. . . that I might boast on His equanimity, His Shalom–and not just equanimity and wholeness, but Joy (2 Cor 12:5-10.
Okay, so this is a bit of an adaptation of Paul’s famous “thorn in the flesh” passage. Though I’d read it several times prior, this verse on the meta-message of Paul’s suffering and despair only started to make sense in 1999, when I was putting together the first draft of The Unwelcome Blessing.
Though I’d been a Christian for a number of years Paul’s message was for me so opaque and so counter-intuitive that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around: “for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And not only that, but also that Paul would “glory” in his infirmities.
Anyway, I did title my book about depression as being both “Unwelcome” and a “Blessing”so in some sense I had a cognitive understanding of Paul’s message–but intimate, felt knowledge of that scripture was a process found in the gradual awakening of maturity in the Spirit.
In Isaiah 53:3 Jesus is described as “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.”and in v. 11: “After the suffering of His soul He will see the light of life and be satisfied”
The suffering Messiah of Isaiah 53, the One from whom others look away, is a Savior some believers would rather not see. And it would seems almost blasphemous to see Jesus as clinically depressed. Nevertheless, it is clear that in His sadness He shares feelings and experiences with those of us who are. And for some of us the thorn in our flesh is clinical depression or bipolar disorder–and perhaps shockingly so, that is as it should be.
The despair found in clinical depression was my unwelcome blessing. It caused me to continue searching for answers–and after I became a believer to dig deeper into my faith. A drowning man in the dark night of the soul I was propelled upward by a Force outside of myself. It was God’s grace that shaped the parabola of my moods. While some merely wallow in their sadness and others blow their brains out, for a few the alchemy of grace transforms despair into blessing.
Maybe this is a key:
Step One: Admit that you are helpless—drowning
Step Two: Invite Jesus into your life—your Rescuer
Step Three: Ask Him to take over the course of your life for whatever His purpose
In some sense, these are the first three steps in any 12-Step program–AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery (CR), etc.– and it is why I believe so strongly in that model. It works. Millions of transformed lives in the past eighty years attest to its efficacy. And it all begins with admitting powerlessness and struggling to empty oneself of oneself and filling the big empty with a Higher Power.
In another sense it is also the framework of “The Sinners Prayer” that has lead so many to salvation.