2008-04-08 - Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness
Isaiah 61:1, 2 "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn."
It is not unheard of for Christians to have doubts, fears, and even anxieties about many things - even their own standing before God. We might be both surprised, but also encouraged, to know that some Christians who have been most useful to the Lord have also been those who have struggled with doubts, or even depression. For example, William Cowper, who wrote many hymns found in a traditional hymnbook including "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, Drawn from Immanuel's vein's," had a lifelong struggle with depression, and yet the Lord used him greatly. You might be surprised that melancholiness was one of the public struggles of the greatest Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Here is what Spurgeon said in sermon 419 of his collected sermons:
"My peculiar temptation has been constant unbelief. I know that God's promise is true, and that he that said it will do it; he that has performed of old changeth not, and will be firm and faithful even to the end; yet does this temptation incessantly assail me - 'Doubt him; distrust him; he will leave you yet.' I can assure you when that temptation is aided by a nervous state of mind, it is very hard to stand day by day, and say, 'No, I cannot doubt my God; he that has been with me in days gone by is with me still; he will not forsake his servant, nor put him away.' That perpetual assaulting, that perpetual stabbing, and cutting, and hacking at one's faith, is not so easy to endure. O God, deliver us, we pray thee, and make us more than conquerors by thy Spirit's power!"
That quote is from Spurgeon, a man whom God used greatly, and from whom we have 38 years of sermons, still in print, in 63 good-sized volumes. He struggled with feeling that God was far from him. He had dark moments of the soul, when he questioned his right standing before the Lord. If this is your struggle, or one of your afflictions, please understand that you are not alone, - and there ways to still be useful, and to continue to grow in dependence upon, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many helps to us when we feel despondent, or, as if our faith is hovering just below ground level. One help is to take our eyes off ourselves and fix them upon Christ. It is Satan's desire to hide the glory of Christ from us, so that we do not see Him as He is (2 Cor. 4:4). But we know from our experience, and from God's Word, that when we look away from self, and focus on Christ, we gain new strength, fresh perspective, and clearer understanding that while our struggles are real, they are also overcome in Christ. We keep near to Christ. We pile up all our doubts, fears, anxieties, worries - everything our soul agonizes about - we take them all, in the large pile that they are, and we carry them to Christ. We drop them and ourselves into His loving arms, and we rest, hope, trust, and rely upon His shed blood alone for all our confidence. If we need to, we make two trips to Christ with our pile of burdens. But no matter how many trips we need, we take all our despondencies, even our very selves, and we flee to Christ alone. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life," John 6:68
Soli Deo Gloria,