Depression covers a spectrum of severity, ranging from “feeling blue” to what experts call “clinical depression.”
While there are various factors that make some more susceptible to depression than others, no one is immune to it. After all, Moses, David, and Elijah all struggled with bouts of depression, and even Jesus was known as a “man of sorrows.”
Today, depression is largely thought to be a biological problem, and much depression is attributed to chemical imbalances. But thinking about depression exclusively in this way fails to take into account that we are more than just physical matter – we are souls who live before God. Hence, a more comprehensive, biblical model is in order.
Understanding depression from a biblical framework begins by recognizing it as a form of suffering. Because of the sin that entered the world through Adam, suffering is a regular part of life – and depression is one variety of suffering.
To address the suffering of depression effectively, it is useful to see it working itself out on two levels.
The first level has to do with those things that happen to us or around us. When we hear about a tragic accident or bad economic news, feelings of depression can quickly overtake us. Or, if we experience a family illness or a bad encounter with an acquaintance of ours, depression can suddenly color our mood as well.
The second level at which depression works itself out has to do with what happens in us. It has to do with how we react inside to those depressing occurrences that we face in our lives. Do we doubt, fear, or run? Or, do we cling to God and seek to grow in trust in Him?
Luther identified these levels as trials of faith, and appropriately so. Because as we face depressing happenings and feelings, our hope is challenged by fears of abandonment. But it is at these times we need the perspective that faith brings.
We need to remember that even during our dark days, God is trustworthy and sovereign over our suffering. And it’s with this hope our faith becomes a rudder that not only guides our reactions and decisions, but also leads us out of the darkness into the light.
The world, the flesh, and the devil all seem to conspire at times to take us down into the darkness of depression. But God is greater than these.
Consequently, in the face of this world’s evils, we must always take the high road. When the corruptions of our own flesh seek to overtake us, we must not let sin have dominion over us. And when Satan assaults us with his fiery darts, we must maintain total trust in the goodness of God.
To succumb to the lies and enticements of our souls’ adversaries is to enter a path of despair.
The joy that prevails over the perplexities of this life only comes by trusting the One who rules over every hardship.
If you faithfully do what you know is right, your countenance will be lifted up (Gen.4:7).
“Without our Lord’s Day celebration we cannot live.”
~ Christians under Diocletian before a judge in Abitina, North Africa
“If you want to kill Christianity, you must abolish Sunday.”
“A church which waits for her Lord and anticipates the revelation of His lordship over all the kingdoms of this world, will never abandon the sign of Sunday with an appeal to Christian freedom. This day proclaims loudly to all the world, even the modern heathen world, that man through his own care and work can never build the kingdom of eternal glory.”
~ de Quervain
“O scaly, slippery, we, swift, staring wights,
What is’t ye do? What life lead?
Eh, dull goggles?
How do ye vary your vile days and nights?
How pass your Sundays?”
~ Leigh Hunt, addressing fish in an aquarium
“In the City, we need no bells:
Let them waken the suburbs.
I journeyed to the suburbs, and there I was told:
We toil for six days, on the seventh we must motor
To Hindhead, or Maidenhead.
If the weather is foul we stay at home and read the papers.”
~ T.S. Eliot
When our boys have been about six-years-old, they have each had a lesson in math to learn about bar graphs. In order to make their own bar graphs, they survey all the members of the family to find out their favorite day of the week.
When each child approaches me with stubby pencil in hand and asks me, “What is your favorite day of the week?” I always give the same answer: Sunday.
I tell them Sunday not because it’s the day I fulfill my most public duties as a pastor. I say Sunday because it’s a day of rest and renewal for everyone. And for this reason, I believe that Sunday should be regarded as the best day of the week by everybody.
The fourth commandment tells us, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is a sabbath of the Lord your God. . . (Ex.20:8).
This commandment tells us a couple of things. First, it says that God has ordained that we work for six days. Generally, this involves working five days at your vocation, and a sixth day doing what’s necessary to maintain your home, etc. . .
The second thing this command tells us is that we are to take a day off, to cease from our normal duties and rest. For centuries this day was Saturday, but with the resurrection of Christ a shift was made to Sunday in recognition of the fact that our re-creation each week is found in Him.
When people think of rest, they typically think of activities like putting up the feet, going on vacation, and, of course, sleeping. All of these activities and more encompass rest. And sometimes, as it’s been said, just “a change is as good as a rest.”
But real rest runs deeper than breaking up the routine or taking a breather. This is because rest is primarily a spiritual concept. We must find our rest first and foremost in God Himself (Is.30:15; Heb.4:1ff).
This is why Jesus says, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Mt.11:28).
Since there’s a spiritual basis for rest and renewal, it’s possible to have plenty of time off and take it easy, and still be restless.
And this brings us back to why Sunday is the best day of the week. Being a day of worship, it gives us a weekly occasion to be renewed by the One who is the very source of our being.
Regrettably, Sunday in our society is quickly becoming a day like any other. A day to catch up, with many finding themselves just too busy to even worship God. And consequently, we are becoming all the more spent and drained of resources.
The Puritans of old used to call Sunday “a feast day for the soul.” We need to make it so ourselves if we hope to truly experience the rest and renewal we need.
Ah, the robins are back, the trees are budding, and even the bugs are beginning to show themselves again. Spring is finally here.
And with it comes the anticipation of warmer days, baseball, vacations, and much more.
Along with these desirable, long-awaited aspects, there’s something else that spring brings us: a clear indication that there is a God who rules over the seasons and brings new life.
Despite all the talk about global warming, one thing is for sure. As long as the world exists as we know it, there are going to be seasons of cold and heat.
The Bible tells us, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen.8:22).
The cycle of days and seasons of which we are so accustomed is God’s doing. He is the One who commands each morning. He is the One who maintains the storehouses of the snow and hail. And He is the One who makes grass sprout, begets the dew, and guides each constellation in its season (Job 38).
In so doing, God reveals His glory and power to us all.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps.19:1). Or, as one paraphrase puts it, “God’s glory is on tour in the skies.”
By way of this display of His creative genius, God has made Himself known to every person. This means that even without picking up a Bible, every man has some awareness of God.
As one theologian wrote, “Wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern some sparks of His glory. . . There are innumerable evidences both in heaven and on earth that declare His wonderful wisdom.”
By this declaration, all men everywhere are accountable to live their lives for God according to what they know. And what they know is more than they may admit.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom.1:20).
Why is it that everyone does not embrace what God has so clearly revealed?
Because men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom.1:18). Though God has revealed Himself to every heart, some would rather deny it than live their lives for Him.
But God does not desire to leave us in that state of denial. And because of it, He sent His Son to return us to our Creator and renew our life in Him.
Spring is here. And it’s here because God – not mother nature (whoever she is) – has brought it here.
And that same God calls you to new life. A life which is yours when you believe that the God who has brought us spring and raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you.
Surely, there are things about your life that you know should be different. You’re well aware that there are habits that need to be forsaken and new ways of life that need to be put into practice.
The question is, “How?” You may have tried to change many times already, only to come up short repeatedly. How can another shot at change be any different this time?
Most critical is for you to recognize the hindrances that are blocking your way to a new life. There are certain obstacles that regularly trip us up in our efforts to change for the better. Once you recognize them, they don’t have to take you down as they have in the past.
The most common of these is guilt. Guilt is the great immobilizer. It keeps you caged up with doubts and fears and feelings of unworthiness. It isolates you from relationships that can help you. Guilt will accuse you of past failures and remind you of destructive patterns to drag you back to the old ways once again.
But guilt can be defeated. Jesus Christ came to cleanse from sin and liberate from guilt. The Bible tells us that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom.8:1), and assures us that when we do sin, “we have an Advocate with the Father” who pleads our case (1 Jn.2:1).
If you really want a new life, make a habit of taking every guilty thought to Him.
Another common hindrance is inadequacy, or the sense that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t change. It’s that feeling that those old patterns seem to be set in concrete, and there is nothing you can do to break out of them.
The key here is recognizing that in yourself you are inadequate to bring about the fundamental changes you need most. But there is One who is more than adequate, and when we walk according to His Spirit we are able to put off the old and put on the new (Eph.4:24).
Living a new life requires us to see that God is able to make His grace abound toward us in such a way that we find sufficiency in Him for every good work (2 Cor.9:8).
The most basic hindrance to experiencing a new life is unbelief. With unbelief, you just can’t see how anything can change for the better. You feel doomed to a state of perpetual dreariness, without anyway out into the sunshine. But here too God has provided what is necessary.
Our problem is that we look to ourselves and see that the resources just aren’t there for us to change. But we shouldn’t be looking there. We should be looking to God and the reality that He has given us His Son and raised Him from the dead so that we would share in His new life. Because God has gone to this extent for us, He commands us to be not unbelieving, but believing (Jn.20:27).