“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Did you know that Christian believers get down and depressed? Some people mistakenly believe that Christians should not experience any kind of deep sadness after conversion, as if we have been made immune to depression, despair and despondency. If a Christian does lapse into depression, this thinking goes, he or she is in sin.
This is an entirely faulty understanding of what it means to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and the biblical promise of painful providence. The term “depressed” can mean a variety of things. To be sure, it can refer to a diagnosable medical condition (clinical depression; post-partum depression), which can require an individual to seek treatment through professional counseling and/or medication. For the purpose of my word of encouragement this month, I am identifying the term depression as the reality of a deep feeling of sadness . . . and the power that is available to us when we look to Jesus for the cure.
Sadness in the Bible
Because we are broken people living in a broken world with other broken people, sadness is a reality, even for the redeemed. We see how Jesus entered into the intense sadness of those who were mourning the death of Lazarus: He wept (John 11:35). The Bible is filled with examples of great saints struggling with sadness leading to depression. David wrote, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8). And remember, this lament came from the man who is described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
We read in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that the great apostle Paul despaired even of life itself. And he was not alone in feeling that way! Notice that he wrote, “We were under great pressure” and “We despaired even of life.” Paul and his companions were being buffeted by storm winds of difficulty and persecution that brought them to the point of utter hopelessness. And let us not forget that both Moses (Numbers 11:15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:3-5) cried out to God that they would rather die than live in their current season of struggle. Job, whom Scripture describes as “blameless and upright,” a man who “feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1), said despairingly that he wished he had died at birth (Job 3:11). And I would be remiss if I did not mention our Lord’s words as He prepared to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38).
We do not know exactly what hardships Paul and his missionary team were facing in Asia. Yet the biblical accounts of Paul’s three missionary journeys record many incredibly difficult trials. If Paul (and Moses, Elijah, and Job) got down to the point of despairing even of life, it should not surprise any of us that we too may get down from time to time and struggle with seasons of sadness. But just like Paul, we have all that we need in Jesus to deal with our down so that we are never out! As disciples of Christ, we are called and commanded to see the sovereign reality of God and His perfect plan and purpose being worked out in our imperfect and sometimes pain-filled lives.
Here are three truths to lift you out of the ashes of defeat:
Jesus is for you
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Jesus is with you
“I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus is in you
“Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
We are all given over to times of depression, despair, and despondency. The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, referred to by many as “the prince of preachers,” confessed that he had “suffered many times from sever sickness and frightful mental depression seeking almost to despair.” Again, I ask you: If great men of faith like Spurgeon and Paul and Elijah struggled with seasons of despair, is it not possible – even likely – that you and I will also?
Focus on Christ
We are not perfected yet, and we won’t be until we cross the Jordan. Until that day, there will be circumstances in life that will come against us in surprising and upsetting ways. When that happens, we must remember to keep our focus on Christ, not our circumstances. When we do that, we will be reminded that Jesus is for us, with us, and in us.
David knew this truth: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” he wrote, “and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). We have seen that our Lord knows what it is to sink into deep sorrow, and He has promised never to leave you or forsake you. Depending upon God’s faithfulness is the key to rising above our discouragement. This is a truth we all must come to understand, and this only happens when He carries us through those seasons painful personal experience.
Regardless of what you are facing today personally, professionally and relationally, the three truths I have presented here will help you rise above the waves of challenge. The key is to let your despondency lead you to increased dependency upon your Lord. And when you find yourself in a season of despondency, remember you are only down; you are never out. As Paul also said, “We are cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9).
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.