Sunday, 2 October 2016

What Is Unseen Is Eternal

When I've felt really low, I find it hard to imagine that I will ever feel any different.

Even now, when I've suffered bouts of depression for years, and have experienced a lifting of the burden time and again, when the next bout comes along, the sadness feels heavier and more real than anything I've ever experienced and I can't imagine that the darkness will ever lift. Even though I know that depression skews my perspective, when I'm in it, I feel like I'm seeing things more clearly than I ever have.

I remember once having a conversation about this after attending a seminar on depression. A few of us were talking about how the experience can make you feel utterly hopeless about the future. But I felt more than that- it completely shut out the future; I found it hard to imagine any scenarios beyond the next few minutes. There wasn't sufficient hope for that.

Depression can be a bit like being set in concrete- in mind and body; it's very difficult for your mind to find the energy to stagger beyond the very short cycle of misery you're in right now to contemplate anything in the future at all. Depression tightly wraps up hope in a shroud, and then leaves it to rest somewhere behind an unrelenting wall of stone.

So this is why these five words encourage me.

"For this light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all... for the things that are seen are temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

However it may feel, however weighty the suffering is (be it depression or something else!), however convinced I may be that my bleak outlook on the future is the most clearly I've ever seen, however inescapable it may seem: what is unseen is eternal. 

This too will pass. The suffering will end. Joy will come in the morning.

The pattern of history, established by Jesus with such authority,  such reality,  such historicity, such unfailing light and love,  is that when Hope is wrapped in a shroud and put in a tomb it does not stay there forever.

Hope was put in a tomb. But three days later, Hope was out in the sunshine, eating brunch* on the beach.

Despair is wrong. And I don't mean this so much as a moral statement as a fact. Despair is just not right about the future. Despair says: "death and sadness and sorrow forever." But depression is temporary. Suffering will end. Death in body and spirit will be defeated; eternity is heavier, more real, more vivid than anything we're experiencing now. It is what is unseen that is eternal.

Paul deliberately makes the comparison: yes, afflictions seem enormous and unrelenting and heavy and destructive... but they're not even worth comparing to what's eternal. Yes, they feel eternal- but how far removed they are from what is actually eternal is "beyond all comparison."

Suffering and sadness are weighty and bitter and often feel more real than anything else I've experienced; but they are passing away, they are transient: suffering is to glory what dust on the wind is to a radiant city built of gold on twelve sets of foundations. (Revelation 21)

There are times in the future when my depression will feel bigger and more permanent than anything else, and I will have to cling to the truth: suffering is not the eternal thing here.

What is unseen is eternal, so we do not lose heart.

*I am just going to assume it was brunch, because there is no more joyful meal
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