Monday, July 18, 2011

Depression & The Soul's Response to Truth

A Devotion by Dan Guinn

Depression touches so many lives. In 2007 the Archives of General Psychiatry estimated that 10% of Americans (Approximately 27 million people) are on antidepressants. Furthermore, over one million of these people are treated each year with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) or electro-shoch therapy are cases of severe major depression. The problem has reached epidemic proportions.

Depression is not just a gloomy or melancholy feeling but a struggle that incapacitates the person suffering, and I do mean suffering. At many times the Christian church has failed to understand this problem, but we should be clear that from the statistics above we can see that the medical and psychiatry fields have had their own failures and difficulties with diagnosing and treating the problem, as the problem is truly epidemic and has definitely increased from these statistics in 2007.

The very first thing we should understand is that Christians are not immune to depression and that the issue should not be quickly dismissed. It is a real problem, requiring real answers. At different points in my life, myself and those around me have encountered what might be termed as depression. One very close member of my family was completely incapacitated for a good time. I myself, have had periods of deep hurt and incapacitation. I personally struggle with diabetes, which studies has shown can cause physical reasons that make you prone to lapses of depression. Yet those who know me, know that I have learned to constantly rely on my spiritual relationship with God to assist me in overcoming these battles.

Secondly we should understand as Christians that the struggle should not be quickly categorized as distinctly a spiritual issue, and yet it should not be assumed to be merely a physiological or medical issue either. We should remember that our bodies and minds, although physical, touch the spiritual realities as well. They operate in union, they are connected. When we experience physical events in the real world, they do have spiritual impact. Another way to explain this is to contemplate Christ incarnation. Why did Christ come in bodily form to teach us spiritual lessons? Why did Christ communicate to his people in audible language that we as persons can understand? Couldn’t God just speak from all eternity and we all just know all the lessons we need? He could have, but this would not fit His character. God is personal, humble and sacrificial, and He chose to send His Son to physically impart truth to mankind in physical form. Thus, we can see that there is a real body/soul connection that God is using for His purposes to teach us.

Thirdly to this discussion, we must also acknowledge that in fact, some of the most prominent persons in scripture probably suffered with depression. This is something that we should cherish about the Bible. It does not just tell us the soft warm and fuzzy story of God’s people, but instead portrays real people, with real struggles. We see the “Biblical heroes” with all of their warts, and none of it is hidden. No other book does this quite like the Bible!

As you might know, King David, the “man after God’s own heart,” was plagued with this sort of suffering. Here are some quick verses that depict David’s deep laments.

“My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?” Ps. 42:3

“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.” Ps. 42:5
(repeated again in 42:11, and 43:5)

There are many more verses that show us this, but we can also look at key points in David’s life, times when he was idle and seemingly paralyzed. Times that caused great destruction in his life due to inactivity. His sin with Bathsheba was facilitated by his not taking his place in war with his armies, instead he was idle at home (2 Sam 11:1). He was idle in responding to Amnon’s rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13), as well as Adonijah’s attempt to usurp his throne (1 Kings 1), late in his life. All these seem to point to symptoms of depression in David’s life, and these are just a few.

However, there is another side to the story, the side of Truth and it’s impact on David’s soul. Listen to his words!

“Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.” Ps. 43: 3-4

It is the light of God’s Truth that overpowers the ailing soul. Even in the midst of physical struggles that are causing depression, the heart can respond to truth and build up a person from the inside out. I tell you this from personal experience (although my experience is not as extreme as some others I know who this has brought healing to), that as I have waited on the Lord to assist me in my state of mental incapacitation on more than one occasion. The answer seems almost too simple, and it is very profound, yet it is the answer none the less. The reading and teaching of the Word of God to one self is a way out of the darkness. It is the pinpoint of light in the distance. As the mind is directed to acknowledge the Truth, the soul is uplifted and the body can respond substantially. As I get to the top of the pit, my feet begin to move, I being to to run! This is what is happening spiritually so to speak, and physically I am working on eating right and being active, consulting the doctor, and providing for the needs of the body that in turn can assist my mind with clarity. Thus with that clarity, I further teach and preach to myself the Word of God all the more until I begin to break free! I am teaching it the Truth, I am teaching it with all of the strength I have at the time as David did, saying to my soul... "Hope In God!"

The Truth says:

  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28.

The Truth says:

  • “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Cor 4:7-10

This is a precious promise! Our sufferings are for His purposes, to make us like Him... and we will not be destroyed! Hereby we preach to ourselves the victory and the soul will in turn respond if we continue to wait, read, teach ourselves and pray! As we find more strength we then respond with our whole body to move forward and break free as much as is possible. Remember what God said to Cain in the garden?

“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted (or in the Hebrew will there not be a lifting up [of your face])? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for [against] you, but you must rule over it.” Gen 4:6-7

Perhaps this is where you are. Perhaps you are in the pit right now looking up. All of the natural things are telling you it’s hopeless. Yet, we all must remember that there is substantial help in this life before Christ returns. God’s Truth is real and His Truth is applied by His Holy Spirit. Pray to Him for assistance, ask Him to work on your behalf like He did for David over and over in his life. Ask and act as He instructs, read and pray, and then you will witness your soul’s response to Truth!

[A special thanks to my pastors Tony and Nathan for their teachings on this subject that have inspired and edified me.]