5th Sunday of Easter
I found this story on sermons.com and it was told by Maxie Dunnam from the sermon “Out of the Miry Bog.”
“ A business man’s wife was experiencing depression. She began to mope around and be sad, lifeless—no light in her eyes—no spring in her step—joyless. It became so bad that this “man of the world” did what any sophisticated person would do. He made an appointment with the psychiatrist. On the appointed day, they went to the psychiatrist’s office, sat down with him and began to talk. It wasn’t long before the wise doctor realized what the problem was.
So, without saying a word, he simply stood, walked over in front of the woman’s chair, signaled her to stand, took her by the hands, looked at her in the eyes for a long time, then gathered her into his arms and gave her a big, warm hug.
You could see the change come over the woman. Her face softened, her eyes lit up, she immediately relaxed. Her whole face glowed.
Stepping back, the doctor said to the husband, “See, that’s all she needs.”
With that the man said, “Okay, I’ll bring her in Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week, but I have to play golf on the other afternoons.”
I have been listening to teachers, nurses, pastors, and many others during the course of this pandemic and the over whelming commonality among them is a sense of tiredness wrapped up in depression. And it is getting worse.
It is some times called “the blues,” “feeling gloomy,” or “a slump.” But what it really is depression.
For some it can be severe requiring medical and/or psychiatric help. Even in its milder form it still causes life to be joyless and gray.
Why am I talking about depression? Well, it is with certainty that I say our Psalmist was suffering from depression. If we follow the Psalmist’s steps it might provide guidance for dealing with a feeling of sadness.
What does the Psalmist do first. He cries out to God. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (V.1). We need to place ourselves before God. We need to talk honestly to God. There are times when we feel like God has abandoned us. But we rarely tell God that. Christians for some reason think we have to be always sunshine and roses—never doubt God’s presence. Even Jesus wasn’t always “on top.“ What does he utter on the cross but “My, God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
We are not alone in feeling that way sometimes. We are in good company with Jesus. We need to be honest and up front with God, if we want to begin to heal and dance again.
The Psalmist’s second step was to remember his faith. We should affirm our faith and our confidence in it.
The Psalmist immediately after questioning God’s presence reaches back in his memory and holds on to a truth. Listen again to verses 4 and 5: “In thee our fathers trusted; they trusted , and thou did deliver them. To thee they cried and were saved; in thee they trusted, and were not disappointed.”
The Psalmist keeps going; he doesn’t give up. One affirmation of faith and confidence doesn’t cut it. It must be an ongoing habit of placing ourselves honestly before God while at the same time clinging to the confidence and faith we know can be ours. The Psalmist has a rhythm that is apparent in his plea:
V 6: Despair: “But I am a worm not a man.”
V 9: Faith, Confidence: “Yet thou art he who took him from the womb; thou did keep me safe upon my mother’s breast.”
V 14 Despair: “I am poured out like water.”
V 19: Faith, Confidence: “But thou, O Lord, be not far off! O thou my help, hasten to my aid.”
The Psalmist gives us a second step. When we are feeling despair and depression, we can recall a time when God was very much with us. A time when the fog was lifted and the days were bright and we experienced joy. We can affirm our faith.
Lastly we hear from the Psalmist these words:” I will tell of thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee” (v 22).
That is what we are about today—to witness and praise God. We remember that God has never abandoned us. There is power in praise!
With despair there is a tendency to withdraw. We were forced to withdraw because of Covid-19 and despair and grief have multiplied because of that withdrawal.
Today we are worshipping in person for the first time in 14 months. It has been long and tiresome. With the deaths that have touched everyone in this congregation we are a grieving community. However, we are now called out of our despair to witness and praise God’s grace and eternal love for us. The Psalmist and Jesus guide our steps forward.
Things will not go back to the normal we once enjoyed. But that doesn’t mean that the new normal is bad. It is simply different. If we commit to the call to praise God in spite of our unease about the future and if we ask God to guide our steps how can we not dance the dance of love and praise.
“I danced in the morning when the world was begun, and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun, and I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth; sat Bethlehem I had my birth. Dance then wherever you may be; I am the Lord of the dance said he, and I’ll lead you all wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance said he. (“Lord of the Dance,” Sydney B. Carter).
“From you comes my praise: Guide my steps.”
In confidence, faith, praise and joy I offer these words in the greatest of hope!