For Sunday, October 6, 2013
As someone who has managed low-grade depression for 31 years of his adult life these are words that encourage profoundly. They don’t minimize or avoid the issue: ”I remember my affliction and my wandering … and my soul is downcast within me” (v. 3:19). The prophet Jeremiah, their author, was no stranger to despair. Consider how he opens: “How lonely sits the city that once was full of people” (Lam. 1:1). Jerusalem has been ransacked by the Babylonians and left for dead. It seemed God’s very purpose and people had been abandoned.
Yet from this side of the cross we know God did no such thing. The Babylonian Exile was merely a chapter in a much greater drama. From the depths of his despair Jeremiah turns to something he has come to know well, the loyal love of God. The Hebrew word used here, hesed, is a constant theme throughout the Old Testament. It is sometimes translated “steadfast love” or “faithful lovingkindness”. It’s impossible to capture in a single English word or phrase what it really means, which is something like this: ”I will never leave you nor forsake you. I love you perfectly, consistently, and unconditionally. I am going to redeem your life.”
Just as Jeremiah did, I find tremendous comfort in the promise of hesed made by a loving Heavenly Father to those who believe. Jeremiah puts it this way: “Because of the Lord’s great love (hesed) we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
These words don’t mean that Christians should never get depressed. The Prophet Jeremiah got depressed and I’ll put his character up against depression deniers any day of the week! The beauty of the gospel is that it embraces both anguish and hope. Paul had a thorn in the flesh; low-grade depression is mine. By God’s grace I manage it through diet, exercise, medication, and counseling. It’s something I inherited through genetics, and that’s okay. I said to my counselor recently, “One thing that helps so much is that even when I’m down I know I’m going to be okay.” He responded, “I know and that’s why you do so well.” Those were tremendous words of affirmation and encouragement.
If you are among those to whom God has called to navigate the emotional shadow-lands, know this: your Heavenly Father is with you every step of the way. He is going to accomplish his purpose in your life. In fact, he already has in crucifying his one and only son Jesus and then raising him back to life. You were raised back to life with him.
You can do this.