I get it. When someone is going through suffering, it makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to see people suffer. We understand when someone has an open wound or bruises to show, but when someone is suffering internally, we don’t know what to say, we just want to say, “Stop suffering! You don’t have to!”
Of course, they have no choice but to suffer. Their depression, their internal pain, their grief, their internal oppression won’t go away because we want it to.
And why do we want it to go away? Because we experience some of their suffering with them. We have a natural ability to empathize, and when someone we care about is suffering, we feel it too. We don’t feel the depth of how they feel, but we take on some of their suffering by watching them suffer. Honestly, it can be overwhelming at times.
The problem comes when we use our theology to try to stop them from suffering. We are telling them that God doesn’t want any of us to experience pain or grief or sorrow. That the salvation of God requires us all to live in contentment with what God has given us. This is what Job’s friends tried to do. They were telling him to repent of his sin, because God wouldn’t have him suffer so for any other reason. They used their idea of God as a wedge to force Job out of his suffering, so that they might have some peace.
But isn’t this a selfish way of using theology? To tell people to step up, to get right, so that we could all be a little more comfortable? To force others to be the way we want them to be, and to use the Bible or made up theological concepts to make them a bit easier to be around?
As opposed to our uncomfortable friends, God understands our depression. God knows that we are suffering, and it is okay, it is a part of life. Moses, Elijah, and even Jesus suffered from depression, and expressed it openly. But Job best expresses his anguish again and again. Job, the righteous, the one whom God boasts about to Satan. Job is allowed to express his depression long and creatively. Yet we don’t want to talk about depression in our churches, and we want to tell people who are depressed that there is something spiritually wrong with them.
Depression is not a spiritual crime. It is an honest assessment of our inner life. God looks at the depressed one, and admits that he created depression so we can deal with the grief that our bodies carry. God takes joy in depression, for it is a stage of healing.
But to those who condemn the depressed person, God has the most severe language. “My wrath is kindled against you because you have not spoken of Me what is right as my servant Job has.” When we manipulate others with our theology, we lie about God. We lie about God’s judgment and his mercy. God forgive us.
May God give us the ability to be honest about our internal suffering and to comfort those afflicted with it.