Thoughts to Ponder


"Office visits for depression increased from 10.99 million in 1988 to 20.43 million in 1993. Visits for depression doubled for both primary care physicians and psychiatrists" (JAMA, February 18, 1998, Vol. 279, No. 7, p. 526).

(Jeremiah 17:5-9 NIV) [5] 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. [6] He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. [7] "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. [8] He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." [9] The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Christians need to consider what God says about what we call "depression." It might surprise a lot of people to find that there are many passages of Scripture which show that people were depressed. Some of the people reacted the right way to this depression others reacted sinfully. Let's take a look:

(Genesis 4:3-7 NIV) [3] In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. [4] But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, [5] but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. [6] Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? [7] If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

Notice that Cain's face was downcast and he was angry. Also take a look at how God told Cain to handle these emotions: you must master it. Now I am not trying to say that a person who is depressed must master the depression, but I am saying that they can't just wallow in it either. Look for the reasons for the depression, if it is sin, then the sin must be confessed and repented of. If it is what someone else has done to you, then give that to the Lord and let Him deal with it.

(Genesis 30:1 NIV) When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!"

Think about what Rachel is saying here: "Give me children, or I will die!" I can't tell you how many times I get letters with the same types of attitudes. If I don't get a new job, or if my husband doesn't..., or if I don't get all A's for grades, etc... I will kill myself. This is depression brought on by both outside circumstances and selfishness. You may not be able to change the circumstances but you can change your reaction to it. The world's view is that we are to be self centered, but God's view has always been that we are to be Christ centered. What pain and suffering we bring upon ourselves because all we think of is ourselves!

(Ruth 1:11-17 NIV) [11] But Naomi said, "Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? [12] Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— [13] would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD'S hand has gone out against me!"
[14] At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.
[15] "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her."
[16] But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. [17] Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

We get two different pictures in this passage. First is Naomi, she has lost her husband and now her sons also. She is a Israelite and therefore should know the living God, yet in her depression she tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their gods. How many times have you heard people speak like Naomi? "It is more bitter for me then for you..." Naomi, is saying that she wants her daughters-in-law to leave because there is no one to take care of her and she is just going to go back to her own country and die. What a pitiful witness for a daughter of the Most High God!! Yet isn't that exactly the kind of witness many Christians put forth today?

Now look at Ruth's reaction to this situation. She has just lost her husband. She is in the same boat as Naomi, a widow without any family. The only difference is that she is still young enough to find another husband to take care of her. But she does not just leave Naomi and go try to find another husband, instead she tells Naomi that she will go with her and she will become one with Naomi and her people. This does not change their situation. They are still two widows without family. They could not just go find a job to support themselves. They have no land, no income, no one to look out for them, yet Ruth tells Naomi that the only thing that will separate them will be death.

Ruth was a Moabitess. Moabites were pagans, they were the offspring of Lot and one of his daughters. They sacrificed their children by fire to please their gods. Yet Ruth is willing to stand by her mother-in-law no matter what. Her reaction to these circumstances is striking in comparison to Naomi's.

(1 Samuel 18:6-9 NIV) [6] When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. [7] As they danced, they sang:
"Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands."
[8] Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" [9] And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

We see in this passage that from that time forward Saul was jealous of David. If you read further you will see that Saul did not have many good days from this point on in his life. He was self focused and it ate him up inside. Now he had done some things for which God was going to take the kingdom away from him, but his reaction was not one of repentance it was one of jealously. Saul's depression was brought on by sin and selfishness.

(2 Samuel 12:15-20 NIV) [15] After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. [16] David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. [17] The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
[18] On the seventh day the child died. David's servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, "While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate."
[19] David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. "Is the child dead?" he asked.
"Yes," they replied, "he is dead."
[20] Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

David is depressed, his child is sick. We will all face depression and hard times in our lives. There is nothing wrong with a person who faces hard times and goes into depression. The problem comes when the depression takes over the person's life. The person turns inward and becomes very self centered. Notice that David did not live in the past, he lived in the present. While there was a chance that the child would survive, he prayed, fasted and was depressed, but when it was over, and the child was dead, he got up. He could do nothing more, it was over. All he could do was choose to go forward or to wallow in the past even though he could not change it. He chose to go forward. He chose to worship God. He made a choice. God makes the statement that David was a man after His own heart. I think we get a glimpse of that here. We all make choices every day. We choose to honor God in the good times and in the bad times, or we choose to feel sorry for ourselves and honor ourselves. Again I am not saying it is a sin to be depressed. That is part of the purpose for quoting so many passages, to show that depression is not something new in our life time.

(1 Kings 19:1-18 NIV) [1] Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. [2] So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."
[3] 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. [9] There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
[10] He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
[11] The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. [12] After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. [13] When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
[14] He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
[15] The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. [16] Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. [17] Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. [18] Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

He sat under a broom tree and prayed that he might die!! This is something I hear from many Christians. They say that they want to die and that every night they pray that God will take their life. Most of them are mad because God has not killed them and they are now thinking of helping Him by committing suicide.

If you notice God did not answer Elijah's prayer for death either. Instead He sent one of His angels to Elijah twice to motivate him and to make him eat and drink and get rest. God does not want you to wallow around in your depression. He wants you to get up and take care of yourself. This requires effort. I hear so many people tell me that they just don't have the energy or the will to get up and do anything. They can't go to work, they can't go to church, they can't even get up and interact with their family or friends. Well, there is part of the problem. This is a battle and you must be part of the battle or you will just be a victim. When we don't feel like it, is when we need to pray the most. When we don't feel like it is when we need to read the Bible the most. When we don't feel like it is when we need our brothers and sisters in Christ the most. Get up, drink, eat and then get moving!!

(1 Kings 21:1-4 NIV) [1] Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. [2] Ahab said to Naboth, "Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth."
[3] But Naboth replied, "The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers."
[4] So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, "I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers." He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

Ahab was not a "believer" but we see his reaction to a selfish request; he lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. What was the true cause of Ahab's depression? Was it the fault of Naboth? Was it due to living in this world and having things which we cannot control? No, it was his own selfishness that caused Ahab's depression.

(Nehemiah 1:3-4 NIV) [3] They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." [4] When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

I have tried already to make this point, but let me go over it again. Depression is not always brought on by a person's own sin. Short term depression can serve some good causes. For example it might bring the person to repentance if there is a sin problem. It may cause them to step back and take account of their life and how they are living it. Or as in this example it might even be 'godly' depression. What I mean by that is that Nehemiah was depressed because of what was happening that he felt was wrong. I think many of us should be depressed over many things which take place in our country. Don't miss this, however, it is important how we react to that depression. Do we become self centered and very introspective or do we become God centered and look to God for our help and our comfort? Nehemiah should serve as an example to us.

(Nehemiah 2:1 NIV) [1] In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before;

What is important in this passage is not that Nehemiah was sad before the king, but that this was the first time he had been sad in the king's presence. How do we represent our Lord and Savior? Are we always wallowing in our own self grief? Or are we shining with the Light of glory because we realize every morning when we get up that this life is but a mist, here today and gone tomorrow, but what God has done for us will last for all eternity? Would your friends worry about you if you appeared sad in front of them? Or would they just chalk it up to another bad day, and not even want to know what the problem is this time? If that is how your friends feel about your moods, think what the non-believers must be thinking.

(Jeremiah 20:8 NIV) [8] Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.

Sometimes doing what God asks you to do will bring depression. But again let me stress it is not the depression that is important, it is how we handle the depression. It is not a sin, nor is it a sign of ungodliness to be depressed. It is a sign of our humanity. If we somehow think God owes us a depression free life, we will be disappointed and when these tough times come, we will not be prepared to deal with them. We can prepare for the rough times by getting closer to God in the good times. Learning to lean on Him and to trust Him.

(Lamentations 3:16-24 NIV)
[16] He has broken my teeth with gravel;
       he has trampled me in the dust.
[17] I have been deprived of peace;
       I have forgotten what prosperity is.
[18] So I say, "My splendor is gone
       and all that I had hoped from the LORD."
[19] I remember my affliction and my wandering,
       the bitterness and the gall.
[20] I well remember them,
       and my soul is downcast within me.
[21] Yet this I call to mind
       and therefore I have hope:
[22] Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed,
       for his compassions never fail.
[23] They are new every morning;
       great is your faithfulness.
[24] I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
       therefore I will wait for him."

If this passage ended with verse 20 not only would Jeremiah be due pity, but all of us who call on the Name of the Lord would be due pity. But PRAISE GOD, it does not end in verse 20. When taken as a whole this passage is wonderful. It shows that we as children of God are going to suffer and have bad times, but that we need not be concerned about the outcome, because our God's compassions never fail! Great is His faithfulness. Oh what freedom we can have when we say as the prophet did: "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

(Matthew 26:36-38 NIV) [36] Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." [37] He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. [38] Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

Way too many Christians only give lip service to the fact that they believe that Jesus was fully human and fully God. They try to reject anything that would show that Jesus was really human. Oh they do it with good intentions, but they do it to the detriment of themselves. The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are tempted. That He learned obedience as a Son through suffering. (Hebrews 5:8) Look closely at the passage from Matthew, Jesus says His soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Think long and hard about that statement. I often hear people tell me that God can't understand what they are going through. That is a lie from the father of lies! Jesus understood what His purpose in life was, but that does not mean that it did not bother Him in His human nature. He prayed that if there was another way that He might be spared the cross and the wrath of the Father.

I think this passage shows that Jesus too experienced depression and therefore can serve as an example for us when we experience it. He prayed, He asked others to pray and keep watch with Him. He asked that the source of His depression be taken away, but when it became clear that it would not, He went forward. His eyes were on His Father.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV) [3] 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, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. [5] For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. [6] If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. [7] And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Paul calls God the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort.

(2 Corinthians 1:8-11 NIV)[8] 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.

Right after calling God the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort, Paul tells of the hardships they have endured. He even states that they despaired even of life. Don't miss what that means. Paul wanted to die, that is what being despaired of life means. But keep reading, Paul says this happened so that they would rely not on themselves but on God. He goes on to say that they were helped by the prayers of the believers in Corinth. If God taught Paul this lesson, why would we think we might not also be taught it? This is what I meant when I said that when we don't feel like being around or talking to our Christian brothers and sisters is when we need them most. If you are depressed and refuse to ask your brothers and sisters in the faith to pray for you, you are squandering a great resource in your time of need!

(Hebrews 5:7-10 NIV) [7] During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. [8] Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered [9] and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him [10] and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

This is the passage I referred to in part earlier. Jesus suffered on this earth just like we do. Not only did He suffer, He cried out to God the Father and this passage tells us that His prayers were heard. Many people tell me that they don't think God is listening when they plead for help. The problem is not that God is not hearing, it is that what they are asking for is not what God is willing to do. Remember Jesus' prayer just before His arrest; (Luke 22:42-44 NIV) [42] "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." [43] An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. [44] And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. "Yet not my will, but yours be done." Are we willing to pray like that? Notice that even though it was not the Father's will to take this cup from Jesus He did not leave Him alone without help or hope. He sent an angel to strengthen Him.

I think all too often we are guilty of telling God we want relief and we want it now. We want Him to do what we want and that is to take this suffering away from us. It never crosses our minds to pray that He would strengthen us and help us to handle the suffering.

(Psalms 19:7-11 NIV) [7] 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.

The law of the Lord - revives the soul. The statues of the Lord - makes the simple - wise. The precepts of the Lord - give joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord - give light to the eyes. When a person is in depression they long for the reviving of their soul, the wisdom to carry on, to have joy in their heart, and to have light in their eyes. God offers these things, but we must take hold of them. Let me try to explain what I mean by taking hold of them. If you look at the book of James I think you can see what I mean. (James 2:14-17 NIV) [14] What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? [15] Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. [16] If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? [17] In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. So if we say with our mouths or even believe in our hearts that God is true to His promises but we refuse to put that faith into action, we gain nothing. A person can say they believe God will help them, but if they go lock themselves in their bedroom and put on the melancholy music and just wait for God to take care of things, they are not taking hold of the promises and showing faith by their actions. Get up, go about your daily routine. Yes I understand that you don't feel like it, do it anyway. Pray, read your Bible, go to church, be around other believers, and ask them to pray for you. Show your faith with your actions.

(Matthew 11:29-30 NIV) [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Rest for your soul. If you have ever been depressed you know what wonderful words those are, rest for your soul.

(Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV) [28] Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. [29] He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. [30] Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; [31] but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

God will not get weary or tired of helping you. He does understand our suffering and even our depression. We short change ourselves when we think that God can't understand. We fall victim to Satan when we think God does not care about our suffering. We are drawn into sin when we are tempted to grow selfish and introspective, self centered and self absorbed. Remember you can't choose whether to be depressed or not, but you can choose how you handle that depression.

E-Mail Ralph

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

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April 2002