Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spiritual Depression, 'Men as Trees Walking'

The following is a brief discussion of the sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in a series on 'Spiritual Depression'. Let me from the outset extent grace to those who suffered depression in the wake of severe life circumstances, or struggle with chronic or recurrent depression exacerbated by a physical, even a genetic predisposition to the condition. I have been there personally and know just how much we all need grace; I've also worked as a therapist with many afflicted with depression. Whatever the causes are, the point is not to pass judgement of any kind - the article discussed here maintains a focus on spiritual causes, ramafications and the scriptural 'way out'.

'Men as trees walking' - the title is of a sermon on the topic of spiritual depression - Martyn Lloyd - Jones continues to tackle the issue of the state of misery not uncommon among believers.
I have to admit, the use of the story of the 2-step healing of the blind man here surprised me (Mark 8).

The author uses the illustration of partial blindness to explain the state of some believers who are robbed, in a sense, of the full vision afforded by the gospel. He conceptualises some Christians as suffering a 'lack of clarity' - incidentally, also arousing a sense of uncertainty in those who attempt to work out whether such a person is really a believer or not - 'they are as troubled about themselves as Christians are about them'.

Unlike some Christians who don't fully get the concept of justification by faith; it is argued that these guys are clear about the whole point of their inability to save themselves. However, while to them Christ is the saviour, they "do not see the necessity of the rebirth". The second point the author makes perhaps follows from the first; their heart is not fully engaged with the core Christian message; thirdly, it follows that their will is divided between following and not following.

So, to further refine the profile of the 'hazy-visioned'; the causes posed in this chapter include: a usual objection by these persons to clear-cut definitions - 'they dislike clarity and certainty'. They may also not accept the full authority and teaching of the scriptures, and in turn they are invariably not interested in doctrine, or they show a failure to take the doctrines in their right order. It's argued that doctrine is central to a firm grasp of the faith, we can't afford to get it wrong, or incomplete for that matter. Often one wants to enjoy something, before really grasping it in it's fullness - take for example the time where you first believed, it may have been an overwhelming time of joy, yet too quickly, the blanks are filled in with our own assumptions (about God and in turn about doctrine), we substitute what seems right to us for complete truth, or perhaps we're too quick to accept what others around us believe.

I am not sure whether these points are causes or perhaps mere descriptions of aspects of a person who is indeed in a state of loss as to what constitutes their beliefs, they are 'believers' yet at a crucial level face spiritual emptiness. Causes, or descriptions, I would have to agree, from previous personal experience, with these observations, I was young in the faith then, I knew enough 'about God', but in the absence of a relationship with God, in a sense I could only 'see men as trees walking'.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones proposes that curing the hazy spiritual vision is first to acknowledge the lack of clarity, then to honestly seek in hope and expectation the Lord's complete cure - just as the blind man answered the Lord's question: "I see men as trees walking" - so we are called to seek the truth whatever it costs. We can not afford to claim that we see clearly when we see only hazy figures - life is not meant to be spent in uncertainty. God is faithful to complete the healing if we submit our true state to Him. He is able - and when we ask - we can expect that He is leading us to clear truth.

Image: "Men as trees walking" - the Artrage Gallery

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