Depression Hit Disciples and Prophets
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, July 12, 2020
Our sermons in recent weeks
have followed our Lord Jesus as he was put on trial unfairly and unjustly.
We’ve watched as he was wrongly convicted
on false charges, and as he was sentenced to death by a judge
who knew Jesus was really innocent.
And then we watched as he suffered on the cross
and died a painful death.
But, as we read and discussed all these events,
they didn’t have the same effect on us
that they had on the people who were actually there—
our Lord’s disciples, companions
and family members.
That’s because we know the end of the story.
We’ve read the whole Bible.
We know that Christ won the victory at the cross,
that he rose from the grave on the 3rd day,
and that his sacrificial death
paid the penalty for our sins
and set us free.
We know that he ascended to heaven,
sat down on the throne of God,
and is coming again
at the head of armies of angels,
to rule the world as our immortal King.
But the people who were there with our Lord Jesus,
and who watched as he was tried and crucified—
they were discouraged and depressed
by what they saw.
They didn’t have the 20-20 hindsight
that we have today,
and that allows us to put it all into perspective.
They just saw their beloved teacher ridiculed, abused
spit upon, beaten until he was bloody,
and put through a horrible death.
Yes, Jesus had told them repeatedly, ahead of time,
that he was about to go through that agony,
and that it would prove to be good in the end,
bringing good results.
But his earlier words were overshadowed that day
by the harsh reality of what they saw happen.
And it was a depressing scene.
The Gospels tell us
that even the sky turned dark and gloomy
while our Lord hung on the cross.
And, at the moment he died,
the earth shook in a powerful earthquake.
Matthew 27:54 says,
54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Imagine how guilty they must have felt,
having been the ones who killed him!
And the rest of the people who saw Christ die
were terribly sad.
Luke 23 tells us,
48When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
People beat their breasts
and left the scene overwhelmed with sadness.
That sadness and grief left Jesus’ disciples
discouraged and depressed.
Despite what Jesus had told them ahead of time,
that he would rise from the dead,
all they saw was the depressing reality
of what they were actually going through.
Their hopes were dashed, and they were very sad.
We see that in the encounter the risen Christ had
with two of them on the road to Emmaus,
before he revealed himself to them.
Luke 24:13 begins,
13Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles a from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him.
17He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast.
Other translations say,
"sadness on their faces."
"sadness written across their faces."
"looking sad and gloomy."
18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.
Before Christ revealed himself to them
that he was now risen and alive,
their faces were downcast,
they were sad, discouraged, gloomy,
And this must have been the condition
of the rest of the disciples
who had just lost their Lord to death
and who saw their hope disappear.
So, what about us today?
Might we become depressed, discouraged and sad?
Could our circumstances in this world today
lead us to discouragement and even to depression?
The economy that was booming just months ago
has now collapsed, and millions are without jobs.
Violent mobs are setting fire to buildings and police cars,
tearing down statues,
and threatening to change our culture
and erase our history.
A cruel pandemic illness is sweeping the globe,
and we have all been affected—
if not by the illness itself,
then by shortages of toilet paper and grocery items,
and by forced social isolation.
News reports indicate depression is widespread,
and suicide rates are up significantly.
Now, some church people will tell you
that can’t happen to believers.
They will tell you that real Christians
never become depressed.
You must be lacking faith, they say.
You must not be right with the Lord.
Shame on you!—for being depressed, they imply.
And that’s enough to make you even more depressed.
I recall one time years ago
receiving a letter from someone
about a photo of me
that was published by my ministry.
The man who wrote the letter to me
said he didn’t believe I was really a Christian
because I wasn’t smiling in that photo.
His thinking was
that Christians should always look happy,
I wasn’t depressed—just not smiling in that photo.
But the man who wrote me that letter
must have forgotten that Isaiah 53:3
describes Jesus as
“a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
Isaiah 53:3 prophetically tells us that the Messiah would be
“a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
But there are many in the churches today
who’ve made up their own ‘Eleventh Commandment’
you could call it—
“Thou shalt not be negative.”
So, instead of sympathizing with those who are suffering
they just tell them to cheer up,
and they condemn them if they become depressed.
“You must have sin in your life!” is the accusation
they hurl in the face of the person
who is already hurting emotionally.
But Romans 12:15 tells us,
Rejoice with those who rejoice;
weep with those who weep.
Depression can hit all of us—even strong Christians.
To understand our brothers and sisters who are depressed,
and be able to help them—
or even to know what to do when we are depressed—
we need to better understand what causes it.
There are two major types of depression:
situational depression and clinical depression.
They aren’t always easy to distinguish,
and there can be some over-lap.
“Situational” means we are saddened by
our situation or circumstances.
The things happening to us, or happening around us,
take away our joy, and make us sad.
That can happen to anyone.
In fact, if bad situations don’t make us sad,
there is probably something wrong with us.
Clinical depression is different from that.
Although severe situational depression
can become clinical depression.
Persistent sadness is considered clinical depression
if it goes on for weeks or months,
or if it results in behavior changes.
It can result from an emotional injury,
or even a physical injury,
or an illness.
More often than not, there isn’t any obvious cause.
There may even be extreme, unexplained mood swings
from giddy happiness to deep depression,
and back again.
That used to be called “manic-depressive psychosis,”
but is called “bipolar” today.
Clinical depression that doesn’t have any obvious cause
in surrounding circumstances
may need to be treated
by trained medical professionals.
So, let’s talk first about situational depression.
It afflicted even God’s prophets
and holy people of old.
The Psalmist wrote Psalm 102 as
A prayer of an afflicted person
who has grown weak
and pours out a lament before the Lord.
And it says in its 4th and 5th Verses,
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 In my distress I groan aloud
There was a time in Elijah’s ministry,
when he became discouraged and cried out,
“I have had enough Lord, he said. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4
And Jeremiah reached a point where he said,
“Cursed be the day I was born…why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” Jerermiah 20:14,18
We, too, can be depressed by our circumstances—
the situation we are in.
In order to escape depression,
we may need to change our circumstances,
if that is possible,
or to change our view or understanding
of our circumstances,
by gaining God’s view from the Bible.
Those depressed disciples on the road to Emmaus
discovered that Jesus was alive,
and that turned their grief to joy.
The situation changed.
Bad situations make us feel bad.
That’s what situational depression is.
So, what do you do about situational depression?
Change the situation!—if you possibly can.
Get away from the circumstances,
or even the other people,
who are making you depressed.
Yes, it may be other people who are giving us grief.
And, if that is the case, we may need
to get away from them.
The patriarch Isaac and his wife Rebekah
lived in an extended family
with two pagan women—
the wives of their older son—
who didn’t love God
and who didn’t live God-fearing lives.
They were making Rebekah’s life miserable.
At Genesis 27:46, we read,
Then Rebekah said to Isaac, "I am deeply depressed because of these daughters of Heth. If Jacob were to marry one of these daughters of Heth who live in this land, I would want to die!"
It was her circumstances—her situation—
that plunged Rebekah into such deep depression.
But she knew what she had to do about it.
She needed to change who she spent time with.
And she turned to her husband Isaac for help doing that.
She wanted him to find a believing, godly wife
for their younger son, Jacob.
Then she would have better company—
people who would not depress her.
If you are in similar circumstances,
you may be able to get out of a depressed state
by changing who you spend time with.
During this time of social distancing, of course,
that may involve who we speak with by phone
or who we watch on TV.
As one translation of 1 Corinthians 15:33 puts it,
“Don't fool yourselves.
friends will destroy you.”
That applies, also, to association with spirit persons
who aren’t visible to us,
but who can influence our lives and our moods.
Depression can result from demonic oppression.
And even Christians can expose themselves
to demonic oppression by getting involved with
Satan’s demons through magic, fortune tellers,
horoscopes, Zodiac signs, Ouija boards,
Reiki, acupuncture, Tarot cards, séances,
or other forms of demonic communication.
Leaving such practices,
and turning to the Lord in repentance,
can end that demonic oppression and depression.
But when bad circumstances come upon us
sometimes there’s nothing we can do
but ride it out—
wait for our situation to change.
Then, all we can do is try to adjust our view—
and our emotional response to the situation.
The Old Testament Book of Job tells us
how the devil took away from this righteous man
first his wealth, then all his children,
and then his health—
leaving him suffering
from boils and blisters
from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
Even his wife said to him at Job 2:9,
“Are you still holding on to your integrity?
Curse God and die!”
He certainly had reason to be depressed
by his circumstances.
At Job 3:11 he groaned,
“Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?”
At Job 3:26 he said,
“I have no peace, no quietness,
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
At Job 10:1 he cried out,
“I loathe my very life,
therefore I will give free rein
to my complaint and
speak out in the bitterness of my soul.”
Job’s depression was so deep that he blamed God,
and said, beginning with Job 30:16,
Depression haunts my days.
17At night my bones are filled with pain,
which gnaws at me relentlessly.
18With a strong hand, God grabs my shirt.
He grips me by the collar of my coat.
19He has thrown me into the mud.
I’m nothing more than dust and ashes.
Job’s depression was caused by his circumstances—
the situation he was in.
He felt God had turned against him,
but he didn’t know that Satan was the one
who gave Job all that grief.
And three Job’s friends didn’t help, either.
They blamed sin in his life,
and tried to add guilt to his depression.
Eventually, God stepped in,
and helped Job get a better view of his situation,
and then God improved his situation—
restoring the blessings he had lost,
and turning his grief to joy.
Job’s story may help us appreciate
that God loves us,
despite what this world does to us,
that our suffering in this world is temporary,
and that God will reward us
with blessings that outweigh our suffering.
But, just as people vary in physical strength
and other characteristics,
people vary in how susceptible they are
to emotional depression.
Some are more easily injured emotionally,
just as some people’s skin bruises more easily
or burns from the sun more easily.
It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,
any more than physical characteristics.
But we need to recognize our own susceptibility
at that of our loved ones.
And some individuals have chemical imbalances
that need to be treated.
Just as high blood pressure and blood sugar levels,
may need chemical adjustment,
so, too, the chemicals in our bodies
that affect our moods.
The body’s production of hormones
can be thrown off balance
by illness or physical injury,
or by changes that take place
during the aging process.
The thyroid gland can be thrown off
by a case of thyroiditis, or by dietary factors,
and that can cause depression.
Allergies, and even medication to treat allergies,
can cause depression.
And so can a number of other medications.
So, prolonged sadness
that doesn’t have an obvious cause
might call for a visit to the doctor,
to see if there is a chemical cause
that needs to be treated.
There should be no shame or embarrassment
when one seeks professional help for depression—
any more than getting help
for a broken bone or an infection.
The medications available for treating depression today
are much better and more effective
than those of years past.
So, suffering depression without seeing a doctor
makes no more sense
than living with physical ailments
without seeking a diagnosis and cure.
Our God can heal miraculously,
and he invites us to pray for healing,
and for all of our needs.
But he also encourages us to do
whatever is in our own power, to help our situation.
The Apostle Paul was used by God
to bring people divine healing.
But Paul also told Timothy at 1 Timothy 5:23
“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach
and your frequent illnesses.”
And Paul often took with him on his travels
who he referred to at Colossians 4:14 as
“Luke the beloved physician.”
So, there is nothing wrong with Christians
turning to medicine for help with illness,
whether physical or emotional.
But we don’t need to be suffering from clinical depression
or a chemical imbalance
to be upset and troubled
by the things going on around us
in the world today.
This world is headed for destruction.
The violence and sexual immorality and abortions
and disregard for God that we see today
reminds us of times in the past
when God stepped in
to destroy a corrupt city
or a corrupt nation
or a corrupt world.
If the nightly news gets you down
and leaves you feeling depressed,
you are not alone.
2 Peter 2:7 tells us that Abraham’s nephew Lot
“was greatly distressed
by the immoral conduct of lawless people”
of Sodom and Gomorrah, where he was living,
before God intervened to wipe them out.
It may help, if you make a conscious effort
to think about other things
and to focus on more positive things.Paul wrote at Philippians 4:6,
...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Changing our view can help lift us out of depression.
But we also have hope
that God will change the circumstances around us.
Ezekiel 9:4 tells us that, before God destroyed
the corrupt city of Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s day,
he looked to save first
“everyone who is distressed and troubled because of all the disgusting things
being done in the city.”
If you are distressed and troubled
because of all the disgusting things
being done in today’s world,
you can have confidence
that God feels the same way about it.
And that God will do something about it.
In Luke Chapter 21 our Lord Jesus spoke
about the time immediately before he will return.
He said people would be
“in anguish and perplexity” and that they will be
“apprehensive of what is coming on the world.”
It would be a depressing time.
But then he said in Verse 28, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
And after that redemption takes place,
Revelation Chapter 21 says,
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.”