from our Ministers Joseph & Peter

THE POWER OF HOPE Rev Peter Brown  09.10.21

One of the most riveting and hope filled stories in the Bible is the portrayal of the life of Elijah.  He is one of the pioneers of faith who earned his place in the spiritual hall of fame for his fortitude, resilience, courage, and conviction when the spiritual tide was low.  There is a critical aspect of this superhero’s story that we shy away from that is vital for our theological reflections as it is crucial and indispensable for our spiritual journey.  

James made an insightful comment when he declared: “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17-18).  Let us resist viewing this with gasps of “wide eyed” intimidation and instead grasp that he was an ordinary human being who did extraordinary deeds because he trusted God.  Yet this man, known for his extraordinary feats and accomplishments, had moments when he had to face his fear, frailty, and failure.

One of the most remarkable episodes from Elijah’s life that I want to reflect on covers the period of his solitude and struggle with depression.  This is a tale not of woe but of hope.  It is a story of light in the midst of our darkness that speaks of the power of God’s redeeming grace to rescue, restore, and resource us in our struggle with fear, depression, and anxiety.

This is also a story about the elephant in the room – the elephant of mental health.  Depression is the number one health issue in the world today, yet those who suffer are still sometimes stigmatized and marginalized — especially followers of Jesus.  Many assume God's peace, power, and protection should prevent us from ever feeling anxious, depressed, and afraid.  Elijah's life shows us that everyone is susceptible to depression.  Even when we are walking closely with God, we can still stumble and get lost in the wilderness of tangled emotions. But we don't have to stay there, because we serve a God who meets us in the darkness.  There is hope in the darkness of depression.  The Church should be a community of healing where oases of safe places are created for those with wounded emotions and troubled minds to find space where they can journey towards wholeness, find comfort and help, and tools to resource them to move forward.  We urgently need to create an environment where we can engage in shame-free conversations about mental health and where people are equipped to support loved ones while practicing self-care.

The acclaimed musical artist Michelle Williams shared her intimate and powerful story about her battle with depression even in the midst of enormous fame and success.  This led her to find her true calling as an advocate for mental health — especially her own.

 

As a member of Destiny's Child, one of the top female groups of all time, she felt blessed.  After the group disbanded, she continued to create bestselling albums, appear on television shows, and star in theatre productions.  Though she had always struggled with low moods, in 2018 her depression deepened, and when she found herself planning her own funeral, she checked herself into a treatment facility.  There she found the help she needed to live out the incredible story God was writing for her life.  Her story is a reminder to us that we are not alone.  Hope starts now.

 

To those who are struggling these stories are a reminder that God uses wilderness experiences to prepare His children – including Jesus – for His greater purpose and to work miracles inside our souls.

 

We serve a God of hope, and we are called to proclaim a gospel of hope.  My prayer is that our hopes, not our hurts, will shape our future.  As Anne Frank so wisely said, “Where there is hope…there is life.”  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

 

Every blessing in Christ Jesus,

 

Peter