When I lose sight of Jesus, I lose sight of every thing else. Beauty becomes invisible. Hope evaporates. God is hidden. My thoughts become dischordant. Life becomes ugly. And I am overwhelmed with grief. But, to glimpse Christ…
“In His incarnation, Jesus Christ became the representative image of God to the church. Without Him, we will have no understanding of God and no ability to even approach God’s Divine excellence or His beauty. God will remain invisible to us. But in the face of Jesus Christ, we clearly see His glory.”
– John Owen, The Glory of Christ (my paraphrase)
In response to this post Joseph Crump, and old college friend of mine sent me a good quote from another great puritan minister, “God takes His children in his arms when they come to deep water; so at least, when they lose ground, and are put to swim, then his hand is under their chin.”
– Samuel Rutherford, “The Loveliness of Christ”
I have often heard it said that depression is is caused by internalized anger. I don’t think it is that simple. I believe that internalized anger is more closely associated with shame (or defeated pride). I don’t disagree that shame is a factor in causing depression, but there are other factors to consider. Chemical disorders, demonic oppression, difficult relationships, financial struggles, dark memories, and various other abuses are all elements that could contribute to a person’s struggle with depression. Many of these factor into my own struggle. Continue reading
I long to behold Christ. Not my safe, bland, flat, faithless perception of Him. But Christ himself. Christ in all of his glory. Contemplation of his approving face is the only sight that can truly lift my head.
Of beholding Christ John Owen says, “No one will ever behold the glory Christ by sight in heaven who does not behold His face by faith in this world. There are many who say that they desire to be with Christ, to gaze at His glory, but they can’t tell you why because they have never seen Him through the eye of faith. They really only believe that heaven would be preferable to hell if they can’t be here. They pretend to want to someday behold Christ’s glory in heaven, but they have no faith in Christ here in this world. So their imagined desire for heaven is nothing more than self-deception. These are religious people who lie to themselves. Their fleshly affection likes to behold images and artistic renderings of Christ – in his suffering, in his resurrection, and in his heavenly glory. They think that in these things they are beholding Christ’s glory. Yet, without a true faith in the Gospel of Christ, all this is nothing but empty, religious window dressing… Truly beholding Christ’s glory in a way that comes by faith does not merely behold his outward appearance, for He had no outward glory of physical beauty. Nor is it beholding the beauty of His work, for His work was the lowly work of a servant, not the glorious work of a King. No. The people who behold Him with the eye of faith see a much greater glory – they see the glorious person of Jesus, they see His glorious heart, they see a faint reflection of the glorious divine nature of Christ, and they long to see more. This is the sight that draws our hearts toward heaven. This is the glory that John the Baptist saw when he cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Continue reading
This season of Advent 2014 I’m going back over some thoughts that I had last Autumn 2014 when I was reading old pastor named John Owen.
Owen says, “Our thoughts are so often cast into disorder by the troubles of life and our minds are unsettled by all kinds of idolatrous desires and passions. This is why the Psalmist said, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you troubled within me?’ So often, our mind is it’s own worst enemy. It troubles itself with runaway fears and unbridled sorrows. It causes itself to have confused thoughts until our mind is utterly out of its own power. But, it is not lost. For only a glimpse of the glory of Christ will settle our thoughts. And if our glimpse becomes a gaze, if we meditate and contemplate His majesty, then our minds will be composed. Our thoughts will be put in order. Our souls will be sedate, and quiet, and filled with such a faith in Christ that we will be able to say to the crashing waves of our idolatrous desires, ‘Peace. Be still.’ And they will obey.
– John Owen, The Glory of Christ (my paraphrase)
I love this poem about depression. Even though it does not seem to be written from a Christian perspective, it is starkly honest and boldly courageous. So many pastors that I know, like me, struggle with depression. It is a killer that steals life, hides hope, and defames Christ. So thankful that the gospel is the lifter of my head, that the love of Christ gives me power over the darkness, and that the hope of heaven tomorrow gives me confidence to embrace today.
“Jesus, lift the heads of those you love. Lift the chin of those who suffer with depression. Lift them out of the miry pit of self loathing, out of the miry clay of despair. Put a new song on their lips. May your presence be like honey on a bitter tongue and like a fount of water in a dry land.”
My daughter Callie is a student at Covenant College. Last week she wrote a paper on a person in ministry who deals with a disability. Callie chose me. My disability is depression and anxiety. She sent me three questions to answer.
1) How does your faith change the way you interact with your depression?
I believe that dependency on Christ is the essence of Christian faith. In other words, Christians are in a trusting union with Christ and, apart from this union, they can’t do anything to help themselves or anyone else. But, just because I believe this intellectually does not mean that I yield to it easily. I suffer with depression and anxiety. Depression is a weird sort of disability. It’s the kind of thing that has crippled me in an invisible way. Others aren’t able to see it. For years I wanted to believe that I was OK. That I could build enough emotional ‘muscle’ to overcome depression. I tried to use Christ improperly to build this muscle. Maybe if I prayed enough or read the Bible enough or worked enough or toughened myself enough or performed enough – the depression would go away. It didn’t. It has taken me a long time to understand that Christ planned to ‘cripple me’ with depression in order to humble me and love me. And like a Christian man with two paralyzed legs has to grow accustomed to loving Christ from a wheel chair, I am having to grow accustomed to loving Christ from the constrictions of medication and an adjusted lifestyle. I used to feel that Christ would help me conquer depression once and for all. This would work for a little while. But when depression would cripple me I would feel abandoned by Christ. Now I am learning that Christ is using depression to conquer my self-sufficiency, my pride, and my shame. Continue reading