Thursday, January 12, 2012

Depression - Introduction from a biblical perspective

The next series of posts will be dedicated to the topic of Depression; specifically they are based on a series of sermons published in the book 'Spiritual Depression: it's Causes and Cures' by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I have been going through the collection and I am finding the works exceedingly insightful; just so that you don't think it's just me, a review by George Verwer on the cover reads: 'One of the most outstanding books that has ever been written'.  Having personal experience with the dark foe myself, as well as my experience as a therapist, I can say that the book offers a great exposition of the issues involved. I hope you find the brief summaries of value and I do hope they will inspire you to read the completed work.

The author starts by drawing our attention in the opening sermon to the prevalent presence of the problem of depression in the biblical text; in the narratives as well as the teaching. The opening of the topic is set in Psalm 42, where the psalmist describes his experience: "Why art though cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance" (v5) and "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God." (v11)

The reader is entreated to maintain focus on the biblical teaching, (as opposed to getting too absorbed in the illustrations) - it is pointed out that while the biblical narratives and illustrations are valuable within themselves here, one is at risk of 'coveting other people's experiences' and missing the teaching at the heart of the story. The example I can think of here is David's experience and how his depression was manifested and resolved in response to his circumstances.

So, we all know that depression is described in the biblical text in many contexts; it remains to be said that an unresolved condition of depression is poor witness for the faith - or at least an indication that something is amiss; 'a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms' and, yes, 'a very poor recommendation for the gospel'. Indeed the psalmist looks on beyond his current state and declares "...I shall praise Him for the help of His countenance"; and it is here, exactly at this place of God's presence that the author suggests is the source of recovery.

This introductory chapter covers some main considerations when dealing with the topic of depression - basic stuff; psychologically, spiritually. Here the author acknowledges that some may have a physical predisposition to the condition. I should add, here that family history, and a history of medicating the condition is possibly an indication of a medical basis; (although much suggests that this is not necessarily a cause - as much as a contributor to other factors).

The individual's temperament is one factor; here the author stresses that although we are all saved the 'same way', we are predisposed to appraise and experience life differently. Here he rightly observes that introverts are more likely to experience depression and have more of a hard time coping with it. Alas, we introverts have the burden of introspection (along with over analysing, self-blaming, judging oneself to death! - yeah indeed to morbid proportions at times). A distinction is drawn here between healthy self-examination and introspection. Yet, it is reassuring and hopeful that we introverts are in good company here; think: Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul and many others, such as Charles Spurgeon. We introverts are also predisposed to suffering a reaction to remarkable experiences (be they spiritual or a sudden change in circumstances) - think Elijah under the juniper tree.

The devil is also often at the centre of a depressive episode - certainly more than a bystander and if we are aware of it, the adversary of man is regularly a cause of spiritual depression in a believer's life.

Then there is unbelief. Our unbelief - the psalmist is talking to himself when he says "...hope thou in God". Martyn distinguishes this type of dialogue with the self from the tendency towards introspection discussed earlier. He suggests that introspection is akin to listening to oneself; while the helpful thing would be to address oneself as the psalmist demonstrates. At the heart of the believer's existence is reminding ourselves 'who God is, what God is , what God has done and what God has pledged Himself to do'; then defy all and say with the psalmist: 'I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.'

Post based on a sermon entitled 'General Consideration' published in the Book "Spiritual Depression: It's causes and Cures" by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

No comments:

Post a Comment