Summary: Even the great saints among us, like the Apostle Paul, sang the blues from time to time. Paul was healed of his near-depression by supernatural intervention by God.
Singing the Blues With Paul
March 25, 2007
When Charles Goodyear was just twenty-six years old, he had made his first fortune. He had set up the first hardware store in America that sold only domestically manufactured farm implements. Everything was going in his direction. Then suddenly, things changed. Several of his suppliers closed their doors, unable to make a profit anymore, and Goodyear’s store soon followed, and he found himself in debtor’s prison.
Many people would have given up at that point, but Charles Goodyear had a dream. It was a dream to mass-producing rubber products. The problem with rubber at this time was that no one could stabilize it. In hot weather, it became sticky and soft. In cold weather, it was brittle and hard, and easily cracked. Since he had nothing much else to do with his time, he spent his days in prison experimenting with his wife’s rolling pin, trying to find the right formula that would make rubber stable and useful.
After prison, he continued his quest, spending the next five years in looking for just the right formula. But nothing worked. Many of us, most of us perhaps, would have given up and tried to find some other way to make a living, but Goodyear kept trying. Everywhere he went, and with everything he tried, he seemed like a failure.
In 1839, he went into a general store to demonstrate a new formula, but the gathered men laughed at him. In disgust, he threw his mixture on the potbellied stove in the store. He stormed out of the store, angry and humiliated once again, but just at the last minute, went back over to pick up the compound that was smoldering on the stove.
He expected to find a melted mess but instead saw that he rubber had perfectly cured. This was what he had been missing – heat. The simple solution for which he had been searching was heat. He named the new process vulcanization, after the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. So many things we take for granted today, from the tires on our cars to the rubber soles on our sneakers, come to us because one man wouldn’t give up.
I honestly can’t say how I would have reacted after all those failures. It would have been so easy to give up. It would have been so easy to get depressed and decide that this just wasn’t worth it. It would have so easy to just curl up, slink away, and stop trying.
One of the people in our Christian history that I admire the most, and one who I understand the least, is the Apostle Paul. I don’t know how he kept going. I don’t know how he kept his spirits up. I don’t know how he remained so enthusiastic – most of the time. He had low times, to be sure. Those are documented in Scripture. But I can’t imagine how he refused to give in to depression.
This week, I spent just a few minutes skimming the book of Acts, looking for reports of Paul’s struggles. He really had it rough. Here are just a few of the things I found with just a quick, cursory reading of Acts.
At first, some early Christians didn’t believe that his conversion was real, and tried to kill him. After he healed a man who had been crippled from birth, the bystanders thought that he was a god. He used that opportunity to tell them about the one true God and his Son Jesus. Jews stoned him.
He cast out a demon from a slave girl. She was a fortuneteller and was making a lot of money for her master. Since she no longer could tell fortunes, he lost this stream of income and blamed Paul. He had Paul thrown into prison. While there, he was beaten with rods and put into stocks.
He faced another death threat, was arrested in Jerusalem, had another death threat directed at him. He was under house arrest for two years. On his way to Rome for trial before the Emperor, he was shipwrecked. On dry ground, he was bitten by a poisonous snake and then spent another long period of time under arrest in Rome.
Paul himself wrote about his troubles:
…but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in everyway: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…dishonor…ill repute…treated as impostors…punished…sorrowful, having nothing… (II Corinthians 6:4-10).
Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits danger from my own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. (II Corinthians 11:24-27).