Buckle up, I’m about to take you on a bumpy ride.
First of all, let me just say this: I believe in the healing power of faith. I believe that Jesus did miracles, and I believe He is still doing them today…I’ve seen them, and I’ve lived them. I believe that faith alone can turn your life upside down and inside out, can set your feet on a new path, can make you a new person and give you a new heart. I believe this because I’ve lived it, because there was a point in my life where I’d been going down the wrong path just long enough to start to wonder if there was any way I’d ever find the right one, and if I found it who in their right mind would allow a person like me on it?
But, God. By His grace alone, I was rescued from the destructive spiral I was in. His love was enough.
His love was enough, so that from the beginning of time He’d had it all planned out. He knew exactly how far I needed to fall before I realized how serious my sin had become. He knew who had been waiting and praying for a Christian wife, and He orchestrated the precise moment in both our lives to bring us together. He knew from the beginning of time exactly when I would give my life to Him, and He knew the people to send to bring that about.
Could He have saved me, had I lived alone on an island…never meeting another human being in all my life? Sure! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”(Psalm 19:1) But He knew, in my case, what would best lead me to The Cure that He offers to each of us.
God’s love was enough, but He also used my circumstances, my sin, my heartbreak and eventually my husband to orchestrate my salvation.
Which brings me to my point: With the tragic death of Robin Williams in the news and on our hearts, a lot is being said in the Christian community about depression and mental health. Let’s be honest here…we Christ-followers are not united on this issue. While most of us would not think twice about calling in a prescription for antibiotics when our child gets an ear infection, and while most of us would not judge a diabetic for his lack of faith because he takes insulin daily, plenty of us have been very vocal about depression and mental illness being a matter of lack of faith. We tell our brothers and sisters who are suffering in the dark, painful depths of depression that they would be fine, if only they prayed more. We suggest that perhaps more time spent in the word, maybe a little more effort to be grateful for all God’s blessings are all that’s needed to pull yourself out of mental illness. All you need is faith, all you need is love.
Sometimes that’s true. I’ve seen people healed of life-long depression and anxiety, through prayer and faith. I’ve seen people delivered of some pretty heavy stuff, and there are times in my life that I can declare with confidence that the love of Christ alone healed me.
And sometimes, it’s just not true. Sometimes, a person is doing all the right things and still does not experience healing. During the darkest period of my life, I was spending over 2 hours daily in the Word. I was praying constantly. I was being prayed for, and I was reading several Christian books about depression. I was serving my socks off. Still, I continued to struggle.
Friend? I’m telling you this, as someone who’s been there. Depression is terrible. It’s a kind of pain that, if you’ve never experienced it, is impossible to understand. It is serious, it’s frightening, and all too often (as we’ve seen this month) it’s terminal. When we ignore and avoid it, when we don’t talk about it, when we tell people that they’re sick because they’re “doing it wrong” or because they don’t have enough faith…we’re only adding to the problem. We’re speaking the same language that depression speaks…because depression tells you, “nobody cares, nobody notices my pain.” Depression tells you, “you deserve to be this unhappy.” Depression tells you, “If you were stronger and a better Christian, this would never happen to you.”
But depression is a liar, and it’s often the very people that seem to have it all together, the ones who are pretty and smart and funny, the ones everyone looks up to, the ones who lead ministries and who give sage Christian advice, the ones who have no good reason to be sad, yes even the ones who are famous…who are afflicted. Does it make sense? No. That’s why it’s depression, and not grief, or some other thing. Grief is a reaction in proportion to a life event…depression is when you’re all messed up and even you can’t figure out why. It doesn’t only happen to people with weak faith, or people with unconfessed sin, or people with a bad past. It happens to teachers, it happens to doctors, it happens to pastors, it happens to children.
It happens to movie stars.
Listen: Someone suffering from major depression isn’t necessarily lacking in faith (click to tweet). I have no words to describe to you how much faith it takes to just get out of bed when you’re in that place. At the darkest time in my life, the only thing that was keeping me going was faith. I was never closer to God, and He was never closer to me.
The Bible doesn’t tell us that taking medication, or going to therapy, or checking into the psych ward or joining AA shows a lack of faith. Those options weren’t even available at the time it was written. I’ve been turning hard to the Word about this, going back again and again to see what I can find and here is what I see:
God brings about healing in many different ways.
Jesus healed several blind men during His ministry on Earth. He was the healer in each of these cases, and His love was the thing that brought about each healing. But He didn’t heal each of these men in the same way. The two blind men in Matthew 9:27-31 were healed instantly when Jesus simply touched their eyes. For the man who was blind from birth (John 9:1-12), Jesus made a paste from spit and dust and applied it to his eyes. The blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) was healed in stages…at first the man saw “men like trees walking,” and he needed another quick adjustment from the Lord before he saw 20/20. Jesus healed some people from a distance (John 4:43-54) and some He healed when they touched His cloak (Luke 8:43-48). Some were healed when Jesus forgave their sins (Matthew 9:1-8). The common thread? Jesus loved them, He wanted to see them healed, and He provided for each of them in the way He saw fit. A personal God could do no less than choose the exact personal remedy that each of us needs, at the very moment we need it.
So let’s quit second guessing God here. If Jesus wants to heal us with His love alone? Praise God! If Jesus wants to heal us with His love, and medication? Hallaujah! If Jesus wants to heal us with His love and counseling? Hosanna on High! If Jesus wants to take years or even a lifetime before we experience healing? Praise Him in the rain. But don’t try to take away the Almighty’s ability and choice to bring about healing however He sees fit.
Here’s a true story for you…
A couple, both new believers, stand arm and arm on their second story deck. They believe in the healing power of God, and they’re here to put this to the test (remember, they are new believers). They pray for healing for their sight, they pray with an open heart, they pray with true intention and with pure faith. They throw their contact lenses off the rail of the deck, in complete confidence that by morning they will no longer need them. They praise God. They go to sleep, awaiting a miracle.
In the morning, they awaken the the exact same terrible vision they’d had the night before, save one thing…two pairs of expensive hard contact lenses, lost in the dense overgrowth of the yard below the deck. On hands and knees, in confusion and with sorrow, the husband crawls on his hands and knees through the weeds and groundcover searching with the dim hope that…despite the laughable hopelessness of searching for four transparent needles in a quarter-acre haystack, he might find at least one of the lost contacts.
He loves to tell the story…how there, in the darkness of lost dreams and trembling faith, he heard the “Happy Birthday” song quite clearly in his mind. How he lay a hand down on the ground, and saw beside it four perfectly safe contact lens, lined up there waiting for him.
You see, God had healed their vision. He’d healed it through years of research in the field of optometry, through generations of doctors perfecting ways to improve what was once an incurable situation. He’d healed their vision through blessing them with health insurance, the money to buy contacts, the ability to see the doctor. All blessings come from above, and the Lord had provided. Could He have healed their vision in an instant, with a single word? Absolutely. That just wasn’t how He chose to do it. But He wasn’t done there.
That day, that moment in the grass, He went ahead and healed the eyes of their heart, as well.
Some years later, when their son met a really messed up but sincere young lady, that couple was there to share the gospel with her and, on a cold and dark night in February, they were there with their son to lead that girl to the Lord.
However He chooses to heal? Who am I to judge, who am I to say. His love is enough when that’s all there is, and His love is enough when He also chooses to also employ other things He created to bring that healing about.
Let’s pray together for healing for those struggling in dark places, for the love of Jesus to shine through and for the grace to accept His healing, however it comes.
Can I get an “Amen?”