Depression (#31)

Today we begin to enter into a few topics that are temptations of Jesus not mentioned in Luke 4.

When gathering clouds around I view,
And days are dark and friends are few,
On him I lean, who not in vain
Experienced every human pain.
He sees my wants, allays my fears,
And counts and treasures up my tears.
Unknown

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” (Hebrews 5:7)

If depression means disenchanted self-love or self-pity, then Jesus did not experience depression. Depression often stems from self-interest and deflated ego. We want our way but cannot have it. But if depression means lasting sorrow, unfulfilled wishes requiring patience in prayer, then Jesus experienced it.

Of all men on earth, he had the most reason: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11) Jesus tasted rejection in the widest scale possible, ranging from “his own” to “the world” that he had made. He had the most reason and right to be accepted. As the godliest man on earth, his wishes for people were, and are, constantly spurned for the sake of small goals. As Lewis says, God offers the world a holiday at the sea, but they choose to keep making mud-pies in the slum.

Yet Jesus has the antidote for depression, and of all men on earth, he knew best how to dispel it. The quote in John continues: “Yet to all who did receive him … he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) Depression is born out of rejection; Jesus’ answer is acceptance, both the welcoming of Jesus as Lord and the welcoming of God as Father.

God, like the Father of the prodigal son, is always waiting with open arms, ready to run to meet us where we are. Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) It is we who have rejected him, and when we come to him by faith, we find that he has been waiting and ready to receive us.

That is the message of the prodigal son story. It is not a message about the character of the son; it is a message about the character of the father. The father runs, bringing open shame on himself to receive his derelict and starving son. Our Father God cares more about accepting us than he does about his own honor.

If we receive Jesus as Lord and Master, God as Father, and ourselves as children, then we have no reason to remain in depression. All our rejection has become the Father’s open arms; all our disappointment has become a new birth. The feeling of death, that wraps itself around us, has no ring of truth anymore. We are alive in him.

Jesus, you faced depression and rejection, and you defeated it by showing us that God is our open-armed Father. As we repent of our sins, help us to know God as our Father and Creator, who will not reject his own children.

Amen.

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