My theme for today may not be a very appealing subject, and one that many of us would rather leave unsaid; preferably hidden from sight. But somehow it comes to the surface and becomes usually a family embarrassment. The word is: Depression.
I’m sure that everyone of us know of someone among family or friends who have suffered or experienced a form of depression. It is also possible that any of us, including myself, have had some low times in our life, when anxiety has reached an acute moment, and we begin to drift into a rather depressive mood, but usually come out of it quickly.
If we are given to believe that Believers should not be subject to such a condition, or that it can be dealt with without specialized medical attention, if it persists, we are treading on dangerous ground, and before we do anything to the contrary, we should seek the counsel of our Elders, or any other qualified people. Trouble-free lives for the followers of Messiah, YESHUA, JESUS, is a myth. The very evidence in our personal experiences must prove this. Some of us might render the blessing of the Beatitudes as, ‘happy is the man’. This may be the case in so far as happiness is associated with the various conditions listed by JESUS, and not their converse.
It is a serious mistake if we extend this to a teaching that Believers must always be happy, without having to experience trouble, distress, or anxiety. Furthermore, why should the Believer be any less sensitive than the man of the world? Thus, the general understanding of psychiatrists result in mental illness being simply a reaction to the unbearable stresses of life.
One is bound to sympathize with the argument that if we were all to face up to the gravity of man’s own predicament, we should feel mentally disturbed or distressed. Where the Believers in Messiah will differ from the worldly point of view, is that the latter does not recognize either human responsibility, or have any conception of the spiritual realm.
Our LORD told His disciples,
Don’t worry about life, (Luke 12, verse 22.) He virtually instructed them ‘not to be anxious.’ In doing so, He implicitly recognized that it was inevitable that they would be prone to do so. In fact, He promised them persecution, strife in society and within their families, all in the context of final judgment.
That great Prophet, Elijah, suffered a time of what is today known as a depression. Returning to Jezreel after he had slain the prophets of Baal at the brook, Kishon, Jezebel threatened to kill him likewise. Elijah, fearing for his life, withdrew into the wilderness and prayed that he might die; and an angel of the LORD came and brought him food, after which he travelled forty days and forty nights, until he came to Mount Horeb, the mountain of GOD. (1st Kings, Chapter 19).
Then he separated himself from man and GOD, and withdrew into a cave. At that moment it appears that he feared man more than he feared GOD.
Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are. (James 5, verse 17).
At this point, it should be clarified that those who suffer from an obvious condition of depression, whether they are Believers or not, will almost always require medical help. For there is a grey area between what is termed, ‘clinical depression’ and other states attributed to stress, anxiety, or tension; and all may figure as a part of organic medical disease.
The distinction between them may be very difficult to perceive. Thus was Elijah’s death wish in 1st Kings 19, verse 40; an attack of depression. Or could it be explained as an anti-climax to the triumph and excitement of Carmel, coupled with hunger and thirst, and exhaustion of flight? The angel certainly saw the journey had been too much for him. The illnesses of many jet-set contemporary preachers suggest this problem may still affect some of GOD’s servants.
As disciples of YESHUA, JESUS, we should be able to grasp the extent of the spiritual dimension and interaction. We understand that we are flesh and blood, and by faith, know that we are also spiritual beings, created for eternity. We live in a world that also has a spiritual realm; part of which is hostile to our eternal welfare, and we know that,
We wrestle not only against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age; against spiritual hosts of wickedness. (Ephesians 6, verse 12.)
Constantly our armour is being challenged for areas of weakness, and if any is found, we might suffer an attack. Remember, most of the prophets and apostles did. But none of them were possessed, or could ever be, for the LORD was either by their side, or the Holy Spirit indwelt them, and where the Spirit of GOD abides, evil cannot! We are safe if we are saved.
For by grace you have been saved, through faith - and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of GOD - not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2, verse 8).
However, any interaction between our own self and this hostile power, will produce some form of tension or anxiety. Although unpleasant and oppressive at times, it could be the main spring for intensifying our dependence upon GOD; deepening our fellowship with Him, and therefore, turn it into a blessing. Men and women, in whom GOD had been able to work notably, have often been those who have themselves gone through the furnace of mental illness, if not, major depression.
This should not surprise us, for
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you. (1st Peter 4, verse 12). Our LORD YESHUA Himself, in His humanity, suffered, and because He experienced our suffering upon Himself, He became like us precisely in order
that He having been tested, might be able to succour them that are tempted. (Hebrews 2, verse 18.)
There are many Scriptural illustrations of failures and successes. I have only time today to mention a couple. Abraham, for one, was to be reassured by the sight of a ‘burning lamp’ immediately following his own time of testing. And on the same day, the LORD made a covenant with Abraham to prove He was as good as His Word. You may read this in Genesis, Chapter 15, in full.
In conclusion, let us return to the story of Elijah in 1st Kings 19. Why did he withdraw himself into isolation? Because he honestly thought he was the only true Believer left in Israel. For him, the end of his life seemed near, as he lay in the dark cave. Then the LORD called him out of the cave and put him on a mountain, and showed him that ‘He was not in the noise of the wind, or earthquake, nor in the fire afterward, but in a still small voice.’ My friends, in times of depression we desperately need more, not less, fellowship. At such times in our lives, we must be still and listen for His voice. He will speak and say,
I am a GOD near at hand, and not a GOD afar off. Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him? Do I not fill the heaven and earth? (Jeremiah 23; verses 23 and 24.) Shalom.