Diseases of Despair
There is an apparent contradiction in our Christian faith. On the one hand we teach that good works cannot save you, i.e., you cannot earn your salvation. Yet on the other hand Jesus clearly says in our reading this morning that we must live a righteous life to enter into
Publish Date: Feb 09, 2020
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Diseases of Despair
There is an apparent contradiction in our Christian faith. On the one hand we teach that good works cannot save you, i.e., you cannot earn your salvation. Yet on the other hand Jesus clearly says in our reading this morning that we must live a righteous life to enter into the kingdom of heaven. So which is it? Are good works essential for salvation, or not?
To make matters even more interesting it is believed that work plays an important role in a person’s happiness and well being. Depression, alcoholism, and drug addiction in the United States have grown and ravaged mostly white males who do not have work. As the economy has changed in the United States away from factory middle class jobs many white males have been left feeling that the future does not hold much promise. Therein enters depression, alcoholism, and drug addiction. Public health scholars call these the “Diseases of Despair.”
Depression isn’t new. It has been around as long as humanity has existed. Even great people in history struggled with depression. Abraham Lincoln is one such person. President’s day will be observed tomorrow, and Lincoln’s birthday is January 12. Records indicate that Lincoln was diagnosed with a condition called, “melancholy.” Today we call it clinical depression. One of the factors that pushed Lincoln into a depression was the untimely death of two of his children.
For Abraham Lincoln who was a genius at leadership and negotiation losing a child made him feel totally powerless and full of despair. Lincoln could wheel and deal with people. He could lead a bitterly divided nation. He educated himself and lifted himself out of poverty. But he could not shield his children from death.
These same feelings of despair ooze off the pages of our reading this morning from the prophet Isaiah Chapter 58. The people complain to God that there seems to be nothing they can do to win God’s favor. They wallow in their misery trying to get on God’s good side. God questions their behavior through Isaiah.
Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Isaiah 58:5
Sitting around feeling sorry for oneself isn’t what God wants to see out of the people. Jesus speaks the same point when he says that salt which isn’t salty is worthless and tossed out. Wallowing in your misery and lingering in pain is not pleasing to God.
God is Powerful
Sometimes when a person becomes truly aware of how powerless they are it is an opportunity to draw closer to God. Abraham Lincoln is not remembered to be a very religious person. Although he was raised among “hard shelled Baptists” and even though he knew the Bible inside and out, he wasn’t a big church goer. With age, however, he became more spiritual. His later speeches refer to God more than when he was young.
Lincoln subscribed to a mode of thought called the, “Doctrine of Necessity.” In this way of thinking people’s minds are quite feeble, and only by God’s influence can a person think well. Lincoln thought that God exerted great influence in the world. This faith in God’s power is said to have sustained him during the impossible task of leading the nation through a civil war. Ironically, it is through moments of profound suffering and loss that God’s power is most directly felt. Jesus dying on the cross in a completely vulnerable