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Depression? Machseh.

April 6, 2021

Paul Stroble is a very-long-time friend and colleague whom I greatly admire for many reasons. He recently wrote this, and it’s with his graciously expressed permission that I share this with you here —

I’ve had high-functioning depression since childhood. That means I’ve stayed motivated through most aspects of my life, while also dealing with periods of anxiety, sadness, self-doubt, and exhaustion. Only recently have I talked about it freely. I like to have a small role in ending the stigma of mental health issues.
I also like to share how God has healed me. As Pastor Martha reminds us, God does not wait for us to get our act together but steps in to heal. Over the years, God has guided me to wonderful therapists who have helped me gain insight and build better mental health.
Jesus’ healing ministry displayed the Lord’s concern for our overall well-being, emotional as well as physical. I’ve never been blind, but I’ve certainly been blind to my own worth, as well as to the love of those in my life, and to God’s great love.
Speaking very generally, the church may or may not be a place where we can “come as we are,” including times when we’re emotionally struggling. Church folks might simplistically urge us to cheer up, to have more faith, to pray more, to repent of something we may have done. Such words make our pain worse.
But other congregations might be places where folks uphold us amid our strong, sad emotions. As Pastor Linda reminded us in her message, listening to one another without judgment is a powerful way to help!
Depression has been described as a suit of armor that keeps your negative thoughts in and prevents positive thoughts from getting through. Consequently, an emphasis upon our sinfulness, unworthiness, and mortality may push a depressed person even further down.
That’s one reason why I like to focus upon God’s vast love. God embraces us in times of temporary or chronic distress. God is our “machseh,” a Hebrew word that means “refuge” (Deut. 33:27, KJV and NIV), “dwelling place” (RSV), or “place of safety” (CEB). Psalm 46:1 affirms that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Imagine God as a welcoming “place” to go when you’re downhearted. You can see how Jesus’ desire to heal people is an aspect of God’s “very present help.”
The psalms are wonderful prayers because many of them are quite forthright about the psalmists’ distress! The psalmists don’t mumble, “Oh, I’m okay, I’m hanging in, I’m muddling along.” They take their honest feelings to the Lord. Psalms 42 and its companion 43 are examples. “For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off?” (Ps. 42:2). What a terrible concern, that God is not only silent but has rejected the psalmist! Fortunately, that isn’t the last word, for the psalmist knows to “hang in”: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (vs. 5). The psalmist isn’t feeling praiseful now but will eventually.
Speaking only for myself, my own blues are often attributable to something out of balance: I’ve been too busy and haven’t taken time for exercise, for instance, or I’ve fallen into the trap of “what if” thinking, or some other mental habit.
If you’re struggling, figure out things within your own circumstance and talk to people you know about your feelings. Even in the best situations, we don’t always give God “credit” for being as unfailingly, tenaciously loving as God is. In the midst of our difficult feelings, we perceive God as that uncomplimentary parent, that fussy boss, or whoever created those “tapes” that we play over and over in our minds. But God is SO MUCH greater and better than that!
Prayer: Dear Lord, touch our minds and hearts with your healing presence, that we—like the people in our scripture—may spread the word about your perfect love. Amen.

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One Comment
  1. Janet Hargis permalink

    Important words! Thank you.


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