“Then they came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to Jesus and asked him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and brought him outside of the village. Then he spit on his eyes, placed his hands on his eyes and asked, “Do you see anything?” Regaining his sight he said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again. And he opened his eyes, his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” – Mark 8:22-26 (NET)
As we dig further into the condition I respectfully call the “born again blues,” it becomes more and more apparent that it’s a big reason the church is so often viewed as an insignificant side road located next to and below the freeway of modern society. Our failure to make Christianity attractive and desirable to the populace is shameful and if our spiritual depression is a major cause then we must urgently seek out a remedy. We’ve scratched the surface by highlighting the fact that many lifelong Christians are routinely in the dumps because they’ve yet to grasp the basic doctrine of “justification by faith.” In the mid-1500s, after Luther’s revolutionary Protestant Reformation took root, a figurative flood of spiritual joy flowed over the planet as believers revived that core truth. The same thing might happen in the 21st century if all would adhere to the love-based ideals that Jesus epitomized but the book of Revelations doesn’t hold out much hope for that. To quote from “Vincent” by Don McLean, “They would not listen, they’re not listening still. Perhaps they never will…”
Moving forward in our investigation, I cite the story related in Mark so we can examine another angle concerning the Christian blues. It’s one of the least understood of our Savior’s miracles and also one of the most remarkable. One thing is certain. What happened and how it went down between the poor blind man and Jesus was no accident. He could’ve restored his sight with a snap of his fingers but he didn’t. Therefore the episode unfolded the way it did so that we could learn a meaningful lesson. Many scholars, with good reason, think the lesson was aimed directly at the disciples because of what had recently gone on at the time. The gang had boarded a boat with their master and realized too late that they’d forgotten to bring enough bread to make thirteen fish sandwiches and they worked themselves into a tizzy over it. Jesus said to them “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod!” and they, not being particularly spiritual-minded at the moment, thought he was referring to their lack of whole wheat slices because he mentioned the word “yeast.” (They tended to take everything the Nazarene said at face value whether it made any sense to them or not.) I can envision Jesus wearily shaking his head before calmly informing them that, verily, they’d missed the point yet again. He reminded them that he’d just fed five thousand folks with a few dinner rolls and a couple of trout filets so why on earth would they be worried about what they’d do for supper? As usual, he found a way to clear things up for them via a real-life demonstration, this time involving a blind man, so that they could get a picture of how they were so often behaving.
But as is true of all of Christ’s teachings, this one doesn’t have an expiration date. It’s as valid today as it was then. There are those in the initial stages of becoming a follower of Jesus who are identical to the blind man in many respects. Jesus touches them and asks, “Do you see yet?” They answer, “Sorta. I can see blobs.” Technically, they’re no longer sightless but it would be hard to describe their vision as being sharp enough to pass a driver’s license eye exam. They’re somewhere in the middle. A lot of new Christians are stuck in that situation, ill at ease and miserable because they lack clarity. You meet them on Wednesday and they’re praising the Lord for his many blessings. You run into them on Friday and they’re ranting about bad drivers, cursing like sailors. Are they Christians or not? They wonder the same thing about themselves because they’re sure that Jesus wouldn’t approve of their inconsistencies. They know just enough about their faith to be disgusted with themselves. They see and yet they don’t see. It’s a terrible place to be but the good news is that they need not stay there. The miracle isn’t finished yet.
But let’s examine where they are now. What can they see? It may be fuzzy, tree-like blobs but they see something, at least. Prior to conversion they might’ve been satisfied with their mortal existence because they had a decent job, friends to party with, a family and a nice car to drive them around in. But then they hit a wall (a mid-life crisis, perhaps?) where they discovered that none of those things made them happy anymore or fulfilled the deep longing in their soul. One day they realized that something vital was missing and, thank God, they turned to Christ for help. And He, as He always does, embraced them. They walked “down front” and made a public profession of faith. Since that moment they know something has changed in them but they aren’t sure what. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way: “It’s a stage in which a man sees that everything else is wrong, though he has not yet seen that Christianity is right. That’s what often drives him to cynicism. That is what often drives him to despair.” He might, as Paul implied, get a few sips of the rich milk of redemption and, feeling full, decide that he doesn’t need the meat of God’s deeper instructions. He might then land himself in a situation where, in trying to explain his reasons for accepting Christ to his know-it-all friend (who took a few Philosophy courses at college), he suddenly finds his argument being torn to shreds because he’s in over his head faster than he can say the word “incarnation.” That’s when doubt sets in and that’s never a healthy virus to contract.
But they may also take the time to discover the sublime truths contained in the Sermon on the Mount and in Paul’s letters and come to the conclusion that if everyone locked into Jesus’ way of living the world’s problems would be solved. In addition they might take the next step and accept that Christ is the only hope, that He is somehow the Savior. Take note of the word “somehow,” though, because that can be the nail in their front tire. Whether it was the counsel of a Christian friend or relative, the influence of a local church or a book by C.S. Lewis they read, they’re now intrigued by the undeniable power of Jesus Christ. They’re still squinting but they can see that much, at least. Unlike the jaded, since-birth believer who’s still trying to be “good enough” for God and thereby earn their justification, this person has realized, because they failed to find satisfaction on their own, that they can’t save themselves. This is, however, a tenuous position for them to be in. God has opened their eyes at last. They can see things they never saw before and they’re excited. But, like the blind man, they can’t make out any details. They only see blobs of truth. Their healing is a process that’s only just begun.
First, they aren’t clear about certain fundamental principles. They gather that “somehow” Christ is their Savior but they can’t yet wrap their heads around the “why” of it all. The amazing significance of the cross escapes them. If they stay in this state they’ll eventually become troubled again and wilt like the seed sown in shallow soil. Second, they have yet to completely surrender their heart to Jesus. They spend time wondering why they haven’t instantly become happy campers instead of patiently nurturing the joy that grows day by day as a result of fully engaging with Christ. Third, their will is divided. They truly desire the benefits of being a Christian but they resent having to give up an array of things and activities they still find pleasurable. They’re confused. It’d be easy to fault the members of the body of Christ for not making sure they completed their Jesus 101 education but, just as frequently, it’s the new believers’ stubborn attitude. They object, in general, to clear-cut definitions of Christian morality because of the restrictions they imply. That’s why so many are attracted to sects that involve a lot of mystical rituals and “secret” knowledge. Those distractions, strangely, make folks feel comfortable in their ignorance. In contrast, there’s nothing pricklier than crystal-clear Biblical truths that demand you think about your actions before your take them and then hold yourself accountable. Add to that number those who want to follow Christ on their own terms. That never works. If you don’t want clarity then, like the blind man initially, you will not have it. You’ll only see dark-hued blobs bobbing around.
The road block for many is their unwillingness to accept the teaching and authority of God’s Holy Word. They view the book as being out-of-date, inapplicable or too rigid because that’s what they’ve been told. The sad thing is that the majority of these people have never read it. They’ve listened too long to the secular elite’s smug opinion of the scriptures instead of finding out what they say on their own. So they mix the portions of the Bible that they like in with their own ideas of spiritual truth. They modify the Word to fit their style. They believe that Christ is “The Way” but caution themselves not to take it much further than that, mumbling “I ain’t no Jesus Freak.” They muse that what was true thousands of years ago may not necessarily be true today so they take it upon themselves to be the judge. They balk at taking the bold stance of trusting that the Bible is God’s Word and that, being such, we must all submit to it and trust that God doesn’t need to revise or update what he has avowed to be inerrant truth. They raise their eyebrows at the very mention of “doctrine,” considering it the equivalent of close-mindedness. But when told that, lo and behold, the Bible is doctrine at its very essence they grimace and squirm because doctrine convicts us. Doctrine makes us focus. It demands that we look inside ourselves. It speaks to us and insists that we make hard decisions. So if we reject doctrine we won’t be able to see clearly. The creeds are not detrimental things. In the early years of Christianity, because human beings were involved, the movement tended to veer off into all kinds of detours. For instance, some of the leaders began to opine that Jesus didn’t really have a physical body and other nonsensical notions. So the organized church came up with the Apostle’s Creed, etc. Not because they thought it’d make them look like wise guys but to direct attention back to the source of all truth, the Bible.
So what’s the cure for this vision impairment? First, avoid thinking you’re 100% cured because you can now see blobs. We’d all understand if the blind man, suddenly pulled from a world of total blackness into one of diffused light, jumped up and ran around town shouting that he could now see. But Jesus admonished him not to do that, knowing that others would ask “Yeah, but what color are my eyes?” and he wouldn’t be able to discern that. People would discount the miracle of his “healing.” The opposite could also happen. The blind man might become discouraged in a flash when he realizes that not being able to see clearly is as bad as not seeing at all. In time people like that will decline into a state of depression, stop reading their Bible and abandon their church family.
What do we do, then? We answer our Lord’s question honestly. He asked the man, “Do you see now?” The man responded truthfully, “Yep, but those men look like trees to me.” That’s the gist of the matter. We must be honest with ourselves about our faith. What do we see? Are the things Christ taught clear to us or not? Do we know God or is He just a blurry concept? Do we know Jesus? Have we stopped relying on our “own understanding” and fully accepted God’s Laws as inviolate and eternal or are we content to just see fuzzy blobs of truth and discern them as we desire? We must be patient as we wait on the Lord to work on us further, just as the blind man did. He didn’t object to letting Jesus take him to the next level when he was ready. In fact, he rejoiced in it.
You can do the same. Go all in. Start with reading about God’s unbreakable promises. Say to Him, “No matter the cost, I want the truth and nothing but the truth.” Approach our Lord with the trust of a child, ask Him to give you perfect sight and to make you the person He intended you to be. Not only does He have the ability to do it, He will do it. He never leaves any task unfinished. He gave us His Word. The man in the story was healed completely and was able to see “everything clearly.” We’re not meant to remain bogged down in doubt and misgivings about our decision to follow Christ into eternity. Do you think for a moment that the Son of God came to earth as a lowly human, suffered a criminal’s torture and death, was entombed and rose again, ascended into Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and then watch us wallow in the born again blues and be okay with leaving us there? No way. Everything we’ve come to know about our merciful Savior tells us that’s not possible. He intends for us to see clearly so that we can seek and know our Heavenly Father. That’s the goal he said we should all aim for over all else. Don’t get down on yourself if your image of who Christ really is still blurs a little at times. The disciples who walked and talked with him daily often suffered from the same spiritual myopia. If you’re unsatisfied with only being able to see blobs of truth floating in the distance then come to Him and his Word, wait on His timing, pray to Him for guidance and hold on to Him for dear life. He has pledged to correct your vision and in time you’ll proclaim, “I now see Him in all his pristine glory and He is all I need. I belong to Him and He loves me more than I ever thought possible and nothing, no nothing, can separate us. I can see it in His eyes.” Once you get to where you can say those words with complete sincerity, your blues will be a thing of the past.
(Inspired by the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones from his book “Spiritual Depression.”)