Spiritual Depression – Mind, Heart, and Will – Romans 6.17-18/Romans 12.1-2

17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

So far in our mini-series on spiritual depression we have looked at the causes of this all-too-common condition. If you haven’t read any of the previous pieces you can do here.

Today we see that there is a whole life response needed to the truths of Jesus to avoid spiritual depression. We know that the whole counsel of God’s Word is needed to communicate the truths of Jesus, and it stands to reason then that our whole lives must be influenced and affected by it.

Romans 6.17-18 points to the whole person, as does Romans 12.1-2, and we read of obedience, the heart, the standard of teaching, and being slaves of righteousness.

We need balance in our Christian life in order to avoid spiritual depression, and to experience all that God has for us.

If we focus on the mind only, we become brainy and insightful with no desire to serve.

If we focus on the emotion only, we become overly emotional in our faith but lack understanding.

If we focus on the will only, we become fired up to serve, but don’t really connect with those we are serving.

The whole truth of Jesus needs a whole life response – mind, emotion, and will, or head, heart, and hands.

Lloyd-Jones speaks into the balance needed to live the fruitful Christian life, and offers this in response to those to focus on only one element of their person,

These are the people who decide to take up Christianity instead of being taken up by Christianity.

He goes on to call them spiritual monstrosities, and says that if truth is not first understood and internalised then the heart and hands will never work properly, so to speak.

The order suggested is this – head, then heart, then hands.

First we must understand what it is we are responding to. Understand why Jesus shedding His blood for you was such a big deal. Understand the huge change that has taken place within you, and the power that now lives in you.

When this is understood, the heart is softened, and the hands are readied.

Lloyd-Jones writes

Truth is received through God’s greatest gift to man, the mind, the understanding.

Simply then, one big step on the road to avoiding spiritual depression is to order the way God’s truth flows into our lives, first head, then heart, then hands.

Let us commit today to understanding and knowing more about our great God, and having hearts softened and hands readied by this wonderful truth.

Spiritual Depression – Men As Trees, Walking – Mark 8

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones has said multiple times so far in our mini-series that ‘it is sad and tragic that a Christian should ever be miserable‘, and he stated that some are miserable because they do not know they are justified before God purely by faith, requiring nothing but belief on their part. Today he offers up problems and remedies for two groups of people.

The first is the person who unhappy with who they are. They are unhappy with the world, themselves, themselves in the world, and often despair over the ‘hand life dealt them‘, as they may say. They have seen the problem with the world, but not the hope of believing in Jesus. They have asked no-one for help, and are not likely to.

Others see the ‘excellencies of the Christian life‘, and wholeheartedly exhort others to live the kind of life that Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount. They know they cannot save themselves from the consequences of sin, but have not yet fully understood justification by faith, and this tension is difficult for them. They have asked to be healed of their blindness (vv.22-23), but have not yet said that things are not all that clear right now (v.24).

Lloyd-Jones offers the remedy in simple form;

  1. Learn and understand the principles and doctrines of the matter at hand.
  2. Fully engage the heart and mind to the matter at hand.
  3. Commit your will to the matter at hand.

The teaching of the full counsel of God’s Word, properly understood, taken to heart, and allowed to influence our will, over time, will remedy both the hopeless and the tense.

Seeing ourselves for who we truly are and seeing Jesus for who He truly is, seeing what we can and can’t do and seeing what Jesus has done, and understanding the teaching of Scripture on how we are saved will take away the hopelessness from the hopeless, and will take away the tension from the tense.

If we don’t understand the teachings and the doctrines instantly, that’s ok, but find someone in your life that you trust to walk you through it all, reach out to them, and ask.

We don’t want to see a world full of trees walking around, we want to live our lives with the clarity that comes from being honest with ourselves, with the Lord, with those around us, and asking for more.

Lloyd-Jones writes this,

Do you believe that the Son of God came from heaven and lived and did all He did on earth, that He died on a cross and was buried and rose again, that He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, in order to leave us in a state of confusion? It is impossible. He came that we might see clearly, that we might know God…

…If you are unhappy about yourself as a result [of being honest with yourself], come to Him, come to His Word, wait upon Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him, ask Him…and He will do it, and you will no longer be an uncertain Christian seeing and not seeing.

Spiritual Depression – The True Foundation – Romans 3.28

…For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law…

Romans 3.28

The main take-home point last time was that we must turn to the Word of God when we feel down, when we doubt, or when we feel abandoned. If we rely on our own feelings, these change like the weather and will leave us open to every wind of change that blows past us.

Today, the true foundation, what are we built on? 

Lloyd-Jones writes about Christians who are very interested in Christian things, but don’t seem to be like the believers of the Bible; vibrant, excited, joyful, positive, and hopeful. He calls this group ‘miserable Christians‘.

Understanding what Christianity is all about and (for the majority) agreeing with it, the miserable Christian simply assumes that this is enough; to know, to understand, to outwardly agree with the major tenets of the faith. If there are some things you think you have a better handle on than the Bible, then, well, you can just keep quiet about that because you’re doing your own thing anyway…

What is missing for the miserable Christian is an insight into self in light of a relationship with Jesus. 

When we see who He truly is, how He truly is, where He truly is, we cannot help but see ourselves in the cold light of day…and it’s not pretty is it. The miserable Christian doesn’t really see the need for having a Saviour because they think they are not that bad, but, Christianity makes sense to them so they go along with it. 

The believer who has seen himself or herself for who they truly are, a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God, sees the need for a Saviour.

The believer who knows the truth about themselves is aware of their sinfulness and is convicted of their sinfulness. 

The miserable Christian has heard Christ preached and appreciated what was on offer.

The believer has heard Christ preached and has been brought to a point of knowing that this is an absolute necessity for them in their life. 

The believer then sees verses like Romans 3.28 wherein we are reminded that we are seen as right and just and holy by God purely through faith in Jesus and by nothing we have done, are doing, or can ever do. The believer who knows their own sinfulness then responds to this with vibrancy in their life, with excitement, with joy, with positivity, and with a sure and steadfast hope for the future.

Lloyd-Jones writes,

Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realise that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again.

Say “It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ”.

It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you.

Take that first step and you will find that immediately you will begin to experience joy and a release that you have never known in your life before.

The true foundation for the life that we all so deeply desire is faith in something sure, steadfast, supreme, and sufficient. 

The true foundation is faith in Jesus. 

Even Then

Most Thursday’s we have a devotional with a bit of music, and today we’ve got Even Then by Micah Tyler.

On the nights when the dark lasts a little bit longer
When the wind and the storm is a little bit stronger
When the fear in my heart dips a little bit deeper
When my faith to stand gets a little bit weaker

Where could I run to?
Where could I go?

There will be times in our lives when things get tough, when we experience periods where we think ‘Where are you Lord?’, when we have doubts of emotion and feel as if nothing will ever get any better. 

I read recently that when things are happening that we don’t understand, we must fall back on the things we do understand. When life gets rough and tough where do we run, where do we go?

Psalm 73 offers a very present help in times of need and trouble,

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

It should come as a great comfort to us that the Lord never lets go (John 10.28) of those who have turned to Him in faith. When the dark, stormy, fear-filled times come along, we have an ever present help in our times of need. We must turn first and foremost to the Word of God in times of trouble, not our own feelings, not someone else’s experience, the solid, tried, true, and tested Word of God. 

It is always good to start with the Bible, where there is explicit teaching on every condition…

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones

He is our refuge and strength, He is in our midst, He will help, He is with us.

We need only be still and know that the Lord of hosts is with us (Psalm 46).

Spiritual Depression – General Considerations – Psalm 42

In the 1960’s D.Martin Lloyd-Jones had a series of sermons published as a book called ‘Spiritual Depression‘. A Pastor I know recently said it was the best Christian book he had ever read, and that it changed his life. As providence would have it, I had an old copy in the office, so, as I read through it I’ll share it too. In between this on-and-off series if you have suggestions for Bible books you would like to see as devotionals, leave a comment and let me know!

Lloyd-Jones writes that spiritual depression is a condition that appears in both the Old and New Testaments, and seems to be one of the major issues that God’s people have to deal with. How they deal with it will be illuminating and instructive for us. 

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 42.5, 11 (KJV)

The Psalmist is sharing his woes and it’s suggested that his spiritual depression is due to not being able to gather with others in the public worship of God (vv.2-4). How interesting, that not meeting with other believers to worship God has led the Psalmist to a place of spiritual depression, where he feels that his soul is downcast, his very being is feeling blue. 

When we face similar periods of spiritual sadness, drought, and depression, we would do well to turn to the Word to see how to move through this. 

It is always good to start with the Bible, where there is explicit teaching on every condition and it also good to look at examples and illustrations [in principles] from the same source.

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones, 1964, P.10

The big thing to remember when this kind of feeling comes upon us is this –

it is vital to take the teaching of the Word of God first and foremost.

Feelings, experiences, Janet-down-the-road’s-friend’s-story, our own interpretations, emotions, all of this must come second to the explicit teaching of the Word of God and the principles therein.

If something we feel or experience doesn’t line up with the Bible, we shouldn’t put any stock into it as a method for moving through the spiritual depression we may be feeling. 

Period of feeling like this will affect us all.

There will be days where we don’t see the sanctifying process and progress at work in our lives.

There will be days when we feel like we are going backwards.

There will be says when we doubt.

There will be days where our behaviour is even more un-Christian than before we believed.

We see great heroes of the faith in the Bible experience periods of feeling like this, but the key is to hope in God, His Word gives us an abundance of reasons to do so, and know that we shall yet praise Him for the help he brings. 

When we do this, our attitude and feelings are supernaturally changed in His perfect timing to a point where we can say I shall yet praise Him, for He is the health of my life, and my God

We will move from knowing He will help us, to knowing He has helped us.