Depression: Warfare with the Sword of the Spirit

If you’ve ever experienced chronic undiagnosed car problems, you know exactly how frustrating this can be. Your car is suffering some minor malady – reduced mileage, strange noises, whatever – but the problem isn’t yet bad enough to cause a full-on breakdown. It just gnaws and gnaws at you day after day. Your best mechanic can’t find anything wrong. Neither can any of the other shops you drive to. Meanwhile, you are spending considerable time, energy and maybe even money to fix something that no one can quite figure out.

And then – just as if the clouds part for you on cue, with a triumphant angelic chorus singing – you arrive at that magical moment when finally a new mechanic takes a look under the hood and diagnoses your problem on the spot, with full confidence. At this point, you don’t even have a clue what the answer to “How much?” is going to be…you’re just elated that finally someone has put his finger on the precise problem that has been dogging your cherished automobile for days, weeks, maybe even months. “At long last, someone who knows exactly what is going on here! Hallelujah!”

Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its CureReading Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a lot like that for me.

Having been cast under a cloud of deep-seated depression for many, many years, it was such an amazing breath of fresh air for me to finally connect with someone who very clearly “gets it.” You can only imagine how it warmed my heart yesterday (Feb. 22nd) to hear Pastor Dave Cover quote from this book numerous times as he tackled the very real issue of depression in the life of a Christian – as well as how depression can be linked to damaging, destructive self-talk – and the very real issue of spiritual warfare.

I can’t possibly offer enough positive comments about what Dave had to say yesterday – Worship Is Spiritual Warfare – so I will instead just strongly encourage you to listen to it again (if you were at The Crossing for one of our services) or listen to it for the first time with an ear toward what the Bible has to say about the battle going on for our souls, and the enemy’s hate-filled desire to see to it that none of God’s beloved children lives out happiness and soul-healing contentment.

As of this writing, I am still battling each and every day against the negative self-talk that Satan uses to foul up the lives of those who belong to Jesus. What I can tell you, helpfully I hope, is that I have not yet encountered such an effective tool for battling against depression as what I learned in the pages of Spiritual Depression. Here are some quick take-aways that have really, truly helped me in the struggle to trust Christ with the vicissitudes of life in a fallen world:

  • You must talk to yourself rather than allow yourself to talk to you. Dave covered this very well in his sermon, and the Lloyd-Jones book offers many practical helps for dealing with this in a God-honoring way. Since reading this book, hardly a day goes by that I don’t pray something like, “Lord, I absolutely will not make it through this day apart from you” as I lug my half-sleeping body off to the shower.
  • Satan hates you. We should not be surprised that Christians in particular are targeted for despair. The dead-last thing that the enemy of God wants is for God’s children to live safe, sober and serene lives. He will do absolutely whatever he can to throw things into our lives to cause us to break down in despair or otherwise give in to hopelessness. The goal? Grumpy Christians. They make life with Jesus look unattractive to the watching world. Expecting to face set-backs and suffering takes at least some of the sharpness out of the fangs.
  • This life is short. Our enemy seeks to entice us to “cash in all our chips” for short-term pleasures in the here and now. Sex, money, drugs, you name it…anything that Satan can dangle in front of you to make you “forget” that Christ has already made us heirs of all things and that we look forward to an eternity of joy, he’ll bring it out for review time and time again. Making him stop is as simple – and as difficult – as reminding our soul Who we are living for and why. Maybe sometimes we grit our teeth when reciting the promises of God, but I can’t help but notice that Satan does not want me to respond to temptation with prayer and worship; that really spoils it for him.
  • Happiness is a choice. I don’t even think that happiness is what we should be shooting for. These days, with help from Lloyd-Jones, I am far more interested in settled joy than in short-term (and often fleeting) happiness. Maybe better to say “Choose joy over happiness” and couple it with “My happiness is over-rated anyway.” Christ – in my experience – is incredibly faithful to take care of the temporal desires of the heart when we fix our eyes on the bigger goal of an eternity of joy (Matthew 6:33).
  • Joy doesn’t come in a pill. Antidepressants are given out in America like Tic Tacs. Our doctors (God bless them!) are incentivized to over-prescribe certain medications with rewards such as family vacations. So this is what it has come to in our “post-God” culture. While I would absolutely affirm that antidepressants can and do have their place in the spiritual warfare arsenal, I would still say that most people are better advised to seek strong Christian community, confession and repentance. First John 1:9 is my starting point for battling my own destructive self-talk.

One of the things that kept me solidly outside the Christian camp for so much of my life was my perception that most Christians were “bummers,” down on everything fun and committed to making life on this good Earth as dull and painful as possible. What a breath of fresh air it was for me to start to understand the Truth about Jesus and how His prescriptions for life were the only ones that would lead to real, lasting, soul-satisfying contentment. I’d be lying if I said I had it all figured out these days, but I can say that I began living out an entirely different story once Dr. Lloyd-Jones put his finger squarely on the problem with my “engine.”

Sermon Series: 1st CorinthiansEphesians 6:14-18 (ESV)
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

The very essence of the Christian faith is to say that He [Jesus] is good enough and I am in Him. As long as you go on thinking about yourself…and saying, “I’m not good enough; Oh, I’m not good enough,” you are denying God – you are denying the gospel – you are denying the very essence of the faith and you will never be happy. You think you’re better at times and then again you will find you are not as good at other times than you thought you were. You will be up and down forever. How can I put it plainly? It doesn’t matter if you have almost entered into the depths of hell. It does not matter if you are guilty of murder as well as every other vile sin. It does not matter from the standpoint of being justified before God at all. You are no more hopeless than the most moral and respectable person in the world.
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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