2005-08-05 - Sadness
The Seven Deadly Sins Series, Part 4The fourth characteristic on the "Seven Deadly Sins" list is not an actual sin, but an affective state, sadness. Like other emotions - from anger to hurt - it is neither good nor bad in itself; what we do in our state of sadness is the issue.
Of course, in the days the list was composed, some people did honestly believe sadness was sinful, a matter of a lack of faith. But we have to remember that ordinary folks like ourselves were unable to search the Scriptures for themselves; they only knew the Bible via their teachers' interpreation. If they had the opportunity to study the Bible carefully, they would have seen that even God Himself sometimes feels the weight of sadness.
We are told to not grieve the Holy Spirit, we are taught that Christ Himself experienced sadness (i.e. at the initial death of Lazarus and at the separation from God, when He felt abandoned by his Father). Since the Holy Spirit and Christ are sinless, of course we can be certain that sadness is not wrong in itself.
However, if we allow sadness to engender a bitter spirit in us against someone who has hurt us, or to use it as an excuse for the abuse of addictive substances or mistreatment of others etc., those responses are sinful. But if we pray honestly about our sadness, talk with friends (as Ecclesiastes and Romans teach us), and get professional help if appropriate, we are handling it in a godly manner.
Some depression is short-lived, and can be handled with no professoinal help. But sometimes it goes deeper, and we need someone with training, to help us work through it. At other times, it is chemical, just as is diabetes, and it's no more sinful to seek help with depression than to seek help for diabetes, which is also not about having a lack of faith.
But sadly, some well-meaning Christians try to prevent people who are depressed from getting the God-given care that could render them more productive Christians. God gifts some people to be doctors and counselors, and how unfortunate that some people hinder God's will this way. False pride can also be an issue; if we believe we should handle everything ourselves, we aren't likely to reach out. This is in itself a sinful attitude, as God's word is replete with instructions about helping each other.
But this is nothing new. Years ago, for awhile some Christians believed (and some ministers taught) that if someone had enough faith, they wouldn't need eyeglasses! One day, people will realize that depression (and other mental issues) is not indicative of a weak Christian. But in the meantime, people are suffering needlessly.
What can we do if we have a family member or friend who is depressed? First, don't tell them to just get over it. Realize it's a very real pain, and as Paul tells us, we are to "weep with those who weep." Pray for them. If the sadness doesn't lift after a few weeks, encourage him or her to call a professional. And if there are any suicidal signs, please urge them to call a professional, or do that yourself. Always take it seriously. If you need information about suicidal signs - or Christian books about the topic, please let me know, and I will direct you to information.
Series to be continued.