Out of the Depths


Good Friday is really about life for me. Two years ago Good Friday, I was sitting at home, preparing for my minimal role in services. I had been on disability for about 2 months, and things were going fairly well. I got a phone call from the people that handle disability claims at our insurance company. They were just calling to inform me that since I had shown “some” improvement according to my doctor, that they were taking me off disability.

This began a series of events that I can only describe as surreal. I began a downward spiral that brought be to being suicidal. It was a gift from God that we had the divine service that day, for without that, I don’t know what I would have been doing. My pastor stayed with me as much as possible. I was a zombie, barely conscious, yet fully believing that there was no way I could get out of this, no way I could recover from such a blow. If I didn’t have the time and space I needed to heal, then I would only get worse. What was the point?

But God is merciful.

I lived.  Somehow our Lord got me through the Great Three Days.   After Easter I went to stay with some dear friends for a couple weeks to rest and try to recover some level of sanity and normalcy.  Things got better.  It took a long time, with setbacks along the way and all kinds of other gunk to go through, but things did get better.

So Good Friday for me is about life.  It’s about that life God gives to each one of us.  It’s about the Life that was given for my life.   It’s about the gift of seeing my children grow up, having friends and family who care deeply for us, and it’s about the ongoing work that our Lord does to keep us in the faith all the days of our lives.  No matter how dark the road.

A blessed Good Friday to you.


How Quickly Things Change

I’m often amazed at how quickly things can change, for either better or worse. I remember a month ago or so I was seriously sick with the flu bug that has been EVERYWHERE this year. I had been sick for about two weeks. As I was complaining to a friend of my, I said, “This is the worst winter I’ve ever had!”

“Really?,” he said. “You’ve had a pretty bad couple of years here.”

It kind of set me back. I have had a few pretty wretched winters. We’re coming up upon Good Friday here soon. I can remember a couple years ago when things were about as dark as they could be, that I seriously contemplated suicide. Now that is a bad winter.

Things are going well for me. They really are. The problems that I have are blissfully normal. Sick. Kids. Pastoral stuff. Life. It’s good. I’m glad for it. But I never want to forget what it took to get here.

Pressed Down but Not Forgotten, A Review (book on depression)

Pressed Down But Not Forgotten, by H. Curtis Lyon and John Juern

Pressed Down but Not Forgotten

By H. Curtis Lyon and John Juern

Books on depression are a dime a dozen. Books on depression by Lutherans are rare, so rare in fact that this may be the only one I’ve read. So what does it have to offer us?

What’s Good

It has excellent, simple and understandable definitions of the various aspects of depression. It does a good job balancing the situational, biological and spiritual dimensions of the illness. In that respect I would say that the chapters on a clinical look at depression (Chapter 2) and how depression is treated (Chapter 3) are probably the best. These are two areas where most Christians will have little or no understanding.

The book is short. This is very good. Some of the books about depression on my shelf (e.g. The Noonday Demon) are hundreds and hundreds of pages. While the material may be worthwhile, it becomes completely unaccessible because of the morass of words.

One of the authors (Rev. Curt Lyon) is a WELS pastor, and the other (Dr. John Juern) is a WELS layman and clinical psychologist. What this means in this case is that there is a pretty good basic understanding of the Gospel at work, there’s no decision theology or any blatant heresies. There are other problems,, though, which we will get to in a moment.

I also like the use of case studies to understand a given situation or problem associated with depression. While it gets a little old by the end of the book, it is for the most part effective and helpful.

What’s Not So Good

A couple issues with the book stick out. First of all is the ugly and really cheesy graphics. Smiley faces and frowney faces. Blech. Patronizing and silly. Spare me.

The book originally came out in 1996, so almost everything in there about medication is dated. The general concepts are correct, but most people won’t even recognize the names of the medications cited. It needs to be updated.

The real problem with the book, though, is theological. It’s not any kind of heresy or false doctrine. The problem is that the author’s never make the connection between the cross and here-and-now. It is completely asacramental or even anti-sacramental. I have found this tragically common in Wisconsin Synod publications, and this is no exception. While the beauty and comfort of Jesus’ death is held up, how that comes to us now (the Word and holy Sacraments) is never even mentioned in the book. Holy Absolution has no mention, either.

Now this doesn’t surprise me. Most people don’t get that. But it is such a critical thing, especially for someone who is clinically depressed. The sacraments are extra nos, they come from outside of us. My baptismal identity frees me from the shackles of my own pathetic works. I am free, because I am in Christ. This is one of the most comforting things that the depressed can hear, and it is completely absent in the book.

So overall I’d give it about three stars out of five. It has a place on my shelf and is good, but the Lutheran work on this important topic has yet to be written.