​Tomorrow is June. When the clock strikes midnight, another National Mental Health Awareness Month will come to a close. For millions of Americans, however, it will signal the start of another day in the grips of mental illness, hidden away from national attention. Depression, in particular, will continue to affect approximately one in five Americans. How can we move forward from being people of awareness to people of active help? Scripture shows​​ us in the wisdom literature of one who was depressed himself: Job.

Commentators on the book of Job write at large on its theology of suffering and justice. How can a good God allow evil to exist? But listen closely and you’ll hear an embedded cry for hope: If the Almighty God is a cruel God, cold and calculated in his ways, where then is man’s hope? For much of the book, this is the heart of Job’s concerns. In the throes of debilitating heartache and loss, where is his hope?

While the experience of depression is unique to each individual, one of its common marks is the utterly invasive hopelessness by its side. With the loss of his family and property and the decline of his health, Job is shattered to despair, driven at times to self-loathing:

Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. (Job 10:18–19)

He resents his existence because in the thick of his affliction he is hollowed out of any hope. Job needs someone outside of himself for help. He repeatedly resolves to hope in the Lord, but we see how misguided this hope becomes as his three friends persistently fault him for his suffering. He holds fast to his innocence, calling his friends “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) for the ways they accuse him rather than help him. Though they do right to sit with him in silence for a week, they do wrong to then point him to judgment instead of hope.

Perhaps if we were honest, we might see that we too are not always the comforters we would like to be, however well-intentioned our words. Perhaps we hand out band-aid solutions (those pesky “just” statements), hurl outright accusations (you reap what you sow), or offer passive expressions of help (“I’m here if you need to talk”). As Christians, we might even tell believers who battle depression that they simply need more faith. But if “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), where is our message of hope?

There is a reason why “hope” appears 19 times in the ESV translation of Job: “hope does not put us to shame,” although our circumstances may try, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). This hope is not found in our circumstances or in our eloquent words. It is found in Christ alone—who he is and what he has done for us on the cross.

In order to catalyze the spreading of the hope of Christ, the Reformed Margins team has decided to give away two copies of Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine. I have found this approachable book to be helpful for those who struggle with depression or those who want to learn how to best love brothers and sisters dealing with this struggle.

To enter, in the comment section of this blog or in the comments of our direct Facebook post, share a few words on how God has given you hope during your own trying times. By doing so, you will help proclaim the hope of Christ to those who need it most. The giveaway will close at 11:59 PDT on June 8, 2018, and the winners will be randomly selected and announced on June 11, 2018.

Posted by Grace Chung

An East Coaster with West Coast affinities, Grace thrives in 60 degree weather and battles the occasional bout of landscape envy. She loves seeing literature, ministry, and education—her three main interests—intersect into one life calling. One of the coolest compliments she's ever received is that she respects the intelligence of children. She looks forward to her lifelong commitment to continue respecting children and youth with the uncompromised gospel on their narrow journey home.

8 Comments

  1. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall AGAIN praise him, my salvation and my God. – Psalm 42:11
    This has been my to go verse during times of depression. Gives me hope that I shall again praise God even during times of sorrow. Excellent article, Grace!

    Reply

    1. Amen! Thank you for sharing how the Lord tenderly speaks to you in your most trying of times. And praise God for his tender words that give life.

      Reply

  2. When one daughter was stricken with cancer and another dies from cancer, when I myself was going through cancer and when I received news of my own sister’s cancer, I was very grateful to have friends who were not like Job’s. I learned about handling grief not through psychology or advice but from hanging on to hope. Hope that does not guarantee everything will be ok but that I will be ok with God. Faith being the evidence of things not seen became my mantra for life and the antidote to complete despair. And friends who did not point fingers helped me buoy that hope from sinking. Thanks for your insightful post. As a writer who wrote a book to process my losses, I do appreciate the grace of which you wrote.

    Reply

    1. Sister, your words have moved me to tears. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord for his grace. “His steadfast love endures forever.”

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  3. So glad you wrote this Grace.

    When I was in grief and angry over my mom’s death, God gave me hope through the Scriptures, songs, and through the friendship and faithful presence of friends, particularly RM’s own David Cheng. In the Scriptures I discovered what God said was the future he had in store for me and my family – one of resurrection, reunion, restoration, and unending rejoicing in the New Heavens and the New Earth. 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 8 showed me that the resurrection of Jesus – and its meaning as his vindication – was a picture of what God promises for me, and of what God will do to vindicate his people, to unveil our true reality as his glorious sons and daughters, no longer living in suffering and shame, marginalized, but glorious, as he is. The Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Job showed me how God invited me to talk to him and relate to him in my suffering and with the feeling of injustice I had, that it was okay to be real with him, that our relationship like any other meaningful relationship meant being able to say hard things with honesty, but also my willingness to being open to God and to trusting Him again. Well-written songs helped me express these words to God and pointed me again to hope. Friends like David continued to be friends with me in all the ugly moments, and pointed me to Christ, as well as sometimes “wounded” me as faithful friends sometimes ought to (Prov 27:6) by telling me the lies I was believing and living out in my grief.

    When I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression, one of the things that have given me hope has been the regular and patient encouragement of a counselor that God is with me and for me, and that he’s in control. He also gave me the extremely counterintuitive encouragement me to praise God IN my circumstances, and even FOR them. This went against every fiber of my being. But I did it, and what it did is it brought the reality of God’s sovereignty into the details of my circumstances, and forced me to make a decision about what I believed: that my all the details fo my life are either entirely God-forsaken (i.e. he’s not in any of it), or that they’re completely God-controlled and God-dictated, and therefore working for my good, and that I could and even ought to praise Him for them.

    Looking back, I’d say what’s helped give me the most hope are the Scriptures vividly displaying to me Jesus and God’s future, as well as faithful, wise friends.

    Reply

    1. “forced me to make a decision about what I believed: that my all the details fo my life are either entirely God-forsaken (i.e. he’s not in any of it), or that they’re completely God-controlled and God-dictated, and therefore working for my good, and that I could and even ought to praise Him for them.”

      Praise God for his sustaining grace and the friendships he places in our lives (also his grace) that together help us to choose the narrow road of faith. I was so blessed by your reflection. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

  4. Not many may know this, but my family is very familiar with mental health illness. I thank the Lord that I heard the gospel at a young age and learned that there is a savior who came to “bind up the broken-hearted.” We have a hope that the Lord is a Lord of restoration, comfort and gladness.

    Reply

    1. I love what you wrote: “Lord of restoration, comfort and gladness.” What weighty words because of the weight of his glory in them. Glory to God, he is one of restoration, comfort, and gladness. Thank you for sharing freely with us.

      Reply

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