Caught off Guard

August 14, 2014, by Todd Neva

I was caught off guard. I wasn’t prepared for the question.

He asked, “In reading Heavy, I can tell that you’re happy. How did you come to have such a positive attitude?”

I knew the “correct” answer. I was speaking to a representative of a Christian media organization, so I should say, “I recognized God’s sovereignty, put my faith in Jesus, and found joy.”

That is what I did not say.

I couldn’t say it, because it wasn’t true.

Yes, I recognize God’s sovereignty. Yes, my faith is in Jesus Christ. Yes, I find joy in that. But that is not why I am happy.

I answered instead, “God has given me the gift of a positive disposition. I had it before I was diagnosed with ALS, and I had it after I knew I was going to become completely paralyzed and die, likely within five years.”

Sure, there was grief, plenty of grief. But I eventually came out of it. It helped for me to gain perspective when I heard that my friend’s eight-year-old daughter had heart failure and needed a transplant.

“But,” I added, “everybody grieves differently. Some people grieve so deeply that they don’t want to go on with life. It pains me when I hear stories like a young man who was diagnosed with ALS and retired to the couch with a bag of Oreo cookies and ate himself to advanced weakness. But I won’t judge him. I am not going to tell anybody how he should feel. I would encourage him to know that there is value in a disabled life. I would let him know that there can be purpose in life, even with severe limitations. I would comfort him.”

Well, that’s what I remember saying.

In truth, it probably sounded more like, “I don’t know, um, mumbled bumble, lucky me, I happen to be happy. Others aren’t, that sucks.”

It really does suck.

Like many, I took notice of Robin Williams’ death. It sounded like another tragic celebrity death, but then I read today a statement by his wife. He had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.”

I am disturbed by his depression — particularly when juxtaposed to his ability to make people laugh — but saddened personally to think that a neurological disease was a contributing factor.

People look to me for encouragement. That’s fine. But know that I do not have any magic formula. I have a relationship with Christ, yes, but so do many who are depressed nonetheless.

Having a relationship with Jesus Christ does not guarantee that you will be happy, wealthy, pretty, or any-other-y. It means that you have a personal relationship with God, by whom you can cry, “Abba, Father!”

He is the God of comfort. He promises that he will be with us, but he does not promise that the troubles in this earthly life will be gone, not even mental illness such as depression.

But there will be, someday, for those who trust in Jesus Christ the Son of God, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Excerpt from Romans 8, ESV)

What do we wait for? What is the redemption of our bodies?

Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

1 Corinthians 15:52 “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

We wait for the second coming of Christ. We wait for heaven.


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