26
May
10

the ruler of faith

Tonight, during the meeting of the group of people dealing with depression, I posed the question of the role that their religious faith played in helping them deal with depression. What I was expecting was a collection of statements along the lines of, “It gives me comfort and strength when things look the bleakest.” The responses I got were not along those lines AT ALL.

The first person talked about the fact that his depression caused him to see himself as someone who failed (again!) to measure up to an expected standard. He said he felt as if he would not be depressed if only his faith were stronger. Another person said they come to church and hear about all the things that are expected of them as Christians (daily prayer, scripture reading, giving, worship attendance, etc.) and are brought face-to-face with all of the standards they have fallen short of. Several others in the group nodded in agreement.

I told them my hope would be that they could come to see God (and their faith) as a safety net, there to catch them and keep them from sinking into the bottomless abyss. I told them it grieved me that instead of being a safety net, their faith had become instead a ruler that they were both measured by and had their knuckles rapped with.

I am sure that much of this is attributable to the distorted thinking patterns that often accompany depression. In other words we go out aggressively looking for ways that we fall short of some imaginary standard. “I can’t play guitar as well as Eric Clapton! I am such a loser!”

But it is likely also true that we church folks are guilty of subliminally communicating that faith is really all about practices… that if we do the right sequence or combination of things, God will look favorably upon us and punch our ticket. It is a teeny bit possible that in this equation we also set ourselves up as the ultimate arbiters of which practices please God and which don’t cut much ice with him. 

 Hmmmm. Better change the subject now. Too much thinking on this one might lead to the need to REPENT!


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