Thoughts to Ponder

Does God understand our problems?

I have spoken out many times in the past about how churches refer hurting members of their flock to "professional" counselors instead of biblically counseling them. I want to take a look at God's word and see if God has or has not given us all the information we need for daily living.

Before I do let me state one more time what my problem is with "professional" counselors. These counselors typically are trained in psychology and either counsel only using this or they attempt to blend the psychology training with the Bible. Make no mistake there is no such thing as Christian Psychology any more than there is such a thing as Christian Medicine. There is Medicine practiced by Christians and there is Psychology practiced by Christians. Many times the Christian Psychology professionals will dress up their practice of psychology in Christian terms but it is still secular psychology which was invented by godless men such as Freud, Maslow, Jung, and Rogers. They denied God and built psychology on theories which were a hundred and eighty degrees in opposition to God's word. God's word teaches that we are all born with evil hearts: (Genesis 8:21 NIV) The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. The fathers of psychology on the other hand taught that we are born pure and are then influenced by our environment.

Since counseling has to take into account the reason people are the way they are, this is a watershed issue. Either God is right or psychology is right, but they can't both be right. The bottom line is this: God says we are all sinners and psychology says we are all victims. Again both views can't be right.

Let's look at whether God thinks He has given us all we need to deal with the issues of life or if He wants us to seek outside advice as we do with medical problems. We need to first understand that when the Bible talks about the heart it is not the physical organ that we think of, rather it is the real person that God is referring to. When He says that our hearts are evil He is saying that we are evil.

Although psychology does not speak of the heart it does deal with same thing, the real us. So let's look at what God has to say about human wisdom and our heart: (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? God uses a rhetorical question to show us that no one (other then God) can understand man's heart. Yet psychology claims to not only understand it but to be able to treat it.

God goes even further in His condemnation of those who seek man's guidance and wisdom over His: (Jeremiah 17:5 NIV) This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD." But praise God He does not stop there, He tells us the good news too: (Jeremiah 17:7 NIV) "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him."

So should we search out secular psychology to deal with our problems of life or the One who created us? It should be pretty apparent that God expects us to go to Him. If that is so then we should be able to find confirmation in His word that He can handle our problems. Let's look and see if He has given us the advice we need to live our daily lives even when adversity hits.

God says that He has given us everything we need for life: (2 Peter 1:3 NIV) His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

God tells us that His word is able to equip us for every good work: (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

God says His word will revive the soul, make the simple wise, and give joy to the heart: (Psalms 19:7-11 NIV) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. {8} The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. {9} The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. {10} They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. {11} By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

David says it well: (Psalms 62:5 NIV) Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. When we hit bumps in the road of life God is there and is willing to give us rest and comfort, but we often forfeit it because we don't trust Him, instead we lean on the world for help and wonder why God seems so far away.

You might ask, what about depression, doesn't the secular world know how to deal with it? No they don't. Again they make everyone out to be a victim. Some of us are victims and that surely can lead to depression, yet how we handle that victim hood, whether as the world does or as God commands us, will make all the difference. Many people don't want to give up their victim hood. They wallow in it day after day. They claim that is why they over eat, they can't hold a job, they can't love others, they can't understand God's love for us, or they can't deal with the thought that God is our Father, because their father was so evil. Well get over it.

God says that at the point of conversion you became a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! That does not just mean your sins are gone, but your old attitudes should be gone too. It is time to start thinking and acting like you have been set free from the chains of sin. Both the sins you have committed and those committed against you. (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; {23} to be made new in the attitude of your minds; {24} and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. All too often we want to hold on to the hurt and the victim hood of the past. We don't want to look forward we want to look back so that we have a safety net if we stumble. We can blame it on our parents or our spouse, or whatever our pet blame catcher is.

We don't have freedom and peace because we don't really want it, not because God is not offering it to us. Let's go back to the Bible, does it address depression at all or is it something that is not mentioned?

David was no stranger to depression, so let's look at what he has to say: (Psalms 32:3-7 NIV) When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. {4} For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah {5} Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah {6} Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. {7} You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah This clearly shows that some depression can be caused by unconfessed sin. God's hand will be heavy on us, until we come to Him in repentance. That can be overt sins or sins that we seldom think of as such. For instance our refusal to forgive and forget the past wrongs done to us by others. Who suffers when we refuse to let go? We do. If you harbor ill feelings about someone you are the one who will slowly be eaten alive from the inside out. (Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV) Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. {15} See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. That bitter root can be in your heart because you refuse to let the hurts of the past remain in the past.

I am not saying that you have to reconcile with an abuser who has not repented, I am saying that in your heart, between you and God you need to let go and allow God to be God. After all His Word says: (Romans 12:19-21 NIV) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. {20} On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

David again gives us a clear picture of depression and even the physical suffering that can accompany it: (Psalms 38:1-11 NIV) A psalm of David. A petition. O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. {2} For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. {3} Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. {4} My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. {5} My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. {6} I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. {7} My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. {8} I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. {9} All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. {10} My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. {11} My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.

That is not to say that all depression is caused by sin, because it is not. Let's look at another godly man from the Bible who was deeply depressed, so deeply depressed that he wanted to die: (1 Kings 19:3-8 NIV) Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, {4} while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." {5} Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." {6} He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. {7} The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." {8} So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal, he should have been on top of the world, yet he was at a low point. Notice that God did not tell him that he should claim victim hood and find someone to listen to him complain for an hour a week for several years. No! God made provisions for him. He was to eat and rest and gain his strength back. No self pity, no blaming others, just get your strength back and get moving.

It is important to understand that the sleep the Lord allowed Elijah to get was not the lethargic type that many people fall into when they are depressed, refusing to get out of bed. This was restful sleep. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition can be factors in depression.

Paul also found himself depressed, not because of sin but so that he would learn to lean more fully on God: (2 Corinthians 1:8-11 NIV) We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. {9} Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. {10} He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, {11} as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. Paul also gives credit to the prayers of other believers in getting him and his companions through their depression.

People will say that they don't have enough faith to trust in God and His word to get them through. They don't know that God told them how to deal with that too: (Romans 10:17 NIV) Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

David gives us some great advice: (Psalms 42:11 NIV) Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. When was the last time that kind of counsel was given to a Christian? Put your hope in God!

Do you dwell in the shelter of the Most High or do you just look at His shelter from the wasteland? (Psalms 91:1-6 NIV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. {2} I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." {3} Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. {4} He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. {5} You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, {6} nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Have we forgotten the prize that we are striving for? If we remember what God has already done for us and what await us we should not continue to be depressed. (Revelation 21:3-4 NIV) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. {4} He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Everyone of us goes through times of depression. I am not trying to say that we have to be up all the time. Nor am I saying that there is never a physical reason for depression which can and should be treated by a doctor. What I am saying is that when one of us gets depressed, do the rest of us shun them and send them to the world for help, or do we minister to them from God's word and pray for their well being? Do we believe that God has the answers, or do we believe that man has the answers? If we believe that man has the answers then we will continue to stumble around in the wasteland, but if we place our hope and our faith in God we will be like a tree planted by springs of water.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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