Lifelines for Spiritual Depression

Lifelines for those journeying through spiritual depression from Psalm 120:

Martin Lloyd Jones in his book entitled Spiritual Depression sets forth a radical notion that has proven most helpful to me personally. He writes that “most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself.”

He counsels us to “take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why are you in despair? What business have you to be depressed? You exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope in God’ – instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must remind yourself of God, who He is, what He has done, and what He has pledged Himself to do (pp. 20-21).”

Here are five lifelines on how to do this from Psalm 120.
A.    Recall God’s past faithfulness in your life. “I called to the LORD, and he answered me” (120:1). Such personal evidences such as answered prayers and God’s deliverance and provision in the past serve as powerful antidotes to spiritual depression. Actively call to mind one way that you have personally seen the Lord’s faithfulness in your  past!

B.    Recognize that your only source of hope is in the name of the LORD (120:2). The great tragedy of spiritual depression is that, those who suffer from it tend to think that they must overcome it before they can come to God, but the reality is that we are powerless in and of ourselves to overcome it. We must acknowledge that there is only one source of help. This source is set forth in our Psalm – the LORD – Yahweh. This most important name for God is used twice in Psalm 120.   Dr. Bruce Waltke, an Old Testament scholar, reminds us that the following two words capture the significance of this name for our God – loving loyalty. It is the Lord’s personal and covenantal name. It reminds us that He has pledged to be our God and take us to be His people and that He refuses to give up on us. Let us heed the counsel of John Stott, the pastor emeritus of All Souls Church in London, England: “The cure for spiritual depression is neither to look in at our grief, nor back to the past, nor round at our problems, but upwards to the living God. He is our help and our God, and if we trust in him now, we shall soon have cause to praise him again.”

C.    Pursue peace with God by declaring war on your sin (120:3). We tend to treat our sins of speech (lying lips and deceitful tongues) lightly until we are the ones lied to or slandered. The Psalmist prayer for deliverance from a  “deceitful tongue” in Psalm 120:3 might not be somebody’s else, but his own. Here are a couple of applicational questions to declare war on your sin: Are there any ways that you have spoken unadvisedly, bitterly, or untruly this past week? Confess it to the Lord. Is your gloomy state of mind and sense of despair caused by your unwilling to really trust God to be faithful to His promises? One of my biggest sins in this area of spiritual depression is simply unbelief and allowing myself to be dictated to by my feelings and emotions rather than actively trusting God’s promises. For us to trust God’s promises we must be familiar with them. Today, why don’t you select a promise of God from Scripture and memorize it so that you can have it as a ready weapon for your next bout for spiritual sanity and health? Psalm 42:11 would be a good place to start: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

D.    Rejoice that divine judgment fell upon another – the Prince of peace (120:4). Jesus himself took all the sharp arrows that were due us when He suffered on our behalf and died in our place. He bore in his body all of our sins of speech, despair and unbelief.  In our moments of desperation, we cast ourselves on Jesus and thank Him for absorbing the judgment that was due us. What joy it brings to know that I am no longer condemned but forgiven. I am no longer rejected, but accepted by the one who matters ultimately. May the wonderful truths of the gospel bring you out again into the sunshine of the Father’s love for you!

E.    Remember that your deep longing for peace will one day be fully satisfied (120:5-7). The key word here is SHALOM. According to the Scriptures, our  journey’s destination is not the earthly Jerusalem, but the heavenly Mount Zion – the new Jerusalem (city of peace). In it, there will not be even one day of doom and gloom. There will be full shalom – complete mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being, wholeness, health, prosperity, safety, tranquility, rest, harmony, and the absence of all agitation and discord.

“All of us have a deep longing for peace… to be released and set free from the babble of voices both within ourselves and outside ourselves. Jesus was a man of peace; he came into our world, and was worshipped at his nativity as the Prince of peace. He lived and died to make peace “by the blood of his cross.” When he was going out of the world, he said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” When he was risen from the dead, and made his first appearance to his disciples, he said to them. “Peace be to you.” He is the ultimate peace-maker. His gospel is the gospel of peace. It contains the peace of God which passes all understanding.”
– Samuel Pierce, quoted in Charles Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David

William Cowper was a man who struggled mightily with spiritual depression. He wrote a wonderful hymn entitled “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” The second verse serves as a lifeline for others struggling with depression: “Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds you so much dread. Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head!”

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