Why are we depressed? Is it due to nature or nurture? Is it disease or depravity? Can it be traced to something physical or spiritual? Does it stem from without or within?
And what are we to do about it? What ought we to do when our financial kingdom is destroyed? How ought we to handle our broken family? How are we to deal with the years of abuse? What are we to do with our own poor habits and addictions? When our bodies are ravaged by some dysfunction, disease, or deformity, and there is no quick fix, what ought we to do? How are we to handle the destructive mental thoughts that bounce about in our heads? What are we to do when we find ourselves or our loved ones distressed, devastated, and depressed?
Those who are without Jesus Christ have limited options. Money and power can bring them short-term relief. New relationships offer them a brief ray of hope. Hedonistic solutions will help numb the pain for a season. Medicine and therapy can indeed aid the body and brain — but it does nothing for the spirit. Ultimately, all of these earthly solutions are insufficient to provide lasting hope. And, after a little respite of peace, old problems resurface and new disasters come into play, and the troubled soul is left more distressed, more devastated, more depressed, and more hopeless.
Jesus Christ does not keep one from being distressed, devastated, and depressed. And Jesus Christ does not swoop in and rescue one from that which buffets body and soul. However, he does walk through the valley of the shadow of death with his children, promise them soul-therapy, and keep them from being hopeless. Yes, those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can find themselves responding in the day of adversity as did the author of Psalm 74:
O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture? Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt. Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary! Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs. They were like those who swing axes in a forest of trees. And all its carved wood they broke down with hatchets and hammers. They set your sanctuary on fire; they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground. They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land. We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long. How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever? (Psalm 74:1-10)
The Psalmist deemed himself to be a sheep of God’s pasture and a member of God’s congregation. He was a sinner who was purchased and redeemed by his Creator and Maker. Yet, his life had been ruined under the watchful gaze of God. Enemies had marched into his land, conquered his king, slaughtered his friends, and destroyed everything including the Temple. This believer felt “cast off” by his God and could find no comfort from prophet, priest, or minister. And if this Psalm was written in the day of Jeremiah, his freedom was taken away, his personal finances ruined, his wife violated and disposed of, and his children taken to Babylon for reeducation. God’s hand was heavy upon this man. Certainly he was distressed, devastated, and depressed.
But notice his confidence and hope:
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them! Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. (Psalm 74:11-12)
The distressed, devastated, and depressed Psalmist understood God’s sovereignty and strength. God was the one who watched the evil. God was the one who allowed the harm. And God was the one who could, in his own time, exercise the might of his right hand and provide solace and peace. He had no problem crying, screaming, and praying to his Sovereign King in the heavens, but he was not hopeless. In the midst of his hell, he found comfort from his God who was working in the background.
Friends, there have been many believers who have struggled with physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual depression. Sometimes the body affects the spirit. Sometimes the spirit affects the body. For sure, sin has affected both. And those who find new-life in Christ are not immune from distress, devastation and depression. Suicidal thoughts accompanied Job, Elisha, and David. Self-loathing is seen throughout the writings of many prophets. Even Jesus of Nazareth cried out to God with such severity that blood poured forth from his brow. Yes, as stated by Paul, God’s people are often afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but they are not crushed, despairing, forsaken, or destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) In the midst of earthly hell, they have hope. While they are distressed, devastated, and depressed, they are not hopeless.
So what should we not do with our pain? Let us not think the physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist has all that it takes to solve our problems. Let us not run to more money, more sex, more drugs, more shopping, or more vacations. Let us not reason that a change in location or spouse will fix what ails us. Friends, this universe is cursed by God and further trouble awaits us around the corner. Satan’s sin, Adam’s sin, our parent’s sin, and our sins have dire consequences, Ultimately, all men and women will find themselves distressed, devastated, and depressed. There is no escape on this planet, and those who think there is are left like Huey Lewis “wanting a new drug.”
So what ought we to do with our pain? Let us follow the model of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus. Let us take our distressed, devastated, and depressed selves and run to God. God has the ability to relieve the pressure; sometimes he will and other times he will not. But if he does not remove the burden from our back, he will strengthen our legs and grant us supernatural peace in the midst of our horror. Jesus Christ walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, and the wise physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, and minister understands this reality.
So do not be surprised by our next bout with distress, devastation and depression.
And do not be gullible in thinking that better medicine, better psychology, a better lover, and a better drug will cure what ails us.
Grab your physician, psychologist, and psychiatrist and run to Jesus. He is the King of kings who grants aid in this life and paradise in the next. Such is the glorious hope of the distressed, devastated, and depressed believer.