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.