Spiritual Depression // Psalm 42

This originally published last year but it’s been on my mind this week, so here it is again.

In the 1960’s D.Martin Lloyd-Jones had a series of sermons published as a book called ‘Spiritual Depression‘ and a pastor I know recently said it was the best Christian book he had ever read and that it changed his life. 

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. 

Have you ever felt like that?

Still sure of the big truths of God’s Word, yet struggling to see how they will help you in your day to day life? 

You know, and trust, and believe with all your belief that what the Bible teaches about life, death, Jesus, and eternity is true, but you sometimes struggle to overcome the mundane melodramas of everyday life?

In Psalm 42, we read this:

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.

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: not meeting with other believers to worship God has led the Psalmist to a place of spiritual depression, a place where he feels that his soul is downcast, and that 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 of the seasons of life we are in, 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. 

Has there been, in most of our lifetimes, a season like the last two years? Seasons of life like this affect us all. There will have been days where we don’t see the sanctifying process and God’s providential progress at work in our lives.

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

There will be days when we doubt.

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

The key is to hope in God, His Word to us 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 that 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.

Labour Day – Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11.28, NET)

Today in Bahrain is Labour Day, historically celebrated as a day of rest from work and the burdens of daily life. Many around the world have physically demanding jobs, intellectually demanding jobs, or emotionally demanding jobs, and labour day is a day to rest, recharge, and recover. 

In Matthew 11 Jesus is speaking to those who would follow Him by grace and through faith (vv.25-26). In contrast to the tireless and endless task of trying to know God through our own efforts and exertions Jesus says that no one knows the Father except [Him] and anyone to whom [He] decides to reveal Him.

The work and the burden of knowing God is something that people have struggled with since people have been around (Psalm 119.10, Jeremiah 24.7, Hosea 6.3). We have an inbuilt sense to seek after something greater than ourselves and this inevitably leads us, one way or another, to God, the creator of heaven and earth. The work and the burden of knowing Him through our own efforts and exertions is tireless and endless because, simply, He is God and we are not (Isaiah 55.8-9, 64.6). There is a fundamental difference between Him and us that we cannot fathom ourselves. We needed Him to condescend to us and reveal Himself to us so that we can rest from the work of seeking Him (the exchange of Philippians 2) ¹.

Instead of bearing the burden of seeking God on your own, of looking for ways to be forgiven for the wrong you have done, instead of becoming weary and heavy laden with guilt or shame over the sins you have committed, take the words of Jesus to heart by grace and through faith this labour day:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11.28, NET)