Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
One day I was counseling with a man who made this statement, “I wish I were like you and I never got depressed. After all, preachers never get depressed.” He did not realize how wrong he was. All of us have bouts of depression on the roller coaster of life. Never buy a book that tells you how to avoid depression. It is a waste of money. There is no way to avoid depression; it is simply a normal part of life.
We must all experience the highs and lows in the cycle of life. Life is not a straight ride without valleys and mountains. In fact, depression is actually good for you. You cannot enjoy the mountaintop without experiencing the valley. Only by experiencing a cloudy day will you appreciate the sunny days. Depression is only bad if it becomes a permanent way of life.
Great leaders in the Bible fought depression
Many great leaders in the Bible have been known for their bouts of depression. Jeremiah became so depressed that he quit preaching. He even refused to speak to anyone in God’s name. After winning a great victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled from Jezebel. Later he sat under a juniper tree and desired to die. David became depressed because he thought God had cast him off and would never use him again. Jonah became depressed after the great revival in Nineveh because the people were saved and God did not kill them. The disciples became depressed after Jesus was crucified, not knowing He had been raised from the dead.
Even great leaders, in more recent times, have suffered bouts of depression. I have seen Dr. Jack Hyles when he came face to face with depressing things. I have seen Evangelist Lester Roloff, Dr. Lee Roberson, and Dr. Wendell Evans battling depressing things in life. At one point in Charles Spurgeon’s life, when his health was failing and his wife was an invalid, he went to France for a while and sent his sermons back to his church so they could be read from the pulpit.
I, also, have experienced problems that have brought on times of depression. One Monday morning I went to the airport to fly to a preaching engagement in Atlanta, Georgia. My wife had just undergone surgery to install a pump for pain control. She returned to the doctor to have the staples removed, and the doctor found that she had a staph infection. Several years earlier she had suffered a deadly staph infection that never completely left her system, making her susceptible to recurring staph infections. The doctor said he would have to remove the pump. She would, then, have to wait 3 months to have another surgery for a new pump. That was a depressing time for us.
When our grandson, R.G., was born, the doctors found he had severe physical problems. That was a valley, not just for my son Bob and his wife, Kelly; it was a valley for us, as his grandparents, too.
Yet, R.G. has been such a blessing to our family. He is so happy, and he thoroughly enjoys life. A few years after the birth of R.G., our granddaughter was stillborn to Scott and Jenny. That was another time of depression for us.
God does not tell us, in the Bible, how we can avoid depression. However, He does tell us that, when those times of depression come, we should not stay in the valley. The depression should be a visitor, not a tenant; a renter, not an owner. It can be a tourist, not a citizen; a vagrant, not a dweller; a wayfarer, not an inhabitant; a sojourner, not a host; a guest, not a family member. It should be temporary.
Depression is necessary for Joy
Psalm chapter 126, verses 5 and 6 promise, 5“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. 6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Joy comes in the morning, after the nighttime. The valley increases the joy of the mountain peak. Clouds increase the joy of sunlight. Wintertime increases the joy of summer. There can be no peak without a valley, no sunrise without the setting of the sun, no harvest without a time of sowing. Depression will come.
Do not think depression is a sin or that you are backslidden. It is part of your emotions. We are in a war in this world, and there is no joy in the loss of soldiers’ lives when they fight for freedom. However, we must find a way to keep depression from staying in our lives. We cannot avoid its presence, but we can avoid its permanence. We need to make sure morning will come and the sun will rise.
The 7th and 8th chapters of Romans are contrasts of depression and mountains. In chapter 7, Paul is suffering from depression. In verse 24 he cries, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He is in the midnight hour, in the middle of winter. He is discouraged.
Then, in chapter 8, Paul comes out of the depression. He climbs the mountain and awakes to the sunshine. He has victory, and it is summertime. He is now encouraged. He tells us in verse 28,“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
When depression comes and you are in the valley, start doing what God made you to do. Pick up your rifle and jump back into the battle. Otherwise, you will be finished, and you will be knocked down. If you sit around feeling sorry for yourself, you will never pull yourself out of the depression.
If you do not have any money, go find a job. If you are having problems with your wife, do what God made you to do and love her. If your grades are bad in school, try studying and doing your homework and if you are in trouble at work, start working harder.
DIVERSION IS NOT AN ANSWER TO DEPRESSION
When you are depressed, diversion does not work because it simply delays the inevitable. It will not help to go to the amusement park. A wife’s depression is not alleviated when she goes shopping, or when she stays in bed and neglects the housework. It does not help to watch a video, go fishing, or play ball. The only way you can escape the depression is by doing what God made you to do. Do not withdraw; attack. Do not go away for a few days; get with it for a few days. Man your post. Do your duty, and carry out your assignment for God.
When my wife was in the hospital with the staph infection, the doctor decided to discharge her at noon on a Saturday. I called one of my staff men to take over the Saturday meetings at church so I could pick her up. The hours went by, but she was not discharged until 5:00 in the afternoon. While I was waiting, I went to Subway to buy a sandwich. I approached a family who was eating there and gave them the Gospel, and several people were saved.
Highs and lows are a normal part of life. When you hit a bout of depression, learn to pull out of it and climb on the topside. Do what God made you to do. Go soul winning, tithe, and attend church. You can pull out of it if you want to.
by Dr. Bob Gray Sr.