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Depression: Do You Wish To Get Well?

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Lord, help me to honor Thee by believing before I feel,

for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith.” Jonathon Edwards

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaiccalled Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?’”

“The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5:2-8

Sometimes, and please note, sometimes depression is born from the various protestations of God’s providential pruning in our lives – from disappointments to disablement, from loneliness to loss, from “having what you don’t want to wanting what you don’t have” but nonetheless bids us answer the question our Lord put forth to a man languishing on a threadbare, squalid mat for 38 years, “Do you wish to get well?” At first glance we might be tempted to assign some insensitivity to such an inquiry in light of this man’s pitiable state, until we remember that our sympathetic High Priest asks no question amiss but always out of redemptive love. And what was the man’s answer? “I have no one.” He confessed his utter need of help beyond himself and others. No self-help here, no man-centered, humanistic nostrum or prescriptive potions. He needed a Savior.

Our Lord’s question reaches into the depths of what Ed Welch calls, “a stubborn darkness” that can find us in the same place year after year, in our small and ever shrinking worlds no bigger than the breadth of a small pallet and though a desolate place, it is one familiar and useable. After all, didn’t that poor fellow exist for almost four decades by using his illness to elicit handouts and perhaps some passing pity? For a very long time, I would not countenance being delivered from my “comfortable melancholy”, my moodiness – because for a very long time it allowed for justifying my self-centeredness and control, met a need, albeit temporary for attention and gave me what I believed to be a special dispensation to flee from personal responsibility. Jesus asks the question because there is a cost to “getting well”.

For me, it meant that I could no longer use the deprivations of my past or the difficulties of the present to excuse a short temper, unkind treatment of others, laziness, self-pity or self-indulgence. My “tossed and driven” feelings could no longer be the arbiter of my choices rather than the fixed point of God’s Word which commands me to “get up” (cease my threadbare excuses), take up my pallet, as G. Campbell Morgan put it, “in order to make no provision for a relapse”. That catalytic moment can lift us from years of debilitating hopelessness to “mounting up on wings of eagles” seeing from God’s perspective His purpose for your pain and the love that will heal it.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the same power that raises the dead to life, that spoke the world into existence, that quiets the boisterous storm, that directs lightning bolts and “choreographs the molecular dance” – and that is the same power available to impotent limbs unable to rise from depression’s depths. But, we will remain languishing with a host of others until we recognize our utter need of none but Christ, obey His Word, repent from self and sin then walk with Him, finding that in His presence depression gives way to joy like the fog when the sun comes up in the morning.

Be encouraged, dear saint. His strength is perfected in your weakness and can be yours with one look upward. You can get well if you choose to.

Let not conscience make you linger,

Nor of fitness fondly dream.

All the fitness He requireth

Is to feel your need of Him.

This He gives you,

'Tis the Spirit's rising beam.

I will arise and go to Jesus,

He will embrace me in His arms;

In the arms of my dear Savior

oh there are ten thousand charms.”

Posted on April 10, 2011