“From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, spare us, O Lord” – Teresa of Avila

As a teenager growing up in an evangelical church, I used to look foreward with great excitement to youth camps. They were the hilites of my year. I loved the worship. I loved the time with friends. I even loved the big religious lie that well-meaning speakers repeatedly fed their enthusiastic audience: “You can be happy, and sin-free if you can just make a stand today and then work at it”. It was a beautiful lie… one that gave me a warm, fuzzy hope for a few weeks. Like the promise of Santa Claus excites a 10-year old. You don’t have to believe it to love it.

But loving that lie for so long was one of the biggest mistakes of my young life. For a few weeks every year it gave me a dreamy hope. For the rest of the year it filled me with guilt. Unrelenting, life-draining guilt. Because I was not free of sin, and I was not free from depression. And I was certain that God was angry at me for it.

I came to believe that joy, instead of being a gift from God to undeserving sinners, was a challenge and a test from God to Christians. I knew that I should be full of joy and so I substituted the gift of God for a religious grin and a shrug of the shoulders. My depression depressed me but I felt too guilty to admit my struggle to anyone.

By the grace of God, my story has a happy ending: God miraculously delivered me from my depression. He fixed all the chemical imbalances in my brain and allowed me to experience a freedom I had not experienced in years. It was a miracle.

Miracles are not normal.

Many “sour-faced saints” have spent hours on their knees asking God for this miracle. They have lacked no faith. They have harboured no unconfessed sin or unforgiveness. Still, they remain unhealed and the irrational guilt and shame and confussion that they burden themselves with remains.

It is not God’s will for us to suffer from depression. But neither is it God’s perfect will for us to catch a cold, or lose a child through miscarriage, or suffer neglect or poverty. It is not even God’s perfect will for us to die. Yet we do.

Imperfections in this fallen world speak neither of God’s disinterest, nor of our lack of faith. They are a sign that the world is broken. For Christians, they are a reminder that we will someday be made whole. John writes of that Day in Revelation 22:1-5

    “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever”.

Until that day, there is no need for guilt. So take your meds and enjoy yourself and your family and your future. God bless!

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