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Mountains in the sun

The Great Healer

Excerpt from Cries from the Heart

Johann Christoph Arnold

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  • Rowland Stenrud

    I have had both kinds of depression and I can tell you they are very different. The depression caused by one's circumstances such as loneliness or rejection or lack of faith in God fluctuates during the day and during the week. One can cry with this depression and at times escape it. Clinical depression can be caused by a number of physical problems. A bad heart condition can bring on depression. But most often it is caused by a problem with the brain or hormones. This depression follows a set pattern. It is worse in the morning and gradually gets better during the day. And this type of depression is so exhausting that the sufferer does not have the energy to cry. One cannot cry with this type of depression because one's emotional life has been short circuited. Why do people say that this type of depression can be cured through love of neighbor. I never hear people say that a friend's heart condition can be cured if only he would get out and help his neighbor. No one says that if you just have faith in God or live a simpler life you can forgo heart surgery or not have your gall bladder removed. The heart is a simple organ compared to the human brain so why should it surprise anyone that the physical brain can become broken just like a heart or gall bladder. I believe that human beings are primarily spirit beings with a physical body. If your legs are broken you can't walk. If your brain is broken, you may loose consciousness altogether. But the inner you still exists. Or you may become so exhausted due to a broken brain that you are depressed. Unfortunately, the same word is used for emotional depression as for a type of injury to the brain. The word "mind" is a philosophical term for the soul. Our atheistic society has forced the word "mind" to mean the "brain". Clinical depression is not a mind disease, is not a mental disease. It is a disease of the brain. The soul or mind is the seat of consciousness, not our brains. But the soul or mind is dependent on the brain for its contact with the outside world. One last thing. C.S. Lewis warns the would be suicide: "You might be digging an eternally unbridgeable chasm." What a pile of horse manure. God is the God of love, mercy and forgiveness. No act of disobedience can change that. If the person who committed suicide was also a wicked person, God will judge him and cast him into the lake of fire which is meant to cleanse and heal the individual. He will then become a member of the multitude that cannot be numbered (see Rev. chapter 7) and will be led to springs of living water. If the suicide was a believer, he will be forgiven just like all of us believers are forgiven when we fall.

  • metin erdem

    Another lesson for us from dear brother Johann Christoph Arnold. Great Healer...! We all may have psychological problems in our daily life. And we get in depression. One of the reason of the depression is our high expectations from life . We can live without a car.We can use public transportation . Or our child may not need to attend private school but we can let him to go public school. We can live in simplier. This way of living will keep us away from depression. May be we will have less stress and depression. Living Simplier As God Wanted. Another reason of the depression is the weakness of the faith in God. We should all know that God gave us the greatest gift..The life. So what we need is to live this life as he wanted. To love God because he is God and love one another and share everything we have with our neighbors. Lets share our everything and live in brotherhood. Lets not forget that the more we share is the more it will be increased and rewarded by God. Our life is a gift from God and our lives belong to him. We are not allowed to end this life that belongs to God. Thank you dear Christoph for still teaching us the meaning of the life . Please rest in peace. We miss you much.

Twenty-five-year-old Rachel was an energetic and enthusiastic kindergarten teacher, when she was suddenly overcome by depressive thoughts and intense feelings of worthlessness. This progressed to delusional thoughts and bizarre behavior and speech, as well as attempts at suicide. Rachel was counseled, given both medical and spiritual support, and hospitalized. A few weeks later, she was discharged, although it was almost a year before she felt she was herself again. Significantly, throughout this whole episode, she insisted, even when she was delusional, that she was not going to be a mental patient. Her determination was amazing. Eventually Rachel recovered completely; she was able to discontinue all medications and resume a full-time job, and she has had no relapse. In her own words:

I had always enjoyed working hard and being with children, but I gradually became more and more exhausted. I couldn’t seem to cope with my work, and at night I could not sleep.
I was admitted to the psych ward on my birthday. I was desperate, and I remember thinking that this would be my last birthday – I was so sure I was going to die. But then I began to meet other patients, people who were suffering much more than I was, and that helped me to get my mind off myself. I tried to keep busy, no matter how rotten I felt. I made myself get up and do things. I even practiced my flute.
I’ll never forget how abnormal I still felt when I came home. I could not stick to anything for any length of time, because one of the anti-depressants made me very restless. I cried a lot and prayed a lot. I felt defeated one moment and angry the next, but I knew I would be able to come off all my medications eventually because I had never needed them before.
I can never be grateful enough that I was freed from the demon of that depression. For it was more than determination that pulled me through: I experienced a freeing. People were praying for it and God was there too, though at times it seemed like he was very far away. But I am also thankful that I went through this difficult time. It might sound crazy, but it has given me a new outlook on life. Now, when people are sick, I know what they are going through, and I can relate to those who are suffering. I know what people mean when they say, “You can’t do anything in your own strength.”

Despite our culture’s reputation for tolerance, there is still a stigma attached to suicide. Even as a topic of conversation, it largely remains taboo. Most people are reluctant to speak about death, and when it comes to suicide, they tend to avoid it altogether.

No death is more distressing than suicide, and it is frightening when a person seriously contemplates such a step. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us: “A man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” Christianity has condemned suicide for a similar reason: because it negates the possibility of redemption. Suicide says, “I’m beyond hope – my problems are too big even for God to handle.” It denies that God’s grace is greater than our weakness. While such a view may seem understandable, it is deceptive because it leads a person to believe that death will end the inner pain, when in reality it is pain’s ultimate infliction. C.S. Lewis wrote the following to a friend who had recently lost his wife and in his anguish considered suicide so that they might be reunited again:

She was further on than you, and she can help you more where she is now than she could have done on earth. You must go on. That is one of the many reasons why suicide is out of the question. Another is the absence of any ground for believing that death by that route would reunite you with her. Why should it? You might be digging an eternally unbridgeable chasm. Disobedience is not the way to get nearer to the obedient. Kaye, a woman who wrote to me from California after reading an article I wrote on suicide, lost a sister through suicide, and almost took her own life, too – three times. When still an infant, she was almost killed by her mother; later she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a man she trusted.

For those of us who survive the ravages of suicide and learn from our experiences, abundant life is in store. We do not live lives that are lies. And the shards of what was can be molded into beautiful pottery. I speak for those who have experienced “the dark night of the soul” as I have, and have survived to tell about it.
I believed in God through every moment of my long, dark struggle, and he is the reason I am alive today. I listened to his voice that night when he said: “Don’t do it. Don’t commit suicide.” So although I had the syringe full of deadly drugs at my side, I did not do it. I obeyed God and am very grateful today that I did. But I was angry, very angry that I had to live in hell three more years…
We who are (or were) suicidal live with shattered spirits and souls. To exist with a shattered soul is excruciatingly painful because we live by going through the motions. We know there is more there, but we are trapped as if in a giant ice cube… Depression is a sickness of the soul starved for unconditional love – the unconditional love that only God can provide. All people have their dark side, and our love is only conditional; that’s why we need God. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he is still the Great Healer. He has promised us trouble in life, but he has also promised us joy and peace in the midst of our trouble and grief. Yes, prayer is the best help for despair and for suicidally depressed people. At times, eating – or even just breathing – is the only prayer they can pray. But God understands that this is enough of a prayer!
However poor and inadequate prayer may be, it is the only real help for despair. Even if we think we don’t know how to pray, we can turn to God. Praying with the psalms can be a help, since the psalmist often shares our innermost longing and voices it in prayer: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing,” and “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” Prayer can be a mainstay, even when we despair to the point of entertaining suicidal thoughts, or when God seems far away. Jane Kenyon writes:

My belief in God, especially the idea that a believer is part of the body of Christ, has kept me from harming myself. When I was in so much pain that I didn’t want to be awake or aware, I’ve thought to myself, If you injure yourself, you’re injuring the body of Christ, and Christ has been injured enough. In The Adolescent, Dostoyevsky emphasizes the importance of praying for those who are desperate. “How do you look upon the sin of suicide,” I asked Makar…
“Suicide is man’s greatest sin,” he said with a sigh, “but God alone can judge it, for only God knows what and how much a man can bear. As for us, we must pray tirelessly for the sinner. Whenever you hear of that sin, pray hard for the sinner, at least sigh for him as you turn to God, even if you never knew him – that will make your prayer all the more effective.”
“But would my prayer be of any help to him since he ’s already condemned?”
“Who can tell? There are many – oh, so many! – people without faith who just confuse the ignorant. Don’t listen to them because they themselves don’t know where they’re going. A prayer for a condemned man from a man still alive will reach God, and that’s the truth. Just think of the plight of a man who has no one to pray for him. And so, when you pray in the evening before going to sleep, add at the end, ‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on all those who have no one to pray for them.’ This prayer will be heard and it will please the Lord. Also pray for all the sinners who are still alive: ‘O Lord, who holdest all destinies in thy hand, save all the unrepentant sinners.’ That’s also a good prayer.”
As my father wrote in his book Discipleship: “It is a great mistake to think that we can understand our own hearts. We may understand ourselves superficially, but only God really knows our hearts. Therefore, even if we suffer the severest temptations, trials, and attacks from the Evil One, we can always turn to God with trust and great hopes for victory.”

If prayer fails to comfort a suicidal person, we who are close to him must have faith and believe for him. When someone sinks in darkness and thinks he is separated from God, he must be assured that others will pray for him. There is profound protection in the prayers of others.

Much of the emotional isolation in modern society is rooted in our confusion about the real purpose in living: we forget that our first task is to love God with all our heart and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we took these two great commandments seriously, much loneliness and depression could be averted. Loving our neighbor is prayer in action, and it is something each of us can do. I often wonder whether we do not rely too heavily on experts. When a person is desperate and suicidal, an “expert” may be the last person he wants to face: after all, who can cope with analysis or advice when he feels unable even to face himself? Naturally one cannot rule out the use of psychiatry or medication, but we should not forget that often the simple support of a listening ear – a friend or family member, pastor or priest – is the best help.

Read the rest of the book.


From Cries From the Heart: Stories of Struggle and Hope

A man holding his head in his hands
Contributed By Johann Christoph Arnold Johann Christoph Arnold

A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, education, and end-of-life issues, Arnold was a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities.

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