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Musings and Memories

Rejoice always

Doug Dezotell
Posted 5/14/22

Years ago I met a Christian woman who made the claim that depression comes from demonic possession, or from sin in a person’s life.

She thought maybe it was a curse, or because God was …

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Musings and Memories

Rejoice always

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Years ago I met a Christian woman who made the claim that depression comes from demonic possession, or from sin in a person’s life.

She thought maybe it was a curse, or because God was punishing that person. This dear lady believed that Christians always needed to be happy and ‘on-top-of-the-world.’

I lovingly disagreed with my friend, although I told her that I believed on some occasions depression could be due to an ongoing sin, but for most believers depression isn’t always a result of those things.

The Apostle Paul wrote these two statements: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4), and “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Back when the Apostle wrote these words he was all too aware of the fact that life could be very difficult.

We know from the Book of Acts and even from Paul’s own letters that he had faced persecution on numerous occasions. We know he was beaten, stoned, left for dead, imprisoned, and ostracized at times from his fellow Jews and then from the Christian community.

Paul was not under the illusion that life would always be a bed-of-roses, or ‘a bowl-full-of-cherries, or easy and trouble-free, and yet he told his fellow believers to ‘rejoice always’ and ‘give thanks in everything.’

Paul was a human with emotions just like you and me, and he faced emotional ups and downs just like us. Just like us!

But, in his letters to the churches I believe the Apostle was challenging his friends to think about the way they should respond to the realities of life, not with naivety but with a conscious choice to focus on the Lord, whatever life throws at them.

The disciple and brother of Jesus, James, wrote in his letter, 1:2-4… “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James was an encourager just like Paul. And he had his emotional trials to deal with just like us. But James wanted to encourage his readers in the churches of his day; and we can find encouragement today with his words.

Depression is not a new thing—it’s been around almost since day one!

Getting over depression isn’t about “having more faith,” or “looking on the bright side,” or “just getting over it.” God will help us deal with it if we will only turn to Him in prayer.

Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make us immune from depression; as I said we are emotional creatures, and we all have those highs and lows, and ups and downs. Some peoples’ are more frequent and more severe than others.

Depression doesn’t mean that a person is spiritually lacking or that they’re immature in their Christian faith.

Some of the strongest, most faithful believers have suffered with depression—and God still loved them. And He still loves us too!

Take King David for example. There are numerous times when David’s experiences with depression came across in his psalms.

Maybe Paul and James learned from David’s psalms how to deal with their ‘emotional roller coaster rides.’

In Psalm 61 David wrote (vv. 1-4), “Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You; when my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.”

In Psalm 25:15-21 David wrote, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.”

In Psalm 6:2-7, we read words that sound like something that you and I might pray when experiencing deep depression. David’s words seem to be filled with frustration and even anger: “Show me grace, Eternal God. I am completely undone. Bring me back together, Eternal One. Mend my shattered bones. My soul is drowning in darkness. How long can You, the Eternal, let things go on like this? Come back, Eternal One, and lead me to Your saving light. Rescue me because I know You are truly compassionate. I’m alive for a reason—I can’t worship You if I’m dead. If I’m six feet under, how can I thank You? I’m exhausted. I cannot even speak, my voice fading as sighs. Every day ends in the same place – lying in bed, covered in tears, my pillow wet with sorrow. My eyes burn, devoured with grief; they grow weak as I constantly watch for my enemies.”

One of my personal heroes, Mother Teresa, suffered with bouts of depression. This loving and compassionate nun is usually thought of as an iconic image of supreme Christian service.

Most people who know of Mother Teresa’s ministry see her as faithful in her service and unwavering in her devotion to God.

But there was also a side of Mother Teresa that not everyone knew. She suffered with depression and struggled at times to find God, especially during periods of dark despair, but her soul hungered for Him even when she didn’t sense His presence.

In her book “Come Be My Light,” she wrote: “I want to smile even at Jesus and so hide if possible the pain and the darkness of my soul even from Him.” And later she wrote: “With regard to the feeling of loneliness, of abandonment, of not being wanted, of darkness of the soul, it is a state well known by spiritual writers and directors of conscience. This is willed by God in order to attach us to Him alone, an antidote to our external activities, and also, like temptation, a way of keeping us humble in the midst of applauses, publicity, praises, appreciation, etc. and success.”

In the “Aquila Report,” Allan Adams wrote this about the protestant reformer, Martin Luther: “Luther himself endured many instances of depression. He described the experience in varied terms: melancholy, heaviness, depression, dejection of spirit; downcast, sad, downhearted. He suffered in this area for much of his life and often revealed these struggles in his works. Evidently he did not think it a shameful problem to be hidden.”

In 1523, Martin Luther wrote his hymn “From Depths of Woe.” Its first stanza is: “From depths of woe I cry to Thee, In trial and tribulation; Bend down Thy gracious ear to me, Lord, hear my supplication. If Thou rememb’rest ev’ry sin, Who then could Heaven ever win Or stand before Thy presence?”

For those Christians who suffer with depression or other forms of mental illness, your journey and experiences are going to be different from each other, but we are all bonded together in a unified Christian experience. You aren’t alone in your suffering.

A caring Christian once wrote: “The similarities of our anguish, the deep depths of our depressions, the struggles of our condition, the unanswered, perplexing questions and even at times, silence from God show us by their similarity that God has found a way to stretch us and shape us, even sometime agonizingly, but purposefully into something more than we were before.”

Ever since 1949 the Month of May has been recognized as “Mental Health Awareness Month.” Millions of Americans suffer with various forms of mental illness, and it more common than you might realize. It has also impacted my own family over the years.

Christian people are not exempt from mental illness, but we do have a Comforter. A Healer. His Name is Jesus. He is called Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace. Turn to Him today.

IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS: Text “MHA” to 741741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a trained crisis counselor 24/7, 365 days a year.

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