This table is not magic. We do not force the hand of God to heal us, or gift us, or save us, by returning to this table. We serve a wild, untamed, and yet deeply loving, God. He longs for our complete healing, it’s true. But we don’t control the ebb and flow of His healing power. He does.
We return to the table each week, just as we return to Him in prayer throughout each day, return in worship with the people of His body, week after week, year after year. We return in the hope of healing because we have seen that only He has the words of eternal life. But the reality of that regular returning is that we may see weeks, even years, without healing. And yet He is faithful.
Elijah was afraid. His fear was, on the one hand, reasonable. Jezebel was a bloodthirsty murderer who clearly hated him, and threatened his life. On the other hand, after all he had seen of the hand of God, did He really think God would abandon him? In his fear he said, “I’m done. I’ve had enough. I’m a failure. I’m no better than my ancestors. Let me die.”
My own history with depression goes back some thirty years. I didn’t know that the way I saw myself and the world wasn’t just normal. In college I had a hard time believing that happy people were sincere, that they had integrity. Over and over again, though I never acted on it, I was pummeled with an overwhelming sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, that I wanted to die.
Elijah fell asleep in the shade of a bush. Many times for me as well, sleep was enough to shake off the darkness. When he awoke, an angel gave him food and drink, sustenance he had done nothing to deserve. For me the long-term healing really took off after college, when I was put on medication and started some serious counseling. Elijah slept again, and was nourished again. The angel said, “The journey is too much for you.” He needed the nourishment. He needed the grace. The pathway out of despair requires nourishment, and grace.
It can also require new habits. For me, the next decade or so was a time of recalibration, adjusting to things that had always been true, but for which I had not had eyes to see. By the time I met my wife, Danielle, depression was not a cold wind blowing through me every day, but more like a faint draft, coming through invisible cracks around the windows.
But recently, with no warning, the doors and windows opened again to that cold wind. The irrational despair, the sense of worthlessness and hopelessness that seemed as certain as a scientific law—it was back. For the few days it weighed me down, I tried the tricks that had helped me so much over the years, but my vision wouldn’t clear. The lies seemed true.
But I told friends. I journaled exactly what I was feeling and thinking. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. My drive to be present and whole for my children, which is normally so strong, was weakened—but still there. And after a matter of days, the darkness receded.
I may never completely shed this burden. Sometimes the burden is no more than a handkerchief, thin, insubstantial, not getting in the way. Other times it’s like a 100-pound backpack, making each step forward a challenge. But I step. And I step. And I step again. I wake up in the morning. I go to work. I serve my family. And I come here. To this worship. To this music. To this table. And no single step takes me out of the darkness, but each step is part of the way out, part of the healing.
I can’t make God heal me completely, with the certainty of a magic spell. But I can believe that He wants to heal me, and plans to heal me, like Jesus healed the demoniac. With the psalmist I can “go to the altar of God,” whether or not I can see “His light and His truth." Here I can “hope in God,” and “again praise Him."
For this is what the Lord himself said, and I pass it on to you just as I received it. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it." For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until Jesus comes again.