Summary: This sermon deals with the delicate subject of Christian depression
Lamentations 3:21-25 – Behind the Mask
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
I've entitled our time - “Behind the mask” Let’s pray...
I’m going to let you in on a little secret –
Christians… get… depressed too. I know... I know all the arguments to the contrary:
“Of ALL people, WE shouldn’t struggle with depression.”
We feel guilty because the scriptures tell us “we are MORE THAN conquerors!” and that we should have “joy unspeakable and full of glory!” But the truth remains: being a Christian does not exempt you from being human.
We battle discouragement too – and sometimes – for no apparent reason.
Which begs the question: Are YOU discouraged???
The problem with depression is that during our ‘low moments’ we are prone to making wrong assumptions.
We may think that something is wrong with US – that our faith is defective. We hear talk of the ‘victorious Christian experience’ and we wonder WHY WE are so broken.
We assume wrong things about OTHERS too – thinking that WE are the ONLY ONES who battle these feelings – that NO ONE else understands… or even cares.
And we even jump to wrong conclusions about the LORD – maybe He doesn’t love us – maybe He is punishing us – or doesn’t really hear us when we pray or care about us like we thought.
If you have ever been THERE- maybe you are there NOW - I hope THIS passage of scripture will minister to you like it does me.
It is believed that the book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah in 586 BC. “Lamentations” means “to cry aloud.” How fitting, then, that the man referred to as “the weeping prophet” should author THIS BOOK of tears.
The content of this book is described perfectly by its title – it contains 5 melancholy poems mourning the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians - a tragedy that could have been averted had Israel only repented.
Let’s rewind a bit…
Jeremiah was called of God as a prophet when he was very young – probably late teens or early twenties. When God called him, he begged the Lord not to put him into this ministry. His arguments were reasonable – he was YOUNG and lacked the experience and respect needed for such an important task. But God responded by telling him that GOD would do the equipping!
As a prophet, he wouldn't win many friends – his ministry and message signaled the judgment of God and the doom of the holy city.
He was NOT a “happy prophet,” for all of his life was wrapped up in the knowledge that God would soon destroy everything he loved. For 50 years, Jeremiah preached “judgment;” and in all those years of passionate ministry, not one person believed his message or turned from his sins.
In fact, the only response Jeremiah received was one of ABUSE and SCORN. He was imprisoned unjustly, accused of conspiring with Israel’s enemies – he was even thrown into a cistern with no light or food for several days. When they finally brought him out, he was little more than an emaciated skeleton.
He wept, not for his mistreatment, however - but for the stubbornness of his people.
Eventually Jeremiah’s predictions came true – Jerusalem WAS sacked and its people made the slaves of pagans. Jeremiah was forced to flee to Egypt, where he died, a broken man in a foreign land.
A sad, sad story to be sure. So sad, that Jeremiah went through a period of time when he felt like God was out to destroy him.
In the first part of our chapter, Jeremiah is brutally honest and blames God for all this trouble.
It seemed as if his prayers were being blocked from the presence of God.
He said in vv. 10 and 11 that it seemed as though God was like a wild animal, crouching in the dark, waiting to attack and kill him.
He THEN tells us he felt as if he had a big target painted on his back and God was using him for target practice.
In verse 18, Jeremiah is filled with bitterness and declares he had lost ALL hope.
THIS was a deeply, DEEPLY depressed individual.
BUT - AS he began to reflect on things, his focus turned FROM his problems TO the Lord. That’s when something strange happened. Instead of LISTENING to his feelings, he begins LISTING the various characteristics of His God. AS he reflected, he remembered 3 specific character traits that turned his whining into worship.