Passage for Study: Romans 8: 22 – 23 from the context of Rom. 8: 18 – 25 … Linked for your study …
My Journal for Today: Chuck Swindoll, my devotional author and guide this year, brings up an interesting point (i.e., lesson) today. And besides using this powerful passage from Romans 8, that great theological treatise, he quotes the famous Christian author/teacher John Stott, who wrote, concerning this passage, “Some Christians, …, grin too much and groan too little.”
It’s not that Christians shouldn’t be joyful. Swindoll points out that Christians, certainly much more than the lost, should choose to live joy-filled lives; but we often don’t know how to deal with a fellow Christian who is depressed, down, or has what Paul is picturing as a “groaning spirit” from this text today. And Swindoll cautions us not to try to encourage one of our brothers/sisters in Christ who is obviously down by telling them to “smile more” or to try to shame them for their depression.
Paul certainly knew what being depressed was all about; but he did put our feelings of physical, emotional, or spiritual depression into the perspective of the truth we have, as Christians, … that hope we have in Christ. And that is what is expressed in today’s passage, as wall as so many other truths which come from God’s word, pointing us the eternal truth of what Christ has given us by His suffering on the cross.
But being physically down or emotionally drained is a reality of our human existence; and we shouldn’t try to put a guilt trip on fellow Christians who are in the dumpers viewing a present life filled with pain. Who knows, … your depressed friend may be dealing with a diagnosis of terminal cancer; or maybe they have suddenly lost a loved one in an accident; or quite possibly, like a friend of mine right now, they are dealing with chronic, intractable migraine headaches. Certainly in these scenarios, wouldn’t we expect our pain ridden fellow Christians to “groan” in their suffering? Of course, we would; … so how do we help them?
Well, I think all we can do is share their pain, listen to their feelings, and genuinely share the truths from God’s word which might be a balm of soothing help. We should possibly help our friend[s] in pain see that they are not alone in their depression. There are a number of giants of the faith who were in such pain and/or anguish that they wanted to die or never to have been born. In our studies from Great Days with the Great lives we seen this from Elijah, exhausted under the broom tree, and Moses who needed encouragement from His brother, Aaron, when God’s people grumbled and brought their challenges to him. And we know of situational depression grabbing hold of Job, who voiced – to God – the desire never to have been born rather than bear the suffering Satan had visited upon him (of which he had no knowledge). And even Paul had his “woe is me times,” as we read in Romans 7: 14 – 23 or 2nd Cor. 12: 7 – 10 [each linked here for your study].
And these are passages which, if we can point our depressed friends toward, perhaps they can see that though they are down because of the suffering they have encountered, God still desires for us to live – as much as we can – in the hope which is IN CHRIST. And then, sharing these things, we just need to be there to listen and to empathize as much as we can with anyone dealing with a depressed spiriti, sharing God’s love and helping, as much as we can, to refocus our friends on the glory ahead which is in Christ.
Perhaps, in your life, or the life of a friend, we need to grin less and groan more; and as I do so often, we need to do what is expressed in that priceless and powerful old hymn, which I’m blessed to be listening to on my Ipod even as I write this …
Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
My Prayer for Today: Lord Jesus, help me … when I’m down or I’m trying to help a depressed friend, to see You and Your ever faithful love as well as the truth of the hope we have - and can only have - in You. Amen