“Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.”
John 4:6, NLT
This is a remarkable account of Jesus’ humanity. He is tired. He had been walking for a long time. It was hot and sticky, and He finds a cool place by an historic well to sit. His legs were exhausted. The funny thing is that we are so quick to emphasize our energy and vigor, and regard that to be our spirituality. But, if we are honest, we also have times of fatigue.
It’s instructive to note that while Jesus is very tired, He is still in the very center of the Father’s will. When I get tired, I just shut down, and retreat. I will often just “unplug” and I’m not very spiritual. But Jesus remains receptive, and even though He is so tired, He is activated by the Holy Spirit. I would like to suggest that perhaps too often we let our humanity direct our spirit.
By choosing to sit by the well, in the hottest part of the day, Jesus positions Himself to wait. He inserts Himself in the Will of God. It is intentional. He is waiting for her to come. He has an appointment, and the Kingdom of God is scheduled to break out in the life of a certain woman.
It is imperative that we weave the spiritual into the fabric of the physical.
This is important because ministry happens more frequently then we imagine. It happens when we are really tired. (And maybe more!). Inserting yourself into God’s Will is an intentional act of love. It is putting yourself into the flow, and committing a deliberate act of faith.
Jesus wants to marinate us in His presence, to be saturated in the capability that He wants to give us.
We may be tired and wanting to retreat in our fatigue. But our spiritual man rarely gets weary, we just let our flesh dictate what we will and will not do. I challenge you to wait expectantly for the the flow to bring to you those in your appointment book.
“There must be something wrong with your spiritual life.”
Yes, depression CAN be a result of sin. BUT depression is NOT always a result of sin! If it is, God will tell you loud and clear what the problem is. This saying piles on the guilt for the depressed Christian. It’s unlikely that their depression has a spiritual cause, and this implies that they are not good enough spiritually.
“Repent and ask forgiveness for your sin!”
Depression is a result of sin, in that if there was no sin in the world depression wouldn’t exist. But then, neither would diabetes, or cancer, or any other illness… Sin caused the word to be not-perfect, therefore illness exists. It is not a sin to be depressed, any more than it is to have any other illness. Depression can be used by God to encourage repentance, but in that case, it will be crystal clear exactly what sin you should repent of. If you don’t know, or have just a vague sense of guilt, your depression is not the result of a sin. Accusing someone of having depression because you think they committed some random sin is arrogant. It wouldn’t be the act of a loving God to refuse to tell you what you need to repent of.
“Real Christians don’t get depressed.”
The implication behind this is that someone with clinical depression is not a “Real Christian”. That hurts, especially if it comes from someone who holds authority. It is hard to be depressed and Christian, very hard. I’d say it takes more faith to hold on to the fact that God exists when your situation is screaming out that even if there was a God, he hates you, than it does when all is going your way.
“You need to have more faith.” “Have faith in God.”
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substance [or realization] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. How much faith does it take to hold onto the basic tenets of the Christian faith when emotions scream at you daily to give up, get out and avoid God? Very often a depressed Christian will be hanging onto faith by their fingernails in a situation that requires more faith than the average.
“Taking antidepressants is playing God, He can heal you.”
Yes, God can heal. Sometimes he doesn’t just flick a switch make the illness vanish, sometimes the healing comes through the conventional ways of doctors, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists and medication. By persuading someone not to take their medication in preference for a fast, supernatural healing that God may not have in store for them, the sufferer is being denied something that will help them, right now. In John 5:1-15, Jesus only healed one man out of the many who were gathered. Not everyone will receive supernatural healing. We don’t always understand why God does as he does, only that he is God and will do what is right.
“Scripture says everything that happens is for your own good!”
The actual verse says: Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This verse in no way implies that the sufferer should sit back and accept the illness for the rest of their life. It also does not say that illnesses are not to be fought with the intention of a cure. While God may well have things to do with a depressed person, the illness is not a good thing of itself, and it may take years before you see positive results from it.
“You’ve been prayed for, why has nothing changed?”
This can be expressed in several ways and spoken by one of two different groups of people: either the person who asked for prayer, or those who prayed for them. We’ll break the underlying situation into two areas: something definite was experienced in the prayer time: chains were obviously broken and a new freedom gained, or, nothing apparently happened at all. That is, “I know God set you free, [as testified to by experience, or, simply accepted by faith] why are you not walking in that freedom?” When God steps in and answers believer’s prayer for a person to be freed from the influence of unclean spiritual influence there may well be a noticeable sense of having been freed.
Why is it then that we don’t all immediately change?
The Bible speaks of our lives as being like clay; we are molded through everything we go through. There are 3 sources of spiritual influence on our lives:
God’s Holy Spirit,
our own human spirit,
and unclean demonic spirits.
Take, for instance, temptation – it might not always be the devil himself tempting us, it may be our own human spirit / human nature having issues. Lots of things work to shape this clay, the onus is on us to give ourselves progressively more and more to God and open our lives to His molding process.
Let’s expand on the clay metaphor some more. Clay is not a very elastic substance. If you press a thumb into it and pull it away you’ll get a thumb print. A balloon, on the other hand, would spring back immediately when the outside influence is removed (the thumb). God’s word talks of us as being like clay, not balloons. Clay is solid, has substance, is useful for creating utensils that can be used in his service. Balloons are insubstantial, have nothing solid inside and are full of hot air. So, take away the outside “thumb” pressing on our life and we are still left with a thumbprint: habits that have formed, certain ways of thinking or reacting to things, etc.
God can (and does) change things like these instantly in some people, however, there are times when such a fundamental change would shatter who the person is and a longer, more sustained healing process is needed. That is, we are freed from the oppressive spiritual influence but over the course of weeks, months and years following the prayer time we see a gradual change as the unsightly “thumbprint” is smoothed out.
God wants us whole and healthy, it also says in Scripture that “the prayer of a righteous believer avails much” but it also says that one the fruit of God’s Spirit dwelling within us is patience and endurance. Prayer gets the job done … it’s just that the process started by the prayer may be an ongoing one.
“Depression is a self discipline problem.”
Self discipline is important to a Christian. We have to be disciplined enough not to break the laws of the land, and to obey our God. But no amount of self discipline will get rid of a medical problem. This statement implies that the sufferer is lazy and could become better by sheer force of will. This is not possible, and causes a lot of guilt.
“You’re depressed because you choose to be.”
Why would anyone choose depression? It is a hell on earth. It destroys everything it touches. Families, marriages, jobs, churches, ministries– not to mention faith, peace, hope and love. Depression corrodes all that it touches.
Does an diabetic or cancer patient choose their disease? Does the blind or the deaf person wake up in the morning and decide they aren’t going to keep being handicapped? These are the questions I would ask.
“You should be praying about this.”
Implicitly, whoever says this is also saying “This wouldn’t have happened if you’d been praying enough.” That’s a big assumption to make about someone. To a person with depression, it can seem like God left town a long time ago without leaving a forwarding address. It can seem as if your prayers bounce straight back off the ceiling, and that prayer is as fulfilling and satisfying as yelling at a block of wood. When you’re depressed, you may not “feel” God as you had before. Often you don’t feel anything but numb and hollow. For me, and for many people, depression had a shrivelling effect on my faith. I found it hard to hang onto anything but the most basic elements of Christianity, and sometimes lost my grip on those. When I did manage to pray, it was a yell of pain and confusion. This is why we are supposed to base our faith on facts (God loves you, he loved you when you were a sinner too, Jesus paid the full price for all our sins, etc.) rather than feelings, which are fickle at the best of times. It can be incredible hard to hold onto those facts in depression, like trying to run into a very strong wind.
John Lockley says: “In Christians, spiritual effects follow from the depression, and seldom the other way round. I repeat – in Christians, nearly always the depression comes first, followed by a sense of remoteness from God, rather than depression being the result of “falling away.”
One of the most eloquent and heartfelt prayers a depressed Christian can pray is “Help me God, I’m hurting!” This is a better prayer than the thirty minute meltdown that doesn’t actually say anything. It’s honest, open and sincere. God is listening, even if everything within you is screaming that he isn’t. Prayer during depression can take an awful lot of effort. One comeback to this saying is “I am praying, as best I can. Will you pray for me too?”
“You just need to rebuke that spirit of depression and tell it to leave you. Don’t let Satan steal your joy.”
There are two problems with this statement. One problem is the assumption that depression is caused by demonic oppression. The other problem is the assumption is that joy and happiness are the same thing. Blaming a “spirit of depression” can be a wonderful cop-out. Just cast out the spirit and you’re cured! No need for long term support, for prayer, for counselling, for anything at all! And with this statement comes the implicit assumption that once again it’s your fault you’re depressed, this time because you’re not “spiritual” enough to get rid of the troublesome spirit yourself. Yes it is possible that demonic oppression can cause depression. No, demons are not responsible for every case of depression. Imagine what would happen if this statement was directed at someone with cancer, or hemophilia, or osteoporosis (“Just cast out that demon attacking your bones and be strong again! God wants to see you running marathons!”).
The second problem with this statement is that joy is equated with happiness. People with depression are not going to be the happiest souls in the church. I’ve heard it said that happiness depends on what happens, whereas joy can exist in very unhappy situations.
“There’s no such thing as mental illness, it’s all in your mind”
Saying this denies that there is anything actually wrong with the depressed person, and implies that they are just making it up. This piles on the guilt again! A mental illness can be defined as one that affects the mind; the brain is allowed to get ill, just as the liver and lungs are.
“You’ve got nothing to be sad about”
Depression isn’t about being sad, often the real situation may well have no effect on the disease at all. This statement misunderstands the disease, depression can have an origin that has nothing to do with the surroundings of the sufferer. Depression may make you feel as if your emotions have been switched off, leaving you less sad than numb and empty.
“It’s your own fault you’re depressed”
This is the kind of thing that Job’s “comforters” said, and it didn’t help then either. Bad things can happen to good people. Denying this hurts the sufferer.
“Pull yourself together”
If you’ve been trying, someone saying this to you comes across as “You haven’t been trying hard enough, do more, and more, and more until you get it right. ” So back you go, trying more and more, and still getting nowhere because you cannot pull yourself out of depression by your bootstraps, and you can’t fix a medical problem by force of will.
“You’re just being lazy”
One of the common features of depression is a disturbed sleep pattern. This can often take the form of waking early each day (say 2 AM) and being unable to get back to sleep. Multiply this over several months, and the results can be severe. On top of this, everything is screaming that the world is a horrible place and nothing is worth the effort any more. It is not laziness, it is a consequence of the illness.
It is a good thing to be helped by friends. It hurts deeply when they take on these comments and drill you with them. Understanding is critical, and a little bit goes a long way.
“I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.” D.L. Moody
Shortly after Lynn and I were accepted by Kachemak Bay Christian Center to be their pastor, we traveled to California to be with family for a few weeks. On our return to Alaska we drove from Anchorage to our home in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. I could hardly wait to jump in and be a real pastor. It was my dream, and God had “groomed” me for this moment!
As we drove into Homer I noticed the marquee on the movie theater. It read, “Congrats to Bryan and Abi”. I immediately stopped the car to gawk in amazement. I was flabbergasted. I suddenly felt a warm flush of self importance. Homer was recognizing me as a pastor, as well as ABI, the Bible school in town that I had been teaching at, also in Homer.
I was delighted and duly impressed with how enlightened my town had become in recognizing me since my trip ‘outside.’. I actually drove around the block to take in this wonder and took another look. I was completely taken in by this marquee. My pride took over and I felt invincible. Words would pour off my lips and my little town would be guided by my spiritual brilliance. I felt a warm surge of “heavenly” authority.
About two weeks later I picked up the local newspaper. As I paged through I came across an announcement for a wedding for someone named Bryan and Abby. I suddenly pieced it together. Abby had been an employee at that movie theater before she got married! The management had put this message on their behalf.
Immediately the Lord jolted me back into reality. My arrogance and pride drained from me. I felt like a pompous ass. I had so inflated myself, thinking I was so impressive and important that the crash devastated me. I was not as awesome as I thought I was. I was embarrassed by how easily I was led into this spiritual trap of self-importance.
The Bible has a great deal to say about pride and arrogance. “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” I would like to say that I have overcome this arrogance, but I catch it growing in the corners. I can say that even though I was so self-absorbed and self-important that I am now immune from this sin. But that would be a lie.
Jesus loves the humble. He favors those who are poor in spirit. But he resists people who are proud and self-sufficient. He stands against the arrogant. The Father hates my pride and my arrogance.
I want to encourage you to come to Jesus now. Come as you are and He shall meet you. Dispense with your pride and “humble yourself before the Lord”. We do all right if we see ourself as ordinary and average. Satan will look for any handle you give him. Pride is one of his favorite ways to control you. When the disciples tried to figure this out they ended up fighting (Mark 9:33-34).
“But it should not be that way among you. Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave. In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”
Matthew 20:26-28, NCV
The ”marquee incident” was 15 years ago, but I am determined to remember how the Lord revealed to me my pride. It has become humorous to me now, but at the time it was brutal. I have had to learn through weakness. When I am weak, He is strong.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Tim Keller
“…no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:3
“The question in salvation is not whether Jesus is Lord, but whether we are submissive to His lordship.”
Christians believe that Jesus is Lord. I suppose this really means that they regard Jesus Christ is be the supreme authority in their lives. They look to Him to be their presiding judge in all they say or do. “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies”(1 Cor. 6:20).
Sometimes I think that as Americans we can struggle with this “Lord idea.” We don’t understand living under a sovereign king. A king that exercises total authority and lordship over his subjects. Many believers rather think of the Kingdom of God as a democracy.
Yet when we say, Jesus is Lord (as we Christians are prone to say) we really mean that He is a savior, that He has provided His blood in order to obtain our forgiveness. But this is only half of it. If Jesus is Lord it should mean what we are completely under His rule.
“…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
1 Corinthians 8:6
Lordship means sovereign control. It means He has the authority to do what He pleases with over the totality of our lives. We’re in His sphere of control. To relinquish this to Him is life’s biggest challenge.
“The lordship of Jesus is not simply a hope of Christians that someday might be realized; it is a truth that has already taken place.”
This small post can not change anything. That is not the point. All I ask is that you consider anew the implications of what I’m saying here. Is there a daily acknowledgement to His sovereign control over your life? Does saying “Jesus is Lord” have ramifications of a submitted heart?
I can attest that Jesus is not only a worthy savior but a wonderful lord. His governance is one of love. He has never ever done anything that has been detrimental to me, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1-2). He is a worthy savior.