bluerbluebluesky asked a question:
Hey JS it’s been a while, hope you’re well and congrats on your marriage (and your new books). Please bear with me, it’s weird writing in being removed from Christianity, but you really do seem like a genuine and real guy and I had really appreciated your words before. How do you stay confident in a good God when He has “fearfully and wonderfully” made you with depression? I can’t understand why He’d watch His kids live with chronic unbalanced neurochemicals that make them suicidal. Thanks JS
Hey dear friend, I appreciate your very kind words and I’m thankful for your honest challenging question.
I think there are really two ways to look at this. One is that God created everything in history, including death and disease and disasters, as a big ball of yarn that will one day be un-done by His glory. The other is that God created a perfect world of perfect yarn, but it became frayed when sin and death entered the picture and we now live within the stream of a disarrayed universe, which will be re-done by His glory. (If you’re a doctrine-nerd, the first view is called “supralapsarianism” and the second is “infralapsarianism.”)
The problem with the first view is that it assumes God is the author of evil and tragedy. The problem with the second view is that it assumes God is out of control somehow, as if He didn’t see this coming. It’s hard to reconcile either idea, and both of them have good points while bringing up tons of troubling questions.
As a fellow fighter of depression, this is personal for me, too. And I can only try to balance it right down the middle. I believe I wasn’t made with depression. I don’t think we were meant to be sick or starving or dead. And at the same time, I believe God is the author and He’s totally in control. I don’t know how both of these things can be true, but it’s beyond me to understand. My three pound brain is allergic to paradoxes and it might catch fire if I figured it out. So I live within the tension of a fallen imperfect world and a perfectly loving God.
What I won’t do is moralize or spiritualize any of this to say that “pain is a lesson” or that God gives everyone a “wonderful plan for your life.” I don’t know why such evil exists. I think it scares some Christians to say “I don’t know,” but I can’t pretend to draw lines between my depression and some epiphany. Our pain is going to be bad, and there’s nothing else I can do but let it bleed sometimes and let it be part of our story.
I can be certain of one thing.
When I’m hurting, God is hurting with me. God is just as mad as you are about the pain in this world. He was so mad, in fact, that at one point in our history in a sand-swept city of blood and retaliation, He entered our pain, side-by-side and face-to-face, and died for me. For you, too. He suffered not only for us, but with us, and jump-started a healing in a tomb as a glimpse of the glory for where we’re headed.
I can either believe all this pain is pointless, or that all this pain will one day be rectified and compensated. It’s not easy to believe the better story. It feels crazy sometimes. I still have a lot of questions, and I’m going to ask Him every single one. But my hope is a future-memory of everything set right by a glorious God who has already answered our hurt in a cross and has healed every wound in a tomb.
The thing is, I do see glimpses of healing today. Even when my depression is so heavy I can hardly see, it’s undeniable that knowing I am loved permanently by a cosmic constancy is the one thought that pulls me through another horrible day. The hurt is still there, but beauty is louder. His glory out-shines my suffering. Of course, I do believe that medicine is acceptable and we need community and counseling and therapy. Yet if I were completely healed today, I would still need to know what all this is for. I would still have to tap into the pulse of divinity to do something with my limited time on earth. And maybe some of that is to let other people know, You’re loved, no matter what’s happening. If you’re hurting, I’ll hurt too. Jesus did this for us, and I’ll do it for you.