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By Rev Colin Wong

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2005-06-05

Text: Psalm 42

Depression is a very common experience among Christians and non-Christians. You and I at one time or another experience it. Of the Christian, some may ask, "How can that happen? I thought Jesus has given him a full and meaningful life (John 10:10). How can he be depressed? This sounds contradictory!" 

Do Christians get depressed? The answer is a resounding yes. The Scriptures and the history of the church tell us that depression is a common phenomenon among God's people especially in those who are in leadership. David was a good example. In his depressive Psalms, he often lamented, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? (Psalm 42:5, 6; 43:5) Elijah, the great prophet of God who killed 450 false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, feared Jezebel and fled from her crying, "O LORD, take away my life" (1 Kings 19:4). Jonah, a run-away missionary, having preached to the people of Nineveh and seen them repent from their sins, said, "O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live" (Jonah 4:3). Jesus, when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying for the will of God to be done in His life, exhibited His humanity by strong crying and tears to His Father, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matthew 26:38; Hebrews 5:7). 

There are many depressed and dejected preachers of the Word in the Church of Jesus Christ. Samuel Logan Brengle was one of them. He was a great saint of the Salvation Army. In a letter, he wrote, "My nerves were ragged, frazzled, exhausted. And such gloom and depression fell upon me as I have never known, although depression is an old acquaintance of mine." Depression is no respecter of persons. 

Signs of Depression

Depression is a sickness. Some people get over it in a short time; others take a little longer. But for some people, it prolongs indefinitely and eventually it leads to suicidal tendencies. And that is tragic! 

What are some signs of depression? Depression comes in many forms. Let me share with you seven symptoms of depression. First, a person who is depressed and dejected has a miserable countenance. He looks troubled, worried, melancholic, inactive, moody, unfriendly and unhappy. Second, depression either brings a loss of appetite or a problem of overeating. Some do not feel like eating. Others overeat and suffer severe health problems. Third, tears are a common symptom of depression. David knew it well. He said, "My tears have been my meat day and night" (Psalm 42:3). David�s tears had become his meat day and night. Unable to stop crying, he fed on despair that led to further depression. Fourth, every bout of depression is an attempt to get us to distrust God. Our focus becomes blurred. We begin to question God�s faithfulness, love, care and concern. We are unable to appreciate His magnanimities. Fifth, a depressed person is unable to make good decisions. He does not have the ability to reason well. Everything is murky to him. Sixth, sleeplessness is a common symptom of depression. Physically he is tired but mentally, he is highly alert. Seventh, a depressed person is a worried person. Consequently, he becomes incapacitated. He cannot function normally.

Is Depression a Sign of Spiritual Failure?

Depression is not necessarily a sign of spiritual failure. Some of the greatest depressions came as emotional letdowns following certain successes. What happened to the lion-hearted Elijah after that greatest moment in his life at Mount Carmel? Why should he be so depressed by Jezebel's threat? Where did he run to? We find him sitting alone under the juniper tree lamenting and asking God to take his life (1 Kings 19:4). Depression seems to be nature's emotional kickback or nature's recoil. C.S. Lewis calls it "the law of undulation" in the human personality.

Some depression is caused by physical problems. Improper diet, lack of exercise and lack of sleep can all contribute to depression. Illnesses can cause depression. Some medications also can cause depression. Therefore, we must not be too quick to counsel others who are suffering from depression. Before we can deal with it, we must have an understanding of it. Is it physical or spiritual or mental or social?

But unfortunately, some of our Christian friends, out of a kind heart, but who have little knowledge of it, try to counsel depressed brethren and unwittingly, offer unwise and unrealistic advice that add to their woes. Therefore, let us not hasten ourselves to it, but let us equip ourselves first before we reach out to brethren who are downhearted and depressed with good counsel from the Word of God.

However, depression can come from the guilt of sin or known disobedience or transgression. David was obviously in deep depression. He lamented in Psalm 38, "There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart" (3-8). 

Sin may lead to depression, but all depression does not come from sin. May God grant us much wisdom from above to be a good counselor to those who are depressed! 

How to overcome Depression?

Can depression be overcome? The answer is a resounding yes. Let me suggest seven remedies to depression.

1. Be thankful to God for the trial 

Sometimes our prayer brings no relief. We seem to have lost the spirit of prayer. However, as we begin to thank God for our trial, it begins to turn into blessing. Though the light begins to glimmer but then it soon breaks through the gloom. The depression passes away. Life becomes beautiful and desirable again.

2. Avoid being Alone 

When you are depressed you don't want to be around people. You want to withdraw. But withdrawing means isolation, and isolation during depression means alienation. You need to force yourself to be with people. Joining a Fellowship is a good idea (Hebrews 3:12, 13; 10:24, 25). 

3. Seek help from godly Christians 

During depression your whole perception changes. A little hill becomes a huge mountain. You need help. Godly Christians can help you see a bigger picture and give you godly advice. 

4. Sing or make Music 

Music is second to theology. Good Christian music is a good therapy. The beautiful music played by David was able to lift up King Saul�s moods of depression (1 Samuel 16:14-23). Consequently, he was delivered from depression.

5. Rest confidently in the Presence of God 

Here lies David's secret of deliverance from depression. He encouraged himself, "Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance" (Psalm 42:5; 43:5). Jeremiah said, "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" (Lamentation 3:24-26). Seeking God's face means coming into His presence (Psalm 27:8). "Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually" (1 Chronicles 16:10-11). "And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God" (1 Samuel 30:6).

6. Rely on the Word of God

God's Word is powerful. It is sharper than any double-edged sword and it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is able to minister to us during times of depression. Jeremiah said, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart" (15:16; Job 23:12). Read it and be ministered by it.

7. Rest on God's Promises

C.H. Spurgeon often suffered depression in his ministry. Here is an account from his "Faith's Check Book" entitled "Immortal Till Work Done." 

"I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord" (Psalm 118:17). A fair assurance this! It was no doubt based upon a promise, inwardly whispered in the psalmist's heart, which he seized upon and enjoyed. Is my case like that of David? Am I depressed because the enemy affronts me? Are there multitudes against me and few on my side? Does unbelief bid me lie down and die in despair - a defeated, dishonored man? Do my enemies begin to dig my grave?

What then? Shall I yield to the whisper of fear, and give up the battle, and with it give up all hope? Far from it. There is life in me yet: "I shall not die." Vigor will return and remove my weakness: "I shall live." The Lord lives, and I shall live also. My mouth shall again be opened: "I shall declare the works of Jehovah." Yes, and I shall speak of the present trouble as another instance of the wonder-working faithfulness and love of the Lord my God. Those who would gladly measure me for my coffin had better wait a bit, for "the Lord hath chastened me sore, but he hath not given me over unto death." Glory be to His name forever! I am immortal till my work is done. Till the Lord wills it, no vault can close upon me.

This is how Spurgeon overcame depression by clinging on God's promises "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord." How about us?

Dearly beloved, are you depressed? Do not be dismayed. God is still on the throne. He will deliver you in His good time (1 Corinthians 10:13). Look at the seven remedies again and have confidence in His Word. Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). Yes, in Christ, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Do you believe it?

Do not hesitate to call your pastors for help. They are there for you and your welfare. Amen.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25