Summary: Everyone is subject to depression. When depressed, how shall the child of God respond? Surely, there are answers given in the Word, and we now look to that divine Word.
Dr. Tim LaHaye claims to have asked over one hundred thousand people among his audiences if there were any who have never been depressed. Among one hundred thousand people so questioned not one has ever responded to his query by stating “I have never been depressed.” It would actually appear that those who live in pleasant surroundings are most susceptible to being depressed. Someone has said that a pessimist is someone who has to live with a constant optimist.
Depression is both ancient and universal. The Psalmist implored:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul?
and why are you in turmoil within me?”
Hippocrates, the ancient physician, wrote a treatise on melancholy. Winston Churchill, during the Battle of Britain, was a bastion of strength, but at the same time he underwent severe bouts of depression. Edgar Allan Poe is said to have been depressed for four days after writing “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Joseph Stalin, recalls that the bloodthirsty dictator was the victim of deep and dark depression. Charles Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher in Christendom since apostolic days, knew weeks on end of darkness and melancholy. Depression knows neither moral boundaries nor social distinction; all alike are subject to bouts of melancholy.
Some years back we heard a great deal about the Moral Majority in the media. When you leaf through the Bible you meet the “Miserable Majority.” So many of God’s greatest servants were, at critical moments in their lives, depressed. Moses asked God to take his life. Job pleaded with the Lord, “Kill me!” Elijah desired death by God’s hand. Jonah wanted God to do away with him. And Saul, king of Israel, did destroy himself and many of those around him by reason of his fits of depression.
I suggest that in JEREMIAH TWENTY is found the most miserable description of all of the effects of depression. Jeremiah had hit rock bottom. His experience should be helpful to each of us who must deal intermittently and periodically with depression. I am encouraged by the very degree of Jeremiah’s discouragement. The very fact that Jeremiah’s experience is unveiled in the Bible and that God could accept him and use him in spite of his depression, is a redemptive encouragement to anyone experiencing depression. I testify that this account has encouraged me at critical moments.
REASONS WHY GOD’S PEOPLE MAY EXPERIENCE DEPRESSION — I shall not exhaustively explore reasons for depression as this is not a psychological treatise; but from the text we see that depression results when we IMAGINE OURSELVES VICTIMS OF DIVINE DECEIT. In VERSE SEVEN, Jeremiah reveals unremitting pain and deep disappointment by crying out:
“O LORD, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
everyone mocks me.”
What could have happened to bring Jeremiah to this point that he believed himself a victim of divine deceit?
We learn that he had just spent time in the stocks for the crime of preaching the mind of God; he had just been punished as result of righteous teaching. He had experienced yet another confrontation with the power structure of the nation who refused to do right and who refused to heed the warnings of God.
Psychologists tell us that one element in virtually all types of depression is a sense of disappointment. Jeremiah had certainly experienced one of the greatest disappointments of all. He looked up to Heaven and cried out: “God, You Yourself have deceived me!” He was so disappointed that he used incredibly strong language, some of the most exceptional language to be found in the entire Old Testament. His literal words could be understood to charge God: “You raped me.” In another place he pointed his finger to heaven and charged God with deceit in his call and assignment:
“Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
Will You be to me like a deceptive brook,
like waters that fail?”
Jeremiah lived in Judah, a semiarid land dotted with watercourses which from a distance promise refreshment and relief to the weary traveller. Upon closer inspection, however, many of these brooks and streams would prove to be waterless … mere wadis which though gushing with water periodically were usually dry and dusty, arid and parched. Such conditions are difficult for us to imagine, living as we do in a land blessed with an abundance of water as is true for Canada. The weary prophet charges God with being like such a wadi, promising much from afar but proving a disappointment nearby.
When God called Jeremiah He had informed him:
“My people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken Me,
the fountain of living water,