By Gary Piper
One of my favorite summer time things to do is to sit around a campfire roasting marshmallows or cooking hotdogs. It’s truly amazing the variety of topics and conversations that arise as we all sit in a circle watching the flames rising into the night sky. It’s was always a challenge to see who would be the evening smoke eater. Not only do I cherish the conversations, the jokes, the campfire songs but I also cherish the time when our voices would fall silent and the snapping and crackling of the wood burning would serenade us.
I can’t provide any proof that Jesus and the disciples sat around a campfire at night while they traveled from one village to the next. In my imagination I can see the thirteen of them sitting by a fire discussing a number of different topics. I’d be willing to bet their conversations were not always serious in nature. Join me as I turn back to calendar and turn up our imagination and join Jesus and the Twelve around their campfire and listen in on their conversation.
“Master, please tell me, I know I am not suppose to get depressed because you are with me but I still do. Is there something wrong with me or my faith?” Thomas asked Jesus.
“I get depressed too Thomas,” said Bartholomew, “And no matter how hard I pray the depression seems to never go away. Jesus what is the answer?”
“I never get depressed,” Peter said confidently.
“Never?” Thomas asked.
“Never,” Peter replied!
“Lord, what’s wrong with us?” Bartholomew asked.
Jesus looking toward Thomas, “There is nothing wrong with either of you or you faith. Peter you must very careful to validate your feelings. Do not deny what you feel. The time will come when you will become so depressed you will want to take your own life.”
“What do you mean Lord?” Peter asked.
“To mask or hide what you feel will deny you the opportunity to be healed from them. You must always acknowledge what you feel, and then discover if those feelings are real or imagined. If they are real then you will have validated them and you can then go on and have them healed.” Jesus continued, “When you hide or deny them eventually they will begin to destroy you.”
“As I watch you Lord I try to be just like you, I see that you are never depressed so I must never let myself become depressed. Are you saying that you get depressed?” Peter inquired.
“In all aspects of life there will be a struggle between good and evil, positive and negative. One looks at the night sky and sees the stars in the cold and darkness of the night. Another looks at the night sky and sees the stars as points of life and hope against the darkness of sin. The same scene, two different views, two different people,” Jesus continued.
“But Lord, what does this have to do with depression,” Peter wanted to know.
“Patience Peter. Depression is a negative emotion, it is something we feel in response to something we experience. Experiences are points of growth and points of confrontation they are like forks in the road of life. One way leads you closer to God, the other leads you to loneliness. Do you understand?” Jesus asked.
Thomas spoke for the group, “We understand Lord, but tell us how to overcome it. When I am depressed it’s like I’m falling down a deep, dark, hole with nothing to grab in order to stop or even slow down. It never ends it’s just down and down, deep and deeper, dark and darker, cold and colder.”
Jesus continued, “Your emotions are also a reflection of your spirit. A troubled spirit will lead to troubled emotions whether those emotions are depression, discouragement, or fear. So many times people try to heal emotions rather than the spirit. Can you understand so far?”
After a few moments of silence Peter spoke up, “I think I understand. We become depressed when our spirits become troubled so instead of trying to heal our spirits we try to fix or deny our depression.”
“Very good Peter, there is hope for you after all.” (Everyone enjoys a few moments of lighthearted laughter.) “The struggle between good and evil occurs in the spirit not in the flesh. What so ever you stand in need of ask the father in my name and it will be given you.” Jesus finished then sat back down.
“If I pray that I would no longer be depressed will the experience causing the depression and the depression go away?” Bartholomew asked.
“Do not pray that experiences go away remember they contribute to our development. They are opportunities to see God at work in your life. If you will pray for the Light of God to light your experiences you will see the right path to take. You will discover that your experiences will not have power over you but you will have power over them. Remember my friends the peace I give you will lift you above your depression not out of experiences causing it.” Jesus concluded.
“How will I know that I will be lifted above depression, Lord?” Thomas asked.
“Thomas, Thomas do you believe in me?” Jesus asked.
“Yes Lord, you know I believe in you, how can I not believe in you after seeing all the miracles you have done,” was Thomas’ reply.
“Thomas my friend, do not always believe what you see. Believe in what you feel inside. If you feel the peace I give in your spirit no matter what you see with your eyes your depression will no longer have power over your emotions or spiritual wellbeing. If you have faith in me then do not just believe in me but experience me as well, I will never abandon you,” Jesus turned then walked away to pray by himself.
After walking for minutes Jesus found himself in a clearing. Then looking into the clear warm summer sky he beheld the beauty of millions of points of light against the blackness of space. Then in an instant each star was replaced by a face dropping to his knees with tears forming in his eyes he began praying. “Father, I approach you this night with a heavy spirit and share it with you so that it may be lightened. My time with my disciples is coming to an end and they have so far to go. The things I have been teaching them seem to be beyond their ability to comprehend. I pray, thee Father, that you would bless them with understanding, that you would open their minds, hearts, and spirits. I also pray that I may teach them in simple ways.”
“As I observe the faces of countless people who will depend upon their testimony of me and your love I stand in awe and tremble. The task is so great and the people to whom we give the responsibility are so fragile. I pray with all that is within me for strength for them. I pray for a deepening awareness within them that alone they will suffer defeat yet united with us they will win. I pray for a deepening awareness within them that no matter how great the task we will lift them above it.”
In the stillness of the moment Jesus looked again into the night sky. Only this time the stars and the darkness were gone there was only light. Then the image of a tree began to form, it was the tree of life from the Garden of Eden. As quickly as the tree formed 11 of the 12 disciples walked to the tree picked a piece of fruit and begin eating. As they finished Jesus observed millions and millions of people approaching the tree (He saw you too). Each disciple then began picking fruit giving a piece to each one. (Did you get yours?) Then the image of the tree changed to the image a Jesus dying on a cross. Then the vision disappeared and was replaced by the night sky.
“Thank you Father,” Jesus said getting to his feet.
Walking back into the light of the campfire Jesus notices that John is the only on awake. “Everything all right Master?” he asks yawning.
“It is now John, it is now,” Jesus replied as he laid down. That night he dreamed of the glorious reunion awaiting him in the not to distant future.
Minutes later Jesus was fast asleep dreaming about the reunion with his Father that was fast approaching.