No matter who you are, or what you believe, depression can seemingly come out of nowhere and hit harder than a mac truck.
One of the biggest questions a person suffering from depression asks is "why?"
In Christian circles, an answer I hear far too often is, "it's a part of God's plan" or "God doesn't give us more than we can handle."
It's not that those answers are outright wrong, it's just that they aren't helpful to the individual who is suffering.
For those individuals, those answers sound far more like, "I'm too busy to be here for you" or "you're just weak."
As well-intentioned as the responses might be, they are more frequently received as dismissive than empathetic.
So what is a better way to respond to depression through Christ? Let's find out.
Let's take a look at the Book of Job.
For those who are unfamiliar, the story goes like this: Job is an honest hard-working man of God beloved by his family and neighbors; Satan (which literally means adversary) and God enter an agreement to test Job's faith as God sequentially takes all of Job's belongings, family members, health, reputation, etc. all to see if Job would eventually curse God for his misfortune.
Much to the displeasure of Satan, Job remains faithful, though he pleads with God for an answer as to why (a topic for another blog), and God not only restores all that he took from Job but returns it sevenfold.
On the surface, this seems like a cruel story, a game between God and Satan at the cost of God's devotee's enormous amount of suffering; at best it describes suffering as a test of loyalty to God.
But what happens if we dig deeper, and take the perspective of Job instead of God?
Job is an otherwise normal person going about his daily business treating others well and working hard, then suddenly things take a turn for the worse, as they do, and for no apparent reason!
Like most people, Job begins questioning why, he pleads with God for an answer, again as most people do in dire situations; but his situation becomes even worse!
This is a direct parallel to depression; for no apparent reason things take a downward turn, our friends and family appear to be of no help, and we feel isolated, abandoned, and unheard, just like Job.
For Job, there appears to be no end in sight to the depth of suffering his experiences, exactly like anyone who has suffered from depression.
But, Job never gives up his faith in God. Why?
Because abandoning his faith, abandoning hope, would be the one thing that Job has control over that would actively increase his suffering; his belief in God is the only aspect of his life that he could control, and giving up on that would have been the same as giving up his life, which he refused to do.
The result? An end to his suffering, and a rebirth of his entire life and well-being.
If we refuse to give up our faith in the midst of pointless suffering, if we make the decision to take control of our faith when it seems like everything else is out of our control, the result is that not only can we break through depression and hardship, but we come out of it changed- richer, livelier, more passionate, clearer, and humble.
If you're still not convinced, let's take a look at depression through Christ more directly.
The Book of Job is just one of many examples of suffering found in the Bible.
If you're reading this then chances are you are familiar with the Passion of Christ narratives, but you may never have thought of them as a model for how to navigate depression.
Christ isn't exactly battling depression in the Gospel, in fact, he seems to be the opposite of depressed, he's preaching love and empathy, forgiveness and hope.
But let's look at the story.
Depending on which Gospel you read, Jesus knows that his path is the path of suffering; he knows he will be hated, spat on, beaten, betrayed, and crucified.
And what does he do? He pursues what he knows to be right despite the suffering that it will bring.
Now you might be thinking, "Okay, but he is Jesus, the perfect son of God, that's a little different than being me," and Yes, that is very true, But that's also why he is the perfect model for how we should Try!
Remember in the Gospel of Mark, even Jesus cried out in despair, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Even the perfect son of God cries out in anguish, just as we do.
However, by accepting his fate and willingly acting out the right way to live, while he was suffering, he was able to transcend that pain and sorrow.
At the end of the Gospel of John Jesus says, "Forgive them for they know not what they do."
Jesus shows us that even in the midst of pain and suffering if we accept it as a necessary part of life and continue down the right path, we can not only bear that weight but we can even offer compassion to others.
Both Job and Jesus incur suffering from the outside, but psychologically we know that the mind doesn't distinguish between external and internal stressors; what matters is how we respond.
Job maintained faith throughout his ordeal despite not understanding why such terrible things were happening.
Jesus understood that his life would include abuse, rejection, and ultimately his own death, but also willingly accepted these facts and never waivered in pursuing what was ultimately good.
Job's suffering eventually subsided and he was forever changed by his experience; beginning life again with humility, compassion, joy, and hope.
Jesus transcended his suffering, praying for the forgiveness of the very people responsible for his agony.
Both are examples of how truly powerful maintaining your faith is despite suffering and that in fact, God does not give us more than we can handle.
Both are also examples of how terribly difficult life can be and how close to the breaking point a person can get, even the son of God.
And finally, both demonstrate that suffering can be overcome; that depression and pain and sorrow don't last forever, and that even despite depression you can find peace, forgiveness, and compassion.
If you or someone you know is suffering, through Christ there is always hope.
Through faith, depression has an expiration date.
Taken literally, and metaphorically, Job and Jesus went through incredible amounts of sadness and pain, but maintained their faith and hope and ultimately conquered suffering, and even death.
Depression can make you feel completely alone, vulnerable, and hopeless, but turning toward the Bible and connecting with stories like Job and the gospels is a great way to feel connected and secure.
Face depression through Christ, and overcome all the obstacles before you.
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