Jared Witt l March 28, 2019
If my life were the movie D2: The Mighty Ducks, anxiety and depression would be the Bash Brothers. One of them tries to stick out a skate and trip me. I jump last second and think I’ve successfully avoided the danger, only to be close-lined by the other one.
Unfortunately, our Bible is full of stories of what Jesus can do for dead people. But what does Jesus do for those who are just kind of always a bit sad?
We don’t have the story where Jesus cures the man of his situational depression.
There’s no letter from Paul that addresses chronic anxiety.
Moses didn’t deliver the people from the land of unfulfillment, promising to lead them across the Jordan into self-actualization.
These have the added burden of being considered (inaccurately) #firstworldproblems. Anyone who struggles with them has to face not only the problem, but the embarrassing conundrum of having to prove that the problem is real in the first place, compared to a more marketable problem like, say, leprosy or paralysis.
So does the Gospel address this kind of healing? We can say generically, that the Gospel heals all things, but sometimes generic answers don’t cut it. Many modern commentators hypothesize that the instances of demon possession in the four gospels actually refer to extreme forms of psychosis, but not even this really addresses itself to the more common neuroses that distort and inhibit the lives of so many of us in 2019. So are we just left holding our bottle of Xanax going “Alright, kid, guess it’s just you and me”?
Here is what I think, and before I say it, I need a few disclaimers:
Having said that, I firmly believe, from my own experience, that things like depression and anxiety can teach us and grow us spiritually. This is not to say that they are helpful or instructive on their own. But in our walk with Jesus in the Holy Spirit (or whatever language you put to your growth in the divine) these bad things can be redeemed and used for good.
To give just a few examples:
What I’m articulating in a roundabout way, is the Jesuit notion of the via negativa. The religious biases of our culture have so shaped us that we tend to assume that spiritual growth is only associated with the “highs,” the paths to the mountain top, the via positiva.
But the Jesuits (by which I mean, the best of the Jesuit tradition, not the worst) insist that such a walk would be one dimensional at best. At worst, it would be a life free of the mud and grime that so many of God’s suffering children live through. How can we have anything to do with the one who sweated blood, he was so anxious, before dying on a cross between two of life’s losers, if we ourselves have not suffered.
In Christ, our mental wounds can be coopted in service of good, and in service of good, perhaps they can even find their healing.
Cheers and Peace,
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