Good News For People With Big Problems #3 "Check Out Any Time You Like (But You Can Never Leave): Depression, Addiction and the Christian Hope"

Last night, we tackled Big Problem #3 (sub-title: The Bondage of the Will), our inability […]

Drake / 7.23.09

Last night, we tackled Big Problem #3 (sub-title: The Bondage of the Will), our inability to bridge the gap between how we ought to live and how we actually live. A problem that is especially highlighted when dealing with depression and addiction. To do so, we looked at the following sources:

From Dorothy Martyn’s “Beyond Deserving”:

In speaking of the indestructibility of what lies in the unconscious mind, he spoke of “paths…laid down once and for all, which never fall into disuse” and “are only capable of annihilation in the same sense as the ghosts in the underworld of the odyssey—ghosts which awoke to new life as soon as they tasted blood.” (Interpretation of Dreams) What is it that is apparently indestructible, being resurrected over and over? Why does a habitual gambler repeat again and again his doomed enterprise, even bringing himself and his entire family to utter destruction, when all probabilities are so heavily against his succeeding? Why does a dangerously obese person continue to eat ice cream or other weight aggravating foods in quantity, right in the face of medical warnings of illness and possible early death? This list could be expanded indefinitely.

From Romans 7:15

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

From Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan:

Nick Smith: I’ve always planned to be a failure anyway, that’s why I plan to marry an extremely wealthy woman.

From Emily Dickinson:

“Speech”—is a prank of Parliament—
“Tears”—is a trick of the nerve—
But the Heart with the heaviest freight on—

From AA’s Big Book:

But my friend sat before me, and he made the pointblank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever known!

The Good News for this Big Problem is that Jesus came to “To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Is 42:7) We know that Jesus is a friend of those who are bound when we hear him say (very much in the same vein as the Dickinson poem), “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

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11 responses to “Good News For People With Big Problems #3 "Check Out Any Time You Like (But You Can Never Leave): Depression, Addiction and the Christian Hope"”

  1. DZ says:

    such great stuff, drake! the juxtaposition of that (incredible) Dickinson poem with the passage from Matthew is inspired. And then adding Nick Smith to the mix just sweetens the whole deal. thank you for this.

    oh and dr. martyn's commentary on freud is enough to make one cry…

  2. StampDawg says:

    Loved this. A big help to me. Thank you.

  3. KP says:


    Great Post! Powerlessness, the bound will, helpless to change even though I know I need to… Sounds like me sounds like humanity.

    Keith Pozzuto

  4. Clifford Swartz says:

    Thanks for post, Drake.
    And from the "Nick Smith character, Des McGrath in "Last Days of Disco"…

    You know that Shakespearean admonition, "To thine own self be true"? It's premised on the idea that "thine own self" is something pretty good, being true to which is commendable. But what if "thine own self" is not so good? What if it's pretty bad? Would it be better, in that case, not to be true to thine own self?… See, that's my situation. 

  5. Michael says:

    Cliff, That "to thine own self be true" quote from Hamlet is an oft misunderstood line. Polonius is not portrayed as a sympathetic character and his "advice" is not meant to be take at face value as a "Shakespearean admonition." It is meant ironically, and we are meant to see through it as coming from a slime ball. The Romantics bought it hook line and sinker, because it fit with their rosy view of human nature, a view that Shakespeare did not at all share. Or at least that's the Shakespeare I was taught.

  6. Drake says:

    What a perfect addition Cliff!! "But what if 'thine own self' is not so good?"

  7. Drake says:

    Thanks Michael- what a helpful thought. Where did you read that commentary on Hamlet?

  8. Michael says:

    Drake, That was how Shakespear was taught when I was in college many moons ago. It is a very traditionalist view of him as a deeply Christian writer, a view I still hold.

  9. StampDawg says:

    Michael is right about Polonius and the quote. He's also right that this is just basic Shakespeare 101. You don't need to know anything about Shakespeare, or be a big scholar or anything.

    Polonius is a windbag and a fool. That quote is embedded in a speech with a dozen other cliches. Purely by the story of the play itself, you can see that P is a social climbing platitude spouting mess.

    On the other hand, just as Polonius is a character, so is the character from LAST DAYS. They are just characters in works of fictions. They are not the mouthpiece of the Author.

    Michael may also be correct when he claims that Shakespeare himself was deeply Christian. That is as may be. But you don't have to go that far. All you need to do is look at the text to see that this is clearly not Shakespeare talking but a very specific and silly man in a play.

  10. solarblogger says:

    There is a real similiarity in theme between, say, depression, addiction, and the Christian Hope. We do know of these areas of life where we just hit a wall and find that we can't get anywhere. So they are good illustrations.

    But I think sometimes the similarities make the distinctions all the harder to learn.

    In fact, our experience of bound wills toward besetting sins is different even from our experience of bound wills toward believing in Christ. But the true bondage of the will is with regard to the latter, even if our most intractable feelings of helplessness are felt with regard to the former.

    Luther seems to have caught some idea of grace alone before he discovered faith alone. His Romans commentary is written from that perspective. And it is quite dark. It leaves someone waiting for the Holy Spirit to finally give him the ability to do good, which he cannot do on his own. It is, as Gerhard Forde has said, like being commanded to drive with someone else's foot being on the gas pedal. Who is at fault if you go nowhere?

    The good news doesn't mean the intractable problems will go away. But it is still good news even if they don't.

  11. Clifford Swartz says:

    Hi — thanks for the Shakespeare remarks. And sorry to offline from replying for some days — moving apartments was crushing!

    I was making use of the quotation from the voice of the character in Whitman's film, which has passed into the popular consciousness whether it is true to the original usage or not, alas.

    In another popular film genre, the Star Wars films, the same conflict arises. The characters are told to be true to themselves, to search their feelings and trust them, but that pretty much gets them into a big mess. The alternative, Buddhist detachment, is advocated by Yoda but never really seems to win the day…at least not in the popular imagination (if there is such a thing as the popular imagination…)
    Thanks again,

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