I want to pick up our thoughts on spiritual depression. Many have reached out to me in various ways since that first article a month ago, and I think it wise for us to handle this subject with great care. Depression. Just the word is heavy and dark. If you remember from my last article, it is biblically correct to define it as “Ordinary sadness that is stuck or infected. A person caught in spiritual depression feels that God has left them and they are spiritually and emotionally alone” (Zack Eswine). Many people, even within the Church, deal with spiritual depression on a daily basis. They spiral out of control. They try to find meaning in life and are stuck. The Scriptures have much to say about spiritual depression. Some of the godliest men and women have had it.
Now, I know that some of you are thinking that being in a state of daily despair is contrary to Christianity. But that is not the case. Yes, spiritual depression can lead to sin, but in and of itself, it is not sin. Show me in the Scriptures otherwise. Thus, the question at hand is, “I have it, what do I do with it? How do I get unstuck from my deep sadness?” A look at the Word of God gives us a quick answer to these questions. I say quick, because the newspaper has a word limit for any article I produce for it. If you have a Bible as you are reading this, open it to Psalm 77. This is a Psalm from Asaph, the choir director. In the first few verses you will see heart anguish—sadness that is infected. Things are spinning out of control, and he cries out to God. He comes boldly to the Lord and brings his complaints. His theology is intact. He knows to go to God when life is sour and hurtful. He knows also that God will listen to him as he cries out. This is very helpful to understand. If you love Christ and He is your Lord and Savior, He will not forsake you. One of the first things you must do is go to Him and lay out what is on your heart (1 Peter 5:7). Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of Grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” When we are in deep depression, we need help from the Lord, who will supply us with His abundant grace. He is sufficient. Asaph continues to lay his sorrows at the feet of our Lord until verse 9, where he ends a series of rhetorical questions: “Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His loving kindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah.” Of course, the answer is NO! Scripture tells us that God does not change. There is not an end to His grace. His promises last for eternity. But what we know to be right about God clashes with our emotions. In this case, Asaph’s perception about God needs to change. Though he doesn’t see the hand of God moving in his life, He must trust in the character of this great and living God.
Clearly, Asaph is seeing things wrong; when someone is in spiritual depression, that is often the case. Truth is sometimes questioned. The agony of knowing God’s goodness clashes with the deep despair of the heart. In Asaph’s case, he needs to right the ship. Something must change. In verses 10–20, we see that there is a radical change in what Asaph knows to be true about God, compared with his circumstances and grief. His spiritual depression is washed by God’s greatness, as he remembers the times God’s hand did move. Continue to read. Verses 11–12 tell us, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” “I will remember . . . I will mediate . . .” He remembers how God intervened and showed His goodness to him and Israel in the past. And then he launches into theology, the attributes of God, which he knows don’t change no matter in what situation he finds himself.
Asaph realizes that his emotions have lied to him, that what he saw as reality was false, and his heart begins to change. He marvels in verses 13–15, “Your way, O God is holy; What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. You have by Your power redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.” Asaph sees that God is holy, unlike anyone else. All His ways are righteous and good. He sees that God is great. His works and deeds are displayed, and the whole world bows down to Him. He redeems and cares for His people. At the end of the Psalm, Asaph recounts an example of God moving and helping His people.
So, quickly, what do we learn from this Psalm? For one thing, if we are hurt or depressed, if we find ourselves in a dark valley, there is nothing wrong with expressing those feelings to God. Does Asaph have doubts? You bet. His doubt here is not sin, though, because though he expresses it, he doesn’t stay in it. He goes to truth, and the truth sets him free. Second, understand, beloved, that as much we want God to take us out of the situation that has caused our spiritual depression, He often wants us to trust Him and allow Him to lead us through the situation. I can’t promise you that your spiritual depression will ever go away, but I can promise you that the way through your spiritual depression is dependence on Jesus, His truth, and His character. According to this Psalm, what is the practical way through? Remember God’s Word; remember His promises. It helps our minds to meditate on what is true and right and good. It checks our doubts and fears. It is said of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon that he put notes all over his house to keep the promises of God ever present before him. Beloved, the promises of the Word of God, the Scriptures, becomes the solid ground that a spiritually depressed soul can walk on to make it through the day. They allow you to take a step toward what is good and right in God. The promises of Scripture become the food for the survival of a troubled spirit. What do you do if you have spiritual depression? Psalm 77 tells you to you walk through your spiritual depression with your mind and heart fixed on God and His truth. Cast your cares on Him. He can handle your heartache. Until next time, walk in His truth.