Spiritual Depression – Where Is Your Faith? – Luke 8.22-25

In Luke 8 we see the disciples enduring a trial and a question from Jesus that illustrate how we can all move through the difficulties that life throws at us:

“One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. Now a violent windstorm came down on the lake, and the boat started filling up with water, and they were in danger. They came and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are about to die!” So he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they died down, and it was calm. Then he said to them, “Where is your faith?” But they were afraid and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!””

(vv.22-25, NET)

Lloyd-Jones writes that there are many Christians who get into difficulty and are unhappy from time to time because they clearly have not understood the nature of faith. Again, we’re not expecting a trouble-free, plain-sailing life once we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour (cf. James 1.2-3), but to crumble and to backslide when life gets difficult is something that shouldn’t happen to the believer. Storm and trials are part of life, Lloyd-Jones goes on to say, and to think we will never face trial or tribulation is a terrible fallacy and a delusion. Jesus redirects the disciples’ thoughts and feelings in the midst of difficulty by saying

“Where is your faith?”

So, how do we positively move through trial and tribulation with the faith that His question assumes we have? We’re given a couple of clear points in Spiritual Depression;

1. Refuse to allow ourselves to be controlled by the situation.

This is hard, isn’t it? Some situations do feel like they are controlling you, storms on boats, for example. Things are happening, things are said, things are planned that are just out of our control and the feeling is one of being driven and directed by what’s going on around us rather than having any input or influence. When things get like this, our faith is our refusal to panic. We refuse to be controlled by what’s going on and we refuse to panic because we believe in a God who is bigger and greater that what’s going on and Sovereign over all. 

2. Hold on to what you know is true. 

You know who you are and you know whose you are (John 1.12, Genesis 1.27). When life gets difficult we go back to what we know is true and we go from there, we reason from what [we] know to be fact. We know that God loves us, gave what was most precious to Him to save us, exchanged heaven for here to redeem us, and became poor so we could become rich. When life gets difficult we lean into our faith and go back to what we know to be true. 

3. Bring all you know to be true of your relationship to God to bear upon your trial. 

Similar to #2, in the midst of trial and tribulation we know that God is there, an ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46.1), that He loves you as a prefect Father (1 Chronicles 17.13), and that He will never allow anything to happen to you that is truly harmful (Romans 8.28-29).

Sometimes points like these can leave us feeling even more overwhelmed, maybe like, “How am I going to manage that when I can’t even get through…‘. If you feel like that, don’t worry. Lloyd-Jones closes with this, a great passage to take into our day:

Spiritual Depression – Labourers In The Vineyard – Matthew 20.1-16

As we’ve been working through Spiritual Depression by D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones we’ve established some base truths. Now then, where do we go from here? We have, in his own words, “…arrived at a turning point” and we “must take a step forward”.

When we come to believe in Jesus we are never promised a trouble-free life (1 John 3.13, for example). We should never fall into the trap of thinking that all will be plain sailing now we consider ourselves Christians (Luke 4.13). Lloyd-Jones uses Matthew 20.1-16 and the parable of the labourers in the vineyard to make a point with which we can move forward through times of spiritual difficulty.

First, it fixes our attention on the things to come, not on the transient troubles of the world (cf. Colossians 3.2-3):

“For the kingdom of heaven is like…”

(Matthew 20.1, NET)

Second, Lloyd-Jones writes that what we take from this parable is that in our Christian lives “…all is of grace from the very beginning to the very end”.

Some of the labourers started well but fell into trouble later on (Matthew 20.11). Having been invited into the fold early in the day they resented those that came later but received the same (v.12). They began in the grace of their master but fell into feelings and attitudes of entitlement and expected-ease.

For you and me and our propensity to struggle with spiritual depression the lesson is clear: “It is not enough to start correctly, we must continue in the right way”. Starting off the Christian life full of the joys of grace received is wonderful, but when troubles strike we often revert to factory settings and try to deal with problems ourselves and in the flesh. We consequently become, as Lloyd-Jones writes, miserable Christians, because we feel like we’re fighting alone.

The kingdom of heaven is all about grace. Grace to enter, grace to stay, and grace to grow. It’s when we try to take the reigns and do things our way that things start to go wrong. Let us commit today to “take a step forward” by grace and through faith, away from spiritual depression and away from self.

Spiritual Depression – Feelings

Feelings are important, aren’t they?

We just can’t get away from them, too.

Maybe this scenario sounds familiar to you: you find yourself feeling down, depressed, or in disarray, and then you end up feeling guilty for feeling like this. It can be a vicious cycle that is hard to break, and one I have found myself in many times. Perhaps you then think to yourself ‘well, I’m a Christian, I should never feel like this…’ and, ironically, this then adds to your ill-feelings. Feelings are complex, aren’t they?

Some of how you feel is going to be down to who you are, how you’re made. One mental health professional told me that the likelihood of us falling into clinical depression is, in part, genetic. Who you are, unique you, doesn’t change when you become a believer in Jesus. We see this truth in action in how believers suffer with other bodily ailments, right? So, simply, if how you are wired naturally leads you to a gloomier outlook on life, if you lean towards bouts of depression without even trying then, sadly, becoming a believer won’t magically take this away.

As varied as our giftings and talents are,

varied are the battles we face and the ways that we process them. 

The good news about this is that even though becoming a believer won’t magically take away your feelings on certain things, your perspective on life, your natural disposition, it will give you something far greater and more important and more powerful than feelings to rely on – truth. 

Rather than work and toil and struggle to control and generate the appropriate feelings about the appropriate things (an impossible task), we ought to focus on what is true in our lives and what is true about ourselves. 

Becoming a believer in Jesus, a Christian, doesn’t take away your feelings on things. God made unique you to feel uniquely about anything and everything there is to have a feeling about (Psalm 139.14). But, becoming a believer in Jesus, a Christian, means acknowledging and accepting fundamental truths about yourself and the world we live in that are far more important and influential than how we feel about things. D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes on this,

That is something constantly emphasised in the Scriptures. After all, what we have in the Bible is Truth; it is not an emotional stimulus…It is primarily Truth, and Truth is addressed to the mind, God’s supreme gift to man; and it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to the truth that the feelings follow. 

What he is saying then, is this – becoming a believer, accepting and acknowledging the truths of Scripture, first and foremost, is not an emotional exercise, it is something to be understood and accepted. Feelings will then follow. Truth informs our feelings, but our feelings aren’t always true. 

Do you believe what is written in Scripture?

Do you believe what is written and taught about Jesus, and what He did for you?

Do you believe that by placing faith in Him you are justified before God? 

When feelings of spiritual depression strike, when you wake to find yourself feeling down, depressed, or in disarray, remind yourself of the truths about yourself: of who you are, of whose you are, of what the Word of God says about you, of what Jesus did for you, and of what Jesus will do for you.

Your feelings are important, but more important is what God says about you.

Spiritual Depression – Fear Of The Future

We are all born different, aren’t we?

It is one way we see the wondrous workings of God: all made differently yet able to be so unified in belief, thought, action, heart, and mind. When we think of the future some are excited, some are worried, some are paralysed with fear, and some are confused. So, what do we do?

Importantly, we need to distinguish between thinking about the future well, and worrying about the future unnecessarily. Lloyd-Jones writes that there is a difference between ‘legitimate forethought and paralysing forethought‘. One allows a farmer to plow the field and sow his seed, the other can lead us to a paralysed present because of what-if worries. 

We have talked before about leaving the past in the past, but also just as true is worrying about a future we cannot control. Many times in Scripture we see this idea of ‘think about today, today, and let tomorrow be tomorrow‘ (Matthew 6.25-34 for example). 

When fear of the future strikes us, which it inevitably does despite the varied makeups of our character including those who seem to be unruffled and steadfastly sure, where do we look?

“…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1.7

The Spirit of power is that which raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8.11), and this power now indwells you as a fully regenerate born-again believer. Now, this is not to say you can go around resurrecting people, but, this needs to be a constant reminder that we give ourselves – the Holy Spirit lives in me, God has given me a spirit not of fear, but of power.

When we are tempted to worry about an unknown future, we must commit our unknown future to a known God as Corrie Ten Boom said. The Spirit of love allows us to know that we are loved by God Most High, that we take the focus off self-love, self-care, self-protection and rest in the fact that the Spirit of love surrounds us, cares for us, and will protect us even from ourselves.

The Spirit of self-control gives us, seemingly miraculously for some, the ability to soak in God’s Word, to understand the timeless truths therein, and to internalise this so deeply that when troubles come, when trials cross our paths, we have a mind that is so saturated with the Word and the truths of God that we can maintain control and not veer off into unnecessary future worry.   

“…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1.7

Lloyd-Jones closes the discussion on future fears like this,

…to those who are particularly prone to spiritual depression through…fear of the future, I say in the Name of God…talk to yourself, remind yourself of what is true…remind yourself of who you are and what you are, and of what Spirit is within you…and you will be able to go steadily forward, fearing nothing, living in the present, ready for the future, with one desire only, to glorify Him who gave His all for you.