This last installment in my series on depression deals with the ultimate hope—resurrection. We’ve seen from Lazarus’ story that God’s sense of timing is different from ours; we’ve discussed the fact that family members should not blame themselves when the people they love struggle with depression; and we know from John’s account of this story that Jesus is deeply moved by our hurts and is prepared to address our need.
This week we take a look at the power of God to perform miracles. Lazarus’ death was not the end of the story. Jesus was still at work in the midst of this family’s tragedy and grief.
He went to the tomb, asked them to roll away the stone at the entrance, and called to his dear friend to come out. John states clearly that “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” (John 11:44)
Lazarus came back. He moved from the darkness of the grave to the light of life, and his family walked from the depths of despair into the height of joy. Jesus gave them this gift.
He can do the same for us.
Though I know God can heal us from anything through his word alone, just as he did with Lazarus, I also know that’s not the only way he chooses to work. I know others were praying for me throughout my struggle. I know that I and others prayed consistently for my husband when he struggled. There is no doubt in my mind that God heard and answered our prayers, for he put us in the capable hands of the professionals who walked us through the pain and confusion to a point of healing and understanding.
While I fully believe steadfast prayer and faith in God’s power can change the world, I also know that God uses the people around us to complete his work. Don’t forget that Jesus himself told the disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
Paul confirms this in his first letter to the Corinthians: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (12:4-7)
Don’t discount the many ways God chooses to work. Jesus once used mud and saliva to heal a blind man, and he healed lepers by having them go and show themselves to the priests. These were both common procedures for healing and restoration in his time, and the people restored to health were no less thankful for the gift.
There’s one other point to consider in Lazarus’ story. Though John tells us that many people believed in Jesus after seeing this miracle, he does not elaborate much further about the crowd’s response. There are other accounts of Jesus raising the dead (Jairus’s daughter and the Widow of Nain’s son) where the crowd was amazed and many rejoiced.
This is the element most lacking in the modern-day scenario. People who recover from depression are not celebrated, not rejoiced over, not congratulated. They’re often shunned or seen as unreliable, not only by society in general but also by other Christians.
It’s not like a cancer survivor, whose family and friends celebrate how many years they’ve been cancer-free. It’s not commemorated like those overcoming addiction, where pins are awarded for their number of years sober. Though these are praiseworthy milestones and not to be withheld from those who attain them, the reality for those struggling with depression—or any mental illness—is vastly different.
For them, there is often silence and awkwardness.
People who are aware of the struggle often don’t know what to say or how to act around us anymore. Employers may no longer trust our reliability. Some advise us to stay away from high-stress jobs because we may not be able to “handle the pressure.” This again shows an overwhelming lack of understanding of the nature of depression.
Just as heart attack patients have to learn to adopt a new lifestyle for overall good health, so a person struggling with depression does the same. Medication may be involved, lifestyle choices may play a part, understanding ourselves better and knowing what circumstances are most likely to be unhealthy for us are all things we have to consider going forward, but we adapt and even thrive after depression. This victory should be celebrated like all the rest.
Studies show that 6.7% of the U.S. population suffers from major depression. So take a look around you. Chances are that someone you know is silently battling this oppressive illness. The majority of them will never tell you about it, and those who are accurately diagnosed and receive help are most likely not being encouraged or supported by anyone other than close family, if that. This needs to change.
That change can start with you.
Make it a priority to learn more about the types of mental illnesses that affect the majority of the public. Pay attention to the activities and moods of close friends and family. Keep an open mind and an understanding heart. Listen without judging and encourage without criticizing. Offer support, offer encouragement, offer your prayers, and always remember that the dead do, indeed, still rise.
Because God still moves stones, those of us who battle this illness come back stronger, more confident, and have a more realistic understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
“I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.” (Psalm 30:1-4)