Devotional Thought for Today – 04/07/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part VI

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Today we continue our series by looking at the third stage of the 5 Stages of GriefDepression.

Like so many other things Christians with enough faith should never get is depressed. At least that was the story we got told about my wife’s condition from a so called well meaning “friend”. Of course, this well-meaning person also was not a doctor and did no investigative questioning before blurting out the statement. I mention this not for sympathy, but to underscore the need for Chaplains and Ministers to make all due diligence in understanding the condition and history of those they are serving. I know with HIPAA this can be daunting but being well informed can greatly help in our care, comfort and counsel process.

I have yet to meet anyone going through the grief process that does not experience Depression in some manner. The obvious signs will usually manifest themselves as feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, and other very detrimental effects that may affect the individual. It is important to note that these can be sublime and hidden in some folks. Again, using my wife, for example, she suffered a stroke due to poisoning before we met. She suffers from depression that is treated with counseling and medication. Her response to loss, like the recent death of her mom, is “I’m alright” even though she clearly was not. Like most folks (estimates as high as 67% of people suffering from depression) She just tries to grin and bear it. My wife because of her medical condition processes things differently and we (chaplains/ministers) need to be on the alert for this and any out of the “ordinary” situation and know when we are in over our heads. Here is a good list of types of depression.

So, what is depression? First depression is not just being sad. I lost my wedding band a few months ago, I was sad (even a little afraid of what my wife would say 😀)) but not depressed. Depression is sad on super steroids. It is constant here is the clinical definition:

The clinical definition, based on the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), is “a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.” This definition excludes grief after mourning.

Before we move on I think it would be helpful reminder to list some of the things that one could encounter as a Chaplain/Minister in the Grief process that could lead to depression:

  • Trauma
  • Painful past experiences (PTSD)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Incarceration
  • Job loss or cut in pay
  • Financial problems
  • Parenting concerns and raising respectful, resilient kids
  • Loss
  • Life-changing illness
  • Marriage/relationship issues

The second thing to note about depression is that is often MISDIAGNOSED. Far too often healthcare professionals and Chaplains/Ministers are quick to say someone who has experienced one of these issues is depressed. Many times they are simply melancholy, which means intense sadness but a far cry from clinically depressed.

Another thing that might surprise some is that stage 2 (ANGER) can rear its ugly head here again. Let me explain, folks can socially withdraw a clear sign of depression setting in, if you try and force them out of that they can become hostile. Other symptoms of Grief/Depression include:

  • Can’t concentrate or think straight
  • Restless and anxious
  • Poor appetite/ Weight loss
  • Sad demeanor
  • Dreams of the deceased or even talks to them
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Can think of nothing but the loss, illness, or event…
  • Makes up reasons for the loss, many don’t make sense
  • Dwells on mistakes, real or imagined, that he or she made with the deceased

The last thing I have learned about this stage of Grief counseling is in this stage of Depression, where folks begin to address feelings that have been put off (consciously or unconsciously) such as abandonment, helplessness, loneliness, fear, despair, agony, etc. These are things that they did not look at during the stages of denial, anger, and bargaining.

I am not a professional Licensed Christian Counselor/Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist, if dealing with my wife’s condition has taught me anything, it is I need to be involved and I need to leave much of that stuff to the professionals.

The Tree Planted By Streams of Living Water (Psalm 1) - YouTube

Psalm 1:1-3

As the Psalm says, we can be that care comfort, and wise counsel of the Lord’s Law to those who are in need. I am convinced it is here that Chaplains/Ministers can have the greatest impact. Again offering the care, comfort, and (compassionate) counsel that God has called us to do.

BreakPoint: Should We Abolish All Prisons?

Human Fallenness, the Role of Government, and the Myth of Utopia

by:  &  Maria Baer Oct 24th 2019
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez successfully grabbed another headline last week by tweeting that Americans should have a “real conversation” about abolishing prisons. Though she did later walk back this bone-toss to her far-left supporters, the prison abolition movement isn’t as niche as you’d think.

At their annual meeting this year, the Democratic Socialists of America passed a resolution to start a working group on the topic. In April, the ACLU told the New York Times it wants to defund the prison system.

The idea behind this radical proposal is this: If we could just get our systems right – our healthcare system, our education system, our welfare system – we wouldn’t need any prisons. If everyone just had proper healthcare, great teachers, and all the money they could want or need, no one would commit any crimes.

It’s a bit like suggesting we should abolish doctors; because if all had equal access to leafy greens and the flu shot, no one would ever get sick.

Obviously, part of the prison abolition movement’s strategy is to shock and turn heads toward these other issues. But such a proposal is also a particularly obtuse expression of Utopianism.

Chuck Colson defined Utopianism as “the myth that human nature can be perfected by government.” Utopianism has at least two core flaws: First, it completely misunderstands the human condition. Because human beings are corrupted by sin, we gravitate toward greed, selfishness, and pride without the redirection of the Holy Spirit. In fact, we do this without help of any kind… our sin is not society’s fault or caused by poverty. You can’t educate us out of our sinful natures.

In fact, even the most devoted prison abolitionists can’t make it through a single morning without falling short of their own standards, much less God’s standards. And neither can we.

Today’s prison abolitionists fail to acknowledge the scores of men and women who had every conceivable privilege and went on to commit crimes anyway. Wealthy Wall Streeters commit white-collar crimes. America’s Ivy League campuses – arguably the very seats of privilege – are plagued by sexual assault. Even some perpetrators of mass shootings came from stable, affluent families.

A second problem with Utopianism is that any attempt to create this fantasy world where no one commits a crime means advocating for government control on an unprecedented scale. Any government with that much power would quickly end any illusion of utopia. After all, governments are still made up of fallen human beings.

Every utopian project that has been tried so far has failed. Many were led by characters like Stalin and Mao and Castro – international revolutionaries who turned almost cartoonishly fast from “men of the people” into tyrants. History teaches it best: Presuming to create a perfect system will ultimately degrade into power grabs and human misery.

Because of the accurate way the Bible describes the human condition, we can expect prisons to continue as a necessary part of society until Christ makes all things new. In Matthew 25, Jesus instructs his followers to visit those in prison. An effective prison system will keep people safe, communicate the consequences of wrong-doing to the larger culture, and work to return the imprisoned to our community with better means and accountability by which to govern their own fallen impulses.

And let me add this: Because we believe the incarcerated are human beings made in the image of God and that restoration is possible, the Colson Center stands with Prison Fellowship and others who support criminal justice reforms that address the very real problems of over-incarceration and sentencing disparity.

But, the idea of abolishing prison is an unrealistic, and yet very real, distraction from the necessary conversations we need to be having about how to handle crime in our communities. Not to mention, it’s a poster child of Utopianism.