In the Pit
About a year ago, my dad was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. I remember the phone call vividly. I also remember my initial response… not one of despair, but rather of steely hope. I was convinced that though the outer man was apparently beginning to waste away, God would renew the inner man, and use this horrible disease for good - good for my dad, good for my family, good for someone. After a couple months, as the events began to spiral downward, it appeared to me that my will might not be done.
In March, my dad died at Mayo Clinic following an aggressive surgery designed to remove the cancer. I gave the eulogy at his funeral later that week, and on my first day back at work, 3,000 people were laid off, including my boss and several direct peers, and I was moved to a new department. In addition to a newly expanded family of four and a new church, this was quite a bit of shifting sands all at once. And I feel into a deep and debilitating depression.
As time went on, the world began to lose all color, all interest. I had no emotions. I had no desires. I had no opinions, no original ideas. My mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual capabilities were flatlining. My marriage, my family, my relationships, my work, everything seemed to be crumbling around me as I drifted through life like a glazed donut. I received a lot of wonderfully wise and compassionate counsel from many of you, and I tried a whole bunch of stuff, but nothing I tried could pull me out of this pit. I doubted my salvation, I doubted God’s love for me, I doubted everything - and I was convinced that everything was deserved, that it was my fault, that I was just the worst person on the planet. Psalm 69 describes this well…
“I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold… the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.”
This darkness, this deadness, this depression lasted several months. And then, just when I thought I couldn’t handle another day… Jesus rolled away the stone, just like that. Psalm 40 captures this resurrection perfectly.
‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
Now there's more to the story, but suffice it to say that the Lord blew the doors off the dungeon about six weeks ago… And now I’m seeing life in HD. I’m singing a new song. I was dead, and now I’m alive again.
And so now I think about you folks. If there are about 150 people here, according to the statistics, at least 15 of us are suffering from fairly severe depression. And the rest of you have our your share of suffering, disappointment, frustration, anxieties, and the like. But I want you to listen to me right now. Jesus is real. He’s the One that threw himself willingly into the pit, into that tomb… and God drew him up. God set Christ’s feet on the rock, upon the footstool of the throne of the universe, and that King, the one who endured the deepest darkest valley on your behalf, has proven his unending love for you and has promised that no matter what comes your way, he WILL most definitely use it for your good, and He will be your rock. The gospel of grace is the only thing that gives true and lasting hope that can never be taken from you, even when it seems like it’s been ripped from your fingers.
Before we move into confession, I do want to call attention to one more thing about Psalm 40. In verse 6, David writes that “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have opened my ears.” This is a profound statement about human nature. When we find ourselves in a pit, our first instinct is often to find a foothold and attempt to pull ourselves out - to perform, to do the right things, to bring the offering, so that God will give us what we want (namely, getting out of that pit). However, God often uses the pit not to give us some climbing exercises, to practice saving ourselves, but rather to open our ears to his voice, to his grace, to his love, and to illustrate his great salvation again and again.
So Father, we come to you now a people poor and needy. We live in a fallen world, a world shot through with disappointment, despair, depression… And while these things can be brought about by the Great Accuser, we also hurt ourselves with our short-sighted desires to chase after what we think we need rather than what you know we do. So often we get frustrated, angry, or downcast, when life takes a turn that we don’t like. We forget you. We doubt your undying love for us. We see your face in a frown rather than a smile. And we do not seek you, but instead look down to our own hands, at what we can do to change those circumstances. We look to false gods to pull us out of the pit. And so we come before you now, knowing that you promise to draw close to us and hear our cry, and so we confess our own sins before you in the quiet of this moment.