Most of us, at some point in our lives, spend some time in emotional drought.
We simply don’t feel joy. Perhaps the day-in, day-out routine of our lives feels mechanical and meaningless. Maybe our personal relationships seem dull and old. For some of us, this joyless state can last years, even a lifetime. The good news is that Jesus has the remedy to restore joy to our lives. This healing account (of a Samaritan Leper who praised God after his healing Luke 17:11-19) is about gratitude.
When we feel dead to the world, isolated and numb, we can receive Jesus’ healing by mirroring the actions of the Samaritan. We can get on our knees and thank Jesus. We can praise God with a loud voice for his overwhelming graciousness. Once we begin thanking him, we’ll soon see that there are not enough hours in a day to contain the thanks he deserves. Think of all we have been given! The very air that sustains us; the mournful beauty of a dove’s song; the spectacular, ever-changing canvas of the sky; the smiles of children; the love of a friend; the roof above us; the spiritual life we receive from God; rain on the windowpane; a pet cat; the Word of God through which we learn about and enter into relationships with our Lord. There is an infinite amount of thanks and praise we can give to Jesus, our Lord and God.
Even when we are numbed with depression or a sense of entitlement, we can force ourselves to kneel. We can force the mouth to pronounce thanks. We can do this every day. The miracle, of course, is that by going through these motions of gratitude, Jesus will begin to instill genuine gratitude into our hearts and minds. With the increasing sense of gratitude comes an increasing sense of joy. What at first felt like hollow lip service becomes filled with genuine depth and feeling. To help this occur, we must remember that in truth, we are undeserving citizens of God’s kingdom. We are foreigners, very fortunate to have been given the chance to live at all! As Dr. Seuss puts it in Happy Birthday to You! (1959): “Shout loud, ‘I am lucky to be what I am! Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!”
There are three critical elements in our healing from depression. The first is that we learn to spot our imagined entitlement to the pursuit of the five P’s (possessions, position, pleasures, prestige, and power). The second is to understand this entitlement as an indicator that we have fallen into the delusion of individual materialism and, accordingly, reorient ourselves to our true purpose, love for the well-being of all humanity. Finally, with a new orientation, we become willing to surrender those feelings to God and replace them with praise and gratitude. The mind abhors a vacuum. We cannot simply oust thoughts of entitlement without replacing them with an alternative. Praise is the alternative that Jesus prescribes in this healing.
Praise is a wonderful antidepressant. The more we practice, the more we feel the urge to praise. It is a positive, upward cycle of joy. When we feel unhappy, let that be a signal that it is time to praise and thank God for the incredible bounty we all have already been given. No matter what situation we may be facing; no matter what our life condition may be, here is room and time for praise.
Kent Rogers is co-founder of the Loving Arms Mission (www.lamchildren.org), a not-for-profit fundraising organization dedicated to creating and supporting New Church children's homes.
"A Biblical Remedy to Depression" was originally published as chapter 8 "Healing from Lack of Joy" in 12 Miracles of Spiritual Growth: A Path of Healing from the Gospels by E. Kent Rogers (West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation Press, 2012) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Swedenborg Foundation.