Stop Listening, Start Talking – Part 3

We are fascinated with stories. Whether it is a six-year-old boy listening to the exciting adventures of his favorite superhero or a 60-year-old man consumed by a thrilling novel, stories have a way of drawing us in and taking us on a journey. More than that, stories are a potent teaching tool in the life of every human being.

The person that shares the story is called the narrator. They, in essence, call the shots! They have the privilege of bringing the story to life through drama, tension, and surprise.

Your life is a story. Each day you live is another paragraph to the story of your life. But who narrates?

You do.

Have you ever considered why people who share similar experiences respond differently? The reason is that the narrator (the person) tells the story differently. For example, two people experience the storyline of the loss of a job. The first narrator tells the story this way.

I lost my job. I am a failure and will never amount to anything. On top of that, I will no longer be able to provide for my family.

You can imagine the quick spiral into depression this person would experience. The second person has the same storyline but narrates the story differently.

I lost my job. This is hard, but I am not going to give up. It may be challenging, but I am a tough person. I will find another job and continue to provide for my family.

These are two different people facing the same circumstance, but each has created their own narrative.

The point of this example is that there is great power in how you narrate your life.

Talking to Yourself vs. Listening to Yourself

As the narrator of your life, you first have to make a critical decision. Will you talk to yourself or listen to yourself?

Now I am not trying to be confusing here, but consider the thoughts that come into your mind when you first wake up. Where did they come from? You did not create them; something inside you begins to narrate who you are from becoming conscious. Let’s call this self talking to you.

On the other hand, there are moments when you choose to create the narrative. As a kid, I remember climbing along the side of a cliff with a massive drop-off. I followed my friends, and they had all crossed a very narrow portion of the path. I remember something inside of saying, “you are afraid and shouldn’t do this,” but then another voice spoke up. It was my voice, and instead of listening, I decided to speak. I told myself, “you can do this, you are brave, and you will make it,” and I did. This was me talking to myself.

Narrators in every person. Self talking to you versus you talking to yourself. One will win, and the winner will unquestionably influence your spiritual state.

Spiritually depressed people do more listening to themselves rather than talking to themselves. They allow the self-narrative to control the way that they think about themselves. It is only a matter of time before the self-talk crushes their spirits in one area or another.

But I want you to consider the verse we looked at in our first article from Psalm 42:5,

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Wait for God, for I shall still praise Him,
For the salvation of His presence.

Notice who is doing the talking. The Psalmist asks a question to his soul, “why are you in despair, O my soul?” This is an internal dialogue showing the Psalmist talking to himself. Rather than listening to the negative emotions, he processed them out loud. Instead of just accepting how he felt about himself, he spoke what he knew to be true, that he would still praise God even in difficult circumstances.

Now that we know that we have to be the ones doing the talking rather than listening to ourselves, we must remind ourselves of the source that our words must come from. If we are going to talk to ourselves, then it is tantamount that we speak the truth. This is why being grounded in the Word of God is vital. One of my favorite imageries from the Bible in regards to this topic comes from James 1:23-25,

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he looked at himself and has gone away, he immediately forgot what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.

We will be blessed if we take in the actual words of God and remember them. We must battle back against the lies ourselves try to tell us with God’s truth. The self tells you that you will always fail, while God tells you that you can be victorious. The self says you are worthless, while God tells you that you are of the greatest value. Self says you are afraid, while God says you are courageous. Self lies, and God reveals the truth! It would do a tremendous amount of good to speak the words of God into outlives both internally and audibly.

Will you stand up against yourself when your self tries to lie, condemn, and confuse you? We must stand up as the psalmist did and speak the truth; your battle against spiritual depression depends on it!


Causes of Spiritual Depression – Part 2

In this article, we will explore the four causes of spiritual depression. Let’s jump into it!

Cause 1: Temperament

For the fact of the matter is that though we are all Christians together, we are all different, and the problems and the difficulties, the perplexities and the trials that we are likely to meet are in large measure determined by the difference of temperament and of type. (Martin Lloyd Jones; Spiritual Depression, pp. 15)

Although we can find many similarities across the human race, we also very easily observe that we are not exactly alike. The examples are endless. One father reacts with joyful laughter at childbirth, another stoic silence, while another weeps uncontrollably. In the heat of the big sports game, one athlete pounds his chest while the other sits silently in meditation. One spouse speaks harshly and aggressively during an argument, while the other is reserved and quiet. Humanity experiences many of the same circumstances, but the responses vary.

Why would this be any different when discussing the topic of spiritual depression? The way we respond and handle life is different from one person to the next. Now it is essential to clarify that in regards to salvation, all temperaments are saved the same way, by Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven will be filled with temperaments of all types from every tribe, tongue, and nation. But when it comes to the Christian life, it will be formed and shaped alongside the God-given temperament of the person.

We must start by understanding ourselves.

We can divide the human race into two primary categories, introverts, and extroverts. The introvert is the one who is generally looking inward, while the extrovert tends to focus on the external aspects of life. The history of the Christian faith is filled with both. Yet, the spiritual condition we are considering is more prone to those in the introverted camp. The reason is that introverted people are also introspective people. They take information and process it internally with much more vigor than those on the extroverted side of the scale.

In order to address the core issue of the introvert, we must distinguish between introspection and self-examination. We are all called to examine ourselves regularly. The danger lies in the endless introspection that becomes self-absorbed, mind-consuming, and emotionally crippling.

If we are always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that kind of frown upon our face and saying: I am in great difficulty–it probably means that we are all the time centered up ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turn leads to the condition know as morbidity (Marin Lloyd Jones; Spiritual Depression, pp. 17)

We must know ourselves because spiritual depression is more common amongst those of certain temperaments.

Cause 2: Physical Conditions

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, arguably one of the greatest preachers of all time, battled with spiritual depression due to a physical ailment. Many have suffered from conditions, whether internally or externally, throughout the church’s history that have similarly caused differing degrees of spiritual depression. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul?

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me⁠—to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7, Legacy Standard Bible)

We can not separate the spiritual from the physical. All matters concern mind, body, and soul. To disturb one is to disrupt them all. Today’s internal battles, speaking generally, include things such as stress, tiredness, overstrain, any form of illness, anxiety, and any physical disability. Externally, it could be a plethora of circumstances that most would consider unfortunate such as a breakup, failure of all sorts, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, the brokenness of family or marriage relationships to name a few. The list could go on and on, and each circumstance can rattle our spiritual lives.

Even positive experiences can lead to spiritual depression. It is not uncommon for someone to experience great triumph or victory in some area, only to be followed by a period of sadness and depression. A simple example of this would be sadness that follows a much-anticipated vacation as we come to grips with our current reality of everyday life. This same phenomenon plays out in many ways following times of success.

How can good and bad physical conditions lead to the same destination? Well, our next cause will shed more light on the topic.

Cause 3: Satan

Now I know the very mention of Satan will seem trivial to many. Unlike spiritual depression, teaching on Satan is few and far between. Because of this, Satan is extremely underestimated in the discussion over spiritual depression. Therefore it would do us good to refresh our understanding of him briefly.

  • 1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
  • 1 John 3:8 – Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
  • John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
  • James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
  • Revelation 12:9 – And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
  • Ephesians 6:11 – Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

I have shared 6 of the 100 verses that mention Satan specifically or are about him in the Bible. There is plenty of scripture to understand Satan and his demons accurately. It would be irresponsible to discuss the topic of spiritual depression and not mention the demonic influence of the devil.

Satan is actively seeking to keep people out of the kingdom of God. One of the most excellent methods he has is to deceive Christians. A deceived Christian can do more harm than good to the Kingdom of God. As I interact with college students, I rarely hear someone who refuses to be a Christian because of some atheist who convinced them. Instead, I hear story after story of those confused and frustrated by the types of Christians they interacted with growing up.

The devils one object is so to depress God’s people that he can go to the man of the world and say: There are God’s people. Do you want to be like that? (Martin Lloyd Jones)

What a sad day when one would choose not to believe by simply observing those who call themselves Christians. Because of this we must, as Ephesians 6:11 said, “stand against the schemes of the devil.”

When we give in to the devil’s lies and stop believing what God says is true, are only conclusion becomes spiritual depression.

Cause 4: Unbelief

Unbelief, stated simply, is not believing God. The moment we accept something as truth that isn’t in agreement with the Bible, we are in the realm of unbelief. We are also in the crosshairs of spiritual depression. If someone with any temperament could believe God perfectly, in all physical conditions, through any lie that Satan tells, you would not experience a drop of spiritual depression in your life.

All spiritual depression is rooted in unbelief. 

As human beings, we do not operate in full belief. Remember the words of the man who had the demon-possessed son in Mark 9, 

And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and was saying, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24, LSB)

Faith is not black and white. It is better to understand it as less and more. Like having only a few pages from a novel, we appreciate what we have while simultaneously yearning for more. We recall the many times Jesus uses the phrase, “you of little faith.” Notice he did not say you of no faith. And these phrases were directed at his very own disciples.

Since faith is a matter of less and more, we can grow it. As we understand God more and challenge ourselves to trust his words over the lies of Satan, our faith grows. Our confidence in God and his words become more and more solidified, and we find ourselves experiencing the solid foundation Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 And the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blew and fell against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.26 And everyone hearing these words of Mine and not doing them, may be compared to a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell⁠—and great was its fall.”28 Now it happened that when Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were astonished at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29, LSB)

Our confidence grows as we hear the words of God and apply them to our lives.

We know the major causes of spiritual depression, but the million-dollar question remains, how do we treat the condition? We will begin this discussion in the following article.

Spiritual Depression – Part 1

Depression needs no introduction. A discussion on depression is as common as a discussion on the weather. It could concern for a close friend or family member, or the desperate cry of an individual for hope and healing in dark circumstances. Either way, we can not avoid it.

Yet, as Christians, we must face an undeniable tension. How is it that the God who sent his son to bring us abundant life could have children who live depressing lives? Doesn’t this seem like a contradiction? Is it okay or even allow for a Christian to experience what the world classifies as depression?

The short answer is yes. But for a topic as big as depression, it would do us good to dive deeper into it.

For clarification purposes, I must recognize that the severity of depression is on a spectrum. For the more severe cases, some may need medical help and medication. For less critical situations, this may not be the case. Either way, it is essential to remember, as Psalm 19 reminds us,

The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul;
We all need a restoration that can only come from the Word of God. This restoration is what we will be seeking in this journey through the topic of depression.

Is depression in the Bible?

The first question we must answer is whether or not depression is biblical? Here is where I would like to distinguish between depression and what we will refer to as a spiritual depression. I make the distinction simply to emphasize the root of the issue. All of life’s problems are, in one way or another, spiritual issues, so it would be good to begin thinking this way. God is the creator of all human life, and there exists no depression outside of the created human being.

Spiritual depression is a prevalent condition in the scriptures. Look at the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me? (Isaiah 42:5)

You can feel the pain of this man who carried the responsibility of speaking on behalf of God. With this great privilege came times of great anguish.

It is also very prevalent in the minds and hearts of Christians today. One study from the Pew Research Center claims that in 2017 there were 7.6 million depressed Christians.

Although the information and statistics on depression are overwhelming, my goal is not to give you any type of statistical analysis on depression. Instead, I will speak from my experience of 15 years of working with college students and young adults. If we were to expand the definition to include sadness, lack of motivation, lack of concern for the Great Commission, insecurity, and fear, I would feel comfortable claiming that almost 100% of the thousands of students I have met wrestle with this spiritual condition.

What will you get from this journey?

When one attempts to find solid ground on the topic of spiritual depression, it can often feel like trying to grab a wet bar of soap. The moment you think you have it, it slips out of your grasp. Understanding this topic is difficult because our efforts at identifying problems tend to focus on the fruits instead of the roots.

This series of articles will discuss the root causes of spiritual depression as seen in the Bible. We will do this using two steps. First, we will build a solid case for spiritual depression from the Bible. Second, we will analyze different examples and illustrations of spiritual depression in the Bible to discover other causes and principles we can use to diagnose and battle against this problem in our own lives.

Why is this topic important?

Although spiritual depression is common, it is not normal for a Christian to live in a depressed state. Notice that I did not say that it is not possible. It is possible, as we will see as we examine the Scriptures, but it would be to the Christians’s demise to remain in this state. One would be missing out on the joy, and abundant life promised to those who believe. Martin Lloyd Jones says,
In a sense, a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms.
To grasp the root of spiritual depression, we must flee from the fast-paced, superficial approach to Christianity that is so common today. To discover the truth in this area, we must slow down and take time to examine ourselves. In our following articles, we will do just that!