One of my favorite stories in all of scripture tells of a woman who was dragged in front of Jesus, being used as bait to trick Jesus into a no-win situation. She had been caught in sin, clearly guilty, but the interaction between Jesus and the religious leaders was not about her at all. After Jesus deals with the men trying to trap him, he turns to the woman standing there in her shame and asks, “who condemns you woman?”
She looks up and sees that all of her accusers are gone and replies in amazement, “no one Lord.” Then Jesus tells her that he doesn’t condemn her either.
Who condemns you?
Self-condemnation is part of what I am working through. I don’t toss around condemnation at anyone around me. I truly believe that our job is to love everyone and let God sort everything out later but when it comes to myself I’m having trouble letting go of my hyper self-critical dysfunction. Showing compassion to myself? Forgiving myself? Cutting myself some slack? I’m not very good at any of those things.
Honestly, if I were standing in front of Jesus right now and he were to ask me, “who condemns you, Scott,” I’d tell him that I condemn myself. It is so strange because I know that my God doesn’t condemn me, and I know that my church family is behind me, and I know my family is with me, but I have these feelings of failing that keep bubbling up.
Those feelings get into my head and they zap my motivation and work to convince me that I shouldn’t even try. I’m able to do the stuff I need to do by forcing myself but I miss the excitement and motivation I had just a few years ago. I want to want to teach. I want to want to preach. I don’t want to just go through the motions.
Not every depressed person lies on their couch with a blanket over their head while their sad dog cries while holding a leash in its mouth. I see those commercials saying depression hurts everyone and I conclude that I’m not depressed. But then when I read through the list of the symptoms of depression I have to check off several.
No – continuous low mood or sadness
Maybe – feeling hopeless and helpless (not helpless but maybe powerless)
Sometimes – having low self-esteem
Sometimes – feeling tearful
No – feeling guilt-ridden
Maybe? – feeling irritable and intolerant of others (impatient)
Yes – having no motivation or interest in things
No – finding it difficult to make decisions
Somewhat – not getting any enjoyment out of life
Yes – feeling anxious or worried
No – having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
Twelve years ago, I went through a period of depression like you see on those television ads. I was sick and needed a transplant. Am I dealing with depression now? I’m not lying on my couch day after day with my hood pulled over my head, but I am having days when I isolate, feel overwhelmingly sad and just want to sleep all day. Those online self-assessment thingies tell me I have moderate depression but the list of symptoms is so extensive it makes me wonder who isn’t depressed .
If I am battling some depression, is that okay? Can I share it openly? Can a pastor be a pastor and fight depression? I read the book of Psalms and see the Psalter doing what I have been doing. He battles, writes, questions things and feels depressed and then restates the truth of who God is in spite of how he feels. Is that a reminder to himself?
Have you ever read Psalm 88? If you think everything has to always be happy, happy, joy, joy when you have faith in God, you’ll be surprised. Heman the Ezrahite was a man of faith, a musician, an Influencer who loved God but was clearly struggling.
Maybe, since Heman struggled and David, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Moses and Jeremiah struggled, it’s okay for me to be struggling as well? If Jesus said his soul was deeply grieved to the point of death, why do I think I cannot or should not struggle?
The “accuser of the brethren” keeps whispering that I cannot shepherd my flock, that I am unqualified and that I cannot have these feelings and claim I believe in Jesus. I know he’s a liar but he sure is persistent and persuasive.
The real answer to “who condemns you, Scott” is “no one Lord, especially not you.”