"A dreadful melancholy has drifted into my life as a thick fog and slowly lingers there day after day. There seems to be no sign of it lifting. It has been many weeks since I have enjoyed the warmth and brightness of the Sun. How do you resist that which you cannot see and touch? What power has the mighty ship against the rolling fog? The danger lies not so much in the fog itself, but in the dangers hidden by the heavy mist. A downcast soul is always at risk of suffering shipwreck in regard to the faith."
Those were my own words taken from a journal entry a few years ago. I share these words because I know from conversations over the years that many of you have been there. It may be that some of you are fighting through the fog today.
God’s Word is not silent when it comes to the dark days of our lives. Scripture has much to say about the reality of the darkness. Often, we as believers can become so preoccupied with depression that we cannot heed the warnings or dangers that lurk around it.
What are some of the warnings our ears should be listening for in the mist of the fog?
1. Could there be any guilt or unconfessed sin hidden within our hearts? In Genesis 4:6 God asks Cain, "Why has your countenance fallen?" Cain’s guilt over the murder of his brother produced a depressed spirit within him. In Psalm 32:3-4 David paints a vivid picture of depression brought about by unconfessed sin: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of the day."
2. Am I becoming too focused upon present circumstances or desires to appreciate the future promises of God for His children? The Psalmist poses an interesting question to himself in Psalm 42: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?" His remedy to the problem sheds much light on the source of his depression. "Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
3. Are there physical factors that I must be aware of that are contributing to my depression? While the Bible never speaks of sinful behavior as originating from physical problems, it does make clear the unique relationship between the body (physical) and the soul (spiritual). Just as hidden sins can affect us physically (see #1), our physical bodies can also affect the heart. Job’s testimony is one good example of this when he describes how the disease of boils affected him. "When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, and the night be ended?’ for I have had my fill of tossing till dawn. My flesh is caked with worms and dust, my skin is cracked and breaks out afresh."—Job7:3-5
What are some of the dangers our eyes should be looking for in the mist of the fog? We will let Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4 guide us through possible dangers.
1. Is our depression leading us towards an inability to live out an obedient and worshipful life to God? Paul says that we may be hard pressed by circumstances, but they should not lead to crushing effects. (v.8a)
2. Is our depression taking us dangerously close to a weakening of our faith in God’s wisdom and goodness? At times we may be perplexed and "in the dark" as to the purposes of God in our life, but we should never let our present circumstances produce despair as to God’s character or plan. (v.8b)
3. Is our depression causing us to lose sight of the home and inheritance that awaits us in Christ? Difficulties and unmet expectations in this life should not be met with a growing sense of covetousness or discontentment. (v.9a) We must never lose our identity as God’s chosen people, bound by His covenant love, purchased by Christ’s perfect atonement, secured for an everlasting glory by His Spirit.
God’s Word never condemns us for the fog that comes rolling in our lives at times. In fact, it seems to assume that our ship will encounter such fog. However, we must be diligent to recognize those times, listen for any warnings within the fog, look for the dangers that lurk within the fog, and fix your eyes firmly upon the light of Scripture to guide you safely through in a way that protects your faith and upholds the beauty and faithfulness of God.