Love. Even if we’ve never cracked open a Bible, most of us know evangelical America’s favorite verse, John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The verse sums up the essence of Christianity. But it’s so familiar to us that we sometimes lose the backstory.
For God so loved the world, we’re told. And so He gave us His son. Why did He need to give us Jesus? Because we needed Him. It wasn’t that we deserved that special gift of life and salvation. Just the opposite, really. He loved us not because we showed a great deal of love for Him, following His commandments and all, but in spite of that fact. He loved us, and because God also knew how broken we all were, He sent His Son so that we could be with Him anyway. God’s love isn’t dependent on what we can do for Him. He loves us.
That’s what real love is. I learned this from my wife, Wendy, earlier, but I’d forgotten it again. In fact, I forget it occasionally even now. Somewhere, somehow, I—like most of America—learned a lie, that the amount that we’re loved is dependent on the value we bring to the party. We’ve defined love in capitalistic terms—that our inherent worth is predicated on our skills and talents and dedication and our ability to love in return. It’s the old concept of supply and demand. If we supply what people want and need, then we’ll be in demand. We’ll be loved. But God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He gives us what we need. He blesses us, and often beyond measure.
I felt like I was failing everyone around me: My employers, my family, my friends. I wasn’t supplying anything of value to the people I cared for. How could they care for me?
But they did.
But sometimes, even unconditional love comes with a responsibility that looks like a caveat.
Wendy was great about showing me love and patience, both of which I most definitely needed. But after a few weeks, she came downstairs, saw my mopey self and ran her fingers through my hair.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said with the sweetest smile ever. “Part of me wants to give you a big hug and never let you go. And part of me wants to give you a kick in the butt.”
Depression’s a funny thing. Not everyone who suffers from it can hear those four words—kick in the butt—in the moment. But thankfully, I could. I knew that I was loved. Time had taken me as far as I could go. I needed to get off that couch. I needed that gentle kick.
I had my time. I felt the love around me. Now it was time to cowboy up.
In the end, everyone who’s depressed—no matter how good his or her psychologist is or how effective the person’s medicine is—needs to cowboy up—to move forward, even if you don’t want to. You might not be able to do so initially, but you have to do it eventually. You need to start moving. And if someone gives you a little kick to get you on your way, be grateful. It may not come at the right time or be said in the right way, but you can find truth in those words.
Remember the Winnie-the-Pooh story when Pooh eats too much honey at Rabbit’s house, tries to leave and then gets stuck in Rabbit’s front door? He can’t go forward, he can’t go back?
He was stuck, no doubt about it. And I was, too. But Christopher Robin knew how to get him out.
It would take time . . .
‘A week!’ said Pooh gloomily . . .
It would take love . . .
“Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?” . . .
And eventually, it would take a mighty tug to get him unstuck.
And for a long time Pooh only said “Ow!” . . .
And “Oh!” . . .
And then, all of a sudden, he said “Pop!” just as if a cork were coming out of a bottle.
I needed time, love, and a little kick to get me unstuck. And when I, like Pooh, came tumbling out, I told myself that I’d do my best to keep from ever getting stuck again.
You have just read an excerpt from the book, Beauty In the Browns: Walking with Christ in the Darkness of Depression by Paul Asay. © Focus on the Family 2021. Used by permission of Focus on the Family (rights managed by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) All rights reserved.