“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.” -Psalm 119:71
One subject I have shied away from because of how it affects me personally is depression. This is a topic some feel ashamed to speak on, let alone admit to the world wide web. But I once wrote a post related to my son’s autism, describing how I was comforted by another in a similar special needs world, and how we as Christians should comfort others with the comfort we have received. This comes directly from Scripture, reminding us how God has shown us comfort in our time of need (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Depression has been my companion now for over 20 years. Some seasons are more intense than others. I can look back on the darkest times now as bittersweet. One period in particular I poured over the Psalms as they were especially helpful. I appreciated and could identify with the raw emotions in the pages of Scripture which spoke to my pain. Did you know that all but one psalm ends with praise or hope in God? Psalm 88 is the only psalm which concludes with darkness. This shows us that God can handle our emotions. He created them. Rightly channeled, emotions are good. But sin taints everything we do so we must interpret our emotions through the lens of Scripture.
If you or a loved one struggles with depression I have a few resources to suggest which greatly encouraged me over the years. Depression is spiritual warfare felt acutely. We need not fight alone. In fact, we don’t as believers. Each child of God is supremely blessed with His Spirit. But sometimes when you are drowning in darkness and can’t focus on the promises of God, His voice can seem distant…silent. This is when a Christian friend, Biblical counselor, or pastor needs to come alongside you. We are not meant to walk the Christian pilgrimage alone.
Devotional Psalter by Dane Ortlund
I have owned this devotional for a few years and referenced it in past blog posts. Dane Ortlund is a pastor serving in Illinois. Going through the Psalms Ortlund comments on each one, always pointing toward the cross. If we ever question God’s love for us in our trials and life experiences we don’t understand, all we need to do is look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). He gave us our answer by going to the cross in our place.
Depression: A Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch
A Biblical counselor gave this to me years ago and I recently re-read it. Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). It is a helpful resource for friends and family to understand their loved one with depression. This is also an excellent tool for anyone suffering with depression as Welch identifies various reasons for this kind of pain and how to work through it Biblically.
Quotes from the book:
“Contrary to what we might think, God says that strong faith can coexist with emotional highs, lows, and everything in between. It is a myth that faith is always smiling. The truth is that faith often feels like the very ordinary process of dragging one foot in front of the other because we are conscious of God.”
“Through our struggles and pain, we are being offered perseverance, the character of God. Hardships are intended to give us a spiritual makeover, “that we may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Therefore, when God encourages us to persevere He is not stumbling for encouraging words. He is teaching us how to look like Him.”
“Suffering is God’s surgery that leads to health when responded to by faith.”
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund
I loved this book. Actually, each one of the books listed I have given as gifts or recommended to someone. This one in particular helped me understand the depth of God’s love for me. Maybe like you, I have no problem comprehending the wrath of God, but His love? Well, sometimes I do struggle with how much I am loved as a redeemed sinner. Ortlund uses commentary from godly men of the past such as Thomas Goodwin, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin and John Owen. This topic on the love of Christ is not new, but Ortlund fleshes it out and uses Scripture as well to back up his argument. He dives deeper in understanding the great love our Father lavishes on His children. It is an essential book every believer needs to have in their library for spiritual encouragement. The depressed especially need to rightly see how loved and forgiven they are in spite of how they feel.
Quotes from the book:
“the Bible takes us by the hand and leads us out from under the feeling that His heart for us wavers according to our loveliness.”
“The yearning heart of God delivers and redelivers sinners who find themselves drowning in the sewage of their life, […] in need of a rescue that they cannot even begin on their own, let alone complete.”
“If you are in Christ, you have a Friend who, in your sorrow, will never lob down a pep talk from Heaven. He cannot bear to hold Himself at a distance. Nothing can hold Him back. His heart is too bound up with yours.”
I hope you find something helpful here. If anything, sometimes it is good to know you are not alone in pain. The hope and peace we have as Christians is that our suffering is not in vain as we look to Jesus. It is sanctifying. Joseph told his brothers in Egypt that what they intended for harm, God used for good (Genesis 50:20). In the same way, what has the potential to destroy, God can use your depression for His glory in refining how you think about Him and yourself in light of who Christ is and what He has done for you.
Grace upon grace,