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One of the most moving articles I’ve ever read

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Michael Gerson was President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter and senior policy advisor and is now a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post. It was my privilege to meet him and to work together at a recent Dallas Baptist University event.

He has been named one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” and is one of the most popular and respected conservative voices in American culture.

He also suffers from clinical depression.

Gerson preached last Sunday at Washington National Cathedral. His sermon was adapted into a Washington Post article titled “I was hospitalized for depression. Faith helped me remember how to live.” It is one of the most moving and illuminating articles I have ever read.

If you have time, I encourage you to stop and read it before continuing with this Daily Article. If you do not, I hope you’ll read it as soon as you can.

“Despair can grow inside you like a tumor.”

Gerson describes his disease: “The brain experiences a chemical imbalance and wraps a narrative around it. So the lack of serotonin, in the mind’s alchemy, becomes something like, ‘Everybody hates me.’ Over time, despair can grow inside you like a tumor.”

There are times when the body is incapable of healing without medical intervention. God calls medical professionals just as he calls pastors and missionaries. Faith is a key part of the solution, but depression and other clinical conditions require clinical responses as well.

That’s why Gerson offers this crucial advice: “I’d urge anyone with undiagnosed depression to seek out professional help. There is no way to will yourself out of this disease, any more than to will yourself out of tuberculosis.”

However, as he adds, “Those who hold to the wild hope of a living God” find help and grace in him.

I found myself wondering, are there resources the God of Scripture offers that no other source can?

Help for the past

Much of the despair of life comes from guilt over the past.

We know that we need forgiveness from those we have hurt. However, we don’t even know all the people we have hurt.

Nor can we ask forgiveness from everyone we know we have hurt. Some are deceased. Others might be injured further by our attempt to make amends (as Step Nine of the Alcoholics Anonymous “Twelve Steps” program notes).

But God is different.

David prayed after his affair with Bathsheba, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). He did not mean that his adultery with Bathsheba and the death of her husband were not sins against them. He meant that his sin was ultimately against the holy God who made him and who rules the universe.

The good news is that this God can and will forgive every sin we confess (1 John 1:9). He then separates our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), buries it in the depths of the deepest sea (Micah 7:19), and will “remember [our] sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

No one else can make this promise.

Help for the present

Much of our discouragement comes from struggles in the present. We carry burdens too heavy to bear and face obstacles too high to climb.

But Jesus knows what you are feeling today. He was rejected by his hometown and mocked by his own family. He experienced overwhelming stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, horrific pain and torture after he was betrayed by his friends, and abandonment beyond anything we can understand (Matthew 27:46).

Now he is praying for us with empathy and passion (Romans 8:34) and assures us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

No one else can make this promise.

Help for the future

Much of our despair comes from fears about the future. But God testifies, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (Isaiah 46:10 NIV).

Our timeless Lord sees tomorrow better than we can see today and promises to lead us “in paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3).

No one else can make this promise.

“My name is Lazarus”

Let me repeat Michael Gerson’s statement: Depression is a medical condition requiring professional treatment. But for those suffering from depression–and for the rest of us on this fallen planet–there is help and hope in Jesus that we can find nowhere else.

In testifying to the transforming power of his conversion to Christ, Gerson quotes G. K. Chesterton’s poem, “The Convert”:

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

Gerson then cites “God’s promise”: “That even when strength fails, there is perseverance. And even when perseverance fails, there is hope. And even when hope fails, there is love. And love never fails.

“So how do we know this? How can anyone be so confident?

“Because we are Lazarus, and we live.”