Excerpt from Changes that Heal —
Ruth’s missionary father had insisted that his twenty-two-year-old daughter come see me. Ruth, a college student was suffering from depression. She had no appetite and had trouble sleeping and studying. Her father accompanied her to the appointment.
“What’s the problem?” I asked Ruth, after we had chatted for a few minutes. But it was her father who responded.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “She’s not living like she should.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“She’s doing drugs and sleeping around,” he said with disgust. “Plus she’s flunking out of college, and she has no idea what she wants to do with her life.” Before I could ask another question, he continued, “If she read her Bible and went to church, she wouldn’t be so depressed. But all she wants to do is hang around those reprobate friends of hers.”
“What would happen if she began to do all the things you think she should?” I asked.
“Well, then she would be happy like her mother and I, and the Lord would bless her.”
I could see that I was not going to get very far with Ruth’s father, so I thanked him for his information and asked if I could talk with ruth alone.
When the father had left, Ruth was still hesitant to talk. She refused to answer any of my questions with more than a yes or no. Finally I said, “Ruth, I think if I had to live with your father, I’d take drugs too. Does his attitude have anything to do with your discouragement?”
Ruth nodded. Her eyes filled with tears.
“You are an adult and this is an adults’ hospital,” I said. “I don’t see that you are in any danger to yourself or anyone else, so you are free to go. But before you leave, let me tell you what I think is going on.
“I don’t know all of the story, but I can tell that you’re very depressed, and I don’t think it is because you aren’t doing the things your father thinks you should do. I think there are other reasons, very good, logical reasons, that he doesn’t understand. If you would like to stay, I think we can help you to feel better. If you do stay, thought, it will have to be your choice, not his. If he’s upset about something, he can get help for himself.”
Ruth sat stiffly in her chair, staring at me through her tears. “I’ll leave you alone a few minutes to think about it,” I said.
Ruth did decide to check in, and what I had suspected was true. Ruth had had many years of “truth without grace.” As a result, she was experiencing the things the Bible says the law produces: bad feelings and failure. Everywhere she turned, she ran into some “should,” and very little acceptance. The law of sin and death had taken its toll on her, and it was a painful struggle for her to break free of its grip.
As I watched her struggle, I could not help thinking back to what the Bible says about truth without grace: it silences us, brings us anger, increases sin, arouses sinful passions, brings death, puts us under a curse, holds us prisoner, alienates us from Christ, and judges us harshly.
God, I feel terrible, constantly living in this this way of life. I feel like I’m constantly living with truth without grace and as a result, always bringing people around me under this same umbrella. I also constantly feel at war with myself, unfree of the bondage of judgment. I wish I had read this sooner, but I guess I wouldn’t be able to comprehend any of this at all without everything happening the way that it did. I feel like I am the father, unloving, and imparting on others truth without grace, always hurting others in the process because I show little acceptance and grace. However, I also feel like Ruth because I bear the weight of sin and feel burdened all the time. I have to strive to be mature, even when every part of my flesh says to do something different. I always feel like if I know something’s wrong, then there’s no excuse to not do that wrong act, and as a result, there shouldn’t be any grace because you always knew not to do it from the start. I’m just learning, God, that you’re not like that. You won’t judge me that way, and you don’t want me to treat others that way either. Lord, I’m sorry for mistreating brothers and sisters of mine this way, and I ask for forgiveness for doing so. I know not how my heart can change from this way of thinking of this way of living, but I want to change. Please continue to use this book to reveal to me areas of my life that fall short of your glory. Above all, help reveal to me areas where I should humble my heart, and teach me what it means to submit to your will.