Envy seeks the life of Joy; to Kill, Steal, and Destroy.

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

It is an unquestionable reality that the LORD is Good. He called Israel by name, and redeemed her from slavery. Not only did God redeem Israel from slavery, He became her Warrior (Exodus 14:14,25 ; Josh 1o:10,42 ; Isa 43:1)

Asaph knew this to be the case. It was the God-breathed song of his heart, and now it was Israel’s song.

All songs have a story, even of the God-breathed variety. There is sometimes a tendency to think that God works everything out immediately in every case. However, the doctrine of sanctification  shows us that God isn’t like us. He is a patient God. When He introduced Himself, He told us His Name: “YHWH YHWH, The God merciful, gracious, slow-to-anger, abundant in covenant-loyalty (faithfulness) and truth”. We want everything now, but God (Eph 2:4), in His glory and infinite wisdom has something better in mind.  The depth of God’s love for us in Christ is immeasurable. (Eph 2:7) God’s grace will take an eternity for us to see, and this lifetime is only the beginning!  (John 17:3)

Asaph knew the history of God’s dealings with Israel. He’d seen  a glimpse of the now and future glory, yet his feet begin to stumble. Much like Peter (Matt 14:30) He took his eyes off  his Redeemer. Peter began to sink, and Asaph nearly stumbled. Peter saw the strength of the wind, Asaph saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Asaph gives the painstaking details of his obsession with the prosperity of evil men. He says envious of what God had given them. It must be emphasized again that this was Israel’s “Trinity Hymnal”. Israel would sing this God-breathed song, to worship God; and within these songs, God invites  us to be honest with Him. He won’t be surprised by what you say to Him. For the Lord knows what is in the hearts of men. His invitation demonstrates that His covenant-faithfulness, grace, and mercy keeps our feet grounded in the gravity of His love. I’m sure it grieved God that Asaph fell into an envious melancholy over the fleeting prosperity of arrogant men. Yet, God strives with His children.

“For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.” (Psalm 73:4-10)

Whether it’s directly attributed to an idol we’ve crafted with our own hands, or a temptation  shipped to us from the local  Idolatry inc. , God sanctifies the lows of His children.

Envy is very serpentine. It seems to be the craftiest snake in our hearts. In the Garden of Eden, the snake spoke to Eve pointing her to the one tree of which God said not to eat . Satan convinced Eve that the Tree of Death tasted much better than the others. She’d have something more if she partook of that tree.

As a result Envy is in our bloodstream. If we aren’t careful, envy will drive us. Bigger trucks, bigger houses, better cars, that job promotion, more friends, advanced social status; all of these things are the obsession of a man or a woman snake-bitten by the venomous envy.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”       (James 4:3-4)

My own feet slip because of envy. It’s a venom that will waste away the Joy of the Spirit. It is a direct attack on God’s goodness. Asaph saw that when he nearly stumbled. God takes care of us, and works everything out for the good of those who love Him. That is why Paul instructs us not to “grieve the Spirit of God, by Whom we’ve been sealed for the day of redemption. We may be tempted to be envious of the prosperity of the wicked as was Asaph. Just look at the assumptions of envy:
(1) God is not good
(2)God doesn’t care about me
(3) If He was good and He did care, He would do everything the way I would expect him too

We should not be taken hostage by the sin of envy. This sin is a horrible taskmaster. Do you feel a driving demand deep in your heart to have what your neighbor has? Are you angry that your co-worker got the promotion that you asked for? What about when  your friends were married years ago, and spend most of their time with other couples, do you feel the gravity of envy pulling you deeper down? Perhaps your spouse had the opportunity  to spend the day with friends, while you agreed to babysit the kids, and now you are not only beginning to regret it, you’re  trying to find reasons reasons that your spouse is wrong for taking advantage of your kindness.

Envy can take any situation, and transform it into a living hell. However, Christ came into the world in order to redeem us from our slavery to Envy. Listen to God’s declaration: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”.  (Matthew 3:17) The redemption that Christ gives to us  delivers us not only from the guilt of our sins forever, He gives us the Spirit, a new name, and freedom from the bondage of sin, the flesh, and the devil. That includes envy. The power of Envy is rendered obsolete. Sin won’t carry over into the New Heavens and the New Earth. When our needs, and our deepest longings are met by the LORD, the fountainhead of pleasure (Psa 16:11), it will be be revealed that those moments we were overtaken by envy just wasn’t worth the time and/or the energy. Those dead idols really were dead, apparently we didn’t read the autopsy reports!  

Envy demands we better ourselves in order to surpass everyone else. Christ says to drink and eat from Him, ye “weary”, He will provide the rest we need, if only we renounce ourselves and believe in Him. (John 6:53-57; Matthew 11:28-30; John 4:10,13)

Envy lies and says  that our significance and importance requires that  we command our destiny, and craft out our own identity by being  first in everything. Christ teaches  that appearances can be  deceiving (Matt 19:30), the praise that comes from  man is a dangerous thing to rely upon. Instead, priority  is given to those who recognize that they are the  least, that they are sick (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17) , and that they are worthless apart from Jesus Christ, our LORD. (John 15:5; Eph 2:10).

We have a loving Father, who gave His beloved Son to redeem us from our idolatry. When we perceive our supposed “lack”  take it to the LORD. He knows what we need, and He knows the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows our hearts in ways that we do not know our own hearts. Let us continually ask God to give us eyes to see, and the grace to find our joy in His provision.

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A Door No Man Could Open

Sealed Shut by Grace
My Lord has much better for me than the thing behind the door that He  just slammed in my face. I certainly don’t have the sense or the confidence to believe it as confidently as I should, but I know that God is using all things for my good, because He’s given me the Spirit of Christ.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

Have you ever been in a situation where things wouldn’t budge? Sure it’s disappointing, but most people find alternative routes. “When one door closes another opens” is one of the most popular adages of our time. (Either that or “When God closes a door He opens a window.”)

Minus the reductionistic nature of the quote, this may describe your normal experience. By default, we troubleshoot through our setbacks. Christians, whether they face very difficult situations or not,  pray to the LORD for His help. It is the blessing of our gracious LORD that people are able to hold down a stable job, that husbands and wives stay married, that children continue in the way of their parents, granted their parents have trained them in the wisdom and grace of God. Sometimes we are forgetful of these regularities. However, just because we forget, doesn’t mean that Christ isn’t continually sustaining all things by the Word of his Power.  (Heb 1:3; Col 1:17) Our Lord and Savior  is speaking to us, and the order of things visible and invisible are His words. The Scriptures are the glasses enabling us to see these things. (Matt 7:24) God isn’t going to build anything else. And if He doesn’t build, then we’re all wasting our time because it isn’t going to happen. (Psalm 127:1)  We just need the eyes to see, and the ears to hear, yet another gift from God. (Prov 20:12)

What about the doors that are sealed shut? What happens when the window, which was the alternative,  is barred over? What happens when the routes you may have otherwise taken, are unavailable to you? Many may call this  “The Twilight Zone”, though I’m sure there are many others who call it home.  Job, Jonah, and Jeremiah once did.

It was God’s pleasure to glorify Himself through the suffering of these men, even in Jonah’s case, when he reacted as many of us would today. In the land of opportunity, we believe too quickly that our lots will be similarly wonderful. If everything is operating accordingly, we will all have good careers, wonderful marriages,  and “the pie in the sky, by-the-by” . I too quickly believe these things and God sanctifies me by acquainting me with all of my weaknesses.

God will purify His children from their iniquities (Zech 13:9) , He will give us peace and hope if we ask for it, (Romans 15:13; Phil 4:6-7)  but we will all suffer in Christ. (Romans 8:17; Phil 1:29) Each of us are given a special measure, according to the grace of God. (Eph 4:7; 2 Cor 10:13, 1 Cor 7:17, Romans 12:3) These are all general truths. It is the particularities that often cause me to stumble.

Providence: The Points and Planes of Suffering

It is often difficult for me to place my own “point” of suffering on the “plane” of genuine Christian experience. But I believe Christ’s invitation is open to the weary, even when their weariness is cause by their own doing.

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!” (Isaiah 30:1-2)

We run to Egypt, to gather the things God hasn’t given us, and wonder why we are wearied and enslaved by our own devices. But “Gracious” and “Merciful” is God’s covenant name (Exodus 34:6);

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.”  (Isaiah 30:18)

The Dark Night of the Soul
Even more confusing is knowing that there are many occasions when my suffering is not connected to any sin of mine at all. It’s just there. I know that many illnesses and traumatic events can cause mental suffering. However what happens when you don’t have anything external to point to, when asked why you can’t get moving like everyone else?

“He has besieged and enveloped me
    with bitterness and tribulation;
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
    he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
    he has made my paths crooked.” (Lam 3:5,7-9)

This description certainly matches the experience of depression and anxiety, unintended or not. It puts the DSM-5 to shame in that respect.

Talk about a real theological diagnosis of the inner turmoil of depression : “Patient seems to have been besieged and enveloped by God, causing symptoms of weariness with life, near unexplainable sorrow, and internal turmoil that interferes with daily life and interpersonal relationships.”

Well Meaning Friends with Useless Advice

Then there is the real possibility that those closest to you will not understand. Even when they try to, you are causing tension and stress when you voice your experience. God has made us finite, and we must realize that it is a blessing to be unable to completely understand ourselves and the people around us. We must also realize that God gives us the ability to share truth and offer help and comfort even though we don’t fully understand. Then there other times when we are tempted to offer something else. Like, advice.

Advice can be really helpful. However just because advice is helpful, doesn’t mean we should share it in every situation. Advice does not always universally apply. Using a fork to eat my green beans doesn’t mean it will be just as helpful using a fork to remove toast from the toaster. Swimming is always good exercise, but that doesn’t mean I should go swimming during a thunderstorm. “Okay this is getting a little ridiculous” you may say, and you’re right. However, good advice can be ridiculous sometimes. Being “slow to speak” is something we should all practice.

Think of Job’s three friends:

(1)  Eliphaz, acknowledges that Job has been a source of strength to others (Job 4:3-4). But then he turns and puts the blame for Job’s suffering squarely on Job himself. “Think now,” he says, “who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:7-8)

(2) Bildad, says much the same. “See, God will not reject a blameless person nor take the hand of evildoers” (Job 8:20)

(3)  Zophar, repeats the refrain. “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, do not let wickedness reside in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure, and will not fear.…Your life will be brighter than the noonday” (Job 11:14-15, 17).

“Their reasoning is a syllogism. God sends calamities upon wicked people only. You have suffered a calamity. Therefore you must be wicked. Job himself avoids this false syllogism.”  (source)

It may be that this is a hidden premise in our own hearts (it certainly is for me), and so we pray that God will continually remind us of His mercy. Christ invites us to take on His yoke. He is the suffering servant, and the only mediator between God and man. He is able to sympathize with our suffering, and is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11,17; Heb 4:15). This doesn’t remove suffering, but it certainly is a relief to remember that suffering isn’t without purpose.

God raised Jesus from the dead, and the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me (Romans 8:11) God takes delight in delivering His children. (Zeph 3:17) I need to be reminded of this when I’m stuck. Maybe we could all use this reminder

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

Depression and Your Social Life

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in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; (eph 6:16

One of the most horrific features of depression is the corrosive effect it has on our [my] social life. Along with anxiety, depression can eat away friendships like the swarms of locusts ate away the egyptian agriculture (Exo 10:15). I do not think depression is necessarily sinful in and of itself (at least, not until I experience one of those knock-down-drag-out seasons of it). Depression, however, is a product of the sinful world we live in. It was necessary for Jesus to experience  depression and anxiety (Mark 14:34; Matt 26:38; Isa 53:3,4,12), but He did so without sin (Heb 2:18; 4:15). It was necessary for Him to suffer so that He could be the perfect mediator between God and Man (1 Tim 2:5). This is one of the reasons a distinction is necessary between sin and suffering.

Even though suffering is the “theological seminary”  God uses to sanctify and train us in our obedience (my major is depression [Heb 5:8-9]), Satan would enjoy turning it into a “theological cemetery”  (Job 1:11-12; 1 Peter 5:8-9). My  depression in combination with my  sinful heart can (and will) make for easy prey for the devil’s schemes against God. Let it be known that we are still responsible for the sins that we commit. So even though we are victims, we are also culprits.

Because God created us in His image, everything we are and everything we do is directly relative to Him, and others. This is the reason scripture is so concerned with how we interact with one another (in both Old and New Testaments).

As I “listen”  to my worst bouts of depression, most of the sound stems from issues I’ve had with other people. Whether  they’ve offended me, or I’ve offended them, my concerns fixate themselves on what the person is thinking and feeling. In my effort to “fix” my own problems, the paradigm shifts away from my duty to love/trust/fear  “the LORD who brought me out of the land of slavery” (Exo 20:2;Isa 61:1;Luk 4:18;Eph 4:8), toward a love/trust/fear of man (Prov 29:25; Jer 17:5; Isa 2:22; Psa 118:8; Isa 30:1). The love of God is powerful in that it teaches us how to love. Knowing the love of God in Christ Jesus is necessary to loving others (2 Cor 5:14). His love sets the correct  pattern.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  (1 John 4:10)
“We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Augustine makes this point beautifully;

But living a just and holy life requires one to……  love things… in the right order, so that you do not love what is not to be loved, or fail to love what is to be loved, or have a greater love for what should be loved less, or an equal love for things that should be loved less or more, or a lesser or greater love for things that should be loved equally. (On Christian Doctrine, I.27-28)

The biggest threat to love, according to Augustine is when “We fix our love on the creature, instead of on thee, the Creator” . This is why Augustine prayed that God would “Set love in order in me.”  (City of God, XV.22).

My depression often is the target of the fiery darts of satan, however I remain unconvinced that it is the result of the devil and his minions in its totality . Hooligans coming by and tagging buildings doesn’t  provide reason to believe that it belongs to them.

Depression can be a helpful indicator to idolatry, and it very well may be why God, in His Divine care and providence  has blessed me with it. Due to the perception of isolation (from both God and people) I’m  reminded of who I was made to be. No matter how small my social failures, their loud resonance within my heart impresses on me my primary need, which is The LORD.  God uses depression to strip me of the fig leaves I use to cover my failure and shame, and remind me of His Son. I get prideful, and in my pride I forget about the LORD (1 Sam 12:9; Jud 8:34; 2 Chron 26:16). When I make the mistake of the man named “YHWH is my strength” [Uzziah], God kindly reminds me of His name: “The LORD our Righteousness” and “Savior” (Jeremiah 23:6; Matt 1:21)

Earlier on, I indicated that I asked God to remove this melancholic tendency. I still ask God to remove it. Then I wait for Him to answer

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 
(Psa 22:1)

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? “ (Psa 13:1-2)

But God reminds me that my sin is the bigger problem (Love needs to be set in order!) .  It certainly doesn’t take away from the experience of  slipping down  into the slough of feeling unwanted, unimportant, self-anger, socially exhausted, untrusted, hopeless insignificant, empty, worthless, and some sort of combination of all of these things (Psa 73:2; Psa 94:18), but even so His “unfailing love, LORD, support[s] me”.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

Life Under The Influence of Depression

 

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I.

There is a lot of material out there geared toward trying to describe the nature of depression, especially when a Christian experiences it.

Everyone gets sad. Everyone experiences grief from some kind of suffering. However, what about those experiencing it over longer periods of time? Why are they still dragging their feet?

This issue is a labyrinth, so moving from generalities to specificities would take a lot of time and patience, and a combination of education and experience.
I do not speak here as one who is completely objective. Rather, I speak as someone who experiences this “labyrinth” daily. Even more confusingly (to some, anyway), I experience it as a Christian ( 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Romans 8:1,2). How could someone who is a Christian experience depression? For many of us (including myself at times) it doesn’t seem right. So you can imagine how a Christian who experiences depression could add layers to their suffering by questioning the integrity of their own faith. “I’m depressed because I’m depressed and I’m a Christian!” gets added into the mix of causes.  That’s been my experience, anyway! Has it been yours?

It’s been good for me to be surrounded by godly influences, so that when I’m not thinking straight, they can speak loving truths gently into my fractured frame of reference. With the help of a few of my own mentors, and a range of biblical counseling sources; I’ve been trying to arrange my own thinking accordingly.

As someone who is under the influence of depression, I can testify that it’s hard to think clearly. I would imagine it’s same with any given believer. In Christ, we have all been given the same Spirit that unites us all into fellowship with Him. On the other hand, “there is a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects (or operations/activities)” (1 Cor 12:4-7). I think this passage could very well account for the variety of personalities in the Church. It may be why  one believer may be of a different “constitution” than another, even though they both have genuine Spirit-wrought faith. I’ve seen this encouraging insight in C.H. Spurgeon (whom also suffered from depression):

“Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge essential to their very individuality. Of them it may be said, “Melancholy marked [them] for her own”; fine minds withal and ruled by noblest principles, but yet they are most prone to forget the silver lining and to remember only the cloud. These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness. They may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualification for his peculiar course of service.”

Charles Morton, a 17th century nonconformist minister and educator, has also provided me with insight with regard to the differences among personalities. In “The Spirit Of A Man” he writes of “four special faculties, or acts of mind”. It is the fourth faculty that is most relevant here:

‘Spirit’ is Lastly taken for some qualifications, or inclinations of the mind as united to the body, and conformed much thereunto. This is the product of nature, acquisition and circumstances of life, all which concur to form the genius, temper, or disposition of man. Each man hath something peculiar to himself in this respect [emphasis mine]; as he has in the features of his countenance, stature, shape, meen or carriage of his Body, whereby he is distinguished from any other. So, if we ask, [What Spirit is he of?] we mean, of what temper, inclination or genius? How disposed? How qualified? And the true answers will be as various, as men; of whom one man is (by nature,  acquisition, or both) of a sober, grave Spirit. Another of a quick, active, chearful Spirit. Another of a weak, timorous, careful; Some are gentiel, generous, courteous, open hearted; others churlish, clownish, surly, rough, close and reserved, &c. All these Spi∣rit are viciated by corrupt nature; and may by the Spirit of Grace be so sanctified, as to render men serviceable, tho’ in a different way, and of good acceptance both with God and man. (pg 14-15)

I think it may be helpful to take a “sufferer/sinner/saint, simultaneously”  paradigm (as proposed by Dr. Michael Emlet), with the recognition that sin is our central problem.



II.
My struggles with depression (and anxiety) can be somewhat traced to my heavy tendency toward introspection. Introspection is the process of self-examination. It is “thinking about thinking”. There is a sense in which the Christian should examine themselves  (2 Corinthians 13:5; Lam 3:40); though in my own experience it can quickly morph into a neurotic exercise of self-sufficiency. Without the boundaries of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word of God, and the communion of other believers, it can quickly transform into a trust in my own abilities to locate the source of the problem and lift myself up by my own “cognitive bootstraps”. Sometimes I need to repent from my own religious scrupulosity.

Catastrophizing is one particular manifestation. This pattern of thinking  takes the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Take any event and predict a negative outcome of that event. Given the negative outcome, a catastrophe will be sure to follow. (A common test-case this in Scripture is 1 Kings 19.) Catastrophizing is usually more geared toward the future.  It is a virtuous ability when used by the godly to avoid problems that could arise from a course of action. It is good to know the consequences of the behavior of ourselves and others. However it can become a vice when we forget that we are not like God and do not know the future, yet continue to think as if we do. This can fuel depression and anxiety, and you can understand why. We were not created to know every possible outcome for any given event.  Though we are tempted to say with Job; “For what I fear comes upon me, And what I dread befalls me. “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, And I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.” (Job 3:25)

Another pattern of thought for this depressive introspection has it’s eye on the past-present. This is memory-rehearsal. This happens when we replay our memories on the big-screens in our heads, and analyze everything that went wrong, and how we could have done better. It isn’t always sinful, in that it can be useful for us to biblically analyze our faults and sins, and take action to “put them off” in the newness of life given to us by the power of the gospel. However, I  can become overwhelmed with unnecessary burden when I don’t take all of my past failures and sins to the cross of Christ, where he became my curse. “He will not always accuse” (Psalm 103:9) “Nor will I always be angry” thus says the LORD (Isaiah 57:15-16) “His anger lasts only a moment” (Psalm 3o:5). We should not harbor anger against our neighbors or ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). I don’t easily forget and forgive my sins (or the sins of others for that matter), but the Lord says that He does (Isaiah 43:25).  The constant rehearsal of my faults and the faults of others can often be  due to my unwillingness to forgive.  So, “‘Vengeance is Mine’ says the Lord” (Deu 32:35; Lev 19:18; Romans 12:19) is a call to peace for my troubled  heart.



III.

The central issue of  my depression is the untrustworthiness of my emotional states. Generally speaking, it is out of sync with the reality of the situation. To the people who say “well yes, feelings are no guide to truth”, let it be known that I agree. However, let me state that the problem is elsewhere.

The problem is this; that one can be in agreement with any truth, whatsoever,  but the emotions (or desires)  continually  demand that you go another direction.  The problem with depression is that you can know something to be true, yet go a very long time without feeling something to be true.

I will call it the principle of cognitive dissonance (PCD):

definitions:
Someone = S
Proposition = P
Mind = M
Emotions = E

PCD:
1. S believes P with M
2. S disbelieves P with E
3. P is true.
I think that the problem of sin causes everyone to experience this disturbance to one degree or another. However, it seems that this struggle is magnified in depression. In my experience  it has lead to seasons where I  distrust my emotions so much, that I experience emotional numbness (to some degree).

Dr. Edward Welch, a christian counselor who is also a licensed neuropsychologist, provides an encouragement to people who have this experience:

“Depression demands another way to live (Hebrews 11:1)….Even though I’ve been a believer for decades, I still live by how I feel. Depressed people encounter feelings and say, ‘why bother, there’s nothing good.’ These feelings demand a radical call to live by faith, rather than by sight. When a depressed person lives by sight, everything is dark.”

Could it be that the Christian’s faith goes beyond the dark and thick smog of the emotional interpretation? I think the Word of God speaks directly to that (Psa 22:1; Psalm 31:11, Psalm 38:11, Job 19:13, Lam 3:1-2) . It is a struggle to remember that faith can “speak the hard things from our hearts to the Lord.” We don’t have to ignore our feelings or pretend that they aren’t there, because God isn’t surprised by them. He speaks to them!

I think the biggest struggle here (at least for me) is the way I relate to others in spite of my emotions. I am required to love others, in spite of this ongoing war in my heart.  Even with the ongoing emotional burnout, I am called to think the best of others (1 Cor 13:4-8). My failure in all of these areas drives me to question the genuineness of my faith. Again, this introspection only leads to more depression.

But scripture acknowledges these differing seasons and experiences  among the the psalmist(s) where “lover and friend” are far (Psalm 88:1), where they are the “object of dread among the closest friends (Psalm 31:11), where “friends and companions avoid [them] because of [their] wounds” (Psalm 38:11)

I think the ambiguity of the nature of the experience in question provides a welcome to every sufferer in the LORD (2 Cor 1:5; Phil 3:10). In the my experience, it’s all too easy to read scorn, ridicule, anger, and/or dread into family, friends, and neighbors when in fact they do not feel that way about you at all. Due to the constant strain of stress, your emotions begin shaping the way you think, and the feelings resemble facts. Sadness, bitterness, and anger become the lens from which you read things.

Faith in Christ, in light of this, is going  to Him to interpret those experiences in light of His own interpretation, because I’ve heard His Word (Rom 10:12-13,17). Repentance takes the painful “limp” of walking contrary to the imperatives of those loud emotional experiences (Eph 2:8-10). Grace is God’s pursuit of us and rescue  from that dungeon of despair (Lam 3:22).



 

IV

In conclusion, remembering how God addresses my depression and anxiety, whether it be sin or suffering, does not erase my experience of it. I’ve asked the Lord more than just three times to take it away. To which He answers, “My grace is sufficient to you”. Depression/anxiety may be my thorn for life, left with me by the providential hand of God as mercy to keep me from being more of an egotistical jerk than I already am. It may be there to deflate me from being too easily arrogant (which is very easy for me).

These two verses  in “God Moves in Mysterious Ways” have been very comforting to me. They were penned by William Cowper, who experienced a few breaks with reality in his own life:

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.” 

Ain’t No Killer Like “I”

“Ain’t no killer like I ” is a line in “War Inside”, written by Switchfoot.

In this song, they powerfully convey the inner struggle of our thoughts and emotions.

Can you identify with the speaker of this powerful song?  I can.

It’s tempting for me to trace my every struggle to the externalities. In desperation, I will spin the facts  to alleviate myself from my own responsibilities. It is the natural instinct of a heart marred by sin, but being impaired by sin doesn’t excuse me from my guilt. This is why I need a Savior.

Paul saw this war in himself;

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. or I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:18-24)

Paul stood in daily need of a Savior.

James saw the same thing going on within the Church;

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:1-2)

James traces the biggest enemy that I will ever fight to the home front. My passions. My desires. My jealousy. My envy.

I don’t know about you, but the following thought has crossed my mind many times: “Everyone else is doing something great except me”. That kind of thinking is the sound of a misdirected prayer. Looks like the Word of God  caught me right in the act.

Novelist and comedian, David Baddiel, coined  a german term to capture that line of thought. He called it “Erfolgtraurigkeit”;

“It’s actually a much more common feeling than Schadenfreude — even though we do of course feast like jackals on the fallen. In order to provide the ingredients for the banquet, modern culture requires an almost constant stream of new successes. It is also, I would contend, a somewhat less malignant one. Schadenfreude seems to me to be the coldest of emotions, an expression of nothing but bitterness, whereas Erfolgtraurigkeit has at least the virtue of sadness, the others’ success having thrown the desolation of your life into bad relief.” 

This line of thinking is the perfect soil for the seed of despair. It’s the noose at the end of the rope, around the Christian’s neck. It’s just one example of the war I fight within myself.

With Paul I cry out to my Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the God who fights for me (Exo 14:14, 15:3; Deu 3:22; Col 2:11; Gal 5:24), with a constraining love  that conquers all. ( 2 Cor 5:14, Romans 8:35-37, 1 Cor 13:7,8,13)

May “I” shrink, and Christ be magnified in me.