‘Tis the season for gifts, family get togethers, and high levels of depression. There are many reasons for the emotional downturn in people’s psyche during and after the holiday season. But there is one clue in the Scriptures that transcends the holiday blues: lack of community. The article God and Depression: Lost Community gives some insight into this particular agent of depression:
He’s lost his community
The writer [of Psalm 42] is estranged from his home, his normal surroundings, his own culture, and his normal community. He has lost the people with whom he had belonged, and this is a very serious loss. We cannot truly thrive without people around us who “get” us and amongst whom we fit.
No person is exempt from this; we are made in God’s image, and are therefore, made for community (God being a community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Just as it is in God’s nature to thrive in partnership, so it is with us. The first thing recorded in the Bible that God disapproves of is human isolation: “It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18).
Making community work
We see this even in the life of Jesus, who as God (as a man), showed a true commitment to community, and even a level of grief when this longing for mutual companionship and life sharing was unfulfilled.
But there is a big lesson from Jesus’ example: though he was surrounded by people who struggled to grasp him and his mission, he persisted and made it work. It’s often necessary for us to do the same; we can find ourselves in a new situation—a new church, new location, or the same church but new people, and the disruption can leave us lonely, or even undervalued.
In Jesus’ case, he built so well and worked so hard with his new community that he said at the last supper how much he had been looking forward to sharing it with them. Even in Gethsemane, which was his loneliest and darkest time, he asked his dearest friends to stick as close as possible.
If Jesus needed true community, so do we.