Four Ways the Church Can Come Alongside the Weary Sojourner, United Together in Christ, Hope in God, and Four Practical Steps to Fight Depression.
“Because the gospel is true, then, even when we aren’t happy we can know the deeper joy because of the circumstances of God’s goodness and love” Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), p. 83.
For those who are wrestling with depression, the word joy may feel wishful. It may seem out of reach. But I can assure you it’s not. Joy is a drop of water dangling over your parched mouth. Joy in Christ is yours. And that’s the deepest kind of joy. The most lasting.In one sense, your sadness may be expected. We live in a fallen world. It’s filled with brokenness. As a parent it’s startled me on more than on occasion when children first realize some things are not as they should be. I can remember vividly when my oldest first said something like, “There’s a lot of bad people out there, isn’t there daddy?”
Moments like these are jolting. Even children know this world is fallen. From that first recognition I’ve had many opportunities to explain that’s it not just out there where bad people are. It’s within all of us. We are all sinners. Alexander Solzhenitsyn nails it, “The line separating good and evil passes, not through states, not between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
Within the realization that sadness within a fallen world can be expected, we have hope and we have joy. It’s hope in God who has promised with the blood of his Son he will make things right. Justice will be served. The heavens and earth will be made new. Sadness (the kind you and I have trouble shaking now) will be put away forever. That kind of hope provides light in the depths of sadness. It shines brightest when evil envelops us.
Jared Wilson gets at what I want to focus on today. “Because the gospel is true, then, even when we aren’t happy we can know the deeper joy because of the circumstances of God’s goodness and love.” Happiness can be stolen from us. Our loved ones can die. Our life can be miserable. Our children can rebel. Our spouses can betray us. But God never will. Christ is our anchor and, therefore, joy is ours for keeps.
The beauty of the gospel, its resplendent truth, lies in the way it handles our current suffering with the joy we have in Christ. God takes our suffering, sadness, and sin so seriously, he sent his Son to die for us. His death not only covers our sin but is a down payment for the future restoration of all things. Jesus mourns with us. He cries out with us. In the Garden, before experiencing death and separation from the Father, he weeps, mourns, and sweats tumultuous tears.
But in Christ, oh in Christ, we are now sons of God. Heirs of the promises in Christ! Even when the dark clouds of this world rest on our shoulder that truth provides a joy in the depths of our gut. Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is joy. If the Spirit lives within us than joy is ours hand over fist. Joy than doesn’t depend on living in Mayberry. It depends on what’s already been done. Friends, what’s been done is finished. There’s nothing more left to do.
As you wrestle and fight, do it well. Call what you feel--sin, suffering, or sadness--what it is. Describe it in its most gruesome terms. Don’t hold back. But realize this, the joy you have now, you will have in spades when Christ returns. Knowing him. “Seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4) will make your current suffering seem like “light momentary affliction” (v. 17).
How can that be? I honestly don’t know. What I feel right now. What I can touch. The suffering, sadness, and sin seems so tangible. But I can tell you God makes good on His promises. “The eternal weight of glory beyond all measure” of seeing Christ will surpass everything we think we know about suffering and joy. Don’t lose hope.