Archives For Depression

I recently pointed to a new edition of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s classic, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure

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.’ (page 21).

See also, Don’t Ask the Depressed, “How Are You Doing?”


Are you content?

Amy Scott’s title observes that contentment is “slippery,” and that was enough to get me to read the post. I wasn’t disappointed, and my wife will like it even more.

Yesterday I watched my son ride his bike through the front pasture. He was chasing a cow. At times like these, I’m not sure why I gave him siblings or a dog. We don’t have sidewalks here or else I’m positive he would’ve chosen to ride on that.

I’m glad he didn’t run over the cow. Puzzle, the nice milk cow, is about the only animal on this place who earns her keep. We get almost three gallons of milk from Puzzle on once-a-day (everyday, of course) milking. Even for greedy guts like us, that’s a lot of milkshakes and alfredo sauce. So last night, I called up the dairy across the street to see if they had any bottle calves for sale. They did.

I hung up the phone and yelled for the masses. My kids found a dog collar and leash (actually, they stole one off the calf born last week) and came back home twenty minutes later with a little Jersey bull calf. He’s one week old. Sure, I can’t get a latte where I live, but I can always scrounge up a bottle calf or a moonshiner lickity split. Bonus points if either can stand up.

While my oldest kid peddled after a cow and my younger son took turns walking the new baby calf on a dog leash, Greg and I sat on the porch, and I talked about the sporty convertible I planned to drive one day. Greg swatted a fly.

The car will have leather seats. When I reach for the seat belt buckle, there won’t be any gum wrappers hidden underneath it. There won’t be dog pee on the front right tire. When I open the car door, a bucket of baseballs won’t spill out and I won’t get a ticket for littering for simply wanting to get into my car on a windy day. The tape deck will work.

By then, my kids will have learned not to eat, drink, throw up, or breathe in the car I have to drive. In this universe, my hair won’t be frizzy anymore, and the bank teller won’t be snotty with me. It’ll all be great. I can see it now.

This morning, I had someone tell me that my life was perfect. . .

Read the rest here.

If you struggle emotionally, then this is for you. If nothing else, allow the video to introduce you to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I’m ordering it.

HT: Challies

Stories of depression

Chris —  April 5, 2011

If you struggle with depression, you are not alone.

The Burning Center recently posted about a 20 year battle with depression.  I have a number of posts in this category including some quotes from Lincoln (here).

At our Saturday night service for The Brickworks one of our church family shared the story of her battle with depression. Today, Zach posted about a recent experience and what strikes me is the number of similarities with what we heard Saturday night:

Over the last couple of days I have posted a couple of reflections on depression from Stephen and Mark Altrogge. Today I wanted to share my own personal experience with it.

We planted our church last summer on July 25th. That first worship service was the culmination of 18 months of planning and hard work on the part of myself and my two other co-pastors. It was one of the hardest seasons of our lives. A few months later we had about 40 people attending our church and during a service in September I distinctly remember sitting in the congregation and this thought came over me, “Wow. Here we are. We actually exist. Our church is up and running and apart from something dramatic happening, we probably are not going anywhere.” It was like a corner was turned in my brain and a new chapter was beginning.

The next morning everything went dark.

Read the rest here.

I’m looking forward to reading an advance copy of Dan Phillips forthcoming book on a biblical worldview. In the mean time, he offers wise counsel for those battling depression.

Click here.

Do you have the “winter blues”?

Chris —  December 31, 2010

David Murray prescribes 3 “pills” for those battling SAD (seasonal affective disorder).  They are three pills I need to do a much better job taking.

Are you SAD? from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

See also Feeling down as the season comes to an end?

HT: Tim Challies

If you struggle with depression – – and, what an awful battle that can be – – consider reading The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd (The Swans Are Not Silent), but, first read this post and Romans 3:21-26.

John Piper told this story this as part of a sermon on Romans 3:21-26, what some theologians say is the greatest paragraph ever written.

Most nights as I tuck Talitha into bed she says, “Sing me a song.” The one we sing most often is one of my favorites by William Cowper,

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

What Talitha doesn’t know, but may learn some day is that, in 1759 when Cowper was 28 years old, he had a total mental breakdown and tried three different ways to commit suicide. He became convinced that he was damned beyond hope. In December, 1763, he was committed to St. Alban’s Insane Asylum, where the 58-year-old Dr. Nathaniel Cotton tended the patients. By God’s wonderful design, Cotton was also an evangelical believer and lover of God and the gospel.

He loved Cowper and held out hope to him repeatedly in spite of Cowper’s insistence that he was damned and beyond hope. Six months into his stay, Cowper found a Bible lying (not by accident) on a bench in the garden. First he looked at John 11 and saw “so much benevolence, mercy, goodness, and sympathy with miserable men, in our Saviour’s conduct” that he felt a ray of hope. Then he turned to Romans 3:25, our text for today. This was a key turning point in his life.

Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fulness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel.

In June, 1765, Cowper left St. Alban’s and lived and ministered 35 more years – not without great battles with depression, but also not without great fruit for the kingdom, like the hymns, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” “O for a Closer Walk with God!” and “The Spirit Breathes upon the Word.”

I think the reason many are depressed over the holidays is because they do not know how to interpret the yearnings of their soul.

I don’t suppose that there is anyone who has not experienced yearnings or longings of the soul – Augustine said that he experienced them when he read Plato – -  he felt as though he was looking at a peaceful valley from a wooded ridge – -  a nostalgic feeling — that there was a beautiful place that he couldn’t quite access.

Lewis wrote a great deal about these longings and and called them “joy’ – -but, he didn’t mean simple happiness, but rather a yearning.

“The experience is one of intense longing. It is distinguished from other longings by two things. In the first place, though the sense of want is acute and even painful, yet the mere wanting is felt to be somehow a delight.” See Pilgrim’s Regress, page 7.

The Germans call this longing Sehnsucht (ZANE-zoocht): yearnings and searchings of the soul (Plantinga, Engaging God’s World, 4).

I haven’t heard Bono talk about it recently, but at least in the 80’s U2, “Still hadn’t found what they were looking for.”  That was a song about “sehnsucht.”

Plantinga (page 3) gave this example of sehnsucht, “certain people feel a kind of delicious sadness on what seems to be the last day of summer.”

The Stones called it “satisfaction” and from the sounds of things were very angry they couldn’t get it.

Most feel it at Christmas time, and my point here is that the reason so many are inconsolably depressed is because they don’t know what to do with Sehnsucht: the longings of the soul. 

Borrowing from Lewis, if you don’t know what I am talking about here – – move on to a different blog – – because this one isn’t going to make any sense.

But, if you do know what I mean by these intense longings – – then you will probably agree that more than any other season, at Christmas time we have a yearning for something wonderful that seems just beyond our reach – –

And, it is imperative that these yearnings be properly interpreted.   We must realize that these longings of our soul are a longing for God and they will be ultimately fulfilled only on the New Earth.

So many get in trouble at this time of the year, because they convince themselves that these can be fulfilled now – – and when the yearnings of their soul are not satisfied, then they find themselves mired in depression.

You want to see someone depressed (or sometimes mad)?  Find someone who thought that the longings of their soul would be satisfied by having Christmas done in a particular way – – then when they couldn’t get “any satisfaction,” they looked for someone or some circumstance to blame.

Here is what we must do.  Recognize the longings of the soul for what they are. . . they are not needs that can be met in Christmas 2007 by circumstances or relationships within Creation – – rather, they are signs pointing us to Christ – – as Yancey said, they are “Rumors of Another World.”

Lewis’ testimony is all about how he finally figured out sensucht. . . not that he ever got over it.

“I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever. But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “look!” The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that sets them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. ‘We should be at Jerusalem.’ Not, of course, that I don’t catch myself stopping to stare at roadside objects of less importance.” C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

Know this at Christmas: Your soul will only find rest in Christ (Psalm 62); what you are longing for is God.  Savor him now – – and be excited on that morning when we will open the present of a New Creation and eternity in his presence (Revelation 21:3-5).


Let me tell you something to avoid asking a friend who is feeling down. I am not saying it is always wrong, but be careful. Ask this question and you may make the situation worse.

Here is the question to avoid, “How are you doing?” “How’s it going for you?”

Not always, but often, people think themselves into a mental tailspin. Introspection, thinking about how you feel, can be a kind of mental quicksand. When you ask a person with that struggle, “How are you doing?” You only encourage him or her to continue focusing inward.

Psalm 77:1-20 is the story of someone in a mental battle. The Psalmist said he couldn’t sleep and felt like God was against him. Twice (Psalm 77:3,6) he says that he “mused.” I looked that word up. “To muse” means to turn things over and over in ones mind without achieving any resolution.

The turning point came when the Psalmist stopped thinking about how He was doing and began to focus on God. He asked Himself, “Has God’s unfailing love failed?” (Psalm 77:7-9) The answer to that question is obviously “no.”

So, maybe instead of asking people how they are doing, we should ask them, “How is God doing?” (Psalm 77:12)

The answer to that question is that God is glorious. There is none like Him. He never sleeps or slumbers and He always accomplishes exactly what He seeks to do. He is a loving, merciful God. And, If you are truly a Christian, then He works all things together for your good (Romans 8:28).

image Fred Sanders has written a reflection on van Gogh that will forever cause me to think differently about van Gogh’s painting, A Starry Night.  Indeed, Sanders makes me want to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Fred Sanders:

Today (July 29) is the day in 1890 when Vincent van Gogh died from a gunshot wound he had inflicted on himself two days earlier, leaving behind many questions.

That van Gogh was mentally tormented throughout his life is widely known. It is an unavoidable subject for biographers, but also an irresistible subject for anybody who has ever stood in front of a van Gogh painting and had one of those embarassingly strong physiological responses his art can induce: the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye, the bottom dropping out of the stomach, the head reeling, the giddiness, the speeding pulse. Or there is the most common of the strong responses to his work: a feeling of overwhelming joy and delirious well-being. The question is inevitable: How could a man capable of seeing so penetratingly into the joy of being, of capturing it on canvas, of stimulating a like response in others, have been so comfortless in life and so despairing in death?

These questions lurk in the back of the mind of anybody who has encountered van Gogh’s paintings. But even if you didn’t know the scraps of his biography that are common knowledge (he was a failed missionary, he cut off his own ear, he was committed to an asylum, he took his own life), and didn’t wonder about the contradiction between life and art, the art itself would pose intractable enough questions: How did van Gogh make paintings that can hit people in the gut so hard? Is it the way that, even in the smallest paintings, he constructed a phenomenological space, a space that is more like the way space feels than the way it looks? Is it the uncanny color choices, about which he theorized at such length in his letters? Is it the wildness of the brush-work, which lets us see exactly how the image was crafted in the studio?

A last set of questions: How did van Gogh’s Christian faith inform his work and shape his later life?

Read the rest here.