Depression: Joining Battle with Pernicious Lies and Accusations

The Depression of ElijahAlong with what seems to be an ever-increasing number of people, I’ve spent (literally) decades battling depression. When I finally accepted Jesus as my Savior nearly 20 years ago, He graciously relieved me of the twin compulsions of 1) drinking vast amounts of alcohol and, 2) introducing any number of illegal drugs into my blood system. At that time, I was far too naive to recognize that “immediate” deliverance from any addiction is a rarity; most recoveries require excruciating levels of patience. My ignorance of what a rare blessing my healing was fueled a lack of gratitude and served to slow down my spiritual progress.

Looking back now, I suppose somewhere, in the back of my mind, I also expected Christ to relieve me of the often-crippling depression that drove me to substance abuse in the first place but, for whatever reason, He didn’t. Charles Spurgeon, as just one example among many, suffered lifelong depression; so did Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-18). And who am I to question God’s ways? (Job 38:1-42:6)

Perhaps in the age to come, I’ll understand more deeply just how merciful Jesus was in not giving me what I thought I needed; the first clue might be that the real change and progress I was seeking only began once I stopped asking “Why?” like some spoiled little kid fidgeting in the back seat of the family car. In the end, the “Why?” doesn’t really matter all that much, anyway; we lose precious time and momentum if we stay stuck there.

Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Martyn Lloyd-JonesI’d like to be able to say that, at long last, I finally read Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and that this singular event represented the second major awakening in my soul, but that’s simply not true. Yes, to this very day, I will shove this particular book into the hands of anyone who shares in the depression struggle, and it will likely remain in my All-Time Top 10. The difficult truth, however, is that depression often puts down deep roots into our heart; the process of uprooting these roots is often painstaking and lifelong. Nonetheless, for me, the analysis of Lloyd-Jones represented the beginning of construction for a solid framework – a concrete-and-steel bridge to sanity – that has since withstood every storm.

Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. WelchWhether you believe that your soul has a mortal enemy or not is almost beside the point. The simple truth is that, as Rick Warren likes to say, “No one lies to you more than you lie to yourself.” For example, some of the most successful people you will ever meet struggle with a nagging certainty that they are a complete fraud: “Sooner or later, people are going to figure out that you’re a complete idiot, and then you will be out on your ear.” It’s a shopworn cliche that objectively-beautiful women fret about how “fat” they are, obscenely-wealthy individuals freak out over a 1-point drop in their portfolios, etc. Lloyd-Jones argues that sitting behind all of this nonsense is the enemy of your soul, lounging quite comfortably in the cushy armchair you yourself have provided. He spends his days accusing your soul (Revelation 12:10) and you (just like me) lose precious emotional energy and years of your life listening to an inner monolog composed largely of lies and nonsense.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul tells us that we actually have a lot of defensive armor with which to protect ourselves from harm, but the single offensive weapon he mentions is the “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is what we need most when accusations and self-torture begin. The model for doing battle with lies and damnable half-truths, of course, would best be demonstrated by Jesus battling Satan in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Tired, hungrier than most of us will ever be, Jesus struggled to keep his face set like flint to his agonizing death in Jerusalem in just a few short years (Luke 9:51). Yet every time the enemy lied to Him, his response was to quote Scripture, notably Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:13 and 6:16.

When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God - and Joy by John PiperYou and I can harness that same power, and we do not need to memorize the entire Pentateuch to begin doing battle, either. How about just a few short verses instead? Below I have listed five of the lies that I have heard other people tell themselves most often. The list of five verses that counter this sort of unbiblical thinking – thinking that simultaneously denies the truth of Scripture, it should be noted – is not comprehensive. You could easily find and add your own verses to the mix. The point is to first capture the thought (2 Corinthians 10:5) – “You’re worthless,” or whatever – and then ask, “Is that really true? What does Scripture really say about me?”

The Lie: “You are alone.”

  • Genesis 28:15: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
  • Exodus 33:14: And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Psalm 73:28: But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
  • Psalm 139:7: Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
  • Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
  • 1 John 4:16: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

The Lie: “You are worthless.”

  • Psalm 139:13-16: For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
  • Matthew 10:31: “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
  • Romans 5:8: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Lie: “God hates you.”

  • Psalm 103:8: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  • Psalm 118:6: The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me
  • Jeremiah 31:3: The Lord appeared to him from far away. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
  • John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
  • 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The Lie: “You’ll never change.”

  • Romans 6:6: We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11: And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Timothy 2:21: Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

The Lie “No one understands you.”

  • Proverbs 17:17: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Romans 12:5: So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
  • Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
  • James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
  • 1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

To be 100% clear, I’m most definitely not suggesting that by memorizing a few verses, anyone’s depression will lift. No, I continue to do battle with depression. As I said, I know that for many of us, it can be a lifelong struggle. The life-giving difference in my struggle today, however, comes in running to the source of Truth to do battle against the deathward lies that continue to be whispered in my ear.

That which counts for most in Christian life is steadfastness, holding on through all discouragements, all hindrances. Some people make a brilliant start, and then lose their enthusiasm. That seems to have been the trouble with the Galatians. Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.” In another of his epistles, he begins by thanking God for those to whom he was writing for their faithfulness, their loyalty, their devotion to the truth. But he begins this epistle by marveling at the lack of seriousness and of steadfastness in the Galatians. When certain persons desired to become Christ’s followers, he said to them, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine.” (John 8:31 NASB) It is the continuance with Christ as believers and as his followers that proves our discipleship. We should have our feet on the rock and should cleave to Christ, whatever the pressure may be. It is a great thing to be fixed and stable.
J.R. Miller (1840–1912) was a Christian author, editor and pastor.

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Please Note: If you are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Lifeline provides toll-free access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The diagnosis and treatment of clinical depression, anxiety, and associated disorders requires a qualified mental health professional. Experiences and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of pastors and staff at The Crossing EPC.

One Comment

  1. Shannon K Spurling said:

    There’s also the deep seated knowledge that things are not as they should be, as we expect them to be, and we grow world weary. Which is another lie that we tell ourselves that they should be perfect in this world that is racked with sin and decay. Instead of looking at the renewal and grace that is constantly at work around us, we focus on the train wreck of when we tried to do it all by our selves. God is good. He is perfect. He is renewal and grace.

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