Lent and Depression

Lent

 

Lutherans often joke about how Lent is really their season. Self-denial, self-deprecation, and the like seems to go along well with some strands of Lutheranism, especially those of a more pietist strain. Self-denial, of course, is not pietism. But the way self-denial is practiced today more often resembles the pharisees and their inheritors, the pietists, than it does anything else.

What I find difficult about Lent is that I often use things as crutches to get through the day. Food, drink, sex, etc., they all serve as distractions, and gifts from God to help us through daily life. Hopefully it is done so in a godly manner, but as we all know, sin continues to have its way with us.

So I will freely confess that I really have a hard time giving things up for Lent. Yes, I know. our Lord fasted, and we should fast. We don’t fast to earn God’s favor, but to draw ourselves in to His holy suffering, and to mortify the flesh.

I know all the right answers, but I just don’t want to do it. I just don’t, and no amount of piety or wishing seems to change that for me.

In the meantime, we pray, we watch, we wait, and we hope for the coming of our Savior.

Maranatha, Lord. Come quickly to help us.

-DMR

6 thoughts on “Lent and Depression”

  1. I suppose some of the answer lies in feeling like you should give up something for Lent.

    Rarely when I dwell on what I ‘should do’ or even ‘have to do’ do I end up doing it.

    There’s something to be said for putting to death your sinful flesh by making yourself do things…

    But that’s not exactly the way of the Gospel. The Gospel gives up things, and makes you do things, without you ever realizing you’re doing them (certainly without a resolution on your part). Looking for them is an exercise in futility though. Instead we trust that the Lord who dwells in us will most certainly put our flesh to death and raise it again. He has promised it, and He is faithful. In the meantime, I shall go home tonight, have a glass of wine, and enjoy the fact it helps me forget about the day.

    My two cents.

    For my third cent- I hate the phrase ‘give something up for Lent’ That’s the sort of thing you say as part of a New Year’s Resolution. God doesn’t desire you stop eating chocolates, not check facebook so often, or exercise more. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, etc.

    Law-based? Sure! But if you’re desiring to ‘do’ something during Lent to appease God (or more likely, yourself)- then It’s law you need to hear.

    This isn’t a criticism of you DMR, just one in general. In fact, it’s really more just mindless rambling. In fact, There’s much to be said for fasting (hopefully by someone more qualified than me). In fact, I should be studying Hebrew (if that’s not a good self-denying activity, nothing is).

  2. I suppose some of the answer lies in feeling like you should give up something for Lent.

    Rarely when I dwell on what I ‘should do’ or even ‘have to do’ do I end up doing it.

    There’s something to be said for putting to death your sinful flesh by making yourself do things…

    But that’s not exactly the way of the Gospel. The Gospel gives up things, and makes you do things, without you ever realizing you’re doing them (certainly without a resolution on your part). Looking for them is an exercise in futility though. Instead we trust that the Lord who dwells in us will most certainly put our flesh to death and raise it again. He has promised it, and He is faithful. In the meantime, I shall go home tonight, have a glass of wine, and enjoy the fact it helps me forget about the day.

    My two cents.

    For my third cent- I hate the phrase ‘give something up for Lent’ That’s the sort of thing you say as part of a New Year’s Resolution. God doesn’t desire you stop eating chocolates, not check facebook so often, or exercise more. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, etc.

    Law-based? Sure! But if you’re desiring to ‘do’ something during Lent to appease God (or more likely, yourself)- then It’s law you need to hear.

    This isn’t a criticism of you DMR, just one in general. In fact, it’s really more just mindless rambling. In fact, There’s much to be said for fasting (hopefully by someone more qualified than me). In fact, I should be studying Hebrew (if that’s not a good self-denying activity, nothing is).

  3. I don’t know… I just finished a five week course of fasting for two meals (after lunch one day until lunch the next) on two days each week. I did this as a project for a course in spiritual disciplines that I’m taking at seminary. Part of my motivation for picking his particular discipline was devote more time to prayer and seeking God’s strength through a particularly depressing time with my job. I thought fasting might worsen my struggle with depression but, looking back on it five weeks later, I think it has had the opposite effect. I think it really helped. It’s hard to explain. On the evenings I fasted I was able to focus on what was depressing me with more detachment and offer those things to God. I slept better on those evenings than when I didn’t fast. I started looking forward to the fast days. I plan to continue one day a week through Lent. Do you think hunger might be one of those God-given distractions that you are talking about? One that could promote healing instead of being a crutch?

  4. I don’t know… I just finished a five week course of fasting for two meals (after lunch one day until lunch the next) on two days each week. I did this as a project for a course in spiritual disciplines that I’m taking at seminary. Part of my motivation for picking his particular discipline was devote more time to prayer and seeking God’s strength through a particularly depressing time with my job. I thought fasting might worsen my struggle with depression but, looking back on it five weeks later, I think it has had the opposite effect. I think it really helped. It’s hard to explain. On the evenings I fasted I was able to focus on what was depressing me with more detachment and offer those things to God. I slept better on those evenings than when I didn’t fast. I started looking forward to the fast days. I plan to continue one day a week through Lent. Do you think hunger might be one of those God-given distractions that you are talking about? One that could promote healing instead of being a crutch?

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