Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's Enough to Make God Himself Cry

"Now when MaRy came to where Jesus was & saw Him, she FELL at His Feet, saYinG to Him, “LoRD, IF You had been HERE, my brother would not have DieD.” When Jesus SAW her weePinG, & the Jews who had come  with  her  ALSO  weePinG, He was DeePLy moved IN His SPiRiT & greatly TROUBLED. And He SAID, “Where have you laid him?” They said TO HiM, “Lord, come AND see.” >>> Jesus wept. <<< So THE Jews SAID, SEE how HE LoVeD HIM!” BUT some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the BLinD man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:32-37)

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There is another unwelcome component of chronic illness that we don't like to talk about: SADNESS. I don't even like to talk about it with my doctor, lest he prescribe some anti-depressant (doctors do so want to cure). Don't get me wrong, some people (chronically ill or not) need anti-depressants. I'm not one of those people, and it's not for lack of trying. They do me far more harm than good. Perhaps that's because for me, the cause of my "depression," if you wish to label it as such (I don't know what's in my medical chart), is painfully clear and painfully physical, and to cure the depression without curing the cause just doesn't work for me.

Sadnessdepression are two different things, though not dissimilar in the way they might feel. One is a diagnosable and treatable illness, arguably more severe and longer-lasting, and the other is a feeling resulting from something being other than it ought to be. I would argue that's what I feel: sadness due to the fact that my body, and therefore my life and the lives of my family, are other than they ought to be. So, that's what I am going to write about. But if you think you might be suffering from depression, which often results from chronic illness which can make life feel like it's not worth living, please talk to your doctor before it becomes unmanageable. It will become unmanageable, and the consequences may be very severe.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

But getting back to SADNESS… Sometimes I wonder, with all my education and Christianity and whatnot, why am I so bitterly sad at times if I believe in heaven? If I know my salvation is secure? If I truly believe, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18)? Am I a bad Christian? Do I doubt Jesus' love? Do I doubt that any of this ever really happened? Sometimes, sure, to a point. I'm not perfect after all, and neither is my faith, no matter how many books I read and prayers I say. But Jesus was (is) perfect, His faith flawless, His belief unaffected by the doubts that plague yours and mine, and yet He felt sadness, too.

Jesus weeping in the agony of grief shows us that we are so bitterly sad
because it simply HURTS. Period.

What's "it"? It is sin. Sin and all its consequences. Death hurts. Sickness hurts. Pain hurts. Life hurts. Living here in this fallen world when we belong in heaven hurts us so powerfully that even with absolute, perfect certainty of the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the World to come, even with complete control over life and death, none of us―not even Christ Himself―can help but weep. The fact that Jesus wept at His friend's death gives me enormous comfort. Jesus knew without any shadow of any doubt that in just a few minutes, He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew He would talk to His friend again, that Lazarus' family would be with him again, that their pain would end, and still He was moved to the point of tears. And so, we are not sinning when we feel sadness, even though our sadness is not as pure as Christ's was.

We are being human as Christ was being human.

So when my doctor urges me to take medication so that I might feel less sadness, I tell him that until my sickness ends, I ought to feel sad (so long as my sadness doesn't threaten my life) even if I must feel some sadness every day of my life until death. To feel otherwise would be a lie. After all, those of us who've lost someone we love dearly to death, don't we feel sad to some degree everyday that we continue to live without them? Of course we do, because being without them is other than it ought to be: we were created to be eternal. We were created to have perfect bodies. So feel sad, but do not sin. The sadness is temporary. I choose to stand in the pain and the silence of God because I know there is an end. I know there is a sun even if it's not shining.

This, my friends, my fellow-victims, my loves, THIS is what baptism does in the here and now, what time in the Sanctuary of God with His Word and Sacraments gives us. Not only does it assure us a place in heaven, but it gives us the strength to endure hell on earth. Go to church and be renewed. Read the Bible every day, pray without ceasing, and remember God's promise not to necessarily take your sadness away, but to be with you while you are sad. It's not a cure for depression; it's armor to put on. But you do have to go and get it.

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"Finally, BE STRONG in the LORD & in the strength of His MIGHT. Put on the whole armor of God, that YOU may be able to stand against the scHeMes of THE Devil. For we DO NOT wrestle against FLESH & BLOOD, but aGainsT the RuLers, aGainsT the AuTHoRiTies, aGainsT the Cosmic Powers over this present DARkNESS, aGainsT the Spiritual Forces OF Evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, & HavinG DonALL, to stanD firm." (Ephesians 6:10-13)