The last several weeks have given us a barrage of non-stop depressing information. Each morning I’ve gotten up to do my usual routine of getting kids up for breakfast and dressed for another day of school. While doing this and gulping down my first cup of coffee of the day, I turn on NBC Today show to see what’s going on in the world. The news has been providing us with the trifecta of The Impeachment Hearings, Coronavirus, and the tragic death of Kobe Bryant.
It’s no wonder our country is becoming more depressed.
There’s nothing I can do change the content of the news, but I am learning to turn the sound off and the channel to something more benign like The Weather Channel. But of course, there’s no guarantee there won’t be some frightening storm bearing down on us. Fortunately, at least for the weekend, there’s the Super Bowl to consider and give us a pleasant distraction from this agonizing blitz of discouragement.
Martin Luther is credited for launching what has been called “The Protestant Reformation” and Baptists are a branch of that movement known as the “Radical Reformation.” And yet, despite this incredible contribution to the Christian movement, Luther struggled mightily with discouragement and depression. He would have visions of Satan ominously appearing before him to drag him into the pit of hell. Luther’s reaction to these terrible images prompted him to put a plaque on his wall which simply read “Remember Your Baptism.” Whenever these waves of depression would come his way, he would exclaim, “I am baptized!”
This isn’t an attempt to say that depression can be resolved with a sign on a wall; we have much more information today to suggest that it’s more significant than that. The first thing we have to do is to take the issues of mental illness much more seriously than we have been. Although not having the expertise to diagnose this condition, I can and should be much more sympathetic to those who struggle with depression and recognize the tragic consequences for those who are victimized by this condition. And, I hope I can find ways to refer people to get the professional help they need.
There is a difference between depression and discouragement, and what I am going to be relating to on Super Bowl Sunday is the latter. None of us are immune to periods of discouragement, and for this reason it’s vital that we have a spiritual experience to anchor us during the storm clouds of difficulty come our way. The Baptism of Jesus was a significant moment in his life, a trinitarian experience when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit manifested themselves in this singular moment. It was a moment of affirmation, identification, and commissioning for the Son of God to begin his earthly ministry. And, right away after his baptism, he was led into the wilderness for a period of testing.
Our baptism is important too, for the same two reasons above but especially as an identification as being children of God.
It’s easy to forget who we are and whose we are in this tsunami of problems and sadness that we see each and every day. The old journalism adage is true, “if it bleeds, it leads.” We can’t allow our identity to be shaken when the winds of discouragement come our way, or when people let us down, and especially when people who claim to be Christians act in a manner antithetical to the gospel message. Yes, Christians can be engaged in the political process, but we must be careful not to allow the prophetic voice of the church to be confused by the merger of church and state. First century Christians faced significant opposition, persecution, and even death for the sake of the gospel. The world needs an authentic Christian witness from each of us no matter what others around or doing or saying.
The words of Nehemiah 8.10 still ring true today: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Let us stay encouraged and recognize that God is still at work in this world, and also that this world is not our home. So, when things don’t go our way let that be a reminder not to put our confidence in the wrong things and also that people can let us down. But, we have the assurance that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13.8).
Our Hope is not in the things of this world. We have a Hope that will not perish and will sustain us throughout all eternity. Our task now is to be “salt and light” in this world and not be surprised when “in this world you will have trouble.” We aren’t promised an easy go of it and it’s more important now more than ever to know who we are in Christ and that shouldn’t change depending on circumstances around us.
May God help us to “Remember Our Baptism” and may our spiritual roots go down deep in God’s Word and most of all through our faith in Christ while saying “I am baptized!”