Overcoming Spiritual Depression

Deliverance from spiritual depression begins with an understanding of “justification,” not sanctification, as one might suspect. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). “This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent” (John 17:3). As a believer, are you truly enjoying God? Is He the center of your life? He is meant to be….

It is sad and tragic that so many Christians are frustrated and miserable. The Protestant Reformation brought peace and happiness because the central doctrine of “justification by faith” was rediscovered. One of the most remarkable miracles our Lord performed was the healing of a “blind man” (Mark 8:22-26). When Jesus spat upon His eyes, He asked the blind man what he saw – he said he saw “trees walking.” Though one can say the man is no longer blind, yet you hesitate to say that he sees perfectly – that description is precisely where most Christians find themselves – they are disquieted and unhappy because of this lack of clarity regarding the doctrine of “justification by faith.” They simply see men as “trees walking” – there is confusion in what they see; they don’t understand certain basic truths. What they do is mix-in their own ideas with spiritual truth… and stop reading the Bible and praying.

What is the cure? What saved the “blind man” in the above illustration was his absolute honesty – he fully submitted himself to Christ, and did not object to further treatment. Conversely, our response must be similar: “I want the truth whatever it costs me.” The blind man listened to Jesus and his sight was fully restored – “he saw every man clearly.” If you are unhappy about yourself – go to Christ, go to His Word, wait upon Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him, and ask Him in the words of the hymn:

Holy Spirit, Truth Divine,
Dawn upon this soul of mine;
Word of God, and inward Light,
Wake my spirit, clear my sight.

Spiritual depression or unhappiness in the Christian life is very often due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel….

Where believers go astray is that they tend to focus on their performance (they are preoccupied with themselves), rather than on their relationship to God (justification). When we come back to the gospel of grace, it is all a matter of belief or unbelief – faith or feeling. The problem is unbelief – the solution is belief. If you find yourself dwelling on your “sin,” you have not fully resolved in your heart the work of Christ on the cross – “the blood of Jesus Christ keeps on cleansing us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 – present tense!). That is what happens when you become a believer – believe it!

We must be very clear about the “justification” – not only do we experience the “forgiveness of our sins,” but we have also been “declared righteous” by God Himself. Ultimately it all comes down to this – the real cause of “troubled souls” is the failure to realize that we are “one with Christ” – “united with Christ” [1 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 6:5]. We died with Christ … we have been buried with Christ … we have been raised with Christ … and we are now seated in heavenly places in Christ! (Rom. 6:3-11; Eph. 2:6). Paul says we are to “reckon these things as being so” (Rom. 6:11).[1]

If you are looking at your past and your sins and you are depressed, it means that you are listening to the devil. Rejoice in the grace and mercy of God that has blotted out your sins and made you His child. Stop looking at yourself and begin to enjoy Him! By God’s grace you are what you are – it is all “grace!” Become absorbed in the “grace and love of God” and you will forget all about yourself – it will deliver you from self-interest, self-concern, and from depression (which is the result of focusing on self).

[The Lord Jesus assures believers] “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full….Therefore you now have sorrow [anticipating His death]; but I will see you again [through His resurrection] and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you….Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. …These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 15:11;16:22,24,33] [2]

This article is an excerpt from Spiritual Depression, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, chapter 1 (Eerdmans, 1965). His sermons on this theme are online: https://www.mljtrust.org/collections/spiritual-depression/

[1] Here the Dr. Lloyd Jones touches on the implications of identification with Christ. Many who fully grasp justification have yet to appreciate and appropriate identification–a vital aspect of the Gospel!

[2] Bracketed Bible references and this concluding Biblical quotation have been added. – JBW

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