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.