the confusing, black sadnesses I find myself in for hours or even weeks. And when I look around and see so few serving and following the risen Christ, and so many who do follow Him loving TV and SmartPhones more than Him, I’m led to think that I’m not alone.
The strange heartache and apprehension we feel in depression is often the hopelessness of trying to eke out a day-to-day existence. The sadness of trying to live apart from the One who gives hope.
The irritation and lovelessness of those moments is often just the sick nostalgia of a free man longing for the twisted shadows of his old prison cell.
Or if we’ve never trusted in Christ, they may be the shadows themselves, growing longer as we ignore the knocking of the King offering to let us out.