Our series of Monday devotions continues this morning with one from Paul Walker, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA and speaker at the upcoming Birmingham conference. This particular reflection aptly addresses the affliction of scorekeeping, and the message of grace that responds in your defense:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

Ernest Hemingway, the brilliant and depressed writer who finally ended his own life, said, “that terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as the Artist’s Reward.”  Hemingway was referring to whatever his latest creative work was, but he could have been describing everyone’s reality. The pressure to produce in life, and then to be judged as “any good or not” is enough to cast down the most buoyant soul.

The terrible mood of depression is larger, of course, than any one cause or definition. Psychological, genetic, and physiological forces are all at play. But there is something else going on – a factor rarely discussed by the American Medical Association, but ever present all through the Old and New Testaments: sin.

By sin, we don’t mean, “I lied and cheated, therefore I am depressed.” (Although it is true sin does create “turmoil” in one’s soul.) By sin we mean that, because of the Fall, our hearts are wired to see life in terms of production followed inevitably by the awful judgment of that production. By sin, we mean the terrible human burden of wondering whether we’re any good or not. By rejecting the judgment-free life of the Garden of Eden, we have all reaped the Sinner’s Reward.

The psalmist wrestles with God as he wrestles with his own soul. The outward factors that attend his despair, the multiple causes that create the “tears that have been (his) food day and night” may or may not be similar to the disparate demons and devils that cast a pall over our lives. But, we can be sure that the root of the psalmist’s “deadly wound” is the root of all our deadly wounds: the sin that says I must earn my way in order to be accepted and happy and satisfied.

And there is only one place of help for this fundamental “oppression of the enemy.” The psalmist says it tersely and powerfully: “Hope in God.” For, God has given us His Son who has loved us in our sin. Jesus took the deadly wound of judgment on himself, so that we could be delivered into the judgment-free world of grace. We have been given the reward of Life that Jesus earned for our sake.

To hope in God is to know that the categories of “any good or not” no longer apply to those who trust in Jesus’ goodness. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

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