Sunday, February 2, 2014

Faith Trumps Melancholy

TV commercials from pharmaceutical companies make me smile.  They feature idyllic scenes of a person who has taken the promoted medication and is now living happily ever after as a result, but all the while a voice-over warns of dire consequences that may occur as a result of ingesting that very drug.  The cautions are delivered in a quiet, soothing voice, as though our senses might be overwhelmed by beautiful visuals to the degree that we disregard warnings of occasional side-effects of things like paralysis, disease, and even death. 

Perhaps advertising executives need to understand a Biblical truth:  faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). If the senses were played like a game of rock, paper, scissors, what we hear would trump what we see. God created us with the capacity to believe in what we have not seen, then He planted the hope of eternity in our hearts. 

Yesterday morning during my devotion time the word "melancholia" came to mind.  I remembered a college Psychology class; "melancholia" was one of the four personality types put forth by Hippocrates.  Gloom and sadness are characteristics of this personality, and when the word came to my mind as from the Lord, I felt vaguely reprimanded, though no less sad than before.  But later in the day I was reading a novel that used that unusual word, melancholia, to describe a character.  Another character said something like this, "He fell to sorrow because he didn't have faith."

These words brought a flash of insight: when I stop believing that what God has promised is true, I sink to my natural personality type, an Oscar-the-Grouch kind of cup-half-empty melancholy. I'm not talking about clinical depression, which is a disease that needs medical intervention and can't be overcome by making a decision to believe (that would be like trying to cure physical starvation with beautiful music).  I refer to a personality type that, perhaps as a result of God-given gifts of perception and empathy for the suffering of others, is prone to gloom.  

If a commercial advertised the blessings of caregiving, the voice-over would warn of possible side-effects of heartache and loss of hope.  Caregiving truly does bring many blessings, but apart from faith in God's promises, the hard facts of caring for someone with dementia can bring the heartache of melancholy (particularly to those of us naturally predisposed to gloom).  The cure for this ill (and most others) is to look steadfastly at Jesus' face, abiding in Him through prayer, praise, and most importantly, Scripture.  Hearing the word of God as spoken to our hearts through the reading of His word offers a a choice, "Will you believe?"

When the answer is "Yes, Lord, I believe," melancholy gives way to the peace of faith.

Jesus prays for all believers:  
  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message..." (John 17: 20).  

"'...if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'

‘If you can’?' said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for one who believes.'

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:22-24) 

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