Friday, April 18, 2008

Chrisitan Women and Depression Part 2

A Breakthrough
This morning I woke to read more of the article referred by Tami on the Desiring God website. The writing is found here. I highly suggest printing it and going over it again and again and again. Pray for the Lord to complete our understanding. However, be joyfully patient that He is working. It's some deep stuff. Some of it goes against what we like to think about God. Praise the Lord that He is not defined by us!
From my reading I was giving a revelation of truth.

Our emotions are effected by what we focus on as truth.

I received a revelation from the Lord. Not through a dream (I wish, that would be more dramatic), and not through a vision ( I should not be surprised because God uses mostly his word to reveal himself in our time). This revelation was through prayer and faith in Matt 7:8 "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." I believed that there IS an answer to this mystery of depression for the christian and that God wants us to know it.
As I went about my day yesterday I pondered ALL day on the subject of happiness. I took John Piper with me to the Children's Museum and realized that a misunderstanding of happiness would indeed translate his teaching (and God's word) in a way he did not intend. Christian Hedonism (and more importantly, the gospel) is all about happiness IN GOD.
I felt a little insane trying to think so hard this week. I felt the limits of my finite brain. Yet, in understanding that we are finite and therefore unable to comprehend even a morsel of the wisdom of God he still asks and commands us to seek. He would not ask us to seek if He did not intend that we should find. This does not end at any point in our lives however, it is a continuation and a link to our sanctification.
I first thought our problem was in our definition of happiness, and I still think it is to some degree. Happiness is a sister to peace and Jesus says "My peace I give to you, not as the word gives give I unto you." Though this is not exactly the same, the Lord kept running the verse through my mind so I am certain there is a correlation.
So let's just for understanding sake, take away the saying that joy and happiness are different, because by definition they are similar. Let's just use the word happiness as Piper does. Even when we do this we find that there is a worldly happiness (let's call this "temporal happiness" meaning happiness here on earth) and godly happiness (meaning what some would call "joy" but more importantly defined as the happiness found in God alone from his working and with the goal of eternity).
When we are in Christ our godly happiness begins and starts it's sanctification process. It is the happiness so firm in Christ because HE does not change, His plans do not change, who we are in him does not change, and his promise of eternity does not change.
Our temporal happiness comes and goes so fast and is determined by our circumstances ( i.e hormones, trials, adversity, pms, pms,wind up to pms, wind down from pms, did I mention pms? Yet not exclusively so!). It is not to be trusted and it is the happiness focused on self instead of God. It is the happiness God wants us to discontinue our striving for. Yet, He encourages that we, infact demands that we, pursue happiness that God gives us.
I felt like much of the discussion was good on the post comments but I could not get my head to the root of what is happening to us as we slip into depression, frustration, discontentment, and temporal unhappiness.
The fact is there are many types and forms of depression. So we have to get to the root of them all at once.
I found the answer in the article referred by Tami, on page 6.
Piper starts by getting us to see that God is happy and always seeking his happiness. Then the question arose...

How can God be happy and decree calamity?

Consider that he has the capacity to view the world

through two lenses.

Through the narrow one

he is grieved and angered at sin and pain.

Through the wide one

he sees evil in relation to its eternal purposes.

Reality is like a mosaic.

The parts may be ugly in themselves,

But whole is beautiful.

Many of us have gone through a period of deep struggle with the doctrine of God's sovereignty. If we take our doctrines into our hearts where they belong, they can cause upheavals of emotion and sleepless nights. This is far better than toying with academic ideas that never touch real life. The possibility at least exists that out of the upheavals will come a new era of calm and confidence.

It has happened for many of us the way it did for Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was a pastor and a profound theologian in New England in the early 1700s. He was a leader in the first Great Awakening. His major works still challenge great minds of our day. His extraordinary combination of logic and love make him a deeply moving writer. Again and again when I am dry and weak, I pull down my collection of Edwards' Works and stir myself up with one of his sermons.

He recounts the struggle he had with the doctrine of God's sovereignty:

From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty.... It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God....

But never could I give an account, how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God's Spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections.

And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God's sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense.... I have often since had not only a conviction but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so. 3

It is not surprising, then, that Jonathan Edwards struggled earnestly and deeply with a problem that stands before us now. How can we affirm the happiness of God on the basis of his sovereignty when much of what God permits in the world is contrary to his own commands in Scripture?

How can we say God is happy when there is so much sin and misery in the world?

Edwards did not claim to exhaust the mystery here. But he does help us find a possible way of avoiding outright contradiction while being faithful to the Scriptures. Putting it in my own words, he said that the infinite complexity of the divine mind is such that God has the capacity to look at the world through two lenses. He can look through a narrow lens or through a wide-angle lens.

When God looks at a painful or wicked event through his narrow lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin for what it is in itself and he is angered and grieved. "I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the LORD God" ( Ezekiel 18:32).

But when God looks at a painful or wicked event through his wide angle lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees it in all the connections and effects that form a pattern or mosaic stretching into eternity. This mosaic in all its parts-good and evil-brings him delight. 4

"It was the will of the Lord to bruise him."

God willed the crucifixion of his Son.

The sin and pain

he abhorred

(through the narrow lens).

The sin-covering, death-conquering obedience

he delighted in

(through the wide lens).

So it is with all pain and sin:

Grievous in itself, it does not thwart his plans,

or diminish his deepest delight.

For example, the death of Christ was the will and work of God the Father. Isaiah writes, "We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God.... It was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief." Yet surely, as God the Father saw the agony of his beloved Son and the wickedness that brought him to the cross, he did not delight in those things in themselves (viewed through the narrow lens) . Sin in itself, and the suffering of the innocent, are abhorrent to God.

Nevertheless, according to Hebrews 2:10, God the Father thought it was fitting to perfect the Pioneer of our salvation through suffering. God willed what he abhorred. He abhorred it in the narrow-lens view, but not in the wide-angle view of eternity. When the universality of things was considered, the death of the Son of God was seen by the Father as a magnificent way to demonstrate his righteousness (Romans 3:25-26) and bring his people to glory (Hebrews 2:10) and keep the angels praising forever and ever ( Revelation 5:9-13).

Therefore when I say the sovereignty of God is the foundation of his happiness, I do not ignore or minimize the anger and grief God can express against evil. But neither do I infer from this wrath and sorrow that God is a frustrated God who cannot keep his creation under control. He has designed from all eternity, and is infallibly forming with every event, a magnificent mosaic of redemptive history. 5 The contemplation of this mosaic (with both its dark and bright tiles) fills his heart with joy.

And if our Father's heart is full of deep and unshakable happiness, we may be sure that when we seek our happiness in him we will not find him "out of sorts" when we come. We will not find a frustrated, gloomy, irritable Father who wants to be left alone, but instead a Father whose heart is so full of joy it spills over onto all those (Christian Hedonists) who are thirsty.

God's Happiness Is in Himself

God employs his sovereignty to display

the great object of his delight,

his glory,

the beauty of his manifold perfections.

He does all that he does to magnify the worth of his glory.

He would be unrighteous if he valued anything more

than what is supremely valuable,

namely, himself.

I began this chapter by saying the ultimate ground of Christian Hedonism is the fact that God is uppermost in his own affections:

The chief end of God is to glorify God
and enjoy himself forever.

What we have seen so far is that God is absolutely sovereign over the world and that he can therefore do anything he pleases, and is therefore not a frustrated God, but a deeply happy God, rejoicing in all his works ( Psalm 104:31), when he considers them in relation to redemptive history.

What we have not yet seen is how this unshakable happiness of God is indeed a happiness in himself. We have seen that God has the sovereign power to do whatever he pleases, but we have not yet seen specifically what it is that pleases him. Why is it that contemplating the mosaic of redemptive history delights the heart of God? Is this not idolatry-for God to delight in something other than himself?

So now we must ask: What does make God happy? What is it about redemptive history that delights the heart of God? The way to answer this question is to survey what God pursues in all his works. If we could discover what one thing God pursues in everything he does, we would know what he delights in most. We would know what was uppermost in his affections.

This exploded my thinking.
Like God, we can see through these two lenses. HOWEVER, w/o Christ the large lens doe not exist and with Him we cannot see the picture of the large mosaic but we see that it is there through faith in the sovereignty of God. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. I Cor 13:12
We cannot see the picture of the large mosaic but we learn to trust that it IS THERE and that IT IS BEAUTIFUL! This large lens as Edwards calls it, is for us a knowledge and a work of faith in the sovereignty of God.
When God looks at the dark specifics of the mosaic he experiences grief and anger (this is a recognition worth noting) but amazingly ( and because of his nature) it is an observation alone and does not taint his happiness. He can at the same moment flip to the big lens and see (or perhaps does this simultaneously since he is not bound by our natural limits) the work as a whole. He has immediate satisfaction that even the dark hue is made beautiful in relation to the whole.
It's like looking at that mosaic ( or tapestry, or painting...) through a microscope and saying that hue is black- it is not pretty but then stepping away from the scope and seeing the TRUTH that the whole piece is in fact a masterpiece of art.
Here is where we struggle. We, in our sin focus in and stay there. This is the root of depression. We are affected in our emotions by what we believe to be true. If we are focusing on that tiny dark hue, we will be depressed. We are not given the privilege of the full view, but we are given Christ. Through His salvation we are given faith. Faith is seeing what is unseen, it is falling on what God sees and knows. Through faith we can choose to focus on the greater truth of God's sovereignty.
In between one lens and the other, we make a choice. We can choose to focus on what is looking dark to us, or we can ask this question: "What, oh Lord, are your desiring to accomplish in me for your glory through this dark hue?" This is our transport to living life through the big lens.
This question, through the power of the Holy Spirit and made possible by the salvation through Christ, allows us to focus with the large lens of God's sovereignty. Whenever we choose to obey and look through that lens, we are changed. Because we are focused on a NEW AND GREATER TRUTH that even our emotions are effected by.
We are emotionally effected by what we focus on as true.
God is perfect, he does not sin. He can see the pain and dark but not sin in his reaction to it. We are the srugglers. Christ is our salvation, and in Him we are sanctified as we choose more and more to obey and look through the lens of his son. This is our service to him, this is our pleasing of God. Works are an outpouring, a fruit of this faith. This how a missionary can serve his whole life and say it cost him nothing.
Let's look at this practically and test it!
You meet up with a friend at the park. She is down, she is depressed. First you need to know why (and if she does not know, you can ask to pray for her that the Lord would show her). Depression is always our emotional response to the dark hues. Let's say she is tired of dealing with and is discouraged by the disobedience of her children. She does not feel happy as a mom. These kids are messing up her temporal comfort and happiness, they are also messing up her confidence (therefore temporal happiness again) in herself as a mom. How does she respond biblically and come out of this? First she has to realize that God is not in the business of creating her temporal comfort and happiness (If this was Gods goal through Jesus then the very first Christians were abandoned by God because their faith brought them nothing but temporal unhappiness and even death in the most brutal ways. Therefore if this was the goal, then the gospel failed and is failing still), but in her godly happiness (and this may also be called holiness or a product of God working our holiness through sanctification). She has a choice to continue to look through the tiny lens or to ask of God what he seeks to do through her and her children through this dark time. This sounds simplistic but it is not. Through the question above she will see the truth that this trial is not about her, but about God (as are all things), and the goal of His glory that He strives for himself and that we have the most satisfaction from when we strive with Him and for Him). It is also about getting her mind off of how this trail effects her and onto the greater truth of how it will sanctify her. This is where the finished work of Jesus becomes the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:6) from the starting point of justification.
When she chooses to look in faith (for she cannot see fully) through the lens of God's truth and sovereignty she will find the open door out of depression. This does not mean she will not recognize the dark hue of trial for what it is or convince herself it does not exist, rather she will choose to remember it is not the lens that sees fully and truthfully. This process is not done instantly as it would be with God (or with no time at all as it may be with Him) but with the time he has ordained that it should take for us. However, if we seek him fully through it, then we are in obedience until the deliverance comes from Him. Once it comes, we are prone to slipping once again and the harsh truth is that this makes us CONTINUALLY dependant on God's truth every moment. We forget as quickly as we remember.
The dark hues are willed by God. Their greater purpose is woven into the mosaic of his plan for His Glory. Truth is the revelation of the greater work He is accomplishing in us. The dark hue, though real, is not the truth he wants us to focus on because it will be all we see.
So, yes, in a sense like Tami said, we are depressed when our temporal world is not happy. Holiness comes, sanctification comes, when we move from that moment (of recognition of the dark hue of temporal unhappiness) through a step of obedient faith to focusing on what God is wanting to teach us around this dark time. This is where the godly happiness explodes, and let us now call it JOY! For He can be trusted to deliver, fulfill, accomplish and reveal all that is good in us and in all things. This is the finding of joy. This is seeing the full mosaic through the eyes of faith. This is a gift of God to us to help us through this life. This goal of His puts us back in line with His will, and gives us the perspective to see the eternal goal and sink in us the godly happiness (ah, here is joy!) this brings. We sin when we choose not to obey but remain focused on the dark hue itself and how it makes us unhappy instead of what God is going to do through it.
More boldly, temporal happiness is when the small scope cheerful hues (this is when things even in our temporal world are going well) and we define our happiness by them. Even in these we need to remember to keep in mind the bigger lense of truth and God's soverignity so we do not get building our idols and focus on that one happy hue.
When it is dark, temporal unhappiness, we do the same, focus through the big lense.
If we can learn in each case to focus with the big lense of truth we will always have godly happiness (Joy) and our emotioanl life will be more and more in submission to Chrsit. Our spiritual muscles will stregthen and we will see change. Not perfection as oly the Father can do this temporal to eternal focus change purely (and I think that really is what these lenses are, the tiny one being the temporal and the larger being the eternal). We get caught in our sin nature that longs to focus on the temporal which is all about us (me) and the eternal (all about God) is only doable by the finished work of Jesus.
We have the opportunity to obey God in our choice of lenses (perspective). This is not a discipline of the will (therefore a work action), but rather it is a fruit of the heart focusing on God fully. The key is being eternity minded like God. Through Christ alone can we do this. God wants us to please him from our heart. Works is a performance alone if it is not a fruit of our obedience from the heart.

I know this is a lot to read. Please ask any questions or feel free to pin point something I've said if you feel it is contradicting scripture. I would certainly like to know if I am off base anywhere or if I have failed to include even more that God wants to be said and brought to light.

(there are probably lots of typos in this, i'm out of time so please just fill in the blanks:)


tricia w. said...

Okay, I read your post then went to mine and edited it a little. I love the discussion going on. I just dropped down to the earlier post and comments. What a great bless this discussion is. Praise God! I know my mood does swing with my emotions and what truths I believe. I know this does take the trial away, but it does help me to realize that God is using this trial to help me grow into Christ image. I can then pray for God's strength and wisdom. (I skipped the John Piper part, because I finished " Trusting God" last night so I could start reading "Desiring God" by John Piper, today.)Thank you Alicia for sharing what God shared with you. I look forward to seeing this conversation continue.

Anonymous said...

Alicia!! What joy!

Now this is what real "Home schooling" looks like. God intimately teaching us about Himself!

Pass this on to your kids... what a delight.

Thank you friend, thank you.


Alicia said...

actually, I don't think this is from that book exactly (I'll have to check). I think it would help understand the context if you did read it. It's from his website.

You are so right! I looked at this when I typed and thought this has got to be saved to share over and over with my own mind, and with my children even when they are grown, especially when they are grown!

tricia w. said...


I doubled check it is the first chapter in "Desiring God" I looked at my book and compared it to the weblink. They are one and the same. The only difference is the block area where he highlights information. I am going to sit and read it later today.