The Mystery of Depression

“I once met a woman who had wrestled with depression for much of her adult life. Toward the end of a long and searching conversation, during which we talked about our shared Christian beliefs, she asked, in a voice full of misery, ‘Why do some people kill themselves and yet others get well?’

“I knew that her question came from her own struggle to stay alive, so I wanted to answer with care. But I could come up with only one response.

“’I have no idea. I really have no idea.’

“After she left, I was haunted by the regret. Couldn’t I have found something more hopeful to say, even if it were not true?

“A few days later, she sent me a letter saying that of all the things we had talked about, the words that stayed with her were ‘I have no idea.’ My response had given her an alternative to the cruel ‘Christian explanations’ common in the church to which she belonged—that people who take their lives lack faith or good works or some other redeeming virtue that might move God to rescue them. My not knowing had freed her to stop judging herself for being depressed and to stop believing that God was judging her. As a result, her depression had lifted a bit.

“I take two lessons from that experience. First, it is important to speak one’s truth to a depressed person. Had I offered wishful thinking, it would not have touched my visitor. In depression, the built-in bunk detector that we all possess is not only turned on but is set on high.

“Second, depression demands that we reject simplistic answers, both ‘religious’ and ‘scientific.’ and learn to embrace mystery, something our culture resists. Mystery surrounds every deep experience of the human heart: the deeper we go into the heart’s darkness or its light, the closer we get to the ultimate mystery of God. But our culture wants to turn mysteries into puzzles to be explained or problems to be solved, because maintaining the illusion that we can ‘straighten things out’ makes us feel powerful. Yet mysteries never yield to solutions or fixes—and when we pretend they do, life becomes not only more banal but also more hopeless, because the fixes never work.”
–Parker J. Palmer in Let Your Life Speak, pp. 59-60.

Good News Lost

How sad it is to lose all hope.

A forty three year old man who lived just south of London recently committed suicide. The man had received intensive treatment for testicular cancer. He lost hope and hanged himself. What compounds the sadness of this story is what the patient didn’t know. His cancer treatment was successful – his body was cancer free.

He lost hope and slipped into despair because he never heard the good news. Doctors suspect that because the patient had recently changed doctors, there was a mix-up that resulted in his never getting the all-clear letter. The hope-bringing good news was never communicated.

How sad, even tragic it is when the Good News gets lost.

So many people in this world have lost hope and slipped into despair. They wonder if there is any purpose for their existence and whether they should carry on with their lives. A few choose to end their lives. Many more just continue living a life of hopeless despair. And it’s all so unnecessary.

There is hope. But there has been a mix-up and the word isn’t getting out. Churches get sidetracked arguing with one another over peripheral matters and so never get around to spreading the message of hope. Christians are so busy entertaining one another they forget about those who are despairing for lack of hope. How many people have never heard the Good News? Oh for worship that compels us to take hope to the world (see lyrics below).

Jesus is Good News — spread the hope!

Take to the World
(Recorded by Derek Webb
on his album She Must and Shall go Free — words and music by Aaron Tate)

go in peace to love and to serve
let your ears ring long with what you have heard
and may the bread on your tongue
leave a trail of crumbs
to lead the hungry back to the place that you are from

(chorus)
and take to the world this love, hope and faith
take to the world this rare, relentless grace
and like the three in one
know you must become what you want to save
‘cause that’s still the way
He takes to the world

go, and go far
take light deep in the dark
believe what’s true
He uses all, even you
may the bread on your tongue
leave a trail of crumbs
to lead the hungry back to the place that you are from

(chorus)
and take to the world this love, hope and faith
take to the world this rare, relentless grace
and like the three in one
know you must become what you want to save
‘cause that’s still the way
He takes to the world