Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For the pod: Overwhelmed

The Scriptures…do grant clearly by their teaching that it is possible for a Christian to be depressed. Not that they justify this, but they do recognize the fact.

Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: “It is finished; it is covered by the Blood of Christ.” That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! You just begin to say: “I rest my faith on Him alone who died for my transgressions to atone.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and its Cures, 1965, p. 107, Used by Permission from Elizabeth Catherwood (daughter).

Today, I started my re-reading of the The purpose-graced life.

All our lives go through seasons and as I recall the last decade since spending forty days with Rick Warren's book I can testify to some great highs and a few deep lows. However, I have a debt of gratitude to this book that words can't describe. I discovered through it and in conjunction with a two month sabbatical of solitude and prayer reading Romans/fly-fishing/travelling what God had called me to do. Since then my life has been lived for most of the time with joy unspeakable through the wonderful revelation of justification by grace through faith.

Amid this though, I have also experienced trial, disappointment, the sudden death of my father, times of family turmoil, relationship failure and moments of doubt, fear and uncertainty. Jesus told us that was rather the deal. I also, looking back over twenty years, went through a time not long after becoming a Christian that I would now consider to be one of depression/spiritual/demonic oppression and spent about eight years as an insomniac. You're ready for a really good nights sleep after eight years I can tell you :) and I am grateful to a dear friend who committed to pray intensively for me and saw me set free as a result. My gloom, anxiety and insomnia were all experienced as I note after I became a follower of Jesus.

We have been praying as a church for someone via our prayer chain who is suffering from deep despair, hopelessness and depression. This is a very real thing on my heart and the hearts of a lot of us this week. So many in our days are battling depression. It is the pandemic of western culture and it is a very real problem but the solution to it is not simply that everyone does an Alpha course. That would be good and a start but people who are Christians also suffer just as much from seasons of darkness and depression. Given that a good chunk of the Psalms are what's known as laments David it seems had a gloomy season or two which is a tiny relief for those in this place, as did Job, Jonah, Moses and Paul.

This talk by Perry Noble, he says, is the most significant talk he has ever given. Many readers complain about the diet of American preachers they find on the blog. Apologies, I love the States- it's history, authors, geography, politics, its fly-fishing, its sitcoms (Now I can actually run the US having watched the West wing) and its variety of churches. Noble is a southern mega-church pastor with a splendid accent and a refreshingly honest direct manner that us English-types may find a little too direct. For some readers this is your worst nightmare. He's a classic, as he admits, type A, driven, ESTJ, not very pastoral, workaholic uber-evangelical church leader. I encourage you to overcome any problems with personality, delivery, theology and style and listen to the content. In this sermon called Overwhelmed Week 2 19th Feb (from 20 mins and podcast here 19.2.12) he speaks very candidly on the subject of depression which so many suffer from and he confesses he even contemplated suicide during his three year illness. I find it easier to listen to a sermon rather than watch as I find the mega-church thing rather grates on my 'Peterson gene' so you may want to download it to your phone and take the talk for a walk or a drive.

This is a tremendous problem in life and also in ministry. Too many are battling and isolated facing depression alone and I think there is a nugget or two in this talk that is very helpful. In my world, too many C of E clergy are struggling with overwork, under resourcing, solitary-working and severe lack of encouragement and pastorally-engaged leadership. One Bishop I met while searching for a Curacy reckoned about half the clergy in his diocese were depressed. The front-line clergy I have found, in the main, to be a terrifically sincere, dedicated and diligent bunch with enormous hearts operating often in challenging circumstances. One of the secrets I have found to be intentional community and I confess in my own life without it I could never be a pastor. Noble discovered this the hard way.

You may agree with the content or not but I am sensitive to the fact that a few of my readers have battled or are currently battling this right now so do feel free to offer some views or disagree. Martin Luther said 'All of life is repentance' and this is where Noble lands and you may be helped reading this essay. You may also be blessed by reading The Sermon on the Mount which is 'The purpose-graced life' for English/Welsh people. If you do find it helpful then perhaps share it with others who you think it might help. It's not a perfect sermon by any means but it resonated with some of my own story and seemed worth offering as a 'For the pod' so see what you think.

No comments: