Preaching the Resurrection to the Mentally Ill

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It is hard to overestimate how important preaching the resurrection is to the mentally ill, including the clinically depressed. That’s the illness I know best, but I firmly believe that this holds true for anxiety, manic depression, schizophrenia and a host of other mental illnesses.

The reason is simple. For the mentally ill, you are trapped in your own mind and body. Your brain is not processing as it should, and so the chemical changes in your body interact in a very bad way with the sinful nature which infects us all. If your sickness is telling you that things are far, far worse than they really are, and your sinful nature is telling you that God hates you, put these two together and you have a recipe for personal and spiritual disaster.

Mental illness works as a magnifying glass and amplifier for so many of the doubts and fears which infect us all. Everyone has doubts about the future. Everyone has moments of despair. Everyone has fears about what they cannot control. Everyone questions their own worthiness before God and before their fellow human beings. We all go through these. But for the mentally ill, especially the clinically depressed, these feelings are all consuming. The physical illness can easily lead to anfectung, the struggle of the soul.

So why does preaching the resurrection matter to the clinically depressed? It matters because in the resurrection of the body, there is a future and a hope that is real, that is concrete, that will happen to matter what may be going on today or yesterday or tomorrow. St. Paul puts it best:

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1Corinthians 15:19 KJV)

For the depressed, there is no tomorrow.
For the depressed, there is only thick darkness.
For the depressed, there is only more misery.
For the depressed, there is no escape except the grave.

But not so the Christian!

There is a tomorrow in Christ.
There is light that shines in the darkness.
There is joy in the body of Christ.
There is escape not in the grave but through the resurrection of the body.

So, my fellow preachers, give us the resurrection. It is my only hope out of the darkness. Give me Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Nothing, nothing else will ever satisfy.

Easter is coming. I can’t wait.

11 thoughts on “Preaching the Resurrection to the Mentally Ill”

  1. Thanks for this wonderful insight.

    We dare not call the situation of the clinically depressed a good thing. We acknowledge the great suffering that it entails and proclaim that Christ has answered it in the cross definitively. We proclaim that because Christ's tomb is empty all tombs will be empty. We proclaim that because Christ's body (and mind!) is perfect all those who trust Him will receive incorruptible bodies.

    Again. Thanks.

    1. Charles, I would like to provide a slight correction to your first sentence. Let's follow in the mindset of Joseph. Being sold into slavery and depression are but two examples of what was intended for evil by our own flesh/devil/world being worked by God for good – though these are greatly eclipsed by this Friday's events. And because God after three days can not only undo the greatest evil – the murder of His Son – but also turn it into the source of eternal good for the whole world, then certainly He can, when His time is right, not only undo depression for its victim, but turn it into blessing – and blessing intended for more than just the victim. I speak from the experience of seeing someone yesterday benefit from my past suffering.
      All this is to say, we can actually call the situation of the clinically depressed a good thing, but only as God has promised to work this evil thing for good.

    2. Charles, et al, the website said my comment got too long, so I had to cut this out and put it in this comment box:

      Depression shows what is always true for everyone – that we are hopeless, powerless, etc to save ourselves and are in need of God's work to save. It is a relentless preaching of the Law. Except that, as this thread (including your response) points out, it is not relentless. God draws His line in the sand of our graves and says to sin and death (even the death of emotions), "This far and no further. You shall not follow My children beyond this point. I have freed them from your afflictions in the death of my Son who became familiar with their afflictions and carried their sorrows to save them."

      1. The Scriptures tell us that God works all things for good, not that all things are good. I stand by my original comment. It's extremely dangerous for us to pretend that because of God evil things become good. Both in Joseph and Romans 8, God is able to work good through the evil thing. That's because God is good, not because the evil thing is good.

        1. Charles,
          I did not say that Depression was good. In my original post (before the blog software said I rambled too much and needed to cut out the words), I specifically labeled Depression as evil. A form of death. I should have kept that part of the comment in there so I would not have been misunderstood. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify that I meant no different than what you mean in your response to me – that in the situation of depression, God works good through the evil thing.

  2. As one who has gone through depression I thank you.

    It is a gift to the heavy laden to hear on Good Friday that their sins, the ones that Satan tells them through their disease could never be forgiven, are on that cross crucified with Christ. Sins can lay heavy on the depressed, they can see the corrupting touch of sin in everything they do. What a blessing to have that acknowledged in the pulpit. To have a preacher who uses the law then points to the Gospel, which is not a feeling in their heart, but Christ. Who is real, who died, and who is Risen.

    I have gone through two major depressive episodes in my life, once before my baptism, and once after. It was terrible both times, but as a Christian there was some comfort. Every Sunday, when I could get myself and the kids out the door, I saw a little glimmer of hope. I not only saw it but tasted and heard it. I thank the Lord for preaching that had me look, not to myself and my feelings for a hope I would have never found, but to Christ on the Cross.

  3. Thank you! Teaching is often so abstract and intangible. The application seems trite or convenient.

    But you've placed the salve squarely over the wound. And "nothing else will ever satisfy."

    Thank you!

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