Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Power of the Body to Help Fight Depression

I have not posted in a while because I broke my hand and typing takes an incredibly long time. Sorry:)

I have been thinking a lot this morning about Paul’s ability to persevere in the face of so many obstacles. Most of this post comes from thinking about 1 Thess. 3:6-7, but it includes other things also.

Paul’s encouragement in the midst of very difficult personal times came from seeing the faith of others, not necessarily the change of his external situation. Why?

1. Suffering was not a hindrance to relationship with God, but a means to a deeper experience with Him. He was able to thank God for the success of others IN THE MIDST of personal turmoil because he knew he was part of of something much bigger than himself (although it most definitely included himself), the Body of Christ, which is the totality of all true believers in all time.

2.He knew that the hope he displayed in the midst of suffering, whether physical or mental, was a way to show others of the hope of God in all times. Therefore, he understood that his perseverance directly effected every other believer because we all form one Body and when one hurts we all hurt. Yet, also when one rejoices we all rejoice.

Paul says his afflictions were to bring comfort to the Corinthians and his comfort was to bring comfort to them also. This is strange (not strange as in unrealistic, but strange as in different than how this situation is normally looked at)! Paul says that whether he is having an “easy” time or a hard time, it is for their comfort. Remember, Paul is always telling people at the churches to imitate him, so this is a mentality he is trying to get them to adopt, not just look at and say, “Well that is just Paul and he has a special anointing.” He wants them to imitate him! He goes on to explain in 1 Cor. that he despaired to the point of death! He was so troubled and depressed that he almost gave up (not in a suicidal way, but in a “not finishing strong way”). Instead of giving up he came to the point of understanding that God was allowing this to happen so that he would not rely on himself.

An objector may say, “Isn't that cruel of God!” This is a legitimate inquiry. My response is that if God could not provide something greater than this situation as a response then yes it would be cruel, but He does provide! This is the point Paul is trying to make. He is saying that when you feel as if you are at the end of your rope, God will provide a way! God wants to help and His help is included for those who are “down and out”!

3. In 1 Thess. 3:7 Paul tells the people that he was greatly encouraged by their faith in the midst of all his distress and affliction. I need to make a confession here. I have read this many times (and especially during a depressive bout) and my thought was, “Paul, you are weird! I do not take much encouragement from the success of others.” In fact, I have normally responded in two ways.

First of all, I covet their success. I wish it could be me that was succeeding instead of them! You may not struggle with this, but I am just trying to give you insight into my thinking and if you do the same, we MUST change.

Next, instead of celebrating their faith, I have countless times taken their success as an attack. It was an attack of, “since they have so much success they will never understand my depression.” This is a lie! People who struggle with depression do not mainly need someone who has tasted the dregs of this terrible cup. They mainly need someone who will show them hope in an ever loving and eternally relational God. Although the person who is providing the hope may have struggled with depression, it would be wise for Christians to stop thinking someone must go through my same plight in order to help me.

One of the biggest ways that Paul was able to remain steadfast in his own personal afflictions, whether physical or mental, was that the success of others caused him to rejoice, not covet their situation or take on a “woe is me” mentality. Be encouraged in the steadfast faith of others. Read Hebrews 11 and see God’s provision. Go ask people how they have seen the provision of God in their life. If you are currently in a depressive bout, beg God to let the success in faith of others become a form of encouragement because this is the true reality of being part of one Body!

Love Truth