May 18, 2014: Did Jesus Ever Suffer from Depression?

Posted on : May 15th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Did Jesus Ever Suffer From Depression? Pause a minute and think about that question before you read on.

To a great extent, the way we answer that question and the feelings that question evokes depend on our own understanding of what depression is and our own experiences with depression and mental health issues and illnesses.

Mental health is one of the most under-funded fields in contemporary medicine and those who suffer from serious mental illness are some of the most under-served persons in our medical systems. We hear this every time there is a tragedy where a “bullied child” or a “loner” – a person who feels very alone, and may or may not have any person to offer him or her support in life – acts out violently.

One of the reasons mental health is viewed negatively is the stigma associated with it. Often when someone is in the hospital with an illness such as cancer we feel empathy for them. Yet when a person is hospitalized for mental illness, we feel fear and embarrassment. Why do we hold this double standard?

One of our core values in the United Church of Christ is inclusion. In the UCC this includes “Accessibility to All” which is an intentional inclusion of those who have mental illness as well as those who are physically disabled. This Sunday, our former Associate Pastor for HIV/AIDS, Rev. Lisa Bove, will be our preacher. Lisa has spent the last 20 or more years working in the area of mental health.

She’s going to speak about depression and mental illness from both the medical and spiritual perspectives. This Sunday’s scriptures focus on mental illness from two persons’ life experience: the psalmist and Jesus. Chaplain Paul Tomlinson of the Commission on Mental Health Service in Washington D.C. offers these thoughts for us:

Psalm 88 portrays the experience of the depressed person from a spiritual perspective. The psalmist’s struggle with his/her faith is not uncommon to the depressed person. Depression, like all mental illness, affects the way the mind processes thoughts. It also affects the way a person feels and experiences life – including religious experience. It is very common for the depressed person to experience a sense of the abandonment of God and their faith during a depressive time.

That’s true for you and me. But was it true for Jesus? Come and find out!

Easter Blessings to you,

Dan and Lisa

Psalm 88

A Psalm by one who suffers from despair and depression.

O God of my deliverance,
by day I cry out to you;
In the night I am before you.

Let my prayer reach you;
Turn your ear to hear me!

Troubles fill me and my life is on the brink of despair.
I am numbered among those who sink into the depths of depression;
All my strength is drained from me.
I feel I am alone, as one among the dead,
Like a body lying in its grave-
I’m like someone you no longer remember;
Someone cut off from your care.

You have plunged me into the deepest depression,
into the deepest and darkest place my mind can go.
This weighs so heavy on me.
It feels like wave after wave of despair and depression overcomes me.

You have turned my friends against me and made me repulsive to them;
I feel like I am in prison and there is no escape.
My eyes ache from crying.

God, I call you all day long;
I stretch out my hands to you…
I am here calling, calling for your help, praying to you every morning.

Why do you reject me, O God, my God?
Why do you hide your face from me?

Matthew 26: 36- 46

Jesus said to Peter, James and John: “My soul is deeply distressed. Stay with me.”

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter, James and John, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; stay with me, and be present with me.’
And going a little farther, Jesus threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘Dear God, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet I do not ask to have my own way, but that your will be done.’
Then Jesus came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; for the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
Again Jesus went away for the second time and prayed, ‘Gracious God, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ Again Jesus came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
Then Jesus came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping? See, the hour is at hand, and God’s Chosen One is betrayed. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

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