(Photo by Charlie B. Colleton)
How The Bible Helped Me Overcome Depression
By Ben Courson
As I’ve publicly said many times, I suffered a decade’s worth of depression. But! The Bible helped me overcome depression. This is ironic because a lot of today’s sermons make people believe that the message of the Bible is basically: “God has a plan for your life.”
God has a plan for your life?
Sounds nice. But also, kinda generic. So, let’s talk about how the Bible specifically maps out the plans He has for you in a way that belies the old tropes and truisms spoken many a Sunday morning.
When we are talking about God’s plans for your LIFE, let me say right off the bat that when are talking about life, I don’t believe in duality; I believe in infinite complexity. Like fractal geometry – which shows that clouds and shorelines and snowflakes have an infinite number of shapes when you zoom in on them with a microscope, revealing ever greater detail ad infinitum (the theological equivalent of the incomprehensibility of God), so the universe is fraught with Einsteinian relativity, astrophysical anomaly, and quantum theory.
The Bible is similarly complex. It’s ingenious, intricate, and involved. It’s not just treble; it’s got a lot of bass. There’s no skimming off the top with this book. The Bible is a deep reservoir to swim in so you can find refreshment after long wandering in a desert of despair. Or, if you’ll suffer the mixed metaphor, it is a book that helped get me out of depression with its beautiful tapestry and elegant patterns. Indeed, the pattern of God’s plans is strewn throughout its pages. Paul told Timothy, “Hold fast the PATTERN of sound words which you heard from me.” The Bible has a pattern to it: a tapestry that put God’s plans on full display.
Let’s talk about 10 ways the Bible shows God has a plan, so we don’t have to float adrift in an uncertain universe wandering about unmoored and unsure.
The Bible shows God’s plan to:
- EFFECTUATE THE UNIVERSE. God has a plan not just for your life, but for the whole UNIVERSE. The Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew verb “create” is used only of divine and never of human activity. No man can create ex nihilo – something out of nothing. What’s more, Genesis 1:1 has been called the trinity of trinities. It talks about the beginning, which is a measurement of TIME, the heavens speak of SPACE, and the earth speaks of MATTER: the three elementary building blocks of the universe. And every one of those three properties have, in turn, three more principles inherent within each: Time consists of past, present, and future. Space consists of height, width, and depth. And matter consists of solid, liquid, and gas. The trinity of trinities. From the very beginning, God has a scientific plan for the time, the earth, and the cosmos. The Universe is unfolding as it should.
- The Bible shows God has a plan to ENGENDER A NEW HUMANITY. Paul wrote, “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15 NIV). God’s designing a new humanity. In the story of the Garden of Eden, the snake lied to Adam and Eve and said, “’If you eat the forbidden fruit you will be like God.’” But two chapters earlier, we are told Adam (the Hebrew word for “the human”) was made in God’s likeness. He was already like God! Similarly, to this day, the trick of the enemy is to make us believe God is holding out on us something He’s already given to us. We are image bearers for the divine, mirroring His creative attributes to the world, and that’s engrained into our identity. No matter how messed up humanity becomes, God redeems mankind into a new humanity! The Bible says that those who are in Christ are a new creation – which in Greek literally means “a new species.” We go from homo sapiens to hope-o sapiens! Our species is not stuck in a rut, according to the Bible we are evidently evolving into a new humanity!
- The Bible shows God has a plan to ERADICATE OUR FEAR. This is helpful because fear is tremendously hurtful. Fear releases more than 1,400 known physical and chemical reactions in the body and triggers more than 30 different hormones and neurotransmitters. But good news, we are free from fear. The Bible says we have not been given the spirit of fear, but of LOVE! And perfect love casts out fear, which means if my body is the temple for the Holy Spirit and that spirit is a spirit of love and not fear, I can’t fear. I. Can’t. Fear. If I fear, it means I’m believing a lie. FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real (or Forget Everything And Run). But with God, we Face Everything And Rise. Now that’s an acronym I can vibe with.
- The Bible shows God’s plan to ENCOURAGE OUR LOVE. We were not made to be alone. We were made for love. We are social species. Grief is a form of separation anxiety. Look at pack animals: dogs panic when you leave the house. Similarly, scientists tell us your need to text after a breakup is akin to animals out in the wild by themselves having a lesser chance of surviving. No wonder Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered, there am I in the midst.” But wait! Isn’t Jesus in the midst anyway – even if I’m by myself? Didn’t he say, “Lo I am with you always, even unto the ending of the age,”? And didn’t he say, “I will never leave you not forsake you,”? Isn’t he with you when you’re alone? But remember, Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” Who is the Father? “God is love,” (1 John 4:8, 16). Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this than that he lay down his life for his friends.” Yet Romans says Jesus died for his enemies. Meaning, by dying for friend AND enemy, Jesus surpasses His own definition of the greatest love!!! This is why Paul says, “God’s love passes knowledge.” Indeed, God is love and Jesus images his Father, but in order to show love you need a neighbor – so where two or more are there, Love can be and God is love so he is in the midst. We were not meant to only experience God alone, but with each other. When David said, “Thou wilt prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,” back then, eating was a communal act. Meaning, David knew God would surround him with friends again. We were made for love. For friendship. For “two or more.”
- The Bible shows God’s plan to EMPOWER RESURRECTION REALITIES TO BURST THROUGH THE CRACKS HERE AND NOW. Did you know every time Jesus predicted his crucifixion, he also predicted His resurrection? The message of the Universe is: there’s an empty tomb. NOW we are cooking with gas. Yup, that’s the Gospel. Do you want the good news first or the good news first?
- The Bible shows God’s plan to – in the words of Paul – ENLIGHTEN THE EYES OF OUR UNDERSTANDING. Have you ever noticed that, when Jesus heard a blind guy’s eyes, it says over and over again that he MADE CLAY to heal him? When? On the Sabbath. Why? Because for 400 years the Israelites made clay to build the pharaoh’s pyramids without a single Sabbath. Jesus made clay so the Jews didn’t have to anymore. As Lord of the Sabbath, he effectively says, “When you work, I rest. But when you rest, I’ll go to work.” Just as the Hebrews were once slaves to Egypt, now they were slaves to Rome. Caesar had his boot on their neck. Jesus was proclaiming Israel’s freedom from slavery! But there’s more! Jesus did only TWO miracles in Israel’s capital before the passion (garden, crucifixion, and resurrection): healing the lame and the blind. Where? In Jerusalem. Why? Because when David founded the city of Jerusalem, the Jebusites taunted, “Even the lame and blind could stop you.” Nevertheless, David conquered it. Just as David conquered Jerusalem through military, Jesus- who is called the “Son of David” – took care of the needs of Jerusalem physically and spiritually. Even the lame and the blind could not stop the Son of David from conquering the city. In Jerusalem, he healed the lame at the pool of Bethesda and the blind at the pool of Siloam. He opens the eyes of the blind. Indeed, the Bible has a way of giving a whole new perspective for those who have eyes to see.
- The Bible shows God’s plan to ENNOBLE OUR WORK. Some scholars suggest that the Bible is the only ancient document and the first book in elder literature to put a high premium on blue collar work. In fact, scholarship also suggests that Jesus was actually a construction worker!
- The Bible shows God’s plan to EDIT OUR NARRATIVE. When Israel was a brand-new country – an infant – it was taken to Egypt. It then passed through water, the Red Sea, to wander in a wilderness for 40 years. When Jesus was an infant, he too was taken to Egypt, then he passed through water, the Jordan River, to wander in a wilderness for 40 days. Who draws these parallels? Matthew. Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience. He was retelling Israel’s narrative through Jesus. So, too, the Author of our faith (Hebrews 12) has all your days written in His book (Psalm 139). Despite all evidence to the contrary, you have not lost the plot. God is about to turn the page on your pains and turn those pains into pangs to birth your destiny. Boom.
- The Bible shows God’s plan to ETERNALIZE EDEN. In the Garden of Eden, Adam names the animals. Back then, in ancient Jewish culture, to name something was to have ownership over it. (Quick fun fact: Did you know dolphin infants pick their own names at birth? Scientists have figured out that dolphins not only have names, but that instead of being named by their mothers and fathers, they select their own name as infants that then other dolphins respond to and accept). So, too, Revelation says Jesus will give us a white stone with a new name that only the receiver will know. My new name will be Peter Pevensie Frodo Baggins Skywalker. Anyway, there’s a passage about Jesus’s temptation, wandering in Jeshimon, and the Bible says that when he was out in the wilderness he was with the wild beasts. He was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy about the lion and the calf, the wolf and the lamb lying down in peace together, about a child who shall stick his hand in an adder’s den and not be harmed. Man and beast were at peace once again. Like Adam in Eden, Jesus and the animals were dwelling together in harmony. Paul called Jesus “the Last Adam.” Etymologically, the name Eden can be translated “Desert” or “Delight.” The first Adam turned the delight into a desert and man turned against the animals. But the last Adam turned the desert of Jeshimon into the delight of Eden when he made peace with the animals once more. All creation longs and groans for the redemption of all things, and the Bible shows sneak previews of such coming attractions. Man and beast shall know peace again. (Now you can see why I’m a vegetarian.)
- The Bible shows God’s plan to ELECT US TO KINGSHIP. Have you ever wondered why Jesus got baptized at 30? Because in Jewish culture, when a man turned 30, he inherited everything his father had. Jesus never did a miracle until he turned 30. But when he came of age in the baptismal waters, He was ready to bring the many mansions of his Father’s house down below even as it was above, on earth as it is in heaven. And since we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, we inherit everything He inherits. Jesus even claimed we would do greater things than he did. “’Fear not, little flock,’” he said. “’It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’” Ever feel like you have nothing to look forward to? The fact is, you’re heir to an empire!
Yup, we have a lot to look forward to.
When you fly 30,000 feel up and read the narrative arch of Scripture, it pulls you out of the slough of respond into something as big as the cosmos!
As you can see, the Bible maps out God’s plans. We are not spinning our wheels or rolling a boulder endlessly up a hill. We are part and parcel of a pattern, of a big picture purposeful plan penned by the Prince of Peace!
So, if you feel like you’re going through hell, try going through the Bible. It’s one heaven of a book.
To find out more about Ben and to order your copy of “Optimisfits,” visit bencourson.com