Archives For Depression

Leading our Emotions I – Depression

Chris —  December 14, 2017

Depression is such an awful battle. Be assured, in Christ, you can experience mega-joy. — Last week I preached the first sermon in our new series, Leading Our Emotions Through the Holidays. You can listen or read the below summary.

How do we battle depression and sadness during the holidays? We need a series on leading our emotions during the holidays. The season amplifies our emotions. To be sure, most experience more joy at Christmas. But we can also battle depression, fear, wistfulness, and grief. For example, given elevated expectations for the holidays, family disappointments can hurt much worse.

We should avoid being simplictistic about leading our emotions. The relationship between the physical body, spirituality, and the emotions is complex. Without question, illnesses and other physical conditions affect our emotions. At no point in this series, is the goal to dispense medical advice nor is it to downplay the need to see a physician. One of the first strategies those struggling with their emotions should employ is to see a medical doctor. We must also seek to eat right, exercise, and get a good night’s sleep. Having stressed the importance of the medical, our spiritual lives and our relationship with God also affect our emotional state. The objective of this series is to outline spiritual strategies for leading our emotions in Christ-centered – Spirit-enabled ways.

Last week we began our series on emotions by first reviewing an overall framework for understanding our emotions.

  1. Our loving heavenly-Father gives us the good gift of emotions. As image-bearers, our emotions allow us to experience life in ways that are consistent with the circumstances of life. Who would not want to know joy at the birth of a child? Or to weep at the loss of a loved one?
  2. The fallen-ness of our world – our own transgressions — but also the situations into which we are born — twists or distorts our emotions. Emotional struggles – such as fear or anxiety — take place when God’s good gifts of emotions are distorted into something God never morally intended. And when such a twisting of our emotions takes place, God’s beautiful gifts of affective experiences morph into cruel tyrants.Last week, I illustrated this point with a consideration of “anger.” God gives humans the gift of righteous anger so that as his special representatives (image bearers) they can be righteously and zealously indignant. For example, anger is a gift God gives to mothers in the face of what threatens her children. However, sadly, we must acknowledge that parental anger can be distorted and misdirected into all sorts of abuse including child-abuse.
  3. Emotions are redeemable. As we believe in Christ, and grow in Him, we are liberated from the bondage of sin and in Christ enjoy the freedom to lead our emotions in the way God intended. Said another way, in leading our emotions, we begin with the gospel and from there grow by grace to be more like Jesus (sanctification).
  4. Jesus modeled how we should lead our emotions. If we desire a more concrete example of how to lead our emotions in a fallen world, we should meditate on Jesus. The more we prayerfully meditate on his beauty, the more we will become like him in all ways, including how we lead our emotions (2 Cor 3:17-18).

We should not expect all our emotional struggles to immediately end. Jesus said that we need to come to him and learn from him, for his yoke is easy, and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). We might compare the journey of leading our emotions to getting in shape physically. On a given day we may learn principles for taking care of ourselves —- less sugar, more exercise, etc. But if we are to see any results, we must adopt a new rythym of life —- likewise, if we are to lead our emotions we must walk with Christ in the warp and woof of life: be in church with other believers, worship Christ every day, pray, rinse our minds with the Word.

We then considered the area of depression or sadness of the soul. (1) Being sad is a gift from God. It is a way that our affections are consistent with the reality of a fallen world. There are times when grief is entirely appropriate. (2) Depression on one level or another is a common experience. That given the brokenness of relationships, our physical struggles, the short days, this is a time of year when our struggle can be particularly intense. (3) Thankfully, we see so much in the Bible about how to deal with our struggles. (4) Indeed, with Jesus we see that he faced the greatest sadness ever known.

We then expanded our meditation on Jesus with eight observations about how Jesus led his sadness (Matt 26:36-46): (1) Accept that we battle sadness in world. (2) Know that the situation of sadness is complicated. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (3) Seek the help of the community of the redeemed. V. 38: remain here, and watch with me. (4) Pray. 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed – (5) Understand that everyone else will (family included) will let us down at points. Do not allow the shortcomings of others to lead your emotions during the holidays. 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? (6) Submit to the will of the Father. “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (7) Get moving. Brush your teeth! Staying in bed will not help you lead your emotions.  45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (8) Anticipate mega-joy (Heb 12:1-3).

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“The essence of this matter is to understand that this self of ours, this other man within us, has got to be handled. Do not listen to him; turn on him; speak to him; condemn him; upbraid him; exhort him; encourage him; remind him of what you know, instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you. For that is what he will always do if you allow him to be in control. The devil takes hold of self and use it in order to depress us. We must stand up as this man did and say: ‘Why art thou cast down? Why art thou disquieted within me?’ Stop being so! ‘Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance,’ He, ‘who is the health of my countenance and my God.’” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones[2]

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“And it must be remembered that in all places where God is mentioned, we are to understand God in the promised Messiah, typified out so many ways unto us. And to put the more vigour into such places in the reading of them, we in this latter age of the church must think of God shining upon us in the face of Christ, and our Father in him.” Richard Sibbes, 1635

[1] Eric L. Johnson, Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Pyschology Proposal (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 301.
[2] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), 21.

DavidMurray2One in ten people struggle with depression. Over the course of a lifetime, one in four will battle this condition. In the below sermon at Bethel Church, pastor, author, and professor Dr. David Murray preaches a sermon on Psalm 77 that surveys depression and offers a broad strategy for battling the blues. The audio for this sermon is available on Bethel’s web site.

If you battle depression, be assured that you are not alone. Many of history’s greatest leaders were attacked by their thoughts. Abraham Lincoln once said about his depression.

“I am now the most miserable man living,”  . . . “If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. . . Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell . . .  To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better.”

Great pastors have been swamped by depression too.  Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers ever.  But, his church leaders once informed his congregation:

“You are anxious to hear about our poor pastor – – he is very bad.  Very bad I say, not from any injuries or bruises he has received, but from the extreme tension on his nerves and his great anxiety.  So bad is he that we were fearful for his mind this morning.  . . .”

Spurgeon said that he could not think himself out of his depression.  He said that his thoughts were like knives shredding his heart into pieces.

And, King David wrote about depression.  In Psalm 69 David said it was like being in deep filthy mud where there is no foothold

. . . . . Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters. . . My eyes fail, looking for my God (Psalm 69:1-3).”

Even if you do not battle depression personally, it is very, very likely that someone you love often finds him or herself in the quicksand of being down. This is an important sermon for all of us to hear.



For more resources, see David’s web site and his series of films, Christians get depressed too.

Early Book Gift Ideas

Chris —  November 23, 2015

Hopefully, you are buying a present for at least one reader this Christmas. Here are a few ideas to consider.


Here is a Tim Keller sermon that will feed the soul of people in our day. This sermon will help you understand some of the reasons you think like you do. And it will show how Christ can set you free. In terms of interacting with the cultural waters in which we swim, it is one of the most profound sermons I have ever heard.

Watch, listen, and be nourished.

Justin Taylor summarizes:

Tim Keller speaking at chapel for Wheaton College (November 11, 2015), explaining that our culture repudiates as oppressive the idea that someone else names us and gives us an identity, but that when you trust Christ you have the only identity on earth that is received instead of achieved.

Keller goes on defend a form of individualism as inescapable but to critique expression individualism (the idea that you must look inside and then express them outwardly no matter what anyone says). He offers five critiques: it is  (1) incoherent; (2) unstable; (3) illusory; (4) crushing; (5) excluding.

We are social beings who need recognition and naming from outside—someone whom you love, approve, and esteem—to speak to you.

See also:

Communicating Truth in Our Late Modern Moment


Can a Christian Commit Suicide?

Chris —  October 29, 2013

TGC Nunez

Pastor Miguel Nuenez interacts with an important pastoral question.

This controversial topic has unfortunately often been addressed in emotional ways, not through biblical analysis. Those of us who grew up Roman Catholic have always heard suicide is a mortal sin that irretrievably sends people to hell. Influenced by the arguments of Augustine and Aquinas, this belief dominated through the Reformation. However, for Luther, the Devil is capable of oppressing (not possessing) a believer to the point of pushing him to commit the sin of suicide (Table Talk, Vol 54:29). As the salvation became better understood, many Reformation thinkers and theologians distanced their views from the Church of Rome.

Besides this traditional position of the Catholic Church, we encounter three others:

a) A true Christian would never commit suicide, since God wouldn’t allow it.

b) A Christian may commit suicide, but would lose his salvation.

c) A Christian may commit suicide without losing his salvation.

So what does the Bible say?

Let’s begin by talking about those truths we know as revealed in God’s Word . . .

Read the rest here.

How are you doing emotionally? Are you struggling with depression, anger, anxiety, or fear?

A recent Army Times article shares the startling truth that more soldiers are dying from suicide than in combat. It gives me a new sense of urgency for my upcoming sermon series, Leading Our Emotions. According to the article :

• More soldiers are dying by suicide than in combat.

• The service is on track to reach its highest suicide rate yet — 29 suicides per 100,000 soldiers per year, more than three times the rate in 2004 and a more than a 25 percent increase from last year.

• More non-commissioned officers and soldiers with multiple deployments are committing suicide.

Read the whole article: Special Report: Losing the War on Suicide

Of course, the problems are not limited to the military. So many are struggling in so many ways with their mental health. It’s why I am beginning a series this Sunday, Leading Our Emotions.

Before you comment, let me assure you that each week I will stress that emotions and mental health are complex subjects. Physical health affects emotional health.  I am not going to give a reductionist presentation of emotions that acts as though there are quick fixes. But there is no question that our relationship with God is foundational to spiritual and emotional health. If someone’s hope is not in God, then they may very well struggle with being downcast (Psalm 43:5)! The goal of this series will be to equip our people to lead their emotions under the Lordship of Christ.

Depression is something that many Christians battle. Depression will be one of the subjects of a new series beginning September 30 at The Red Brick Church, Leading Your Emotions. Here is an excerpt of what I am wrote on our church web site about the series:

Image of Dr. Spock from Star Trek

Are you emotions leading you? Or are you leading your emotions?

Make no mistake. Emotions are a gift. None of us would want to go through life without happiness or even sadness. Who would want to experience the birth of a child with the emotions of Mr. Spock? There is a time when we should feel the emotion of concern for the people we love. Emotions are gifts from God that allow us to experience life.

Yet, if we allow emotions to control our lives, they can be cruel dictators. Legitimate sadness can give way to the quicksand of depression. Proper concern quickly becomes unmanageable anxiety. Righteous anger can turn into bitterness or tantrums.

Too many people find that their emotions are leading them rather than they are leading their emotions. It makes life miserable.

It is not time for the series yet. But until then here is some encouragement. A few weeks ago, David Murray shared 10 Principles for Christians to Remember About Depression. It is a post well worth reading:

1. All kinds of people get depression: Depression smashes caricatures about depression. It’s not a choice that weak losers make. No, it affects rich and poor, the very old and the very young and every age in between, Type A and B…and every other type too.

2. Build relationship in order to build trust: It’s the old “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As with pulpit ministry, our words carry so much more weight and credibility when there is a relationship between the speaker and hearer.

3. Good listening is massive medicine: Sometimes we run out of things to say or don’t know what to say. However, don’t underestimate the healing power of real listening. I experienced this recently when I shared with my wife an anxiety I had been carrying. There wasn’t much she could say to resolve the problem, but I slept so much better after she simply listened to me.

4. Jumping to simplistic conclusions is . . .

Read the rest here.

Doubt in the Christian Life

Chris —  August 9, 2012

Doubt is something that nearly all Christians face. Even Christ’s followers  doubted after the resurrection and in the context of receiving the Great commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Sometimes, doubt can totally overwhelm. One of the first things to realize about a deep night of the soul is that you are not the first to experience it. The below links offer encouragement in reference to a crisis of faith.

Jon Bloom:

“Spatial disorientation” is what a pilot experiences when he’s flying in weather conditions that prevent him from being able to see the horizon or the ground. Points of reference that guide his senses disappear. His perceptions become unreliable. He can no longer be sure which way is up or down. It can be deadly — it killed John Kennedy, Jr.1

The only way a pilot can overcome spatial disorientation is to trust his cockpit instruments more than his intuitive senses to tell him what is real. That’s why flight instructors force student pilots to learn to fly planes by the instruments alone.

There is a spiritual parallel. I’ve experienced it. On a spring day in May 1997, I flew into a spiritual storm.

The details are too lengthy, but essentially I had a crisis of faith. I entered a tempest of doubt like nothing I had experienced before. God, who I had known and loved since late childhood, suddenly became clouded from my spiritual sight. I couldn’t see him anywhere. It got very dark in my soul and swirling winds of fear blew with gale force. The turbulence of hopelessness was violent. Not knowing which way was up or down, I found myself in spiritual spatial disorientation.

I was panicky at first. I swerved back and forth desperately trying to get my bearings. . . .

Read the rest here.

Steve Brandon, pastor of Rock Valley Bible Church:

Most Christians, as I can tell, go through a crisis of faith in their lives. By this, I simply mean a time in which they really question the reality of God or of His working in their lives. Sometimes it occurs when people are in their teens. At other times it occurs later in life. The result of these times is either an abandoning of the faith or a strengthened resolve to the realities of the faith.

The Biblical writers are no strangers to such feelings. More than a dozen times, we read the Psalmists expressing their doubts to the Lord saying, “How long?”

Read the rest of Steve Brandon’s, The Crisis of Faith.

See also:

The Limping, Elevenish Recipients of the Great Commission

A sermon series on emotions?

Chris —  June 13, 2012

I am looking for input. I am tentatively planning a topical/expository sermon series on emotions this Fall. So many battle emotions such as depression, anger, anxiety, and fear. But I would like to hear from those in the pew.

Do you think a thoughtful series on emotional battles is needed?

Which emotions do you think people battle the most?

What sermon series would interest you?

Steve Brandon:

Most Christians, as I can tell, go through a crisis of faith in their lives. By this, I simply mean a time in which they really question the reality of God or of His working in their lives. Sometimes it occurs when people are in their teens. At other times it occurs later in life. The result of these times is either an abandoning of the faith or a strengthened resolve to the realities of the faith.

The Biblical writers are no strangers to such feelings. More than a dozen times, we read the Psalmists expressing their doubts to the Lord saying, “How long?” (For example: Psalm 13:1, 2; 79:5; 94:3). Asaph chronicles his life by saying, “My feet came close to stumbling. My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3). Habakkuk said, “How long, O LORD, will I call for help and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2). Job said, “I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me. I stand up, and you turn Your attention against me” (Job 30:20).

And yet . . .

Read the rest here.