March 2, 2012
By John Barnett
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If you’ve ever felt trapped, imprisoned, or helplessly caught by life, then you share the emotions of David in the midst of life in the Cave of Adullam.
Things had gotten so bad that David makes a confession that is packed with meaning to us today.
In the form of an urgent prayer offered to God, and captured for us on paper, David explains that his soul is in prison.
The setting is so graphic, look at it with me in I Samuel 22.
David is in the midst of his life on the run, under immense stress in verses 1-4:
/"David therefore departed from there and escaped to the *cave of Adullam.*
So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And *everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him*.
So he became captain over them.
And there were about four hundred men with him.
3 Then David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and mother come here with you, till I know what God will do for me.” 4 So he brought them before the king of Moab, and they dwelt with him all the time that David was in the stronghold."/
David describes this time as when he felt trapped, with nowhere to escape in Psalm 142.
Here in this Psalm written from a cave, David reflects on the circumstances all around him that made him have:
Look down and find the seventh verse.
Listen to the insight David gives us about what is going on inside of him at this hard time in his life.
This description is so powerful.
/"Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name; the righteous shall surround me, for You shall deal bountifully with me."/ —Psalm 142:7
A more understandable expression of “soul in prison” would be depression.
David wanted to get out of depressions prison because it kept him for praising the Lord.
When we get depressed, life really does feel like an endless pursuit of nothingness.
Such daily struggles are a far cry from the expectations of those who heard this type promise before they became a Christian: “Just get saved and everything will be great from then on!”
But that’s not always true, is it?
Even saved people can go through emotionally imprisoning cave times like David experienced.
Trigger that can start a slide downward emotionally are:
family conflicts; losing a job; losing a home; moving to a new location under duress; working with a tough crowd; being betrayed by friends; being wronged in a business deal; suffering the sudden loss of a family member, friend, or finances, and so forth.
Suffering from depression is a very common malady.
In fact, although most of the Bible is in the major key (saints fearlessly witnessing as churches valiantly serve against all odds), side-by-side with all those wonderful testimonies is the minor key where God’s Word contains true glimpses into the weaknesses and frailties of some of His greatest saints.
If you look closely you find that they with us today had:
*A SHARED STRUGGLE*
What did Moses, Elijah, Hezekiah, Job, Ezra, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Paul all share in common with David as well as us today?
They were all spirit-filled servants of the Lord who struggled with negative emotions.
In light of this, we must be careful to never say that anxiety, depression, discouragement, and other negative emotions are in themselves sinful because we see these same emotions in some of God’s greatest servants.
Even Jesus experienced negative emotions:
In Christ we see *anger* that is not sin, plus *deep emotional distress, grief*, and *anguish*—all of which were perfectly displayed.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, he "began to be *very distressed and troubled*.
And He said to them, 'My soul is *deeply grieved* to the point of death' ” (Mark 14:33-34).
Jesus, in coming to earth, took upon himself the form of a human with all its frailties, yet he did not sin.
The key is not to call each occurrence of a negative emotion sin—the key is to get out of there.
That is what David explains to us.
“The Christian who remains in sadness and depression really breaks a commandment: in some direction or other he mistrusts God—His power, providence, forgiveness.”
Webster’s definition of “depression” gives us a fascinating insight into ways this negative emotion can also affect believers:
1. a state of feeling sad; a disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies
2. A reduction in activity, amount, quality, or force; a lowering of vitality or functional activity
*Famous People who Struggled with Depression*
Each of the following servants of the Lord suffered from crippling and sometimes even paralyzing depression:
• *Moses* (Numbers 11:14-15): /“*I am not able* to bear all these people alone, because *the burden is too heavy for me.*
If You treat me like this, *please kill me here and now*—if I have found favor in Your sight—and *do not let me see my wretchedness!*”/
Moses was confessing that he could not humanly do what had to be done.
But this state of mind was actually a blessing because when he felt squashed and depressed by his work, he came to an end of self-reliance and learned to trust the Lord more fully.
• *Elijah* (1 Kings 19:4): He stood alone against an entire nation, an entire army.
He also stood alone against the most heinous and wicked of all the corrupt religious people of the day, including Jezebel, whose name is synonymous with sin, the occult, and wickedness.
But after all that life in the major key, after his greatest time of victory Elijah slid into depression:
/"But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree.
And he *prayed that he might die*, and said, “It is enough!
Now, LORD,* take my life …!” */
This despondency followed having 850 angry prophets of Baal destroyed on Mount Carmel and then outrunning a chariot!
This took supernatural courage, strength, and faith.
But when he heard the rumor that Jezebel wanted to kill him, he became dejected.
In spite of his great victories, Elijah wasn’t perfect; when wearied and drained emotionally, he was subject to being overcome by complete discouragement.
However, God didn’t rebuke him for that negative emotion; He first dealt with the physical causes of Elijah’s depression before teaching the spiritual lesson he needed to learn.
Then remember that James 5 says that Elijah was subject to the same struggles as we all face.
• *Hezekiah* (2 Kings 20:2-3): / "When facing a terminal illness, … *he turned his face toward the wall*, and prayed to the LORD, saying, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.”
And *Hezekiah wept bitterly.*"/
Turning his face to the wall was an act of desperation, but God Lord didn’t say his bitter weeping was wrong.
Instead, He responded to Hezekiah’s prayer with patience and gentleness and added fifteen years to his life.
• *Job: “Why did I not die at birth? *Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11).
Job felt like he couldn’t go on any longer!
So he poured out his woes to the Lord: "I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water ….
My life flies by—day after hopeless day ….
I hate my life ….
For God has ground me down, and taken away my family ….
But I search in vain.
I seek him here; I seek him there, and cannot find him ….
My heart is broken.
*Depression haunts my days.*
My weary nights are filled with pain ….*
I cry to you, O God, but you don't answer me"* (Job 3:23-24; 7:6, 16; 16:7; 23:8; 30:16-17, 20, LB).
In his depression over losing his property and children, the Bible said that … Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong (Job 1:22).
As he suffered through trial after trial, feeling abandoned by even God, Job was never rebuked for having negative feelings.
However, the Lord did reprove his three friends for accusing him of sin and for failing to speak what was right about God, as Job had (Job 42:7-8).
• *Ezra*: His was a stellar personality!
Tradition records that he memorized the entire Old Testament, wrote an entire book by his name plus another incredible, longest of all chapters in the Bible (Psalm 119) .
But look at his testimony in Psalm 119:25: *My soul clings to the dust*; revive me according to Your word.
Note that he didn’t say: “In my wicked sinfulness I’m clinging to the dust.”
No, he simply said, “That’s how life is!”
If you study Psalm 119 closely, it is filled with Ezra’s constant struggles with both people and his emotions.
He also made a wonderful prayer request—“revive me”—because he knew the Lord was his only hope and source of strength to get through his struggles.
• *Paul*: His comments on troubled times are insightful: … When we came into Macedonia our flesh *had no rest*, but we were *afflicted* on every side: *conflicts* without, *fears* within (1 Corinthians 7:5 NASB).
What was Paul going through here?
He was depressed.
Was that a sin?
No, it was a common result of his having “had no rest.”
He was in the most Roman of the Roman Empire, just coming from Asia Minor where the pagan idolatry and emperor worship was very strong.
Like David, Paul was constantly pursued, so he eventually became weary and fearful for his life.
But, as he wrote Timothy, he understood that fear is always the realm of Satan: … God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (1Timothy 1:7).
Although Satan buffeted a vulnerable Paul with conflicts and fears until depression set in, he refused to remain in that state.
How did this mature saint, who had mastered much of the Old Testament and wrote books for the New Testament, find comfort in his distress?