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Dealing With Depression, Pt1

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Dealing With Depression: Pt 1, Job’s Depression[1]
Preached: 5/11/14, Eastside Pittsburgh Church of Christ
Scripture Reading:
11 "My days are past, my plans are torn apart, Even the wishes of my heart. 12 "They make night into day, saying, 'The light is near,' in the presence of darkness. 13 "If I look for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness; 14 If I call to the pit, 'You are my father'; To the worm, 'my mother and my sister'; 15 Where now is my hope? And who regards my hope? ()
Depression is a topic that is not dealt with frequently enough amongst God’s people, which leads many of us to feel like we are not equipped to talk to people that say that they are struggling with depression. There are many reasons why this is not talked about much amongst God’s people in classes or sermons. Some think that this topic should be left to be discussed by those with a whole bunch of letters after their names; to the doctors and psychiatrists; that this subject is a purely secular subject, which leads many who are Christians to not spend too much time figuring out how they can help their brothers and sisters struggling with depression. Instead, we leave it to the medical community to handle.
Depression is also a subject that is an emotionally charged topic. Many people have very strong opinions about depression, especially when discussing the causes of depression and how it should be treated. Unfortunately, even the medical community does not agree on these things.[2] The facts are that a good bit that comes from the field of psychology about depression and many other “mental disorders” are nothing more than theories that do not have a lot of hard science to back them up. There is just a lot that is not known about the human brain and how it works.
Another thing that makes this a difficult subject to deal with is that people use the word to describe so many experiences and feelings that we all commonly experience in life. The word is used to speak of many different emotions and differing levels of severity. It is important to keep this in mind. For example, people who are struggling with emotions of sorrow, sadness, anxiety, guilt, discouragement, loneliness, anger, resentment, and bitterness of many different severities may say that they are depressed or be diagnosed with minor depression. At it’s greatest severity, some get to the point where these emotions completely overwhelm them and consume them to the point where they shut down physically and cannot perform the common, daily activities that they are used to doing. Some would say that they feel like they are trapped in the darkness and that this darkness is their daily companion, to the point of saying something like, “I feel as though I died a few weeks ago and my body hasn’t found out yet.”[3] People with all of these symptoms can be said to be in the state of depression.
With all of the confusion and lack of scientific knowledge on this subject, we can be thankful that, as Christians, we have the best “textbook” on the human condition: the Bible. God has a lot to say about the emotions that He has given us, including the emotions that we just mentioned that can lead to depression. He talks about how our emotions can be an area in which Satan can be given a foothold in our lives. He talks about how our feelings can be deceptive. He tells us how our feelings and emotions can even lead us into sin. In scripture, we see many men and women who have felt every emotion there is who have opened their hearts to God. I do believe that if some of these men and women in scripture went to a psychologist, they would (in my opinion) be diagnosed with depression. Some examples would be David at some points in his life, Elijah in (one of the best examples), Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi, Jeremiah the weeping prophet, etc. These and many others have experiences emotional highs and lows as they lived in their lives under the sun. Many here may either known a Christian who has suffered from depression. You may have suffered depression yourself. We need to understand that this, and every single thing that comes at us in this life, is a spiritual/Biblical topic. There is not a “secular” part of life. This is something we need to remind ourselves of often. God is concerned with every area of our lives and wants us to trust in Him in every area of our lives, even in times when we are struggling with depression. This is a Biblical topic that God does talk about.
With these things said, for today’s lesson, I would like to examine the account we have of Job’s depression. We will follow the following outline:
The Confirmation of Job’s Depression The Cause of Job’s Depression The Cure for Job’s Depression
Job is perhaps one of the first people we think of when we think of Biblical examples of depression, and we are given some very good reasons for why he was depressed (which we will look at shortly). His original response to his suffering in chapters 1 and 2 is encouraging and may one to think that what is recorded in chapter three just comes out of nowhere. At the end of chapter 2, Job spent seven days suffering in silence with his friends present. Surely this gave him a lot of time to think about what was going on in his life and why these things were happening. I believe this time of contemplation led to what we see in chapter 3 along with Job’s speeches throughout the book. After this seven day period, we are given a look into how Job feels about his situation. Chapter 3 of Job is commonly titled, “The Lament of Job.” This is a fitting title, but I believe it could be better titled, “The Venting of Job” because here he allows his emotions out and tells us what is really on his mind.
Many have written on depression in the book of Job. Some go into great detail to show how Job fits todays medical model given to us[4] of the symptoms of clinical depression that the American Pyschiatric Association in their Diagnostic Manual.[5] I honestly don’t believe this is really necessary to see that Job is struggling with depression. You can see it pretty clearly in the words that he says in chapter three alone.
Let’s look at some of the things that Job says:
He questions why he was even born in the first place. He curses the day he was born (3:1-10).
· 3 "Let the day perish on which I was to be born, And the night which said, 'A boy is conceived.' 4 "May that day be darkness; Let not God above care for it, Nor light shine on it. 5 "Let darkness and black gloom claim it; Let a cloud settle on it; Let the blackness of the day terrify it. ()
· In verse 6, he wishes that the day of his birth was taken off of the calendar.
Then in verses 11-19, he asks why he had to live after he was born.
· In verse 11, he questions why he was allowed to be born.
· In 3:16, Job asks why could he not have been delivered as a still-born.
· In verse 12, he asks why his mother did not just forsake him to leave him to die. Why did she have to nurse him and care for him?
Job’s suffering has led him to believe that there was no reason/purpose for him to be alive. It would be better for Job, in his opinion, to have died in the past, or even now. It is looking like to him that this would be the best thing for him; the only way he can get rest from his suffering.
Job at this point feels hopeless. The worse thing about all of this for Job is this: he feels that God is against him. He says in verse 23, “Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, And whom God has hedged in?” Satan said in chapter 1 that God had a hedge built up around Job to protect him. Job feels like God has built up a wall up around him so that he can’t get out of darkness and suffering. After Eliphaz’s first discourse, Job says that “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, Their poison my spirit drinks; The terrors of God are arrayed against me” (). If you feel like God is against you; that you are His enemy, what hope can you feel about getting out of this, especially when you have no clue what brought it on?
In chapter 7, Job continues his thoughts of hopelessness:
"When I lie down I say, 'When shall I arise?' But the night continues, And I am continually tossing until dawn. 13 "If I say, 'My bed will comfort me, My couch will ease my complaint,' 14 Then You frighten me with dreams And terrify me by visions; 15 So that my soul would choose suffocation, Death rather than my pains. 16 "I waste away; I will not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath. (, )
He cannot even get a good-nights rest. Job’s only hope is that he get an ear with the Almighty and have a chance to bring his case before Him. But of course, Job has no idea if this will ever happen.
I believe we see throughout the book that Job struggled with what is referred to as the three lies of severe depression:
1. No hope for the future. Job speaks as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Job. He doesn’t speak of having great hope in this life or the next.
2. No purpose or reason to live. This is an overview of chapter 3.
3. You are worthless. Job comes to view himself as worthless and not even worth the time God is using up to punish him without cause. Bildad even reminds Job in chapter 25 that Job, as a man, is a maggot and a worm.
When considering the cause of Job’s depression, most will say, “well, duh, Job is depressed because of the physical suffering he endures in chapters one and two.” I do agree that these were influential in leading Job to be depressed, but these things are not the only reason Job became depressed.
The OUTWARD Circumstances. Job suffered on every level and is traumatized by pain. He suffered great loss. He says in chapter 3 that everything that he feared came upon him. Many times, just as it seems to be with Job, the emotions that lead to depression are triggered with some kind of loss (or a multitude of losses)… loss of loved ones, loss of health, loss of life goals; loss of fellowship with God… many of these lead people to fall into depression.
With Job, these outward circumstances helped to put him in the depressive state he was in.
The INWARD interpretation and beliefs about his suffering. This is an important point because many people endure loss and respond with joy. Many suffer wrong and respond with love. But there are also those who respond wrongly to suffering. In most of these instances it is because of wrong beliefs and interpretations of WHY this is happening. I believe that over the seven days of silence at the end of chapter 2, this is where Job took a turn for the worse. His emotions of sorrow and mourning turned to depression because of this big question: Why is this happening to me? Has God become my enemy without cause? This, I believe, is what drove Job into his deep despair and depression. Without this revelation from God, he interpreted His suffering as God being against him as an enemy.
Both of these brought together, our outward experiences and our inward interpretations and beliefs, is what leads us to our response. We see men such as Paul respond differently when he suffered than Job did. I believe it is because of the interpretation of why he was suffering. He could find joy and hope in his suffering because of Who he was suffering for: Jesus Christ. Job did not have this privilege. He had no clue why he was suffering, and this led him to decide in his own mind why.
THE COMPLICATIONS: There are a few things that we see in Job that complicates his depression; things that send him into a much deeper despair. It does get to the point where Job’s depression does become sinful. Job, in his suffering, being overcome by his emotion, does begin complaining, displaying anger and impatience (understandably) against his friends. Then Job challenges God for what He allowed to/caused to happen to Job.[6] He does end up questioning the justice of God, and there is no excuse for what he said, depression or no depression!
When our emotions start to control us instead of us controlling our emotions, we give Satan a foothold in our lives to wreak havoc and to bring sin into our lives.
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. ()
Paul talks about anger in this verse, but I believe we can and should apply this passage to other emotions. Be “sad”, and yet do not sin. “Mourn”, yet do not sin. The devil is given an opportunity when we allow our emotions to get stronger and last for days.
It can get to the point in which temperance and self-control, which we are commanded to have as Christians, goes out the window because we allow our emotions to control our thinking and actions! One stops doing what Paul commands in his epistles: being thankful and meditating on good things.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” ()
When we allow many of our God-given emotions to control us, we begin to think, talk, and act in ways that do contradict the word of God. This is where depression can become sin.
This is why I believe it is dangerous for us to so quickly trust in what the medical community says about some of these things. When they get you to believe this is merely a disease that must be fixed with medication (which the evidence does not point to), then one begins to believe that they have no control over what they think, say, or do. They may say, “it is the depression causing me to do this.” This renders us powerless to deal with the problem and becomes a way in which we try to justify our sin. This can send us into a downward spiral into deeper and deeper depression where we deceive ourselves into believing lies that contradict scripture, lies such as You have NO hope, You have NO purpose in life or reason to live, and You have NO value. You are worthless. We end up lying to ourselves and to others and end up in a downward spiral deeper into the darkness away from God.
Some who are depressed then turn to other things to escape the suffering… Some people turn to drugs that are addictive, including prescription medications (including some depression meds). Some turn to alcohol; some to pornography; some to sexual immorality. They may run to whatever it is that can make them feel good; to get a high; whatever can take away the pain and help to forget how bad life feels. Even at times if it means they do these things at the expense of others.
Our emotions become our lord; our god; our idol; along with the things we run to in order to escape how we feel. Depression, and many of the sins it may lead to can be addictive. And once one becomes addicted to their emotions and sins, the way their brains work and think changes. It is not merely because of the suffering, but because of a wrong response to suffering.
1. The Revelation of God
The questions that Job asked throughout his speeches were never really directly answered in the book, but Job did receive revelation from God which helped him out of his state of despair. First and foremost, He was reminded of who God is. Job is reminded that God is sovereign; that He is the Almighty, wise Creator of all there is, and as Job himself confessed:
"I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
He learned that God is in control and he just needs to trust that the Lord knows what he is doing!
Today, we know a lot that Job did not know about how God works in suffering. God may not come to us today and reveal himself as He does with Job, but God does give us revelation of Himself to help us as we suffer in this life, including suffering with depression.
As I stated earlier, many see depression as an area where God cannot help and that the only hope one has to overcome this form of suffering is by trusting in what society tells us about it. We need to first be pointed to the Lord as our great Comforter and Helper. He tells us that He gives us everything we need “pertaining to life and godliness.” Whenever we lose perspective in life, which is what suffering and depression may lead us to do, we need to be reminded of our Rock and to learn to trust and hope in Him. The “lies of depression” (no hope, purpose, or worth) are all spiritual questions that have their answers in the word of God.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles…” ()
Do you believe what is said here by the Apostle Paul? God can comfort us in all our troubles. Not most of our troubles… All of our troubles in life. This is what God will do as we give our lives to Him to please Him.
2. Humility, repentance, and confession
Whenever sin is involved in either causing or complicating one’s depression, it will come to the point that it needs dealt with. Job was humbled by the Lord’s questions. Job was pointed to his sin, and he repented in dust and ashes (42:1-6).
3. Help from good comforters, which is NOT what Job gets!!!
God gives us fellow soldiers in this battle to help us and to give us comfort in the things that we struggle with. I believe this includes depression. The temptation for the one with depression is to completely cut themselves off from those who really can help them and to turn to people who cannot help them at all. Some go to others who are suffering depression or struggling with it for help because they think that only those people truly can understand what they are going through. But what the person truly needs who is suffering from depression are good comforters and counselors who will lift them up and help them with the word of God.
“[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” ()
God’s word does equip us to comfort each other and to give wise counsel to those who are being overcome by depression and led into sinful thinking and actions. Lord willing, we will talk about how we can help our brothers and sisters who are struggling with depression next time, examining the responses of Job’s friends to show what not to do, and then we will (Lord willing) look at some biblical responses to depression.
I don’t know if you have agreed or disagreed with the things that I have talked about in this lesson. You may have strong opinions against what I have said, but I would encourage you please to consider these things. Please consider what the word of God has to say. We need to trust first in our God and His word, which is what should control our thinking and our actions. Jesus must be Lord. Not our emotions. Not depression. Not what psychiatrists and society tells us.
Also, if this is something that you do struggle with, I want you to know that there is hope for you in Christ to overcome depression. We as your brothers and sisters want to help you (and are called by God to help you) in any way we can to overcome and to receive the peace and comfort that only God can give.
[1] Many of the thoughts of this lesson have come from books I have read and lessons I have listened to on dealing with depression Biblically. Some of these include:
• The Bible
Depression: The Way Up When You Are Feeling Down, by Edward T. Welch
Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, by Edward T. Welch
Counseling the Hard Cases, Edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert
The Biblical Counseling Manual, by Adam Pulaski
• Dealing with Depression, 2 Sermons by Casey Head
• Helping Those Suffering From Depression. Training Class. Taught by Dan Wickert. The Biblical Counseling Training Conference.
[2] The medical community does not agree on the causes of depression. The common theory over the past 20 years has been that clinical depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain. Although this is a common theory, it has not been proven as of yet, and honestly, cannot be proven. First, there is not even a test which exists that can find such a chemical imbalance. Secondly, even if a chemical imbalance could be found in the brain of a depressed person, there would be no way of proving whether this chemical imbalance was THE CAUSE of the depression or was A RESULT of the depression. The evidence does NOT show that depression is a “disease” or “illness”. A resources that shows this is:
[3] Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, by Edward T. Welch. Loc. 125. Kindle Book.
[4] Kapusta, Morton Allan. Solomon Frank. The Book of Job and the Modern View of Depression. AMCAP Journal, Oct 1980
[5] In the medical field, the diagnosis for depression is made using the American Pyschiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is what gives all of the labels used today and how to diagnose these illnesses. For depression there is a list of nine criteria that they have given that are symptoms. At least five of the following criteria are required for 'definite' depression; four are required for 'probable' depression. (Some quotes from Job are supplied that may show that Job suffered these symptoms.)
1. Depressed mood; feelings of sadness, despair, etc. (30:28, 16:16, 30:15)
2. Poor appetite or weight loss (30:27, 33:20)
3. Sleep difficulty (include insomnia or hypersomnia). (30:17, 7:4, 33:15, 19)
4. Loss of energy, for example, fatigability, tiredness.
5. Agitation or retardation.
6. Loss of interest in usual activities, or decrease in sexual drive. (31:1, 2:13)
7. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt. (30:18-19)
8. Complaints of or actual diminished ability to think or concentrate, such a slow thinking or mixed-up thoughts.
9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, including thoughts of wishing "to be dead." (ch3)
[6] One example: “Know then that God has wronged me And has closed His net around me.” ()
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