depressionThis morning, I was contemplating my struggles with my clinical depression.  This happens frequently, especially on days I read about other Christians wrestling with this little stigma of ours.  Yeah, I may expound on that a bit sometime in the future (when I’m motivated to do more than sit in the dark and contemplate it), but for now I offer you a glimpse into my thought processes.  Hope you’re strapped in and your teacup is secure, as this kangaroo is prepped to bounce.

I started pondering clinical depression, which led to the usual ponderings of the modern Christian Evangelical viewpoints on such, which aren’t exactly what you would call sympathetic or compassionate (“Depression is a SIN!” I remember hearing another youth pastor address a bunch of adolescents…but that’s another blog post for another day).  Which led to me thinking about the various examples of those I’ve read about in the Bible who would be considered afflicted with the “sin” of clinical depression – Elijah, after his big show-down on Mount Carmel, lapsed into a long depression; a lot of King David’s Psalms are colored by his own bouts of depression and anxiety; and Job…need I say more about that guy?  I won’t list everyone and all the examples from the Bible I thought of here, save for the last one: the Apostle Thomas.

Of the Original Twelve disciples who walked with Jesus during His earth-bound ministry, Thomas is probably second to Judas in having a negative stigma in  the modern churches.  He is popularly labeled “Doubting Thomas”, and if you’d want to compare him with characters from Winnie The Pooh, he would be Eeyore, hands down.  Just like how a turncoat is referred to as a “Judas”, anyone who expresses doubt is labeled a “Doubting Thomas”.  When referred to in a sermon, Thomas is held as an example of what not to be like as a Christian.

So you can maybe understand my perplexity when I doubt that Thomas is really that bad of an example, here.  And no, I didn’t intend for the pun.

First off, let me point out the obvious:  he was never really referred to as “Doubting Thomas” in the Bible.  This probably came about because of his expressing doubts to the veracity of Jesus’ resurrected Self, before seeing for himself the scars on his beloved Master’s flesh:

Then he [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out with your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Then Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:27-29

Reading this (and the overall portrayal of him in all of the Gospels), I take away a few things here:  First, the obvious – Thomas was Jesus’ disciple. “Well, duh,” you’re probably thinking right now, if you’ve managed to read this far.  But, think about it: every one of the Disciples were known by Jesus since time even began. As their Creator, He knew every one of their personalities, their subtle nuances and quirks.  So He knew Thomas’ disposition.

Second, Thomas had his “doubts”, yes, but he still followed Jesus. Thomas would be a good example of not following because of blind faith.  He questioned things, looked at things from different angles, and had his reservations – but still placed his faith in the Son of Man.  His was not an easy faith to have, I would think.

Third, I have a theory that Thomas wasn’t so much the curmudgeonly doubter as he was a clinically depressed individual that had a pretty good sense of ironic humor, with a slightly sarcastic disposition.  I can only imagine the kinds of rebukes I’ll be getting for saying that.  Just, please keep in mind that this is just mere speculation on my part, here.  I’m no certified Bible scholar; all of my studies are what you would call laymen at best, and I would be the first to defer to an accredited individual of higher learning on the matter.  I do, however, find it interesting that in response to Jesus telling His disciples that they were heading back to a city where the religious leaders were still calling for His death, Thomas’ response was essentially, “sure, let’s go die with Him.” (John 11:16, in case you were wondering)

As someone whose disposition makes me look at things a bit differently from the social norm, who deals with life with a slightly bent sense of humor and rather jaded optimism, I would be hard pressed to say I wouldn’t react to things the same way Thomas did throughout the Gospels.  It’s understandable to want to claim inspiration from the Apostle Peter, John, or even technical second-stringer Paul as to model their Christian walk after; they’re the big ones when it comes to examples of faith.  But, I’ve got to be honest in my ripe young age of almost-40, and say my faith is much closer in emulating Thomas.

And as I continue down this personal journey of mine, exploring this stigma of being a broken follower of Jesus while still acknowledging my affliction of clinical depression, I hope to exorcise a few demons, clarify some misconceptions, but mostly invite everyone on an unflinching journey down the proverbial rabbit hole.

To once again paraphrase Thomas, let’s go die with Him.  Cheers.

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