How Can a Godly Person Be Depressed – I Thought Christians Were Supposed to Be Joyful All the Time?! #209 #Depression #Hope
Hello friends and welcome to another Friday – the weekend is upon us, the pandemic has not abated, and yet God is still on His throne sovereignly directing the affairs of humanity and working all things together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. Take a deep breath and relax into His hands and His plan. In this world we will have tribulation, but take heart, says Jesus – He has overcome the world!
Today’s Bible passages are Judges 7, Acts 11, Jeremiah 20 and Matthew 6. Our focus passage goes back to Jeremiah, and though this episode may seem to be a downer, I’d like to tell you that it is not. There is hope here, and an authentic and unvarnished look at what the Word of God teaches about despair, sadness and depression. At the beginning of Jeremiah 20, Jeremiah is beaten under the orders of the sunshine-pumping false prophet Pashur. Jeremiah does not rejoice at this beating, but in frustration composes a heart-rending lament that ends with a question:
Why did I come out of the womb
to see only struggle and sorrow,
to end my life in shame?
This passage, and many others like it, demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that a faithful follower of God can experience deep despair or be depressed. While we have discussed this issue in some depth before, on episode 123, “Can Christians Be Depressed,” I think it is a worthy topic to bring up again, because I think the world right now is seeing an unprecedented (in my lifetime) level of depression both in the church and outside of the church. Even a spiritual giant as great as Charles Spurgeon experienced the depths of depression, writing:
“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.’” Charles Spurgeon.
Spurgeon isn’t the only one – Jeremiah experienced these depressions of spirit as did Elijah, Moses, Paul, David the Psalmist, Solomon, Ezekiel, Hannah the intercessor and many other mighty men and women of God. Some wrestle occasionally with depression, and some regularly, but I see nothing in the Bible that indicates that a Christian should expect a life free of trouble, tribulation, despair or depression, even. And yes, I am fully aware of that great command of the apostle:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God
The same one that penned that commandment under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit also penned this description of his state of mind when he was in Asia:
8 We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.
2nd Corinthians 1:7-9
The same Nehemiah who said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10) also wrote, “4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4)
3 Truths to Rejoice In: (and note that these aren’t ‘cures for depression.’)
- Jesus came to bring good news to the brokenhearted. In His FIRST sermon, He unrolls the scroll of Isaiah, reads Isaiah 61, and then says that He has come to fulfill this Scripture. At some point in the future – the near future, the middle future, or the far future, the son of God will wipe every tear from your eye and sadness will be no more, because He is coming with healing in His wings. He may heal you now – or very soon – or His healing may tarry until He returns, but those crying now will not cry long, and will not cry forever.
The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; – Isaiah 61:1
- Our Heavenly Father has a particular love and affinity for the brokenhearted. Psalms 34:18 “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. 5 Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite. 6 The Lord helps the afflicted – Psalms 147:3-6
- Real and lasting peace will always come from Jesus. We may not always perceive it well – our senses are so often dulled by our sin, by our humanity, by the world and by our tribulations, but that does not mean that He has not given us His peace, and left it with us. John 16:33 33 “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” Lest you think I am giving you a hollow, fake and untested hope here, let me give you a quote from William Gucker:“Listen to how he, Jesus, leads us into happiness. It’s not pie in the sky, philosophical merely spiritual happiness, it’s actual, tangible, real happiness, based on real promises, based on real acts and things that happened in history.”Who is William J. Gucker, you might be asking? Great question. I found mr. Gucker on Youtube last year through a beautiful comment he made on a worship song. Most comments on Youtube show off the worst of humanity, but I was moved by Mr. Gucker’s comment when he wrote:
Married 18 yrs and 7 children. Brain cancer. Looking to die well and leave my kids with the same joy that I’ve found in Christ. This song captures exactly what I want them to know. Thank you.
I am sad to report that Saint Gucker left the earth last year, but when he wrote the above about happiness in Jesus, he knew he had brain cancer, and he knew he was dying. This is a man who was facing a most terrifying reality, so when he talks about the happiness of Jesus, we should listen and snap to attention. Let’s read his quote again.
I don’t want to minimize depression in the least. Sometimes medicine is necessary, and that is not a sin, but sometimes, as Spurgeon will tell us in a moment, the best efforts of both doctors and ministers will fall short of taming the dark beast of depression and Divine rescue is our only hope…and thanks be to God that it is a sure and certain hope. Deliverance will come now, it will come soon, or it will come in a while…but deliverance will indeed come for all who are in Christ. Let’s close with Spurgeon:
When troubles multiply, and discouragements follow each other in long succession, like Job’s messengers, then, too, amid the perturbation of soul occasioned by evil tidings, despondency despoils the heart of all its peace. Constant dropping wears away stones, and the bravest minds feel the fret of repeated afflictions. If a scanty cupboard is rendered a severer trial by the sickness of a wife or the loss of a child, and if ungenerous remarks of hearers are followed by the opposition of deacons and the coolness of members, then, like Jacob, we are apt to cry, “All these things are against me.” When David returned to Ziklag and found the city burned, goods stolen, wives carried off, and his troops ready to stone him, we read, “he encouraged himself in his God;” and well was it for him that he could do so, for he would then have fainted if he had not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Accumulated distresses increase each other’s weight; they play into each other’s hands, and, like bands of robbers, ruthlessly destroy our comfort. Wave upon wave is severe work for the strongest swimmer. The place where two seas meet strains the most seaworthy keel. If there were a regulated pause between the buffetings of adversity, the spirit would stand prepared; but when they come suddenly and heavily, like the battering of great hailstones, the pilgrim may well be amazed. The last ounce breaks the camel’s back, and when that last ounce is laid upon us, what wonder if we for awhile are ready to give up the ghost!This evil will also come upon us, we know not why, and then it is all the more difficult to drive it away. Causeless depression is not to be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness. One affords himself no pity when in this case, because it seems so unreasonable, and even sinful to be troubled without manifest cause; and yet troubled the man is, even in the very depths of his spirit. If those who laugh at such melancholy did but feel the grief of it for one hour, their laughter would be sobered into compassion. Resolution might, perhaps, shake it off, but where are we to find the resolution when the whole man is unstrung? The physician and the man of God may unite their skill in such cases, and both find their hands full, and more than full. The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back; and when that hand is seen we cry with the apostle, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Cor. 1:3, 4. It is the God of all consolation who can—
“With sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse our poor bosoms of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart.”
Simon sinks till Jesus takes him by the hand. The devil within rends and tears the poor child till the word of authority commands him to come out of him. When we are ridden with horrible fears, and weighed down with an intolerable incubus, we need but the Sun of Righteousness to rise, and the evils generated of our darkness are driven away; but nothing short of this will chase away the nightmare of the soul.
C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle., vol. 1 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1875), 176–177.