Christians in Despair and Depression, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #42)

Pilgrim's Progress

Pilgrim’s Progress

PART A


PART B


TEXT: Psalm 77:1-12

1 I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.

2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.

3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.

6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?

8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?

9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.

10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.

11 I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

Christians in Despair and Depression, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #42)

In our first message in this mini-series, we shed some light on the issue of despair and depression in the life of the Christian. Numerous stories of depression which has led to suicide even among Christians and Christian pastors have been in the news lately. In the Bible, there are also numerous examples of God’s servants struggling from depression and even wishing to die — people such as Moses, Job, Elijah, David, Jonah, and others.

The experience of depression is common to the Christian life. We read about it in Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. The two pilgrims, Christian and Hopeful, had turned out of the straight and narrow way, got caught in a rainstorm, and then were captured by Giant Despair and thrown in his dungeon. The giant beat the pilgrims savagely and told them that he would not let them go. He even suggested that the only way they would escape would be by killing themselves. Bunyan tells us that as Christian and Hopeful languished in prison, Christian said to his companion, “The life that we now live is miserable. For my part, I do not know whether it is best for us to live as we are, or to die at our own hand. My soul chooses strangling rather than life, and the grave appears more desirable than this dungeon. Shall we accept the Giant’s advice?”

Have you ever pondered such a decision? Have you ever been in such a situation? Well, we are not just going to discuss this as a problem, but we are going to talk about the solution from the Word of God. How does the Christian handle depression? Some have resorted to drugs; others have resorted to drunkenness; some withdraw from society and interaction with others; and most tragic of all are those who decide to take their own life.

Psalm 77 is an intensely helpful passage for those who are in the pit of depression and despair. We do not know exactly who wrote this psalm, but it was a part of the series of psalms written by Asaph and his sons. Scholars believe that it was prompted by a national tragedy — likely a military defeat. We see in this psalm that the writer did not feel as though God had helped the Israelites overcome the difficult situation the nation faced. He felt as though God had abandoned His people in their time of need. Many who struggle with depression also feel the same way — not just abandoned by God, but abandoned, ridiculed, or maligned by others.

This psalm shows us three things that we ought to do when we are in the pit of despair.

1. We should cry out to God.
2. We should change the way we think.
3. We should glorify God as greater than our problems.

Let’s look at the first aspect: Asaph writes: “I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.”

Immediately, we hear the hopelessness in Asaph’s prayer. This man was in a day of “trouble.” The word “trouble” literally means to be in straits. Today, we would say that we are trapped between a rock and a hard place. Wherever we turn, we see no positive options. Asaph felt as though he was trapped in a dark tunnel and there was no light at the end of it. His problems would not cease and his soul refused to be comforted. The more he thought about his predicament, the more depressed and troubled he became. His spirit was overwhelmed. The word “overwhelmed” means “to be feeble, to be faint, or to grow weak.” Asaph felt as if he was drowning in his problems. Have you ever been there.

But, while we are identifying with Asaph’s troubles, let’s not pass over his immediate response. He does not act as though he is not in trouble (which is what many of us do). He doesn’t pretend or try to hide his disappointment with life. Instead, he cries out to God and is honest with God in prayer. One of the greatest lessons we learn from reading the Psalms is that it is okay to be honest with God. Some of us are afraid of what God would say about our thoughts when the reality is He already knows what we are thinking. He already knows how we feel. He already knows what we are going through.

Asaph shows us that in the midst of our despair we ought to cry out to God. That is what Christian and Hopeful should have done in the dungeon of Doubting Castle. That is what many of us fail to do in our everyday lives. Your expression toward God in prayer may take varying forms: Asaph says he cried to the Lord. The word “cry” means to make an outcry, to clamour, or to cry aloud in grief.

Next, Asaph says he “sought the Lord”. To “seek” means to consult, to enquire, to ask. Asaph was asking questions of God from his feeble, human perspective: ‘Why, God? Why did You abandon your people in their time of need? Where were You when we were being attacked by our enemies?’ It is okay to ask questions of God. In verses 7-9, we see that Asaph continued: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” Asaph wanted to know if God had given up on him, if God had abandoned him, if God had left him to suffer alone.

Then Asaph says he “remembered God.” This verb means to recall or to call to mind. Some of us forget God in the midst of our troubles. But Asaph remembered Him. Let’s follow his example. Finally, Asaph says, “I complained.” According to the Merriam- Webster’s Dictionary, the word “complain” means “to communicate that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, or that you do not like something; to say something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness.” This indicates that Asaph had an internal communion with God going on in his heart and mind. Even as he was despairing over his circumstances, he was aware of God’s presence and he was pondering God’s role in all that was happening. He was trying to figure things out.

People going through difficult situations often talk about feeling as though God has abandoned them. But, perhaps, in our moments of despair, what we really must consider is if we have abandoned God. Are we clinging to God in the dark moments of our lives or are we trying to wing it on our own? Have we taken over the pilot’s seat when God should really be the one in control?

We learn from Asaph that we must not turn our backs on God no matter how terrible our circumstances are. Even though Asaph did not feel as though God was acting on his behalf or on the behalf of the children of Israel, he includes this affirmation in verse 1: “I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.” Focus on the words, “He gave ear unto me.” That means God is listening, God hears your cry, God sees the darkness swirling in your heart, mind, soul, and spirit. He knows what you are going through. It may not feel like it, but He does.

It takes faith to cling to God in difficult circumstances. It takes faith to cry out to God when it seems as though He is not hearing your prayers. But many have done so and have survived some of the darkest situations in history. Following World War II, there was found on the wall of a basement in Germany these words:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I can’t feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.

Are you depressed today? Are you in despair? Are you discouraged? Cry out to God. He is listening. He is waiting to hear from you. Don’t turn your back on Him, because although it may not feel like it at times, He has never and will never turn His back on you. For He said I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.

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