“David asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”‘
2 Samuel 9:3, NIV
This crippled man was named Mephibosheth. He acquired this injury by the actions of a nurse; she dropped him as she was trying to escape the palace (2 Sam. 4:4.) It was not of Mephibosheth’s doing, but someone else made a mistake and totally and irrevocably changed his life.
He would never ever be normal again. (It’s noteworthy that Mephibosheth’s name means “shame.” This would’ve been an integral part of how people treated him). But David was putting on a feast, and wants to include him.
Interesting. But there are a great many people like Mephibosheth. They’ve been injured by someone else’s stumbling. It seems we pass these things on to each other. And the lameness we inflict may not be physical. It may be spiritual or emotional. Sometimes we injure without knowing what we have done to someone else.
Some of the most vicious and evil wounding that are done are usually on a moral, or spiritual level. People can heal physically over time, but the wounds of the spirit are incredibly devastating. When someone harms us on this level it can completely undo us, for a lifetime. (And perhaps, maybe forever).
Jesus made some powerful statements about people who injure others. It is imperative that we evaluate ourselves; we may find that we are guilty of drastically hurting another’s faith or well-being, knowing that lasts for an eternity.
We are capable of much evil. We affect others in ways we don’t understand. We need to seek God’s grace right now; we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of diminishing or minimizing what we have done. A point to consider: We cannot go on crippling others without injuring ourselves.
Wounded people wound. But healed people can very often become healers themselves.
We can read of King David’s majestic treatment of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. He actively blessed him, and perhaps that is the proactive action we ought to take. We must make an effort– to bless. As king, this was a very minor incident. Hardly worth recording in the lofty affairs of state. But as a man, it was perhaps one of his greatest decisions. Kindness should always be foremost to someone who is in authority.
In all of this however, there is something that is profoundly wise in the New Testament. It is found in Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus. It is here, in this place, that God our Father acts like David, and receives Mephibosheth; just like God receives us to Himself. And that perhaps is the greatest lesson in this portion of scripture.
“5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Before I entered college I hardly gave a thought to cancer and terminal illness. But ever since those college days death by disease has walked beside me all the way. Two of my college acquaintances died of leukemia and cancer of the lymph glands before they were 22. At seminary I watched Jim Morgan, my teacher of systematic theology, shrivel up and die in less than a year of intestinal cancer. He was 36. In my graduate program in Germany my own “doctor-father,” Professor Goppelt, died suddenly just before I was finished. He was 62—a massive coronary. Then I came to Bethel, the house of God! And I taught for six years and watched students, teachers, and administrators die of cancer: Sue Port, Paul Greely, Bob Bergerud, Ruth Ludeman, Graydon Held, Chet Lindsay, Mary Ellen Carlson—all Christians, all dead before their three score and ten were up. And now I’ve come to Bethlehem and Harvey Ring is gone. And you could multiply the list ten-fold.
What shall we say to these things? Something must be said because sickness and death are threats to faith in the love and power of God. And I regard it as my primary responsibility as a pastor to nourish and strengthen faith in the love and power of God. There is no weapon like the Word of God for warding off threats to faith. And so I want us to listen carefully today to the teaching of Scripture regarding Christ and cancer, the power and love of God over against the sickness of our bodies.
I regard this message today as a crucial pastoral message, because you need to know where your pastor stands on the issues of sickness, healing, and death. If you thought it was my conception that every sickness is a divine judgment on some particular sin, or that the failure to be healed after a few days of prayer was a clear sign of inauthentic faith, or that Satan is really the ruler in this world and God can only stand helplessly by while his enemy wreaks havoc with his children—if you thought any of those were my notions, you would relate to me very differently in sickness than you would if you knew what I really think. Therefore, I want to tell you what I really think and try to show you from Scripture that these thoughts are not just mine but also, I trust, God’s thoughts.
Six Affirmations Toward a Theology of Suffering
So I would like everyone who has a Bible to turn with me to Romans 8:18–28. There are six affirmations which sum up my theology of sickness, and at least the seed for each of these affirmations is here. Let’s read the text:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)
1. All Creation Has Been Subjected to Futility
My first affirmation is this: the age in which we live, which extends from the fall of man into sin until the second coming of Christ, is an age in which the creation, including our bodies, has been “subjected to futility” and “enslaved to corruption.” Verse 20: “The creation was subjected to futility.” Verse 21: “The creation will be freed from slavery to corruption.” And the reason we know this includes our bodies is given in verse 23: not only the wider creation but “we ourselves (i.e., Christians) groan in ourselves awaiting sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Our bodies are part of creation and participate in all the futility and corruption to which creation has been subjected.
Who is this in verse 20 that subjected creation to futility and enslaved it to corruption? It is God. The only other possible candidates to consider would be Satan or man himself. Perhaps Paul meant that Satan, in bringing man into sin, or man, in choosing to disobey God—perhaps one of them is referred to as the one who subjected creation to futility. But neither Satan nor man can be meant because of the words “in hope” at the end of verse 20. This little phrase, subjected “in hope,” gives the design or purpose of the one who subjected creation to futility. But it was neither man’s nor Satan’s intention to bring corruption upon the world in order that the hope of redemption might be kindled in men’s hearts and that someday the “freedom of the glory of the children of God” might shine more brightly. Only one person could subject the creation to futility with that design and purpose, namely, the just and loving creator.
Therefore, I conclude that this world stands under the judicial sentence of God upon a rebellious and sinful mankind—a sentence of universal futility and corruption. And no one is excluded, not even the precious children of God.
Probably the futility and corruption Paul speaks of refers to both spiritual and physical ruination. On the one hand man in his fallen state is enslaved to flawed perception, misconceived goals, foolish blunders, and spiritual numbness. On the other hand, there are floods, famines, volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, plagues, snake bites, car accidents, plane crashes, asthma, allergies, and the common cold, and cancer, all rending and wracking the human body with pain and bringing men—all men—to the dust.
As long as we are in the body we are slaves to corruption. Paul said this same thing in another place. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 he said, “We do not lose heart, but though our outer man (i.e., the body) is decaying (i.e., being corrupted) yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” The word Paul uses for decay or corrupt here is the same one used in Luke 12:33 where Jesus said, Make sure your treasure is in heaven “where thief does not come near and moth does not corrupt.” Just like a coat in a warm, dark closet will get moth eaten and ruined, so our bodies in this fallen world are going to be ruined one way or the other. For all creation has been subjected to futility and enslaved to corruption while this age lasts. That is my first affirmation.
2. An Age of Deliverance and Redemption Is Coming
My second affirmation is this: there is an age coming when all the children of God, who have endured to the end in faith, will be delivered from all futility and corruption, spiritually and physically. According to verse 21, the hope in which God subjected creation was that some day “The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” And verse 23 says that “We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” It has not happened yet. We wait. But it will happen. “Our citizenship is in heaven from which we await a Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our lowliness to be like the body of his glory” (Philippians 3:20, 21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no longer any death; and there shall be no longer any mourning or crying or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
There is coming a day when every crutch will be carved up, and every wheelchair melted down into medallions of redemption. And Merlin and Reuben and Jim and Hazel and Ruth and all the others among us will do cartwheels through the Kingdom of Heaven. But not yet. Not yet. We groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies. But the day is coming and that is my second affirmation.
3. Christ Purchased, Demonstrated, and Gave a Foretaste of It
Third, Jesus Christ came and died to purchase our redemption, to demonstrate the character of that redemption as both spiritual and physical, and to give us a foretaste of it. He purchased our redemption, demonstrated its character, and gave us a foretaste of it. Please listen carefully, for this is a truth badly distorted by many healers of our day.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the work of Christ like this in 53:5–6 (a text which Peter applied to Christians in 1 Peter 2:24):
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (RSV)
The blessing of forgiveness and the blessing of physical healing were purchased by Christ when he died for us on the cross. And all those who give their lives to him shall have both of these benefits. But when? That is the question of today. When will we be healed? When will our bodies no longer be enslaved to corruption?
The Lordis my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23, KJV
The Lord wants to escort you to someplace wonderful, it’s where there is a rich rest and a sweet intimacy– in spite, of conflict. It is revealed in Psalm 23; it is more than poetry. It is a way of life.
There is a preciousness just beyond our ‘status quo.’ It is an abundant life for eternity. When you have apprehended it, you will understand what I am talking about, and wonder why you’ve missed it for so long. Eternal life has already begun even though many of us don’t walk as if it did. We have eternal life, here end now!
There is a place which we can enter into where Jesus is all there is. His dear presence pervades everything, and there is no doubt about His lordship. He rules completely, and He is “all-in-all.”
There is real evidence when you have appropriated this deeper life. There will be a surrender of all you have, and you will fully understand what it truly means to be His follower. There will be a complete renunciation of all rights to yourself. You will give it all up, with an insurmountable joy, just to walk with Him.
Live on earth as if you’ve already died, and are now living in heaven with Him.
There must be a definite place where you turn your rights over to Him. Perhaps His love has already pressed you into this. Often there will be a disillusionment and cynicism with this planet and its ugly ways. You want to escape all its dullness and jadedness. You will step into ‘life-effervescent.’ He intends to walk you through many issues, but if He is close I will suggest you trust Him fully.
If you struggle with a mental illness: clinical depression, bipolar, anxiety issues, or schizophrenia, I want to reassure you, you are not a “lesser” Christian. And my comments include you. You are not on the ‘scrap heap’ of the Spirit. In so many ways, you can enter in while normal people will struggle. And you do need to step into this, and discover a life worth living.
A “Psalm 23 life” is yours for the asking. Take it up, humbly and true. It’s your birthright to be with your Shepherd forever.
“When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?”
Mark 6:2-3, NIV
Jesus amazed people. When He is brought to the front of the synagogue, He begins to speak. His listeners are driven to silence and an awareness of something else. They attempt to try to decipher these things. It seems they cannot make the connection between the Holy Spirit and their traditions. But as they listened their hair stood up. What is going on? Something isn’t quite right. Too many things are being threatened.
But they remain astonished. The situation is getting out of control. This young man is one of their own. They don’t expect this type of intensity from Him. He says things that very closely approaches a definition of blasphemy. Who is this man, and why is He speaking to us in such a manner or attitude?
And on top of all these pronouncements, He begins to perform miracles!
He does what no one can do, or has done before. And He does it so easy– no theatrics or gyrations. There is no effort. Those who observe Him, are brought into even more astonishment. Jesus is doing things that are unreasonable, and amazing. I can just imagine their thinking. Who invited this guy to speak and why was He invited in the first place? Has He been brought here to mock and shame us?
Our tendency is to consider miracles to be fantastic interventions in our lives; when in fact they’re better understood as revelations of the nature of a Covenant keeping God.
Jesus simply reveals the heart of the Father. He is the son of God. And at this particular junction, no one can compare. As He stands behind that pulpit, He reveals an intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus clearly stands as the ultimate deliverer of the human race. We will find no hope by looking somewhere else. He has established Himself as the only way to the Father. And He sees us clearly. We may twist, and we may squirm. But Jesus remains our only salvation.
The Bible is plumb full of commentary on depression. King David experienced intermittent times of intense depression. He was a man who had to work through a great deal of it, and we can see that he succeeded in breaking through into freedom.
Would David today be treated with antidepressants? Could he have been treated at a mental hospital? (I honestly think the answer is “yes” to these questions. He was definitely devastated by depression at certain times.)
There is no question he experienced both spiritual and physical depression. But I believe that David teaches us that depression has a spiritual component in our fallenness. It has to be treated holistically, covering both the physical and the spiritual. It’s like having two hands injured but only treating just one of them.
We need to discern the difference between:
depression caused by guilt (sin)
depression caused by a medical issue (organic)
depression as a reaction to a trauma or loss (reaction)
This is key. These all can be working at the same time (and very often do). But there will only be a partial release if there is only a partial solution. The three can overlap each other. Any of the three can be the predominant kind of depression.
The points below deal primarily with “guilt” or “sin depression.” (I’m not qualified to speak out on the othe1) Confession of sin may free us from certain issues of depression.r two.)
13″If you don’t confess your sins, you will be a failure. But God will be merciful if you confess your sins and give them up.” Proverbs 28:13 (CEV)
2) The story of Cain and Abel reveals the issue of “angry depression” taking over a person’s actions.
“6The LORD said to Cain:
What’s wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don’t let it!”
3) David was depressed until he confessed his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.
3“When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” Psalm 32:3-4 (NLT)
4) The way out of depression caused by guilt is confession and seeking God’s forgiveness.
5 “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
Psalm 32:5 , 1-2
5) If you are a Christian and are experiencing “moderate-to-heavy” depression, I would encourage you to seek out medical help. Medication may be helpful to get through this rough time, and talk therapy can be a life-saver. If your depression is caused from guilt, it will NOT get better, until you deal with it in the presence of God.
Now I’m not a physician, nor is this post medical advice.If you are experiencing thoughts of depression and suicide seek out help immediately. Call 911 right now.
Your regular doctor can guide you to a good psychiatrist which may help.
3 “For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”
Some time ago, I was hospitalized for my mental illness. (Actually seven times.) And though each time was bitter, but the Lord carried me. They would take from me my shoelaces, and belts, and fingernail clippers. Basically, I was stripped of everything, anything that I might use to harm myself. But I was creative, I took a clock off the wall and rolled it in a blanket, I smashed it and used the shards of glass to cut my wrists.The nurses were exceptionally observant, and within moments they intervened.
I had already been stripped, searched, and then brought into a ward full of very sick people. Much of all of this is a terrible glazed blur. There was a real awareness of unreality. I was quite confused, and it would take several weeks before I could reconnect. Things were no longer ‘reasonable’ and I could discern nothing. But I didn’t know I was so confused (but I did suspect it). The staff were quite aware and accommodating. They let me be, so time could take care of the rest. I needed to unravel things
Besides, Jesus knew exactly where I was if I didn’t.
Days rolled by, quite slowly. The tedium of a mental hospital is the worst— much more difficult than jail or prison. You walk in a very limited corridor, back and forth. You wait for your shrink, and wait, and wait. You pace, and pace. You pray, stupidly. The other patients were equally disturbed. There was a great variety among them. One guy would urinate in any corner. Once he jumped up on the nurses station, and took a “whizz.” It was hysterical. He almost shorted out their computer.
In all of this, there was a very bleak and strange awareness, of being incredibly ‘detached,’ and only remotely aware that something was not right with me. I tried to get well, but I was mentally lost. I paced, and I remained confused. I was most definitely in an ugly place. Desperate and increasingly bewildered, I knew I had no place to go. A fine place for someone who used to pastor, and teach at a Bible college.
If you have been in this place, you will recognize the ‘lostness’ of being on a ward of a mental hospital. It is confusion mixed with despair, and without a part of very strong drugs, and there is nothing you can do to be released. And really until you come to this fact, they will never let you go. They wait for you to snap out of your confusion, unfortunately that takes time. Sometimes many weeks and whole months. Sometimes never.
It’s worse when you have a family. In my case it was my wife, and two small children. This at times, would twist my heart. I would get a very short phone call, once a week. But this was quite difficult. I gained very little from those calls, and I found myself quite disturbed after each call. Being on this ward tinged me completely. It was like being dipped into darkness. I was very much affected. Now on the outside, I admit I was quite disturbed, but at the time I honestly did not understand a way out.
Dear friend, having a mental illness is cruel and disturbing. And being committed to a mental hospital is a desperate thing. Having passed through its locked doors is something you will never forget. The way I figure these seven hospitalizations have stolen over six months of my life. Its work is irrevocable, its fingerprints will be on your life, for as long as you live.But God will bring good out of this. This I know.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
–Psalm 42:11, NIV
The things that truly tear me apart, will often start by intensifying my gloom and depression. I certainly do avow a limited degree of freedom. But even in the light of this,
1) depression hammers me,
2) dismantles me, and than it
3) devastates me
My own lostness goes on to confuse me, (not to mention it in the lives of my family and friends) and than I slide into further into my darkness. The bottom just falls off, and I go even lower. I become mad. (In the psychological sense of the word.)
But the Father interjects His will on my behalf, and puts me into this critical place by a special grace. I try to rest into this great big sea of a massive love, but I imagine I really don’t belong. In my dark depression, I turn to Him for a greater protection. I understand my proclivity to depression that only sinks me into the darkness of sin. So I reach out, and grab tight.
In olden days, a ship in a overwhelming storm would attempt to lighten its load by throwing its cargo overboard. When we are in this despondency, we often will do this as well. Anything to just survive. We are quite desperate.
My darkness is deep, and it is an intensely viscous evil. It reaches out for me, and it entangles me. You might rightly say that I am lost, but the Father does intervene, and He steps into my blackness, and separates me from it. It may seem a bit melodramatic. But He nevertheless carries me through. And yet I will confess that He has behaved consistently concerning me.
When we have an opportunity we should simply reach out for it. Our foolishness should not disconnect us into a confused place of being. We will step out into this awareness of being made wonderfully complete, and incredibly sure. His presence alters us, and sanctifies us. We change and adjust ourselves. Yet everything that does work into us will bring us to a purpose and significance.
I do return and earnestly seek Him to work in me. Unless He does, I will be irrevocably lost. I turn to Him, and so I must admit I am bold in this. I say desperately, ‘Please Jesus, save me.’ I will only turn, and be very bold, entering into His salvation. “Please save me dear Savior, and launch me into the world of salvation. Give me a deep understanding of your deliverance. Jesus, I surrender to your work.” And in all the areas I surrender, He meets me and brings me to the place of rest.
“So our hope is in the Lord. He is our help, our shield to protect us.”