In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks at the Feast of the Dedication: He says his sheep follow his voice. How many of us are there who Jesus is desperately screaming for like a lovelorn lover. Calling to us passionately. Begging us to believe him when he says he loves us. He forgives us ALWAYS! He wants nothing but the best for us; that he is always with us.
Jesus will go hoarse calling to us, that is the depths of his desire for us. So, why don’t we hear?
Pain. Guilt. Feelings of self-loathing. These are just a few of the things that keep us from God. But to say these are sin AND that is why we can not hear God is both spiritually and theologically irresponsible.
The Old Testament is replete with those suffering from depression: Moses, Elijah, Job, and Jeremiah. Paul, the Greatest Apostle, was also a suffer. There are numerous Saints who suffered from major mental health problems:
Saint John Paul II said of those suffering with mental illness: ”Whoever suffers from mental illness ’always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.” ~ International Conference for Health Care Workers on November 30, 1996
We have to think responsibly and charitably about mental illness and sin.
Deep depression is not just self-pity. The level of anxiety of those with generalized anxiety and panic attacks is significant even during sleep. If you can imagine the anxiety of being on a hijacked airplane and seeing several co-passengers shot, you can begin to grasp the level of anxiety some people suffer for days at a time. Even people with moderate clinical depression (dysthymia) feel pain on their best days.
From a research perspective, the emerging answer to what causes emotional illness involves three components: nature (one’s biological, chemical, and genetic makeup), nurture (environment, circumstances, teachings), and personal choice (which can but does not necessarily include sinful choices). Not uncommonly, the cause is a combination of all three of these. ~Dwight L. Carlson Exposing the Myth that Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems In Plain Site
So to say that emotional issues are caused by sin or that the persons dealing with these issues are sinning, is denying God His power to heal. Their ability to use their story for God’s good, and for God to them as instruments of His Glory.
So why would we not want to hear God’s call?
Let’s go with Guilt. As moms, we have more guilt than we want to admit. A small amount may be of our making. But the majority is not. I know from my life that the guilt I express most comes my feeling of inadequacy as a mother. Inadequacies which come from the fear that I am not raising perfect children. I know in my head that is impossible, but my heart still tells me that I must, or the world will look down on me poorly. This makes me deaf to God because it is society, or “friends” who hiding their guilt, limiting the advancements, triumphs, I have made.
Now for Pain. Emotional/Spiritual pain that comes from issues, situations, or problem causes us to become isolated. The insolation that we create we believe will be helpful, only keeps us from the support we need. Going deeper inside is like burying ourselves in a grave. We think of nothing else, do nothing else, experience nothing else but the problem. Blocking us from finding solutions, we only concentrate on the dilemma. Making us deaf to God’s calling out to us.
Feeling of self-loathing are the most difficult to control unless we get/have support from affirming God loving friends and family. These feelings come when we do not care for ourselves emotionally, spiritually, physically or socially. It is a vicious cycle: we feel the pain of our self-doubt, it causes guilt which create self-loathing forcing us to hide making us emotionally/spiritually deaf to a loving God.
Now this deafness. I am not one that will say everything bad that comes into our lives is the work of the Devil. That takes us out of the responsibility for our actions. I am also not so inclined to call the devil the “evil one”. Gives the big bully more power than he deserves. But I will say that there are times when the devil will bully us into not hearing God.
Like what he did in the Garden with Eve. He uses the same technique now as he did then. He uses our feelings to goad us into doing what he wants, not what is good for us. For the slightest of moments what he has to say makes sense, and then the reality sets in that we have been duped. If we are not careful, we run around that vicious cycle pain/guilt/self-loathing for far too long.
It is better for us to take a few minutes out to discern what it is we are thinking and how it will benefit us. If we have peace than it is of God, if not, time to do more rethinking.