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.