If you've been a believer for any amount of time, you're familiar with the feeling.
It's like you’re…off. Foggy. You're not connecting with God, even after you've asked Him to search your heart and reveal to you any unconfessed or secret sin. You are praying your guts out. You read the Scriptures hoping to feel real again. Your relationships are going well, but you feel distant from everyone. There's no reason to be in a desert, but here you find yourself. Wandering and wondering.
And you are not alone.
What you are experiencing is a reality of the Christian life. It is spiritual depression. And it affects us all at one point or another.
Most likely at several points.
I experienced this particular feeling five years ago. I realized something in me was…off. And there seemed to be no reason for feeling in a funk.
My first sign of hope came from my reading Scripture, specifically from the transcript of Christ's temptation in Luke 4. I noticed Jesus was "led by the Spirit in the desert." He didn't do anything to get Himself there. The Holy Spirit led the Lord Himself into the desert for a specific purpose. This set me on a journey to find out more.
I soon learned that I was not alone in facing what is defined as spiritual depression: "The fact remains," D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones begins in his book, Spiritual Depression, "that there are large numbers of Christian people who give the impression of being unhappy. They are cast down, their souls are 'disquieted within them', and it is because of that that I am calling attention to the subject."
Spiritual depression is a part of the Christian life. Lloyd-Jones puts it this way: You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind and spirit. The greatest and the best Christians when they are physically weak are more prone to an attack of spiritual depression than at any other time and there are great illustrations of this in the Scriptures.
This is evidenced in the history of the people of God going all the way back to the Old and the New Testaments. Lloyd-Jones describes the heroes of the Bible as “noble souls struggling with their problems and themselves.”
Being pointed continually back to Scripture started the process of getting to the root of my own spiritual depression.
Lloyd-Jones also called me out in distinguishing that there are certain personalities who are hard on themselves, given to unhealthy introspection. He writes:
Some of us by nature, and by the very type to which we belong, are more given to this spiritual disease called spiritual depression than others. We belong to the same company as Jeremiah, and John the Baptist and Paul and Luther and many others. A great company! Yes, but you cannot belong to it without being unusually subject to this particular type of trial.
This kind of insight and counsel pervades the book. It helped me better know how I was knit together and granted me impetus to wage good warfare for the sake of my joy in Him.
But it will be the experience of some believers that even after addressing ongoing depression by using Scripture and prayer that their healing may require professional medical help, as well. Given the impact of the fall on not only our souls but our bodies, a medical lens can be of help to the believer for whom the darkness is not lifting.
Whether the source of spiritual depression is external (state of the world, opposition to truth, suffering) or internal (covetousness, vicarious living, your Myers-Briggs-ness), there are large numbers of Christian people living in it, appearing unhappy to our fallen world. And in this, there is no joy for the Christian or display of Christ to the lost.
Lloyd-Jones defines in his book an important and vital issue most Christians face but never really understand or defeat because they are blinded to it. I'm thankful for God’s use of this pastor’s writing to lead me in diagnosing and combating an all-too-common yet subversive threat to my joy in Christ. May the Lord use this blog and Pastor Lloyd-Jones to lead you on a similar exodus.