Types of Depression IV: Spiritual Depression

screenshot_9_7_16__11_03_amLoss of Joy

“Christian people too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums,” says Dr. D. Martin Lloyd- Jones, “and too often give this appearance of unhappiness and of lack of freedom and absence of joy. There is no question at all but that this is the main reason why large numbers of people have ceased to be interested in Christianity.” A book that still resonates is his Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cures, (Eerdmans, 1965). The book presents a series of messages Lloyd-Jones gave to parishioners at Westminster Chapel, London.

Not only do Christians themselves suffer from periods of depression, but their lives undermine their profession of Christ as the source of joy. They become a negative testimony, turning others away from Christ. This concerns Lloyd-Jones, because he believes that Christian joy was one of the most potent factors in advancing Christianity in the early centuries. In Spiritual Depression, he clarifies why many Christians lose spiritual vitality. He also shows the cure in the mind and spirit of Christ.

Other Bible Characters Depressed

Yes, Christians feel depressed just as do many other people. Looking at Scripture, we find examples of spiritual depression in Elijah, Jonah, Job, and, in the midst of his death on the cross, Jesus himself asks, “My God, my God, Why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). We can view Jesus’ words theologically, as the price he paid to redeem us, i.e., God’s abandonment. But we can also see Jesus’ humanity in these words, expressing in his slow, agonizing crucifixion, in the words of Psalm 22:1, how he felt. When we experience trauma, loss, and unjust suffering, we easily feel God has abandoned us.

Jason Helopoulos identifies the causes of spiritual depression as fatigue, neglect of the means of grace (e.g., worship, the Word of God), trials and suffering (losses), cares of this world, too much introspection, sin, lukewarmness, and God’s withdrawal of a sense of delight.

What Can We Do About Spiritual Depression?

Spiritual depression, then, can result from a variety of causes. If we find God’s presence seeming to slip away, what can we do? Fortunately for Job (providentially?), Job’s colleagues came to support him and to listen. Though they didn’t agree, they provided him critical social support (Job 4-27) as his life hung in the balance (Job 3). Talking with friends, then, can help us through, as well as talking with the Lord, as Elijah did in I Kings 18, and as Job eventually did in his dialogues. We must not rule out expert medical help, however, because a temporary relief through medication can enable us to find a professional counselor to help us deal with our life in a healthy way, and to revive our Christian joy.

[Sources: https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Depression-Its-Causes-Cure/dp/0802813879.  http://www.alliancenet.org/christward/8-causes-of-spiritual-depression#]

About Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy (gordongrose.com) blog to learn more. TragedyTransformed.com provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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