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Persevering in Depression

I’ve never heard a good sermon that deals with depression, but I think it would be a good topic to address.  Come to think of it, I don’t even remember depression being discussed as an application point of a biblical text nor have I heard an entire sermon dedicated to a biblical understanding of what so many deal with in silence.

Ed Welch of the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation offers some encouraging words on depression (a short video).

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  1. September 5, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    First, it’s a good post. I am a big fan of Ed Welch.

    Never the less, I got a little defensive when reading this e-mail. . . so, I checked. I did preach at least one sermon on depression (maybe you were still out in New England): October 10, 1999, title, “Dealing with Depression.” Had I not provided this comment, some of the Grand Ledge-ites would no doubt have instantly remembered that I preached that sermon and produced from their files at home a copy of their personal sermon notes.

    Excerpt:

    “Ever lose a shoe in black mud? You step in it and you can hear the suction as you try and pull yourself free.

    That is how spiritual depression can be, like quick sand or black mud that sucks you under.

    Sometimes when we are spiritually depressed, we find ourselves in a state where the more we struggle, the more we feel like we are going under.

    Maybe you are here this morning struggling with depression. Severe depression. Or maybe you have in the past and you know what it is like. You Are so down that you feel apathetic and lethargic about everything

    Find nothing exciting – — Feel tired all the time – – – Think way too much about death and what a relief it would be. You’re like Hamlet who thinks of death as sweet rest

    You may think that depression is a sign of weakness, that a person of strong constitution wouldn’t struggle with it. . . Be careful, some great leaders struggled with depression

    Lincoln, the greatest political leader our country has ever known was very given to depression. One of the bleakest periods of his life was his courtship of Mary Todd.

    The Todd family thought Lincoln wasn’t good enough for their daughter. Lincoln once commented that one “d” was enough to spell “God” but it took two to spell “Todd.”

    Lincoln was so distressed that some people wondered if he would ever come out of it.

    “I am now the most miserable man living,” he sighed. “If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better.”

    In general, he was thought to be crazy.

    Great Christian leaders have also struggled. Spurgeon had one incident where he struggled immensely. Early on in his ministry before the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built Spurgeon made a decision to hold meetings at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. It was built for entertainment and would hold 10,000 people. There was nowhere else that could hold that kind of crowd

    Spurgeon was criticized for it, but that was often the case for Spurgeon; he did things that drew criticism, advertised for instance . . .A tremendous number turned out for the first meeting. . . 10-12,000 people came in. Another 10,000 couldn’t get in.

    In the beginning, everything went smoothly. They sang a hymn and then Spurgeon read the Scriptures with running commentary.

    But, But when he finished his prayer someone yelled “fire.”
    There was an instant panic. People panicked trying to get out. Banisters gave way. People were trampled. Some people literally had their clothes torn off the crowds were so desperate.

    There never was a fire and Spurgeon tried to calm the crowds. Finally, some order was restored. But, it didn’t last and the meeting was cut short. Spurgeon was ushered out through a back corridor.

    What he didn’t see that evening was that seven people had been killed and another 28 seriously injured. Spurgeon was seen as the reason he was vilified in the papers.

    One paper said, “This man, in his own opinion, is a righteous Christian; but in ours, northing more than a ranting charlatan . . . when the mangled corpses had been carried away from the unhallowed and disgraceful scene – – when husbands were seeking their wives, and children their mothers in extreme agony and despair – – the chink of the money as it fell into the collection-boxes grated harshly, miserably on the ears of those who, we sincerely hope, have by this time conceived for Mr. Spurgeon and his rantings the profoundest contempt.” Spurgeon was devastated

    One of his deacons wrote

    “You are anxious to hear about our poor pastor – – he is very bad. Very bad I say, not from any injuries or bruises he has received, but from the extreme tension on his nerves and his great anxiety. So bad is he that we were fearful for his mind this morning. Under these circumstances only one thing could be done – – that is to send him into the country away from the scene.”

    Spurgeon’s wife thought he would never recover.

    And physically he never did. From shortly thereafter he was to suffer with illness the rest of his life. He died at the age of (1834-92) 58. He was only 22 when the tragedy occurred.

    Spurgeon himself later wrote

    “. . . who can conceive the anguish of my sad spirit? I refused to be comforted; my tears were my meat by day, and dreams my terror by night. I felt as I had never felt before. ‘My thoughts were all a case of knives,’ cutting my heart in pieces, until a kind of stupor of grief ministered a mournful medicine to me. . . .here my mind lay, like a wreck upon the sand, incapable of its usual motion.”

    The matter of spiritual depression is very real. It has many causes, and comes in many different forms, but is something terribly painful.

    And, of course, David struggled. His words in the opening verses of Psalm 69 paint a dark picture of depression . . .We see this over and over again in the life of David. He would constantly seek to see life rightly and correctly again with a proper view of God in the center. Often he wrestled through this in prayer. He then acted in ways in accordance with that view. When he struggled with depression, he worked to consciously put God back in the center of his life. Turn over to Psalm 69 and notice how he does this. . . In the end, we may find that the best thing I do is to point you to Scripture and tell you that “spiritual depression” is obviously not uncommon based on the number of times Scripture addresses it. If you are spiritually depressed, the causes are complex and not easily sifted through. If it were easily taken care, then you wouldn’t be where you are at. But, there are spiritual solutions for spiritual concerns and you should cry aloud for wisdom and search for the answers unrelentingly in God’s word until they are found.

  2. Andrew Ford
    September 6, 2008 at 8:47 am

    OK – one in how many years??? And yes, I was still in New England, so my post stands true. You’ve preached a lot of sermons since then.

  3. September 6, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Yes, your point is well made.

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