The final study in a series on overcoming depression.
By Ken Chant
Statistics have scant attraction for God. His focus is not on the pile of beans we have laboured to accumulate, and are so busy counting. We could lose them all without troubling him over much. He is not concerned about the count, but the count-er. Not what, but who?
On the day that is coming, you will be assessed not on how well you succeeded in some earthly enterprise, but on how well you succeeded as a human being. Even Paul was a little apprehensive about the possibility of failing this test –
I beat my body black and blue, and keep it under severe discipline, otherwise I might find that I have preached to others but am cast aside myself (1 Co 9:27).
Can a great and highly successful preacher find that his glorious work has all been for nothing? Yes, if he forgets that God does not care nearly so much about what he has done as about who he is.
So your works and mine, including the best and most noble, will have value on the Day of Judgment only insofar as they show the kind of person we are, and especially how well we reflect the character of Christ.
This equality of destiny matched with the unpredictable vicissitudes of life should make any attentive person wary of putting too much hope in material things (see Mt 6:19-20; Lu 12:32-34). The grave consumes monarchs as readily as merchants; death has no favourites, makes no distinctions, and treats all human differences with disdain. As Horace said in one of his famous Odes (I.iv.13) –
Pale Death kicks his way equally into the cottages of the poor and the castles of kings.
And a thousand years ago Omar Khayyam expressed his scorn of human pomp –
Each new day is equally fraught with uncertainty for the highest in the land as for the lowest. A ruler today can be a slave tomorrow, and a pauper may rise to be a king (Ec 4:14-16).
These things are so self-evident it is amazing that anyone ever forgets them. Yet since most of us do forget, many prophets and divines, sages and poets, have striven to remind us of them, and to scourge the folly of loving this chancy world too much.
I once heard Billy Graham say that no one is ready to live until he or she is first ready to die. Is that a paradox of despair? No, for while I know that I must die, I also know that Christ has triumphed over the grave – therefore I shall never die! Death has lost its sting, the grave has lost its victory! Now, in the freedom of Christ, each new day weaves its richest texture, and each hour builds its most joyous frame.
Is that how the fabric of your life is woven? Are these things its warp and woof? Is your heart fixed on obtaining “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ”? Are you living for eternal values, ready for this world because you are ready for the next? Are you fit to live because you know how to die? Has earth become precious because heaven is more so? Are your possessions here touched with grace because your true affections are fixed above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God?
I do not see how anyone living in such a golden setting could ever lapse into dejection. Surely there is here an admirable cure for the bleakest depression, a panacea for the most melancholy soul, medicine to cheer the dullest heart! We’re on the way to heaven. Christ awaits our coming. The angels are ready to herald our arrival with a thunder of acclamation. What is there in this brief moment of earthly existence that could possibly cloud such indestructible joy?
() The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam (12th century Persian mathematician, philosopher, poet); tr. Peter Avery & John Heath-Stubbs; Penguin Classics, 1983; Quatrains 41, 51, 208, 227. (“Ruba’iyat” simply means “quatrains”.)
() The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer (1345-1400); tr. by Nevill Coghill; Penguin Classics, 1977; pg. 151.