When Being Sad is Good

If you missed last Sunday’s Worship Gathering – wow, you missed a good one! If you were there, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing your voice singing out to God under the musical leadership of Jeff & Lynel. I loved teaching you the Word of God (and am thankful for God’s grace as I communicated to you.) And I enjoyed giving you a rubber band. Are you still wearing yours as a reminder that you were made to stretch and serve others?

Today on the blog, I want to talk briefly about the second beatitude as we continue our mini-series walking verse-by-verse through Matthew 5:3-12. Here is what verse 4 says:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

The Good of Mourning

I just got a text this week that the mother of one of my high school friends passed away. Even though I heard last week that Chad’s mom was coming toward the end of her battle with cancer, it still hurts to know the end came.

So Jesus’s words would probably sound very strange to Chad and his family right now. Why should they feel blessed or happy as they mourn the loss of a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother?

To understand this, we need to go to the cross.

God the Father once lost His only Son. But he didn’t just “lose” him. Jesus died a horrific, barbaric death. The Romans and jealous Jewish leaders tried to rip his life from His body. Even though God knew from the time of Adam and Eve’s sin what would take place to restore humanity to Himself, it still hurt when His only Son was being mocked, rejected, flogged, and crucified by the very creation that God was saving through this act.

God knows what it means to mourn. He feels far more deeply than any of us ever will. He knows what true joy is, but He also knows what true pain is.

[W]hen we mourn, [God the Father] is closer to us than ever.

That is why when we mourn, He is closer to us than ever. He knows far better than us what we are feeling and experiencing. When God made Eden, He didn’t design life to contain so much pain. That’s why He hurts when we hurt. And He seeks to comfort us through the cross, to not only let us know He’s been there, but that this pain is not the end.

God describes Himself as a Father of mercies and a God of comfort in 1 Corinthians 1. We know this aspect of our Heavenly Father’s character best in our moments of pain and loss.

That is why Jesus says those who are His followers are blessed when they mourn because they actually can understand the Father far better than ever, and they can sense His comfort far greater than ever.

So Jesus’s words might seem backward and a bit unexpected, but they are true. If you are mourning at all today, if you are struggling in any manner, know that the God of Comfort is with you in your pain. May you find your healing and rest in the Father, who knows what it is to lose a part of Himself because He went through it to redeem you.

Suicide, Depression, & Following Jesus

I have seen all sorts of responses to Robin Williams’ death. Some people have called him selfish for taking his own life, while others have called him a hero for all the joy he brought to so many. Many people keep asking why Robin would do such a thing, while others admit their own struggle with depression and their empathy with what Robin was going through. Everyone from movie stars to news anchors to radio pundits to the mom next door are sharing their thoughts as they try to personally process the ending of Robin’s life.

Even though I think he was a comedic genius, I don’t want to focus on Robin like everyone else. I want to focus on you. Or more accurately, I want to focus on a Jesus-centered you.

Each Sunday at Riverwood, we study the Bible. And the central theme of the Bible is the gospel. Riverwood’s working definition of the gospel is the ongoing story of God redeeming broken & imperfect people & restoring them into the complete & perfect image of Christ through the life, death, & resurrection of Jesus.

We saw this a bit this past week as we studied Galatians 5:26-6:5 where we learned the gospel doesn’t let you think too highly of yourself because it announces you are more sinful than you realize. But at the same time, the gospel doesn’t let you think too low of yourself, because it declares you are far more loved than you could ever imagine.

This means the gospel speaks into depression!

Yes, for many, depression is a sickness of the brain. I am not denying that. They may need a medical approach to healing. I also know depression can also be affected by seasons or lifestyles. But depression is also spiritual. If you think about it, all sickness (in a sense) is spiritual. Sickness and disease came as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. This means all sickness, including mental illness, are not part of God’s perfect design. It is the result of sin affecting all of creation.

But the gospel speaks hope into this. It says that the difficulties of this life is not all there is. There is hope. There is always hope! God can take broken and depressed moments and seasons, and restore individuals (even you) into the image of Jesus which is full of love and joy and peace and all the fruit of the Spirit.

Four things to do if you are struggling with depression:

  • Open up to someone. Do not bear this alone. Depression is like darkness. Opening up begins the process of allowing light in. Let me offer myself as one possibility. Call the church at (319) 529-9924 or email me to begin a conversation and let some light back in.
  • Seek Jesus. Some people who wrestle with depression try to “medicate” the pain with alcohol, drugs, entertainment, or a variety of things. But as we’ve seen in Galatians the past two weeks, the works of the flesh may appear to offer joy and life, but they only lead to more pain. Instead,
    • Cry out to God through prayer
    • Seek to understand what the Scriptures say about depression.
    • Read the Psalms (here’s why).
    • Do a word study in the Bible on peace.
    • Read a book like this one that will help you seek Jesus through your struggle.
  • Connect with others in your church family. At Riverwood, we would be honored to walk through this with you. You aren’t alone. One of the worst things you could do is to disconnect from worshipping with others or keep Jesus-followers out of your life.
  • Take care of yourself. Sometimes, simple things like
    • being disciplined about getting good sleep,
    • exercising,
    • not watching too much TV or surfing social media too long,
    • and eating wisely can be of help.

I am far from an expert on the topic of depression, but at Riverwood, we truly want to help you. These four things aren’t the entirety of what you can do to combat depression, but for a majority of people, they can be a starting place.

And if you aren’t struggling with depression…

…first thank God for the grace to enjoy life!

And then, I encourage you to reach out to someone. Robin was wealthy, funny, married, and loved by his kids. On the surface, he appeared to have it all. And while he was open about his struggles, I don’t think many people expected him to end it all at age 63 with so many opportunities still in front of him. You never know what is going on with someone. So reach out to them. You just might be the one God uses to help restore them into the complete and perfect image of Jesus. So love like Jesus loved. Reach out to those around you.

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