A number of years ago, I got involved with a financial services company to be one of their financial consultants. During that time, I learned some hard lessons. To make money in that industry, people had to trust you. What they thought about you when you weren’t in the room mattered. Judging from the lack of income I generated after a year in the business, I suppose I should have taken a hint.
The man who was my trainer and mentor in the business could see that I was struggling. To help me with cash flow, he asked me if I would help him do some renovations in his basement for some extra cash. I showed up one morning to discover that we needed to scrape up old tile from the concrete floor using a scraper. It turned out to be painstakingly slow work. I hadn’t done a lot of labour jobs up to that point, and as such, I wore out quickly.
My fatigue, however, was not simply physical. Emotionally, the manner in which I had been living my life at that point had contributed to my miserable state. I had made a long series of bad choices that had amounted to nothing short of near disaster in my married life. Bankruptcy loomed around the corner. Moving my wife and children back in with mom and dad was a nearing reality.
I muttered to myself in the basement as I halfheartedly scraped the floor.
“This is awful work and I hate it.”
“I need to sit down and take a break.” “You are never going to make it as a financial guy.”
“Everyone can tell what a failure you are.”
“You will never make more than minimum wage your entire life.”
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had fallen into a depression. The messages in my head had filtered through the rest of my body like a poison. Failure at life fueled by constant negative thoughts drove me even deeper into a pattern of bad behaviour. Years would go by before I would find my way out of the hole.
Today, my experience mentoring teens and young adults has taught me a few things. Most people have experienced what I went through. They have struggled on more than one occasion with the powerful spiral of negative thoughts. The rise of depression in our society today turns out to be a bit deceptive; it’s not that the number of people who suffer with depression has gone up, it’s just that our understanding of what depression is has gotten better. Depression has been around since the day the first two human beings discovered they were naked after eating some fruit.
However, most of the negative messages in our minds that cripple us turn out to be lies. Part of us knows them to be false, but without anything in our head or heart to counter the bad argument, we end up convincing ourselves that we are worthless.
Jesus encounters this kind of thinking with His disciples shortly after his friend Lazarus had gotten sick and died (John 11:1-44). When he learns of Lazarus’ condition, he waits two days to leave the city He and His disciples are in. Finally, He says to them, “Let us go to Judea again.”
His disciples are not impressed, because the last time He was there, the religious rulers and people tried to stone Him to death. When Jesus tells them, “Lazarus is dead…let us go to him.”
Upon hearing this, Thomas mutters to the others (much like my muttering in the basement), “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
Upon arriving there, Jesus encounters Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. The first words out of both of their mouths upon seeing Him are, “If you had been here, our brother might not have died.” He becomes grieved and discouraged at their negative attitude. They know who He is.
They had already confessed that they knew that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. They know that He can perform miracles. He had just told them that if anyone believed in Him, they would live forever. And yet, these sisters and all the other Jews who are with them in mourning do not understand the truth. They only understand their grief.
And so, He says to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.”
Shortly after, He raises Lazarus from the dead, saying, “Lazarus, come forth!”
And of course, Lazarus came back to life.
If that same Jesus that raised Lazarus from the dead wants to have a personal relationship with you, do you really want to start the conversation by telling Him, “If only You had acted sooner, we wouldn’t have had to deal with all this?” In other words, are we going to continue to listen to the one-sided, miserable, defeatist voices in our head, or are we going to take Christ at His word when He says, “Come forth!”
What we need is another voice at the table. A voice that counters the negative ones. It speaks the truth in the face of lies. Instead of grief, sadness, weariness, and fear, it brings hope, comfort, strength, and joy. This is the voice of Christ who taught such truth during His days on earth.
That is the voice I did not have in my head that day in the basement. I had strayed so far from Him that I did not know what His voice sounded like anymore.
You can keep feeding lies to yourself if you like. And if you do, you will experience a life of one who has listened only to lies.
Or (and forgive how simplified this might sound) you can stop. In order to do that, you’ll need another voice in your head. The voice of One who from the beginning of time knew you, loved you, and developed a plan of greatness for your life. You can feed on the healthy words of Jesus who holds out His hand to you even now, crying, “Come forth!”