Tim Chester Thoughts

The word ‘depression’ covers so much that it is impossible to say depression is a sin or not a sin. Many of those causes (guilt, disappointment, trauma and so on) will make us sad. They may sap our energy and our zest for life. They may feel like an overwhelming darkness. All these are classic symptoms of what people call depression. All of them are, I think, natural and often quite proper responses. But God also tells us to rejoice in the Lord. So in some people features of their depression can reflect a failure to have faith in God in some sense. They may doubt God’s grace and so be consumed by guilt. They may doubt God’s goodness and so be consumed by disappointment. They may doubt God’s care are so be consumed by fear. For some people their depression becomes an identity that enables them to avoid taking responsibility in life.Does that mean I condemn them? Of course not. I sympathize with them. First, because what is causing them to be depressed is real. And, second, because I, too, struggle day by day to have faith in God. We all do. We are all sinners dependent on God’s grace. So I sympathize with them and I love them. But because I love them I also call on them to trust God and find joy in him. I will do this gently, patiently, persistently. I don’t expect instant change – the Bible does not promise instant change and I know from my own life that change takes a lifetime. But I also want to offer hope. There is good news for the person who is depressed. So I call on them to have faith in God, just as they call on me to have faith in God for the issues with which I struggle.The telling statement in the email from the person who asked whether depression is a sin was one in which they said that someone with depression is viewed in the church as ‘less a Christian’; that there is a stigma attached to it. I am really sorry if this has been people’s experience. Really sorry. It is simply not true that Christians with depression are in any way lesser Christians. In fact it’s a horribly, ugly distortion of the gospel. But the issue is not whether some people think depression is a sin or not (as if Christians without depression are not sinners in a myriad of others ways?!). The issue is people believing anything we might do could make us more or less a Christian. That is the lie. I guess it’s a lie many people operate with, but it is a lie. Our identity is entirely based on God’s electing love, Christ’s finished work and the Spirit’s regenerating power. I can’t add to that and I can’t take away from that.Grace acknowledges that we are all sinners, we are all messed up people, all struggling, all doubting at a functional level. But grace also affirms that in Christ we all belong, all make the grade, all are welcome, all are Christians (there are no lesser Christians). Imagine such a church for a moment. Here is Andrew: he sometimes uses pom because he struggles to find refuge in God. Here’s Pauline: she sometimes has panic attacks because she struggles to believe in the care of her heavenly Father. Here’s Abdul: he sometimes looses his temper because he struggles to believe that God is in control. Here’s Georgina: she sometimes has bouts of depression because she struggles to believe God’s grace. When they come together they accept one another and celebrate God’s grace towards each other. They rejoice that they are all children of God through the work of Christ. And they remind one another of the truths each of them needs to keep going and to change. It’s a community of grace, a community of hope, a community of change. ‘Blessed are the broken people for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3).These are paragraphs taken from Tim Chester’s article. To read the full article, click here.

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