BCC Staff Note: You are reading Part 2 of a BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on depression. Read Part 1: How to Pray When You’re Depressed.
Oh Bother vs. The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers
My thinking about depression (others’ and my own) has been shaped recently by Winnie the Pooh, Crayons, and Ephesians. In some cases, not very academic, I know, but who am I trying to impress?
The character I relate to most in Winnie the Pooh, is Eeyore, the depressed donkey. His favorite line is “Oh bother.” His world (like himself) is grey, full of trouble. This trouble is enhanced by some very loud and bouncy “people” trying to bounce him out of his funk.
By some people’s account, the biblical approach to life is to be Tigger, all the time, everywhere. The Tiggers within the church find it frustrating that the Eeyores don’t respond to their “ministry of joy.” Eeyores figure they’ll just stay home since they will ruin the party atmosphere, and they find the noise and the “happy” a little too painful.
From all parties it really seems that the consensus is: the depressed just aren’t cut out for community.
God’s gift to the Depressed # 1: The Multi-colored Wisdom of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 3:10)
Both the periodically depressed and the temperamentally depressed (those with low emotional energy) can feel like their “crayon box” of emotions are all black, grey, and beige. There are very few highlights in their life. The range of their emotions and joys is small. If life is to be colorful, they are going to have to borrow some colors. Borrowing colors can only be done in community. God intends that we find the other colors and joys in God’s world, not by mustering some hidden energy and putting some color in our cheeks, but inside the community He has placed us in by the grace of Christ.
“So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10 ESV).
The word “manifold” in the Greek has the idea of multiple colors. In the context of Ephesians, Paul is laying out how God in His wisdom has put Jew and Gentile into one Body in Christ, forming “one new man.” It’s not hard to imagine all the tense historical, theological, and biographical stuff that gets “imported” into church life by God’s action of joining these two groups together. When these two groups mix together it’s probably way too colorful for most people’s comfort.
So, how does this relate to how the depressed and non-depressed interact within the Body of Christ?
Our being included in Christ includes the call for us to submit our own lives with their own weaknesses, preferences, and struggles to the process of God weaving us into a tapestry of grace. As God weaves the depressed and the upbeat into this fabric of painfully close fellowship, it is a cosmic and local display of the rich wisdom of God’s renewal of broken human nature and culture.
So, God is doing something formative and cosmic at the same time as He weaves us together in fellowship. A certain personality/ethnic/economic/struggle profile does not make us fit for Gospel community (e.g. the church is for upbeat, Tigger types). Christ qualifies us and conforms us to His image, an animated Body of Christ, filled by His Spirit. When the emotionally “black, white, and beige” stay home because they are the “drab colors,” they aren’t grasping the painful gift of community.
The depressed person is not being asked to watch this colorful expression of God’s wisdom from the sidelines, or televised on tape delay. God’s grace is pulling us together. Sure, the brightness of someone else’s experience of life in God’s grace might only highlight the current sense you have that all is dark and that God is far away. We often cannot see (or bear) the beauty from where we stand. First, we must move towards Christ, the One who was acquainted with grief. And then, secondly, He pulls us in to His community of wisdom that includes the whole range of restored, reconciled, and being-renewed brokenness.
That brings us to God’s second gift to the depressed.
God’s gift to the Depressed # 2: The Gift of Dimension in Gospel Community
Depression can feel (all at the same time) like you are at the bottom of a pit and that you are as dimensional as a piece of paper, flattened by the weight of suffering. The Psalmists often complained of feeling dried out and in danger of blowing away, like a fragile leaf.
Paul prays for the Ephesians that they would grasp all the dimensions of the love of God:
“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV).
Notice the context or location of where we grasp this: with all the saints. It would be very tempting to think that we all grasp this individually, like all of us watching the same You Tube video simultaneously on our phones. The book of Ephesians for theological (and obviously not technological) reasons won’t permit that view. The way that we grasp these dimensions of God’s love is together, in community. Just read chapter 4! Those on the heights, those in the depths, and those who live in the middle, come together in the Gospel and discover the full color and dimensions of God’s glorious love.
That also means that the “The Tiggers” equally need “The Eeyores.” That is, the habitually happy folks living with pastel colors also need the folks who look honestly and realistically at life lived in a world “East of Eden.”