Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

It is hard for me to believe that we are actually embarking into the year 2009. Maybe that is because the older I get, the faster time seems to go. It reminds me of the story of the Indian guide who, when asked why he suddenly stopped on the trail and sat down, said: “I’m waiting for my soul to catch up with my body.”

Now that the big celebrations are over, and we wave “goodbye” to 2008, our attention turns to the New Year with its many daunting challenges.  As we survey the condition of the world, and especially that of our own country, depression, like a haunting shadow, may begin to nip at our heels. In fact, those who are well informed can be targets for depression that resembles an emotional tsunami. Now, if there’s anything Americans hate, and try to avoid like the plague, it is depression. After all, high on the list of the prevailing American philosophy is “happiness.” Thus, when depression rears its ugly head, countless numbers stampede to their doctor or psychiatrist for a mood-lifting, emotional-masking prescription of some sort in order to avoid facing whatever it is that has dared to deposit gloominess in the place of happy feelings. Others turn to stimulants while many immerse themselves in sports, movies or partying.

Granted, there can be various causes of depression, but the depression I am talking about is the depression that accompanies a realistic view, or perspective, of this present world. King Solomon’s observation of this fact is timely for us today. He wrote: “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” Ecclesiastes 1:18. Let us face it—this includes Christians as well as non-Christians. Of course, among the “happy-clappy” religious bunch, it is considered far less of a sin to lie about one’s depression than to frankly admit its presence. Maybe a person can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but no one can fool God any of the time. He knows our hearts, and understands our emotional state, our innermost thoughts, and, not only when we are depressed, but why.

Depression knows no bounds as far as the past, present and future are concerned, and Satan knows how to operate in all three “time zones” in order to bring condemnation, hopelessness and fear. Concerning the past, all of us have one, and the longer you live, the greater it naturally becomes. Sometimes remembering happier or better times can cause depression, as we face the fact that those times are gone. However, where the greatest depression concerning the past occurs is when Satan works to bring about condemnation. For me, it goes like this: “Remember when you made those super stupid decisions because of your selfishness?” “Remember when you ignored sound advice from others and did your own thing because of being stupid, selfish, and stubborn?” “Remember when you could’ve helped so-and-so and you were too busy giving in the wrong places?” “Remember such-and-such a situation when you could have been a better witness…or done more to help…or been a better Christian?” “Remember when you passed up the opportunity to show more love or comfort to such-and-such a person?” “Remember when you sinned by commission, or sinned by omission?” On and on it goes. One thing is for sure and certain, and that is this, the enemy of our souls does not have Alzheimer’s!

Obviously, none of us can relive, undo, alter, or change the past. What is done is done. What was left undone is undone. Regardless of whom you are, nagging regrets, guilt and shame, along with hurts, wounds and sorrow, if left unresolved, can cause deep depression. Over 900 years before Christ King Solomon summed it up thusly: “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Ecclesiastes 1:14, 7:20.  Solomon’s father, King David, lamented “For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me” Psalm 40:12. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me” Psalm 42:11a?

Depression can certainly cause a person’s heart to “fail,” causing lethargy, and lack of initiative. It can result in “neutralizing” a person emotionally and mentally, and renders them vulnerable to demonic attack, which if not dealt with, in many instances, can result in suicide. The children of Israel all became depressed in the wilderness as recorded in Numbers 21:4 which states: “And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.” (Emphasis added.) Frankly speaking, depression is nothing new. I’m sure Adam and Eve were more than a little depressed when the Lord God drove them from the Garden of Eden!

Depression in our present state can be the result of an accumulation of physical, mental and emotional upheaval. If a person is already suffering from on going unresolved past issues, and then subsequently hit with financial, physical, relational, or other challenges and losses, depression can hit with the force of an avalanche. Regardless of the cause, every person, whether he or she wants to admit it or not, has times when they definitely do not feel like a little sunbeam of joy, and when everything is quite out of perspective.        This includes believers.

Sadly, those “religious” leaders who wield the greatest influence today are presenting a morphed form of Christianity that neither our Lord nor His followers would recognize. This “updated” version of “Christianity” has indoctrinated multitudes into the New Age “positive” thinking, believing, and speaking cult. Therefore, any admission of depression or, for that matter, sickness or any other perplexing problems (and especially sin) is unacceptable. After all, now that we have been “enlightened” by our god-like leaders, who “preach” from blasphemous contortions of the Word of God (such as “The Message”) and other demonically inspired books that claim we are “little gods” with the “divine life” within us, how can we dare be truthful and honest about where we really are? The answer is we cannot. Therefore, we end up lying to both others and ourselves, and what a lovely mess that makes.

The fact is that many of God’s people through the ages have hit depression. Take, for example, Moses. InNumbers 11:14, 15 we read Moses’ lament to God: “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.” You might be thinking, “Wow! Praying to die? Well, Moses just didn’t have his head screwed on right, and He obviously didn’t have enough faith. I’m sure he’s the only one who felt that way in the Bible.” Well, what do you think about the great prophet, Elijah? Surely, such a great man of God would always be on top of things. However, we read in 1 Kings 19:4: “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, it is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” What a low point this was for the Prophet! Then there is the righteous Job who said: “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures. So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life” Job 3:20, 21; 7:15. Jeremiah the Prophet lamented: “When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me” Jeremiah 8:18. The prophet Jonah likewise prayed: “Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live” Jonah 4:3.  

Are you and I any better, or more “spiritually advanced” or righteous than Moses, King David, King Solomon, Elijah, Jeremiah, Job or Jonah? Why is that admitting to the fact we are depressed, or sick, or any number of other things considered “wrong”, “spiritually inferior”, or even “sinful”? Allow me to tell you what the core of the problem is—it is simply not acceptable to the “spiritual elite” to admit that we are (oh gasp!) human. How can we be human with human feelings, faults and failures if we are supposedly “divine” and “superior” in every way to others? Are we above our Lord who agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating “as it were great drops of blood” and beseeched His Father, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” Luke 22:42? In short, just who do we think we are, to change the truth (that we are human) into a lie (that we are not)?

The man Moses was telling the truth when he confessed to God that he could no longer bear the burden of the Israelites. It was physically, emotionally and mentally more than one man could handle. Job’s anguished plea for death was not from self-pity, but from the fact that his suffering, sorrow and pain were unbearable. King David always “encouraged himself in the Lord” and wrote: “…hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” Psalm 11b, 43:5b. The “health of his countenance” implies changing a downcast expression to one of radiant joy.  David said: “But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God, with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving” Psalm 69:29. From this we learn that it is wise and just to openly admit to ourselves and to God our wretched state, then acknowledge God’s salvation, and that only God can set us “up on high.” Finally, make a decision in the will area to praise the name of God and magnify him with thanksgiving regardless of how you feel. This is how a depressed believer encourages him or herself in the Lord.

King Solomon worked through his despair and came to the only, wise conclusion to the problem of deep depression: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” Ecclesiastes 12: 13, 14. When we are depressed, we need to recognize the fact that we are focused on ourselves, and either our past, present, or possible future circumstances. No wonder we feel hopeless! Only God can take care of the past, the present and the future. By fearing God, and keeping his commandments, beginning with Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and might we will begin to shift our attention from ourselves and our pathetic state to the One who is the great I AM. When we remember that nothing is hid from God; that He has provided the way for us to be cleansed from the past through the blood of the Lamb; renewed day by day through the power of His Spirit; prepared for the future (as we walk in obedience to His Word) when good shall be rewarded, and the evil that vexes our hearts shall be judged, then our hope is renewed. Nothing is impossible with God.

Consider the Prophet Elijah who expressed his true state when he asked the Lord to remove him from this earth. He was exhausted, and at the time, everything was out of perspective. King David despaired because of the reality of evil and sin, both in his own life and in the lives of those around him. Jonah did not hold back his genuine feelings when he told God that he would be better off dead. When Jeremiah lamented: “O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself. Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities” Lamentations 1:9b, 5:7, he was baring his heart to God, not trying to keep up a façade that everything is “okay.”

 How did the Lord God respond to each of these men? Did He slap them silly because they were being human? No! Of course not! God understood the cause of Moses’ prayer and kindly provided him with a wise solution. With Job, God revealed Himself to Him in greater ways than Job could have ever imagined, thus changing Job’s perspective. God healed him, and blessed him abundantly. God honored King David’s heart, in spite of the difficulties he faced, and renewed his heart and spirit as David continued to praise Him. In the case of Elijah, God knew that he was exhausted and hungry, so He lovingly provided for his physical needs and instructed him in what he was to do. As for Jonah, God wisely brought him face-to-face with himself, challenged his attitude and perspective. Through these examples, we learn that God deals with His people in a personal and intimate way because He knows the cause of any depression we may suffer.

This brings us to the depression we may be experiencing today out of concern for our future, not just the normal concerns all people must come to terms with, but also a genuine concern for the future of America. As we enter this New Year, if we are willing to face reality, we must admit that there are serious challenges we face as a nation. Deny it if you will, but the fact remains that we have slid into the dreaded pit of escalating socialism. Those who know their history surely have the same sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach that we have. I liken it to the helpless feeling the passengers trapped aboard the Titanic felt just prior to it’s sinking into the icy depths. After all, our freedoms, which we have enjoyed for so many years, are eroding at a rapid rate right before our eyes. How can we ignore the fact that millions of Americans have lost, and are losing, their retirement, incomes, homes, and other assets? How is the true Church of Jesus Christ to respond? God forbid that we should turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the plight of others while slapping our little “Christianette” platitudes on hurting people. It is time to wake up. As I wrote a few months ago, the party is over. The way for the antichrist and the one-world government is being prepared, and the night is fast approaching when “no man can work.”

How do you deal with depression? Do you depend on medication, or do you just “make up your mind” to ignore it until it hopefully “goes away?” Many people choose to create their own reality through “positive affirmations” or by avoiding anything that disturbs their “peace” even if it means denying the truth. Some stuff their lives full of activity, people, noise and busyness, thus giving no space to critical thinking or influences. However, God has provided another way for His people, so that they can walk through depression instead of succumbing to it, trying to flee from it, denying it or pretending it does not exist.

When Moses was in despair due to exhaustion from the burden he carried, the Lord not only intervened with instruction and guidance, but He spoke with Moses and promised to talk with Him. God did not chastise Moses for his depression because sin was not the cause. Keep in mind, if sin is at the root of your depression, then God will not sympathize with you, but will instead call for repentance. Neither should we sympathize with people in their sin, for this is not love; rather, if a person fails to repent, they will perish in their sin. In Numbers 11:23 we read: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” When overwhelmed and depressed, tell the Lord about it. The Lord will speak to you through His Spirit or His Word, revealing to you the cause of the problem, and will encourage your heart by helping you get past yourself, and giving you a greater revelation of Himself.

Through our years of ministry, we have learned that, like Elijah, after a pinnacle moment of great victory (especially over the demonic realm) follows a downward plunge into exhaustion and depression. After all, we are still living in bodies made of clay. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit mightily uses a servant of God in ministry, it is glorious, but exhausting to the body. No flesh could survive living constantly in this realm, so it is only natural that depression, albeit temporary, results. At times like this, are we to pray, as did Elijah, that God take away our life? No, we are to wait confidently until we hear, as he did, the “still, small voice” for the Lord of Heaven and earth is omnipresent. He will never leave us nor forsake us regardless of how we feel.

When a person goes through tremendous suffering, they feel totally out of control. Job came to the end of himself through his sufferings, yet through it all, he never cursed God. Did the Lord rebuke Job for complaining in his misery? No. What the Lord did do was to reveal Himself to Job in such a way that Job came out knowing Him. When God gives us His perspective, then our hearts and minds can be reassured. Consider Job 41:11b: “…whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.” What a comfort to know that God is in control. Job declared: “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” Job 42:2. Has God revealed Himself to you by His Spirit?

The emotional King David expressed every emotion known to man through his life and the psalms he wrote. Concerning his transgressions (breaking the Law) and iniquity (moral deviation) and sin (falling short of God’s glory) he prayed: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” Psalm 51:1-3. Repentance is the only remedy for depression caused by our transgressions, iniquities, and sin. 1 John 1:8, 9 assures us: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

       Jeremiah, in spite of all he suffered and witnessed as the nation of Israel was carried off into the Babylonian captivity, wrote: “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not. They are new every  morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens” Lamentations 3:22-26; 31- 33; 40, 41.

Jonah is a good example of a person who is depressed because of anger. God also dealt with Jonah in order to bring instruction to him. Weariness of life, despondency and anger are not the Lord’s will for us. God’s will for us is that we might know His Son as “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) The Lord has called us to be overcomers, that we “which live should not henceforth live unto [ourselves], but unto him which died for [us], and rose again” 2 Corinthians 5:15.

Therefore, as we face another year of uncertainties on every front, let us draw nigh unto God, and keep before us His great, unfailing promises found in His eternal, living Word. Bind up these words close to your heart, so that the Holy Spirit may bring them to your remembrance as we journey into the New Year: “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” Revelation 7:14b-17.

       Will you be there?