Next Monday we will gather for the first of four evenings for our Vacation Bible School. This year’s theme is When Life Gives You Lemons…The Redemptive Power of God’s Love. The planning group thought long and hard about the name of the theme with the concern that it might feel too simple, trite, and (frankly) trivial to suggest that the response to life’s difficulties, challenges, and tragedies is to simply take our sour “lemons” and transform them into sweet-tasting lemonade.
Instead, we offer this theme to suggest something much deeper, more faithful, and more realistic. We offer this theme in the hope of better understanding, and more fully believing in, God’s power to transform our deepest present hurts and hardships into hope and strength for our future.
On Monday the brilliant, famous, talented – and tormented – actor, comedian, and humanitarian Robin Williams ended his own life. In the end it was the debilitating effects of mental illness – depression – that led him to his tragic last act.
In anticipation of our conversations next week, I offer this extended prayer and plea for how, by the power and grace of God, this bitter lemon might be transformed into strength and hope.
What if, as a result of this act, more people came to understand the insidious nature of depression: that it is an illness…not a weakness.
What if more people realized that, like most illnesses, depression has no regard for race, class, culture, social status, gender, or age. It is not the result of something one has done, or not done; nor is it divine punishment or judgment.
What if those whose response to those with depression is to take a walk, watch a moving movie, or eat a good meal would realize that this response is not only unhelpful, uninformed, and unrealistic, but insulting.
What if, as a result of Williams sharing his struggle publicly, the stigma that accompanies mental illness would crumble. And then, what if we began responding to those with depression like we do to those with cancer.
What if people who suffer from depression found strength in realizing that they are not alone; that 1 in 10 people experience some form of depression in their lives.
Finally, a word for those who live with depression: there is hope and there is help. There are those who know, understand, and love you who are there for you in an instant. There are those trained to offer relief and comfort who are available in agencies and on the phone (1-800-950-6264). Your are a part of a community of faith whose people and pastor (658-5114) are committed to walking with you.
Most all there is our God who created you, loves you, and who wants nothing more – or less – than your health and your wholeness; a God who leads us in transforming our pain into strength, and our anguish into action.