“Depression over the centuries has often led to spiritual breakthrough, as God turns our wondering about what’s wrong into a search for what’s right."
This quote I recently read gave me pause, as I am one who has struggled with various forms of depression over the years. I am quite familiar with how God can redeem even the worst things in our lives -- that "in all things, God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8).
He can even work good in the ugly places we put ourselves in through our own screw-ups, once we repent and put it all in his hands again. I remember studying the book of Joel many years ago. God had sent a plague of locusts on the Israelites because of their tremendous sin, but once they repented and returned to him, he said, "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." A friend of mine at the time was clinging to that phrase with a vengeance . . . and I've clung to it myself over the years.
But the earlier quote came from an article talking about research on the physiological nature of depression and the possibility of eliminating it. The author considers: "What
if a pharmaceutical adjustment provides the temporary fix so that the
individual doesn’t get the benefits of depression?" The BENEFITS of depression. Wow, there's a loaded idea. There are BENEFITS to the painful and difficult situations God allows in our lives. Not just that God redeems them, makes lemons out of lemonade . . . but that the lemonade was the goal in the first place, and lemons were required to get there. What if we eliminate the hard stuff in our lives and lose everything good they had to offer?
What if advanced technology eases the workload of daily life so much that we no longer get the benefits of hard work?
What if the increased accessibility of instant entertainment on television, laptop, cell phone means we no longer get the benefits of boredom?
What if all-encompassing social connectivity serves to deprive us of the benefits of loneliness?
And now here's the place this takes me that will get some people up in arms: the "social justice gospel" folks are all about helping the needy and the oppressed -- and by all means, I support that. Jesus and all of scripture clearly teach this, just as they teach us to comfort the depressed. But is it possible that we rush to remove the lemons from people's lives when what God really has in mind is for us to help them squeeze those lemons into lemonade?
I mean, the purpose of life here on earth is not ease or comfort or shallow, temporary "happiness" -- the goal is God. And God forbid we tear up the rocky path that leads to Him and replace it with a smooth highway that leads to nowhere.