Hope Against Depression
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #7
"Hope Against Depression"
February 12, 2011
Our lesson for this week is entitled, “Hope Against Depression.” However, in the light of this cosmic Day of Atonement, a more apt title might be “Hope in the Face of Depression.”
None of us likes to suffer. We want deliverance if we can have it. In fact, many insist on deliverance. But what if God is looking for an Honor Guard; a person or group of persons who would be willing to endure suffering on behalf of Christ, to bring honor to Him and be witnesses in the vindication of His character?
Morris Venden told the story of a young man who developed a terminal childhood disease at age 18. A senior in high school, he was popular, and felt he was too young to die. He went for all the usual treatments, but still his disease progressed. Finally in desperation he requested that the elders anoint him with oil. The ceremony was held at his hospital bedside, and the hope of friends and family soared. Still his condition worsened, and steadily he deteriorated. He wondered what he had done wrong, whether he had un-confessed sin I his life, and if God was even listening to him. His emotions swung between hope and despair. Friends and classmates continued to visit him and pray. In fact, as news of his illness spread, prayer chains sprung up throughout the states, as students, faculty and friends alike pleaded with heaven to restore this young man’s health. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to avail, and yet, the petitioners continued on.
As the young man continued to grow worse, he shared his concerns about his eternal destiny with his friends. Someone came along and said, “Just make sure you have all your sins confessed.” But that didn’t seem to help very much.
One day the pastor of his church was able to communicate the good news to him that our eternal destiny is not based on anything we have done, but on what Jesus has done. He explained that we may rest in a continuing acceptance of Christ’s work. Like a revelation, the light shone through. Excited, the young man stopped looking to himself for some kind of salvation, and instead looked to Jesus. What peace he found; how he rejoiced !
The patient’s health continued to worsen. Despite this, he lived in joy. He began to ask his friends and classmates to meet him ‘up there’ because he wanted to ‘hang out with them there’. Hearing of this, the pastor asked if he could meet with him a few more times to document what was happening.
“Have your thoughts changed?” he asked the young man. “Oh yes in three ways,” was the reply. “My primary goal was to have fun, then to get things, and lastly to be cool; now I’m convinced that there’s only one thing that is important, and that is to know Jesus.”
Although this young man now had peace concerning his eternal destiny, he would still occasionally awaken at night with overwhelming fear, saying, “Mom, I’m afraid, I don’t want to die at 18.”
Awakening next to his hospital bed, his mother would calm his fears by answering him: “Son, if you do, you’ll awaken to look into the face of Jesus, and Jesus will look into your face. Can you try and visualize that?”
“Ok mom” he answered.
“Ok, mom, I feel better,” He would say.
Another occasional nightly occurrence was that he’d awaken with the question which inevitably brought discouragement and darkness, “Why me, why me?” Then one night the Holy Spirit said to him the same statement made to John the Baptist, “Of all the gifts heaven can bestow, fellowship with Christ in His suffering is the most weighty trust and the highest honor” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 200). After pondering the Holy Spirit’s reply, the young man finally came to this conclusion. “If God needs someone to go through an experience like this, and still love Him and trust Him just as much, then why not me? Why not me?” The young man decided to be God’s Honor Guard. Like John the Baptist, his story has become an inspiration to many other young people in trying situations.
We have thought for a long time that if we have enough faith we will be healed, or delivered. But it takes a strong faith to not be healed, and to not be delivered. Although depression is not a terminal illness as such, who is to say that God does not want to use the sufferer, as he is suffering, to be His honor guard? In Philippians 1:29, the apostle Paul has written, “For unto you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” We are further counseled that we may suffer for the gospel’s sake.
Let’s look at a few of God’s people who suffered depression: Job, who was the most righteous man on earth at the time, suffered situational depression as a result of the simultaneous loss of his children, his servants, and his cattle. Then, as if that weren’t enough suffering, there came the countless boils. Finally Job suffered the loss of loving support from his wife, who urged that he curse God and die. Did Job have the symptoms associated with depression? Yes he did. He lost sleep, he was despondent and in despair. Likely he lost his appetite. He complained of fatigue.
Did Job endure? Yes, he did. And God said of him, Job 1:8, “There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God and eschews evil.” He vindicated God’s character in His suffering.
Then there is Elijah the prophet of God who suffered depression after a long day of standing, apparently alone, against the prophets of Baal. After slaying those prophets, and then running ahead of King Ahab’s chariot through the blinding rain into the city, he got the news that the Queen intended to murder him. Elijah was so depressed, he asked God to take his life. But God did not. In his suffering, he was God’s honor guard, vindicating His name.
And how about John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus? Of him Sister White says in the Desire of Ages that he suffered doubts, anxieties, a bruised soul, bitter disappointment, and great sorrow. On page 190, she says, “There were hours when the whisperings of demons tortured his spirit and the shadow of a terrible fear crept over him.” Yet, he endured as one of God’s honor guards, suffering for Christ’s sake, until his life was taken from him. For him, there was no visible deliverance. He was an honor guard.
Lastly, we consider Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death:…” He felt so alone, and requested his disciples to please stay and watch with Him. Stressed, they fell asleep, while three times He pleaded with the Father to let the cup pass from Him. “But no way of escape was found for Him.” So great was His agony that great drops of blood fell from His pores upon the ground. According to Sister White, a mighty angel was sent to steady Him in His suffering. Christ was depressed, for Sister White further says that after the angel strengthened Him, “His agony did not cease, but His depression and discouragement left Him” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 680). He was the Father’s supreme honor guard, vindicating His character before the universe. The accusations of Satan were permanently invalidated.
What about you and me? Are we willing to consider that God may need us to suffer for His sake? Have we considered that He may need us to be His honor guard? For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame (Hebrews 12:2) to save us, and vindicate His Father’s honor. If we love Him, can we do any less?