I wrote earlier in a post on social media that I haven’t been depressed lately.
I’ve been aiming for a lifestyle focused on my wellness and I was going down the list of things I’ve seen an improvement on and I said I can’t quite speak to the affects it would have on my depression because I haven’t been depressed recently.
There’s obvious perspective gained when you’re on the other side of a mountain you know intricately. I know the highs and lows and everything in-between when I stand before depression now because I’ve been through bouts of it multiple times.
Since I’m currently on the outside, and who knows how long that will last, I wanted to address something that I’ve been thinking about the way I notice others, specifically the Church, respond to depression.
There seems to be this damaging idea that’s perpetuated by seemingly well-intentioned ‘encouragement’ that if you would just draw closer to Jesus then you would feel better.
I understand why that feels safe for us to speak those words, because it’s so simple to diagnose someone else and project onto them your perceived solutions, because then you don’t have to sit down in their struggle with them – you get to walk away without any responsibility because it’s on that person to get right with God so they can be better, right?
But that’s the easy route.
That line of thinking doesn’t make us face the truth that some struggles pursue us for the entirety of our earthly lives. We want healing in the here and now; we want Jesus to show up on our timeline and conformed to our idea of what “well” even means.
It can seem like you’re following a counterfeit Jesus if you are left enduring hardship instead of delivered from it. Isn’t Jesus “for” me? If I’m seeking Him, won’t I draw near to Him and then therefore He will draw near to me and then therefore I will feel better because how could you not feel better in the presence of Jesus?
This mindset, though, this “be better about your walk with God to feel better inside of your brain” is Psychological Prosperity Gospel.
I’m reminded as I’m writing this about that verse in Proverbs that says just as iron sharpens iron, so do men sharpen men. I wonder what would happen if instead of leaving our fellow sisters and brothers alone to sharpen themselves – if we pushed in and reminded them that their story should be told and their struggle isn’t something to be tucked away until it looks “acceptable”?
I feel like that type of awakening in the Church could speak to the wanderers of this world to show them that we remain wanderers after we are known by Him, so the difference in knowing Christ isn’t in some ability we have within us to be better but to set our gaze on the only unwavering thing.
And though we are flesh, we aren’t walking in accordance with the flesh but as Romans 8 says we are walking in the Spirit and by setting our mind on the Spirit we are welcomed into life and peace. That life and peace is not something we attain on our own – not some “being better with God so we can be free ourselves” – but being free in God to not have to bring to the table anything different than the offerings you and I already possess.
When we buy this Psychological Prosperity Gospel we’re using our mind and our thoughts as the sacrificial offering that’s blameless and pure, like “hey God I got this all together so now it’s acceptable to lay at your feet for you to use” but you guys we already have the Lamb that laid down His life in His own right, blameless on His own – we don’t have to exchange that in for a lie that isn’t real and a wellness that keeps us sick – that keeps us believing that God can’t use us in our struggle, that we must come up with our own presentable offering.
See, normally when you hear the words Prosperity Gospel you automatically think in dollar signs and tangible possessions. The Prosperity Gospel wants you to believe that if you are tight with God that He’ll bless you and then you get to be awesome with all those blessings and bless other people. It’s eye catching; it’s self-focused. That’s the most seductive thing about believing that abiding in the Lord will open your ability to serve and bless others better: it sounds good. It sounds right.
The same can be said for the Psychological Prosperity Gospel. There’s a certain attraction we might be drawn to by letting ourselves believe that being without mental struggle = being better able to serve people and advance the Gospel.
This isn’t true though and the Bible shows us that over and over again. We continually see that God will use you where you are so long as we submit that struggle before Him and abide in Him in all seasons of life, not just the ones we’re more readily wanting to showcase to the world.
People that had issues and faced adversity and yet were used by God, not after some attaining of perfection but within their struggles.
And then there’s you, and then there’s me.
Should we choose to offer up our lives to Him in our present and messy and unattractive state, we may see more clearly the fullness of God’s providence in the ordinary.
In thinking about this I can’t help but consider the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”, that whatever our lot may be – peace or sorrow – as long as we offer it up to be used by and for God, we may truly know what it is to say “It is well with my soul”.