The Secret Benefit of Depression

The Secret Benefit of Depression

Allow the weight of your depression to dash you upon the Rock of Ages. Press into Christ. Let the sadness press you toward Him. Abandon everything but hope in Jesus. Run into His arms because there is nothing good anywhere else. You have been given clarity that very few people have. You understand that there is nothing good anywhere without God. 

I have noticed a world of difference between visiting the depressed and visiting the physically sick. The physically sick will chat with you and will enjoy a prayer at the end of your conversation about their illness and the medical plan to take care of it. The depressed, on the other hand, want to talk to you about God. They weep over their sins. They look to the words of the pastor as if life were in them. Their eyes contain tear-filled expectations, simultaneously expressing grief and hope.

If we evaluate these types of sicknesses—mental and physical—it is easy to see that one type lends itself to an openness to the Lord. Of course, as Lewis says, “God shouts to us in our pains.” We hear God, like Job, when we physically suffer. But mental pain (that is, depression) makes us alert to God in a heightened way.

If you have cancer, you will think about death. You will worry. You will ask your pastor to pray. You will turn to doctors and hope that they can fix you. Cancer can be a gift, which is why John Piper says, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”

But when you are depressed, and the depression does not lift, you are backed into the corner of hell. Behind you are the flames, and no doctor extends a hand to help. There are none to pull you from the flames but Christ.

Your conscience is burdened with the feeling that you are to blame for your predicament. The guilt weighs upon you like a thousand-pound weight. Every thought is another burden added to the weight, increasing the pain until it becomes unbearable.

This pain vents itself in cries of desperation, “God, please help me!” When He does not answer, the weight pushes you through the floor.

People with cancer know nothing of this desperation. People with cancer want to live, but people with depression want to die.

We wonder how Paul was able to say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” We marvel at the humility of John: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” The Psalmist outshines our spirituality on its best day when he says, “There is nothing on earth I desire besides You.” How are these people able to say such glitteringly spiritual things?

They walked through the valley of the shadow of death. They have experienced life without God. Like the title of Martin Lloyd Jones’s book, they have tasted Spiritual Depression.

It is staggering to see how many people are depressed today. Someone recently told me that, on average, Americans are more suicidal than those interned at the Nazi concentration camps. Could this be a grace, a gift of God?

I just heard a pastor say that revival always occurs when a society loses the most hope. When people look around and say to one another, “There is no hope left for us!” The eagles of Christ’s mercy swoop down with healing in their wings.

When we are depressed, we sprint toward the medicine cabinet. When we do not feel well, we turn to the bottle. When anxiety strikes, we open the refrigerator. Like a doctor striking our knee, we have instant responses to depression—and they are always to mask it.

But what if our depression is actually preparation? What if the Lord is preparing our hearts to be humble and meek, like His?

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