On July 27, 2019, Dalton and Cheyenne, college students, married in Kanas City, Missouri. Three days later, while on their honeymoon in Florida, Dalton drowned. An ocean current pulled both of them out into the deep waters, while they were swimming. Cheyenne tried to save him, but he panicked and died. On Saturday, he said, “I do,” but now on Tuesday he had not breath. The new bride is left a widow, and their future dreams together have vanished as only the memories remain.
For people who believe that God is sovereign, these types of tragedies may tempt them to think, “How is God loving? Why did God plan for this husband to die? Why the pain and devastation after the joy of the wedding day? How can God love us if He is in control of disasters?”
In this last devotion, we will examine seven reasons why we should not believe these lies, but we should trust in God’s perfect, wise, and absolute love for Christians.
First, while God has a general love for mankind, he has a particular, salvific, and eternal love for His people. David writes, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” The objects of God’s steadfast love are those who fear him. To fear God is to repent of sin, believe in Christ, and follow Him as Lord.
Second, God demonstrated His love through Jesus’ crucifixion. The Apostle John reminds us in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The holy, pure, righteous, King of Glory voluntarily faced mocking, scorn, whips, nails through His flesh, God’s wrath, and death for sinners. Jesus paid a debt of sin, which He did not owe, to save rebels on whom God’s wrath abided.
Third, Jesus died for the wicked. In Romans 5:8, Paul writes, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus died for sinners in the present. We did not clean ourselves up to make us worthy of being saved. Jesus chose to save His people despite their vile condition. Paul describes a sinner before knowing the Lord in Titus 3:3, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” Would you die for this type of person? Would you die for the mass shooter at the Walmart in El Paso? Yet, God died for wicked men, women, boys, and girls.
Fourth, God has adopted believers into His family. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” As children of God, Christians have God not as an enemy, not just a friend, but as our Father. We have His inheritance, His love, and His care.
Fifth, as a Father, God disciplines His children for their good. Proverbs 3:11-12 warns, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” To protect us from greater sin and help us grow in the fruits of the Spirit, God wields the rod through trials, health problems, loss of a job, and/or church discipline to teach His children invaluable, eternal lessons.
Sixth, God’s love cannot be taken away from His children. Romans 8:38-39 promises, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you are a Christian, nothing can remove you from God’s love. It is permanent, secure, unwavering, and without end.
Seventh, as Lord over the universe, God lovingly exercises His sovereignty. Isaiah 40:10-11 teaches, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him… He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” God rules with power, and simultaneously He shepherds His people with compassion, empathy, and sacrifice.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus sovereignly and lovingly died for His sheep at the right moment in history. Yet, we can still doubt God’s love when sorrow strikes our lives. Jerry Bridges points out, “If God’s love was sufficient for my greatest need, my eternal salvation, surely it is sufficient for my lesser needs, the adversities I encounter in this life.”
If you are a Christian, take courage. Believe in God’s character and rest knowing that God is sovereign and exercises His power with wisdom and love. If you have not repented and believed in Jesus, take refuge from your sins in the one, true, holy, and merciful Lord.
Misery, fatigue, and frustration characterized my feelings in 2013. For four months, I had been working in the call center for the Illinois Department of Revenue. During the peak of tax season, I grew discontent and angry at God. As an introvert, the grind of taking one hundred calls a day and answering the same question, “Where is my refund,” sucked out my vitality. I thought to myself, “Why God did you give me this job? Couldn’t you have given me another position? Is this the best use of my skills? How does this work glorify you? How does it further the kingdom?” To my shame, I doubted God’s wisdom.
Jerry Bridges defines wisdom “as good judgment or the ability to develop the best course of action or the best response to a given situation.” A twenty-year employee, for example, may object to his new manager’s decision, because it would not be the best course of action. The manager has the power, but he does not have the right knowledge. In the same way, when individuals know that God is sovereign over every atom, we may be tempted to respond to difficult circumstances by doubting God’s wisdom.
Having established God’s control over everything in last week’s column, we will enumerate on five aspects of God’s wisdom.
First, God is incomprehensible. Isaiah 55:8-9 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Finite human beings who blunder daily cannot accurately judge God’s actions. It is foolishness. Moreover, Paul rejoiced over God’s wisdom in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” For a man to judge God’s actions is to proclaim, “I am wiser than God.”
Second, God’s wisdom is exhaustive. Psalm 147:5 teaches, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” God’s knowledge has no limits, unlike men. According to Jeremiah 10:12, God used His understanding to create the earth. “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” He has displayed His wondrous architectural work—everything contained in the universe.
Third, God acts in wisdom towards Christians for their good. To bring spiritual growth is God’s desire for His people—not merely wealth, health, and comfort. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” In His infinite wisdom, God plans every event in a Christian’s life to aid conformity into Christ-likeness. God will discipline His people as a parent does to a child to produce godly fruit (Hebrews 12:5-11). Additionally, Paul suffered with a physical illness according to the Lord’s purpose (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). After seeing the glory of heaven, Paul would be tempted to pride. God, therefore, humbled him through pain to keep him from sinning.
Fourth, God is good in the application of His wisdom. King David sings, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” God always uses His power and wisdom to do good. He is not a cruel, sadistic tyrant who sticks pins into our voodoo doll likeness for evil delight. Instead, God always makes the right, godly choice.
Fifth, God’s wisdom manifests His glory. Paul commands Christians to live with this supreme goal in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A Christian’s life is not about attaining selfish goals for manmade praise. On the contrary, a follower of Christ should sacrificially serve the Lord joyfully and without doubting His wisdom.
Six years removed from my first tax season at IDOR, I now rejoice over God’s wisdom. Through His providence, God provided a paycheck. He allowed me to save money to be used for future desires. He gave me opportunities to love my neighbor, to love my enemy, and to bless those who persecute me. Consequently, I grew by God’s grace in contentment, patience, and faithfulness. Today, while serving as a pastor, my experience prepared me to teach difficult topics with clarity, empathize with the frustrations of the secular workplace, and encourage believers to trust God even when they do not understand.
Friend, do not doubt God’s wisdom, but doubt your own.
In March 1942, Nazi Germany opened the most lethal of their concentration camps—Birkenau. As an expansion of the Auschwitz camp, Birkenau served two purposes. First, it housed prisoners for labor. Second, it facilitated the demonic murder of myriads of Jews through its four gas chambers. After arriving on a train, a Nazi doctor would evaluate each prisoner. He would point them either to the left or to the right. One way led immediately into the gas chamber which was disguised as showers while the other way led to the work camp. The doctor’s determination meant life or death.
Where was God at Birkenau? To protect God from accusations of doing evil, some people conclude that God is not sovereign. He does not have the power to stop evil. He, therefore, must be good, but He cannot act to stop the calamity. Others argue for a God who is in control of everything, but He is not good. What is the answer? Both conclusions present a false dichotomy. God is both sovereign and good. Jerry Bridges defines it as, “His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.
In this article, we will examine 5 Biblical reasons that God is in control. Next week, we will look at God’s goodness and wisdom.
First, God sustains the universe. Psalm 147:8-9 says, “He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.” Mother nature did not bring the flooding in the spring or the drought in the summer. It was God. He controls and maintains the weather, crops, animals, plants, and the earth’s orbit.
Second, God is sovereign over man. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Moreover, Proverbs 19:21 establishes, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Hence, God rules over man’s heart according to His desires and plans.
Third, God reigns over the nations. Regarding governments, Paul writes in Romans 13:1, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God created specific governments to accomplish His purposes and to restrain evil. In the cases of the Assyrian, Babylon, and Roman Empires, God raised them up and tore them down. Moreover, God controls the king or president’s heart. Proverbs 21:1 teaches, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
Fourth, God controls disasters. Isaiah 45:7 reminds us, “I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Natural disasters do not occur outside of God’s control. He governs hurricanes, tornadoes, and cyclones. The Lord controls cancer, car accidents, and death.
Fifth, God is sovereign over salvation. The disciples taught in Acts 4:27-28, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” God the Father planned before creation to send Jesus to die on the cross to redeem His people. Simultaneously, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews are guilty of murdering the Lord. God did not create evil, but he planned and used the evil of men for the greater good of salvation for all who repent and believe in Jesus.
How does this apply to the Birkenau concentration camp? Was God in control? Yes. Did God plan the number of days each person would live before the foundation of the world? Yes. Is God guilty of murder? No. Are the Nazis guilty of murder? Yes.
Why does this matter? If God is not in control, then we should not pray to Him. He has no power to help. Furthermore, if God is not sovereign over evil, then trials, suffering, and death have no purpose. Joseph, however, from Genesis 50:20, teaches both God’s sovereignty over evil and man’s guilt when addressing his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
Matt Bevin has served as the Governor of Kentucky since 2015. Before entering politics, he was a successful business man and evangelical Christian. He is a family man with ten children. Their oldest is Brittiney. She had a passion for missions. Even at the age of 14, she thought seriously about dedicating her life to the mission field. Her father encouraged her desires by taking her on mission trips to India and Romania. When she was 17, she wrote in her diary that she wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the broken. The next day she died in a car accident on Lexington road in front of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She had dreams of serving the Lord, but the Lord took her at the age of 17.
In moments of tragedy, people will ask themselves, “Can we trust God? Why didn’t He stop it? Is God good? Is He wise? Is He loving?”
In response to his own personal trials, Jerry Bridges wrote, Trusting God. He writes, “If we are to trust God, we must learn to see that He is continuously at work in every aspect and every moment of our lives. We, therefore, can only trust God if we see Him as being sovereign, wise, and loving.”
Is God sovereign? Sovereignty refers to having control or power over a sphere. Hence, as R.C. Sproul said, “There is no maverick molecule in the universe.” The Bible teaches this truth in Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Moreover, Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Chance and luck, therefore, do not exist. If they do, then God is not in control of everything. When facing this issue, people are tempted to either deny God’s sovereignty, which means God has no power to help them face their trials and their trials are meaningless, or they become angry with God, because He has not prevented the trial from happening. To do the latter is to question His wisdom.
Is God wise? God’s wisdom means that He knows everything that is to be known about everything, and He has always known it. Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” When we face tragedies, we should not doubt God, but we should doubt our doubts. Did you create the universe out of nothing? Do you sustain it? Have you ever made a mistake? Well, God can answer yes to all three questions, and you cannot. Why would we trust our judgments over God’s?
Is God loving? God uses His sovereignty and wisdom to do what is loving for His people. After generations of idol worship, God removed Judah out of the Promised Land. He caused this trial to take place out of love for them. Lamentations 3:32-33 says, “though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Just as a loving parent does not spoil his children, but he assigns them chores and disciplines them when they break the rules, God brings trials into our lives to bring unbelievers to salvation in Christ and believers into greater maturity.
What are the consequences of rejecting these truths? When a person doubts God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love, he chooses anger, anxiety, worry, and depression. Why? Because God has given him a trial which he did not want, or God has withheld a desire which he wanted. In contrast, the individual who believes in these truths imitates Psalm 9:10. “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Over the next few weeks, we will study the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love in more detail.
Why do some Christians feel worthless and useless? Why do they feel like a failure? Why are they disappointed in their lot in life? Why do they choose depression when they feel unsuccessful?
In the previous articles, I discussed two of the three causes of depression—unconfessed guilt and a wrong response to difficult circumstances. In this last column, we will examine the third cause.
Individuals will choose depression if they have unbiblical values or standards of success. The media is ubiquitous. Between social media, radio, television, and online streaming services, consumers are being bombarded with a value system. These platforms generally define success as being educated, beautiful, youthful, talented, wealthy, and well-liked. Hence, many people are subconsciously comparing themselves to this standard.
Here are some examples. A college student becomes, depressed because he has been rejected into medical school due to his grades. Another student becomes bulimic, because she does not think she is thin enough to be beautiful. A retired resident of a nursing home thinks she is worthless, because she is old and weak. A parent is grieved, because his son is not talented enough to play professional baseball. A construction worker is in despair, because he cannot provide a spacious house and new cars for his family. A woman is in dismay, because her colleagues at work have not accepted her as a part of the group.
In 1 John 2:15-16, God warns us to renounce the world’s standards for success. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” God admonishes us to flee from this value system. We should not love it, adopt it, or compare ourselves to it. The desires of the flesh, eyes, and pride of life will not bring success in God’s eyes. On the contrary, they will lead to the destruction of our souls. Ironically, many Christians choose depression, because they have not attained something which God deems toxic for their spiritual wellbeing.
If you have fallen into the world’s trap, how should you respond? First, seek God and communicate with Him by prayer. When David had depression in Psalm 42, he said, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Therefore, you should seek God by opening up His Word. God has revealed Himself and His will in the Bible. Crack open your copy and thirst for its quenching effect.
Second, you must believe in the facts and not in your feelings. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” We cannot trust our feelings, because they will blind us to the truth. We must believe the truth of the Scriptures. What does the Bible teach as the barometer of success? What should our goal be? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A person glorifies God by trusting Him, worshiping Him, and obeying Him. This is God’s definition of success.
Third, you must actively preach God’s truth to yourself instead of passively listening to your feelings. Once you know the truth, you must meditate upon it. Paul tells us that God has given a “way of escape” for every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). When you are tempted to covet your neighbor’s success and feel like a failure, remind yourself of 1 Corinthians 10:31. Meditate on ways to glorify God. This activity is a part of the process of having your mind renewed into conformity with the Bible and not the world.
Fourth, you must believe that there is hope. Wayne Mack enumerates the four lies which rob us of transformation. Individuals believe that their experience is unique, God is not faithful to them, God will test them beyond their ability, and there is no hope. Romans 15:13 reveals God’s power to give hope to the depressed. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Fifth, you must have an eternal perspective and not a temporal one. Paul commands us “to set our minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” When a person becomes depressed, he has forgotten the eternal promises of God. If you are a Christian, you have everlasting hope. Revelation 21:4 says about the eternal state, “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” By contemplating this future joy, one cannot stay depressed.
Friend, if you are depressed, there is always hope with God. There, however, is not hope outside of God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). A man can only have peace with God and eternal hope for the present and the future in Him. If you are not a Christian, trust God and not yourself. Believe in His promise of salvation by faith in Jesus and through repentance of your sins. All other roads end in despair, but only through Jesus does the destination end in glorious, never-ending hope.
How would you respond if a doctor diagnosed you with cancer? Or your boss tells you that you are laid off? Or you receive a phone call informing you of a loved one’s death? Or your spouse files for divorce? Or you get into a car accident and become a paraplegic? Or the girl you like dismisses your advances? Or you are passed over to attain a promotion at work?
A second cause of depression—besides unconfessed guilt—is responding poorly to a difficult circumstance. When a person faces hardship, he has a choice. Either respond by obeying God or sin through doubt, self-pity, and anger. Wayne Mack clarifies the situation, “Depression is caused by a person’s response to an event in their life, not the event itself.” Circumstances do not force a person to become depressed. Instead, a person reacts to the circumstances by actively choosing to be depressed.
Let’s look at two Biblical examples. In Numbers 11, Moses faced a rebellion. The Israelites complained about their circumstances. God had delivered them from Egypt. Now they were in the desert in preparation to go into the Promised Land. Yet, they showed their ungrateful hearts by whining over their lack of meat. How did Moses respond to this situation? He became burdened and depressed. He said in verse 14, “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.” He proceeded to ask God to kill him if his circumstances did not change.
Jeremiah, the prophet, illustrates our second example. After being beaten up by Pashhur the priest and put in the stocks, he felt defeated. He accused God of deceiving him (Jer. 20:7-8) by commanding him to preach the Word among people who mocked him. Jeremiah, therefore, cursed his birth and its announcement. He wished that God would have killed him in the womb in order to avoid the present humiliation (Jer. 20:17).
Why did Moses and Jeremiah choose depression? First, they disobeyed God’s command to “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Rejoicing does not mean the absence of sadness and sorrow in our lives. But it means to have a thankful attitude which praises God even in difficulty. Second, both men believed a lie. They acted as if this world should be without trials. Nevertheless, 1 Peter 1:6 says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” All people will face trials, but in Christ we can rejoice during them. Third, the prophets believed that their happiness was based upon their circumstances. Paul, however, writes, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11). Through Christ, a person can face adversities and choose to respond in obedience to God and not by becoming depressed.
Some of you may be thinking, “Why would a person choose depression when it is so depressing?” Pride is the answer. When a person responds to a cancer diagnosis, loss of job, or rejection with self-pity, it is the fruit of pride not humility. Subtly the person thinks that he is entitled to better circumstances. God has given him a raw deal. He can only be happy if his situation changes. Philippians 2:3 and Colossians 3:12 teach the opposite. Christians are commanded to put off pride and put on humility—seeing ourselves as God sees us.
Let’s use cancer as an example. A person who is obedient to God will think in this way after receiving the diagnosis. “This is hard to hear. I am tempted to be afraid, anxious, and depressed, but by God’s grace I will choose to obey Him. I will meditate on His truth. What do I deserve? As a sinner, I deserve nothing. God does not owe me one day on earth, let alone 55 years. I deserve His wrath for my sins. I have earned damnation in hell. Despite my rebellion, God gave me mercy through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. I have eternal life in Him. I can, therefore, rejoice in the forgiveness of sins. I can look forward to heaven if I die. I can entrust my family to my sovereign Lord. I can glorify God through this trial by rejoicing in His goodness to me.”
Ultimately, devastating circumstances reveal whom we worship. If you worship self, money, comfort, your family, or health, then you may react to the removal of one of these things by becoming depressed. On the contrary, if you “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” and rejoice in the Lord, it will reveal your faith in Jesus Christ.
For example, Job was a man who lost everything—money, livestock, and his children. Upon hearing the excruciating news, he worshiped God. “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (Job 1:21).
Only the eternal promises of God, salvation, forgiveness, reconciliation, resurrection, and dwelling with the Lord, can bring enduring hope amid trials. Friend, if you are facing hardships, do not choose depression. Instead, believe in the hope found in Jesus Christ. Humble yourself before God, admit your sin, and trust in the One who died in agony on the cross in order to give everlasting hope to sinners.
Next week, we will cover the third cause of depression.
This is the third installment in our series on depression. In the previous two articles, I looked at biblical examples of mild, moderate, and severe depression. Now, we will examine the first of three reasons why people get depressed.
The first cause of depression is unconfessed sin. What is sin? The Apostle John writes, “sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn 3:4). God has a perfect holy standard. It is summarized in The Ten Commandments. When we break one of the commandments—lying for example—then we are lawbreakers. We have sinned. When a person does not confess the sin, despite the guilt on their conscience, it can lead to more sinful responses which results in depression.
Here are two examples from the Bible. First, King David—the man after God’s own heart—committed a trifecta of sins. He had an affair with Bathsheba, had her husband killed in battle, and covered it up from the nation. For several months, David lived without confessing his evil deeds. God eventually used the prophet Nathan to expose David’s iniquity. The king wrote Psalm 32 in the aftermath. Verses 3 and 4 describe his depression: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” David felt the burden of his unconfessed sin. Instead of responding with repentance, he continued to have a hard heart and lived in a depressed state.
Our second example comes from the book of Jonah. God commanded Jonah to go preach a message of judgment to Nineveh. Jonah rebelled by fleeing on a ship in the opposite direction. God shook the ship with a storm, so the sailors threw Jonah overboard. God rescued him through the belly of a big fish. Jonah repented and preached a message of judgment if the people did not repent. The people responded with revival and begged for God’s mercy. How did Jonah respond? He became angry and asked God to kill him. Why? He did not want God to show mercy and forgiveness to the Assyrians. He, therefore, reacted to God’s free grace by choosing to become depressed.
What unconfessed sins do people commit today? A man commits adultery while on a business trip and does not tell his wife. A woman embezzles money from her employer. A young man becomes addicted to pornography. A young woman joins the sex industry to make more money. A middle-age, able-bodied man chooses to stay at home and not work and defaults on his child care payments. A family skips church Sunday after Sunday to worship Jr’s baseball career. Another family has thousands of dollars of credit card debt and car payments, because they worship material possessions and their peers’ approval. The recipe for unconfessed sin is never ending.
How should a person respond? The depressed person must repent of his sin and seek forgiveness in Jesus Christ. After Nathan confronted the king, David confessed his sins. He wrote, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). He acknowledged his sin before God. David had transgressed God’s law and had hurt Bathsheba, her husband, and the nation. He then believed the promises of God for forgiveness. He said, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7). In Psalm 103:12, David taught about God’s abundant forgiveness, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Final and complete forgiveness can only be found in Christ. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Only through confessing Christ as Savior and Lord can you find complete cleansing. Many people try to earn salvation through faith and religious deeds. However, this will lead to a greater burden and no salvation. Jesus died on the cross and said, “It is finished.” If you confess your sins to Him, you will have eternal life and be cleansed.
After being reconciled to God through the Son, a person must replace his sinful habits with godly ones. Ephesians 4:22-24 gives three action steps. First, put off the old self. If you are a habitual liar, then stop lying. Second, renew your mind according to God’s Word. Study what God has to say about liars, their punishment, and his hatred for it. Third, put on the new self. Replace the sinful habit of lying by telling the truth.
Friend, if you are depressed, there is still hope. Paul wrote in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Hope is found in the Word of God. Changing your circumstances, a magic pill, or death will not bring relief. If you are still breathing, then you have hope today. It is found in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became flesh, so that we who are sinners could have eternal, unfading hope.
Next week, we will examine the second cause of depression.
Last week’s article gave introductory comments on the issue of depression from a biblical perspective. It covered two of the three categories of depression—mild and moderate. In this edition, we will examine the third category which is severe depression.
What is it? Unlike the first two categories, severe depression is a consuming, ongoing habit. A person started out in mild or moderate depression, but he continued to spiral downward into the abyss of darkness. These individuals lack motivation, happiness, and a will to live. In the most desperate of circumstances, a person may even consider suicide. Usually a severely depressed person can be spotted in the crowd. He has poor posture and a gloomy disposition. His body language screams depression.
Does the Bible give any examples of severe depression? Yes, it does. King David experienced this condition in Psalms 32 and 38, but we will study a third instance in 1 Kings 19. In the previous chapter of 1 Kings, the Lord had granted the prophet Elijah victory over the prophets of Baal. On Mt. Carmel, the prophets had a duel. First, the prophets of Baal tried to sacrifice a bull on the altar. They kept calling upon their gods to strike the offering with fire, but nothing happened. Elijah, then, set up a burnt offering. He called for the prophets to douse the wood and the burnt offering four times with water. In 1 Kings 18:38, God responded to Elijah’s prayer, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench.” Afterwards the people killed all of the prophets of Baal.
Despite this great victory, Elijah’s mood quickly turned from joy to despair. Why? King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, sent a messenger who threatened Elijah’s life for his role in the Mt. Carmel incident. Elijah responded with fear, self-pity, and depression. He cried out to God, “‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers’” (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah’s fear snowballed into hopelessness. He would rather die than live.
What was Elijah thinking? How did he come to this conclusion? Elijah spoke to the Lord. “‘For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’” (1 Kings 19:10, 14). Twice Elijah explains his thoughts. Israel has forsaken God by worshiping false idols. Elijah has served the Lord, but to no avail. He sees his situation as hopeless. He is the only one in Israel who worships the true God; however, the king’s wife is trying to kill him. As a result, he has given up.
God’s response to Elijah reveals that his perception of his circumstances does not match reality. God said, “‘Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him’” (1 Kings 19:18). Elijah thought that he was the only true worshiper left in Israel. He, therefore, reacted by becoming depressed. Yet, God tells Elijah that He has 7,000 worshipers who have not bowed down to the false god Baal. Elijah is not alone. Instead, God had preserved a whole army of worshipers.
This narrative illustrates two common problems with a person who is severely depressed. First, he trusts his feelings over the truth of Scripture. Wayne Mack writes in his book, “Out of the Blues,” “Depressed people are often controlled by their feelings and tend to practice ‘emotional reasoning;’ that is, they consider their personal feelings to be accurate and valid above all else.”
What is wrong with trusting your feelings? Your feelings are not perfect and without error. In fact, the Bible says that our hearts are “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). As finite fallen creatures, our feelings are tainted with sin and cannot be trusted. We must look to the Bible as the inerrant truth. When our feelings conflict with the Bible, we must obey the Bible and not our feelings. Elijah used his feelings as an excuse to not fulfill his responsibilities as a prophet. His response was not one of obedience but sin.
Second, Elijah did not trust in the sovereignty of God. He acted as if God was not in control. Wayne Mack posits, “Severely depressed people may say they believe in God’s control over their life and circumstances, but they do not really believe it.” Elijah’s fear and anxiety came from unbelief. He did not believe that God was in control of Ahab’s wife and could protect him from death. He also did not believe that martyrdom would be eternally good for him.
If you are a depressed Christian, you have great hope. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…to be conformed to the image of his Son.” As a believer, God makes all things work for your good. All includes every minute detail of your life. God is sovereign over your health, job, children, finances, and even the number of your days. He even controls the slow driver on Baltimore St going 25 mph.
Moreover, God has a purpose in it. He is using circumstances to mold you into the “image of his Son.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, God uses trials to bear righteous fruit. This is why death, sorrow, and pain are good for a believer. Christian, you must believe that God knows better how to run your life than you do.
If you are not a Christian, you do not have this hope. Yet, it is offered to you. If you repent of your sins and trust in Christ, you will have eternal life. You, too, can find peace “in the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23).
For many, Christmas is the best of times, but for some, it is the worse of times. The holiday dinner table can be a reminder of loss. It may be the first Christmas without a grandparent, spouse, parent, or child. This event death has changed the jovial traditions into a piercing hot rod iron of pain. Another family must deal with the anguish and grief from a divorce. The kids must be shuttled to different gatherings while the ex-spouses are filled with loneliness. Meanwhile, some families struggle to buy gifts for the little ones. The expectations for a joyful Christmas can suddenly smash into a million pieces of despair. Consequently, a person responds to his circumstances by becoming depressed.
Depression has many synonyms: the blues, being down, poor mental health, or sadness. Generally, depression can be spotted on a person. His affect is lifeless. He has problems sleeping at night, finding motivation to work, and seeing the purpose to life. Weight gain or loss may be a sign of eating too much or too little. He may feel sad and anxious all the time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 6 adults experience depression at some point in their lives, and 16 million are diagnosed as depressed each year.
Due to the pervasiveness of depression, we will spend the month of December analyzing it from a biblical perspective. As we examine the subject, I will base my discussion on two presuppositions. First, man is composed of a body and a soul. James 2:26 says, “as the body apart from the spirit is dead.” James teaches that man is more than material matter. He also has a spirit with desires and thoughts. Hence, if we are going to treat depression, a person must have their body and soul examined. Dr. Bob Smith—a medical doctor and biblical counselor—estimates that only 10 to 20 percent of cases of depression are caused by a physical issue. The most common, of course, is postpartum depression. Just as we go to a medical doctor and not a pastor for a broken arm, depression caused by documented physical ailments should be treated medically. Unfortunately, in many treatment options, professionals are treating depressed individuals as if they are composed of a body alone. Their philosophy assumes a materialistic worldview which does not account for God.
Second, our study will assume that there is only one God. He has revealed Himself in the Bible. The triune God created man (Gen. 1:26-27). He, therefore, knows what man needs in order to be spiritually healthy and has given us perfect instructions for living holy lives. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Hence, God’s Word is true and trustworthy since God is true and trustworthy. It is sufficient for our lives, because it equips us “for every good work.”
If the Bible is our all-sufficient guide, does it give examples of depression? The answer is yes. In Wayne Mack’s book, “Out of the Blues,” he gives three categories of depression based upon the Bible. First, a person may have mild depression. He becomes discouraged or disappointed with circumstances. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh.” Second, a person may experience moderate depression due to wrongly submitting to feelings that are a result of guilt, grief, or wrong thinking. In Psalm 73, Asaph became overwhelmed with grief, because he lost sight of God’s promises. He saw the wicked enjoying life without facing judgment. He writes, “my feet had almost slipped…for I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:2-3). Asaph thought that his commitment to God was in vain. Hence, he chose to be filled with despair. He later overcame his depression by contemplating the promises of God. He “went into the sanctuary of God” and “discerned their end” (Ps. 73:17). By remembering God’s promise—that the wicked will be condemned to hell and believers will have eternal life—Asaph went from sulking to rejoicing in the Lord. What changed? His mind meditated on the promises of God, and he believed them. We will cover the third category, severe depression, next week.
If you are experiencing depression, I want to encourage you with hope. It may feel like it will never end. You may wonder why you should continue to live. You probably have gone to see different counselors, but it has not helped. I have good news for you. The sovereign Lord of the universe who knit you together in your mother’s womb has the answers. This same God empowered Paul to rejoice despite facing sleepless nights, hunger, poverty, and thirty-nine lashes on five separate occasions. Even though he faced great hardship, he could say, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).
If you are a Christian, the same Holy Spirit who empowered Paul to continue without despair is in you. Through God’s Word, you can be changed. If you are not a believer, Jesus offers transformation to all who confess their sins against God and put their trust in Him as Savior and Lord. You, too, can have your mourning be turned to joy through the power of the gospel.
For most people nursing homes are places to be avoided. The worst facilities come across as cold, damp, stale, and dreary. The building is not a home but an institution. Germs are pervasive, and the smell of cleaning chemicals ubiquitous. The hallways are filled with people in wheelchairs who may be sleeping, yelling—because they have dementia—or scooting around to find a person with whom to visit. Yes, nursing homes can be unpleasant.
Yet, they are filled with gospel opportunities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 15,600 licensed homes in America in 2014 with 1.4 million residents. With the aging of the baby boomer population the need will increase. For the next eleven years, 10,000 people daily will turn 65. The need for long-term care is going to exponentially grow in the next 30 years.
Who is going to bring these people the gospel? As the title suggests, if you are an open-air preacher, consider ministering at your local nursing home. The fields are rich for the harvest. Here are seven reasons why you should take your gospel “combines” into a nursing home.
1. Most nursing homes have weekly worship services.
Generally, these facilities offer a Sunday service and possibly a mid-week. In my community, the churches take turns in leading the services on Sundays while the mid-week is dedicated to a few pastors. The opportunity exists and usually the nursing home staff is looking for people who can fill these slots. Just as open-air preachers go to bus stops, outdoor festivals, and sporting events to find a crowd, nursing homes provide a consistent audience to hear God’s Word.
2. It is an opportunity to preach the gospel to the lost.
No one from the nursing home staff will censure your message. Therefore, you can preach the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly. Pretend that you are on the street. Unfortunately, many of the residents are lost. They have heard a gospel of works from the Catholic church. Or they think that they are a good person. Maybe, they have not attended church for years. Due to health issues, many are on the cliff’s edge of eternity. They are one disease, one infection, one breath from standing before God. Someone must go and tell them about their need for a Savior.
Will it work? Is it too late? Are they too hardened? Absolutely not! If God gave us a spiritual resurrection while we “were dead in our trespasses and sins,” then He can save those who are almost physically dead. Preaching in this setting shows a person’s trust in God’s power to save and not man’s.
3. It keeps heresy out.
Since nursing home directors are trying to find people to fill the slots, they may without discernment allow false gospel preachers to come. Between the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, and mainline liberal denominations, there are many false gospels which could be preached. If you fill the slot, then you protect the hearers from listening to Satan’s lies.
4. It is an opportunity to encourage Christians.
Imagine, as a lover of God’s Word and Sunday worship, you become ill and are admitted to a nursing home. Consequently, you are not able to commune with the saints. Think of the discouragement that it would cause. The best of days—the Lord’s Day—has now been taken from you. Therefore, you become depressed and feel isolated from the body of Christ. Now apply the Golden Rule. Show the type of love to others that you would want shown to you.
Friends, by preaching at nursing homes, you can edify your brothers and sisters in Christ. You can bring the worship of God to them. They will be reminded of God’s promises. He has not abandoned them and has a plan even in this trial. They will hear the sweet gospel which has saved their soul and will rejoice.
5. It allows you to minister to the staff.
Besides the residents, nursing staff is usually present in the services or outside of the room. By using your outdoor preaching voice, you can evangelize the nurses and aides too. The Lord may use it to bring a younger generation to Christ.
6. There is a need for the younger generation to replace the older ministers.
From my observations, the average age of the preachers at the nursing homes is not much younger than retirement age. Those who are faithfully preaching the Word will suddenly become the residents. Who will replace them?
With the resurgence of the doctrines of grace and reformed methodology, there has not been a desire for younger pastors to go to the nursing homes. Why? They may not have seen it modeled. Or they are too busy. Or they know that it is not glamorous and will not increase attendance or giving to their churches. Or they have never considered doing it. With the increasingly aging population combined with disinterested younger pastors, there will be a shortfall of gospel ambassadors to nursing home residents.
7. It will produce the fruit of humility.
For a preacher who has spent time in his study to craft a message, it is humbling to see half of his hearers slouched over in their wheelchairs and only a few making eye contact. Nursing home ministry is not about boasting in yourself or promoting your ministry. It is hidden from the Facebook live feed or Instagram pictures. It will not make other Christians perceive you as a zealous, courageous, maverick follower of Jesus. All of these thoughts are temptations when an open-air preacher exhorts publicly on a street corner.
Instead, the nursing home will help you die to yourself. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” You will not receive fame or street credit from other preachers. On the contrary, your actions will probably be forgotten by everyone but Jesus.
If God has stirred in you a desire to minister at nursing homes, please talk to your pastor first. Ask your pastor for advice, including if you have the maturity to do this ministry. Do not be an autonomous renegade Christian. As believers we need the accountability of elders and the local church for our soul’s well-being (Hebrews 13:17). Once you have your church’s support, then call around to the nursing homes. Remember you will be more credible to the nursing home director if you are representing an established church body and not just yourself.
May the Lord bless your efforts to sow the seed of the gospel to the young or old, healthy or sick, poor or rich.
Pastor Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History, from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in Historical Theology in 2021 from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He is also an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. He is married to Karise with whom they raise Ian, Elizabeth, and Patrick. He is interested in history, especially Charles Spurgeon, and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.