Wednesday, September 8, 2010

depression of biblical proportions

I've been thinking about depression lately for two reasons.  First, there was a suicide in our extended family.  Really, really, sad.  Life has to be pretty bleak and hopeless to see no other way out.  Then, the very day after we got the hard news, I had to translate Job 3 from Hebrew to English.  Woah.  I know I've read it before, but this was the first time I was forced to consider each and every word, slowly.  I felt as if I had been given a window into a suicidal soul.  Listen to this:

"Why does he (i.e. God) give light for the troubled?
And life to the bitter of soul?
Those waiting for death and there is none,
those digging for it more than hidden treasure.
The glad, they are rejoicing. 
They exult because they have found the grave."
Job 3:20-22

Did you catch that?  Death is sought more than buried treasure.  The only happy people are those who have been buried.  Wow.

If you thought the Bible was lofty and sublime, take note.  The Bible is not a book that sugar-coats reality.  Somehow God saw fit to include this passage in his holy book.  He is not afraid of our emotions.  Perhaps you are struck, as I am, with the fact that even godly people struggle with depression.  Job, a "blameless and upright" man wanted nothing more than to see his life end.  It was that bad.  He wrestled openly with God, and eventually God answered (see chapters 40-41).  His answer may not have been gentle, but it was just what Job needed to give him a proper view of himself in relation to God.

I haven't read it myself, but I've heard great things about a book by Kathryn Greene-McCreight called Darkness is My Only Companion.  The author is an Episcopal priest and a professor at Yale Divinity School who has struggled deeply with depression herself.  She asks the hard questions and offers hope for those who find themselves in deep shadows.  A book I have read that was very helpful to me in my own season of struggle is Larry Crabb's Shattered DreamsHis point is that God uses suffering to do deep work in us and show us how much we need him.  You can read more about this idea in my old blog here or here.

Job's story ends on a happy note, but not without first dismantling the idea that 'the wicked suffer but the righteous are blessed.'  Life is not always fair (from our point of view), but when we learn to dig for HIM more than buried treasure, we will discover more than we ever dreamed.

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