Handling Depression Biblically – Part 4
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We started with anger and then moved on to depression. Three weeks ago we discussed the medical, cultural and biblical definitions of depression and two weeks ago we looked at the lives of two of the prophets, Elijah and Jeremiah, and how God ministered to them when they experienced feelings of depression.
Last week we looked at depression in David’s life. As we looked at Psalm 32 we saw how David’s sin with Bathsheba affected his emotions and led to what we would describe as depression. Today we’re going to talk more about how a failure to handle the events and responsibilities of life in a biblical way and other sins can cause feelings of depression. Then we’ll talk about how, as believers, we should respond to feelings of depression.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Cain & His Unpleasant Emotions
In Genesis 4, we read about Adam and Eve’s two sons, Cain and Abel.
² … When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected (NLT).
Cain’s offering was rejected by God and Cain became dejected. The NKJV says his countenance fell.
Hebrews 11.4 says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous.”
God didn’t just reject Cain’s offering out of hand. Abel responded to God in faith, he believed God and obeyed Him. Cain’s disobedience and rebellion was first exposed by his offering. He followed the dictates of his own heart and brought what seemed right to him. Genesis 4 goes on:
6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
God was personally dealing with and warning Cain about what was going on in his heart. His response should have been repentance, instead he remained angry at God and his brother will pay the price.
8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
Cain lures his brother out into the field and then kills him out of anger and jealousy.
9 Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
Given another opportunity to repent and confess his guilt, he responds with defiance and rebellion.
10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
His response: “It’s too much! It’s not fair!” He was filled with self-pity and feelings of depression.
“Someone will kill me.” He becomes consumed with fear and guilt.
His sinful choices put him on a downward spiral of sin that lead to dejection, anger, self-pity, depression, fear, worry, and guilt.
In a course that my husband teaches, the downward spiral is illustrated by what happens in the life of a hypothetical college student. We’ll call her Colleen.
Colleen is a good student. She heads off to college with lots of encouragement from her family and teachers to study hard and keep her grades up. College life is new and exciting. She’s making friends and doing well in her classes.
But one night as she heads to the dorm to study, a new friend says they should go to Starbucks and hang out for a while. She protests, but after some convincing gives in and jumps in the car. They stay late and she’s too tired to study. The first time she gets away with it, but soon it becomes a habit. One morning she fails a pop quiz and pretty soon her grades are slipping. When an exam comes up, Colleen cheats.
Then her parents call and ask her how she’s doing. She lies and tells them she’s doing great.
Soon she’s experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression.
If she went to the clinic on campus and told them about her feelings, it’s likely she would be given a prescription to help her feel better. But are her feelings really the problem?
Often, our feelings are like the warning lights on the dash of our cars. They’re telling us something is wrong under the hood. If we disconnect the lights or cover them up somehow, we won’t solve the problem. In fact, we’ll probably have a bigger problem somewhere down the road.
Something is wrong in Colleen’s heart. She has let fun and pleasing her friends become more important than pleasing God.
What Does Colleen Need?
Colleen needs to repent. She needs to ask God to forgive her and she needs to accept His forgiveness. She needs to call her parents, admit that she lied, and ask for their forgiveness. She, also, needs to confess what’s she’s done to her professor, ask for forgiveness, and be willing to accept the consequences. Then she needs to become faithful in her studies.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12.11 NKJ).