I had the privilege of speaking at this year's Greenbelt festival on "The Depressives of the Bible". Afterwards a couple of people asked if they could get hold of my conclusion to the talk which was a reworking of the famous passage on faith in Hebrews 11. So here it is. Essentially I was trying to make the point that people with mental health problems, including depression, made a significant contribution to the stories in and the literature of the Bible and so I reworked the Hebrews 11 passage replacing "in sadness" for "by faith". Hope people find it useful.
"Now this present sadness is a loss of confidence in what we hope for and a lack of assurance about what we do not see. This too is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, but we also see that same universe full of pain and hurt and sadness.
In sadness Cain's offering was deemed inadequate and he felt the pain of rejection.
In sadness Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. Yet when he had seen the world condemned he felt a pain so deep that he tried to drown out his guilt with alcohol.
In sadness Saul saw his kingdom torn from him for acting with compassion and then saw the adulation he had once received transferred to another.
In sadness David, and those who came after him, found God in their pain and their music and wrote the words that would echo not just through one generation, but through the ages.
In sadness Solomon, and those who bore his name, found life meaningless, but were unafraid to wrestle with God and cry out at the darkness.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. Yet they did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and wished for them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. In sadness, they were longing for a better country
In sadness Job saw his family wiped out and refused to shut up and accept the perceived wisdom. He chose not to be ill-treated but nevertheless suffered at the hands of the people of God. He persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
In sadness Elijah cried out that God might kill him, even though he had witnessed an incredible miracle. And yet God did not reject him. He turned his back on the fire and the storm, hearing only the quiet sound, but still anointed leaders and put kings in their place.
In sadness Jeremiah heard God's words of destruction for the city and the world he lived in. In sadness he was despised and abused. He chose to be ill-treated by the people of God rather than to enjoy their fleeting pleasures. Yet despite his sadness God did not count him as unworthy.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Ruth, Naomi, Ezekiel, Mark and Nehemiah. Who despite sadness conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; whose weakness was turned to strength; Women received back their dead. Some faced jeers and flogging. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended in spite of their sadness, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders. And let us try to somehow pick ourselves up, and stagger on along the path marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and he who himself was known as the Man of Sorrows. He endured rejection, loneliness, desperation and the cross, scorning its shame, and sits now at the right hand of the throne of God."
(Based on Heb 11& 12 NIVUK)