This past week my news feeds have overflowed with an outpouring of grief and sympathy and loss following the suicide of a well-known actor. Along with that, though, there has been a steady stream of ignorance. It makes my heart ache to realize that there was more grace and understanding shown on the Today Show than in many corner churches and in many corners of the blogosphere.
We believe God created us, mind, body and soul. We believe God gives doctors skill and knowledge to cure the body. Isn’t the brain part of the body? Does it not get diseased? Or sick? Does it not lose strength? Or does God’s help for doctors and caregivers stop at the eyebrows?
To believe that we will always be healthy, wealthy and wise is to subscribe to a gospel Jesus didn’t preach. And it is disingenuous. Jesus promised we would have tribulation.Sometimes that tribulation is personal, internal, brought on by living in a fallen world.
The interconnection of mind, soul and body are yet to be understood by the most brilliant among us. How presumptuous for us to pronounce a cure for someone suffering through personal tribulation after a two second consultation. “Well, you’re selfish. You’re weak. You’re sinful. You lack faith. You must pray. Or read. Or help people. Or simply choose joy.” How ignorant. How arrogant. How graceless. How un-Christlike.
This discussion proves that we have yet to answer the questions Job raises. Do we serve God for what we get in return? Of course not, we say. We serve God because we love Him. But what happens when He takes things away? What if those things are joy? Or peace? Will we still serve Him? Will we desperately search for Him and cling to Him? Or will we rage at Him? Is God good? Can He be trusted? Is He even there?
It is in the pits of depression you experience the answer to those questions and others. Not just find the answers. You experience them
Devastating loss happens to good people. But sometimes that loss is not financial. Sometimes it’s not the loss of love or loved ones. Sometimes the loss is mental or emotional. Sometimes it is the loss of joy or will or purpose.
We wonder why the church struggles for relevance, we wonder why no one comes. Maybe the answer is as simple as the message we send – Often that message is “We don’t really want you. Unless you’ve got your stuff together, don’t clog our system. This is no place for the struggling, or for the imperfect.” And we use shame and guilt as weapons to bring each other into submission … or at least silence. Maybe we should stop echoing Job’s friends, and declaring the sufferers need repentance. Maybe we need to stop adding to their burdens.
Maybe if we stopped wagging fingers, we could point people to refuge, to healing, to hope. I believe there is no healing apart from the Gospel of Christ, but I also know it is not a one-time curing dose. It must be applied daily. God forgive us for standing between the strugglers and the Jesus they so desperately need.