What Does Christian Hedonism Offer the Depressed?
In Episode 19 we talked about times when God withdraws his presence from the Christian. Pastor John, you talked there about Micah 7:8–9 in that context. It’s worth revisiting this theme to ask, what does Christian Hedonism have to offer a depressed Christian?
Besides that text from Micah, there is another beautiful text for people in darkness in Psalm 139. This is the Psalm that says, “Where shall I flee from your presence” and “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7, 9–10).
And then he says this: “If I say, ‘Surely darkness shall cover me,’” — now notice: he doesn't say, “If darkness covers me.” He says, “If I say . . . ” So this is a person who is despairing and speaking to themselves in darkness. — “If I say ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 119:11-12).
I think that is picturing the person who is on the brink of despair and is saying, “Darkness is all over me. It is just covering me. I don’t see any light.” And what the Psalmist is calling us to do is in that experience, in that very moment, feeling all of that desertion, all of that darkness, to say, “This darkness is not dark to my God. He sees me. He knows me. He is with me. And though I can’t see him, he can see me. And there is nothing dark about my life to him.”
So I would say we learn these things from the precious Word of God, and we preach them to ourselves even if, in the very moment of preaching, there is almost no feeling of them. We assert them as true. We throw them in the devil’s face. We stick him with the sword of the Spirit. And then, with regard to Psalm 40, we wait. We wait for the Lord.
The Christian Hedonist and Death
One more thing. This is a really crucial pastoral issue when it comes to dying. There was a young woman in our church who died. She was in her 40s with four kids and got cancer, and her death was just horrible. There was nothing beautiful about it — it was just horrible. At the end, she basically died choking on her own vomit, and everybody around her just were just saying, “God, please — God, have mercy and take her.”
After she died, we did the funeral, and everybody wanted some explanation or some word from the pastor about her horrific suffering before death. Because usually we think of suffering as having a sanctifying effect. Well, she is going to die in 10 minutes. There is no life to be sanctified here. She is going to die.
And what I said was, “The incredible triumph of her death is that she didn’t curse God.” In other words, she had no physical, emotional, or mental wherewithal to sing a psalm. She is throwing up her own blood and guts, and all she could do was hold on and not curse God — and she didn’t. She just held on to him.
So I think there are some moments of darkness where the most beautiful triumph is when Satan is screaming in your ear: “This is your God. So much for your merciful God.” And you just look back at him and say, “I am not going to curse my God.” I think that was basically Job’s response to his wife when she said, “Curse God and die.” He just said, “Look, we are going to receive evil and good at the hand of the Lord. I am not going not curse him.”