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Posts Tagged ‘jeremiah’

Depression is a very common struggle, even in the church in America. You might call that merely a blanket statement, but in my experience I’ve seen a number of brothers deal with deep discouragement and even more wives of husbands I know. I’ve seen my own wife struggle with the fog of deep discouragement and borderline depression. Personally, I’ve never battled it; I’m more of a thinker and less of a feeler. On top of that, a major weakness and sin in my life has been a lack of empathy for others. For most of my marriage, I feel like I have not been hugely helpful to my wife! I want to grow and God has been working on my heart, using my marriage, my kids, and a slowly growing understanding of the gospel. Countless times I have had to confess my lack of love and there are likely many more times my family has simply given me grace for my coldness and lack of compassion.

Out of my desire to learn and keep growing, I read through John Piper’s When the Darkness Does Not Lift. It’s a worthwhile read with an excellent closing chapter. However, in the book, Piper kept referencing another book, The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter. I looked it up on my Kindle and bought and downloaded it for 99 cents! It didn’t take long for me to realize what a jewel this book is and what wisdom Baxter has for us even 400 years later! Baxter’s book on dealing with depression (melancholy) and discouragement is tremendously insightful, practical, and revealed that depression is not a new struggle. He lists a number of tips for those walking through depression:

1. Listen to folks wiser than yourself and believe them!

2. Trust that God is sovereign even over the purposes of Satan.

3. Avoid prolonged times of thinking and prayer alone! (see quote below)

4. Do not spend much time alone! (see quote below)

Avoid your musings, and exercise not your thoughts now too deeply, nor too much. Long meditation is a duty to some, but not to you, no more than it is a man’s duty to go to church that hath his leg broken, or his foot out of joint: he must rest and ease it till it be set again, and strengthened. You may live in the faith and fear of God, without setting yourself to deep, disturbing thoughts. Those that will not obey this counsel, their friends must rouse them from their musings, and call them off to something else. Therefore you must not be much alone, but always in some pleasing, cheerful company: solitariness doth but cherish musings. Nor must such be long in secret prayer, but more in public prayer with others.

5. As much as you can, think on these things:

  • The infinite goodness of God
  • Christ’s immeasurable love for you and how that love is demonstrated in His redemption and sacrifice
  • God’s offer of grace and free covenant
  • The awesome love and joy which we have in Christ and God has promised.

Do not be given over to complaining but talk of these things. Be honest but run to the gospel in conversations.

6. When you pray, resolve to spend much of that time in thanksgiving and praising God!

7. Do not entertain the thoughts and lies and temptations of Satan nor be troubled by them. Ask for help from trusted friends when losing the battle against these thoughts!

8. Be encouraged that you are even wrestling with sin and the weight of it. This reflects the heart of a believer, not an unbeliever outside of His love. Baxter says this:

Again, still remember what a comfortable evidence you carry about with you that your sin is not damning, while you feel that you love it not, but hate it, and are weary of it. Scarce any sort of sinners have so little pleasure in their sins as the melancholy, nor so little desire to keep them; and only beloved sins undo men.

9. Avoid idleness but seek to work hard. Baxter is not saying to avoid rest or downtime altogether but that idleness is dangerous.

One more immensely practical thought from Baxter for the depressed:

I would give you this advice, that instead of long meditation, or long secret prayer, you will sing a psalm of praise to God, such as the twenty-third, or the one hundred and thirty-third. This will excite your spirit to that sort of holy affection which is much more acceptable to God, and suitable to the hopes of a believer, that your repining troubles are.

I highly recommend this short read and thank God for Richard Baxter, who is known for having been a very practical and a powerful preacher of the gospel in the early 1600s. I want to leave a final sobering thought for those of us whom the fog of depression rarely if ever invades. If you are reading this and struggling with depression, please stop reading, this last note is not for you! Most of us are not dealing with the deep fog that depression can be. Most of us, like me, are dealing with discouragement or discontentment from something else…

The more pleasure you have in sin, usually the more sorrow it will bring you; and the more you know it to be sin, and conscience tells you that God is against it, and yet you will go on, and bear down conscience, the sharper will conscience afterwards afflict you,

Sin does not bring me joy but pain and death. It may bring temporary pleasure, but it won’t last. Much of my wrestling with discouragement is my own battle to let go of sin and cling to greater joy in Christ. In my next post, I’ll delve more into Baxter’s thoughts on how to help others who are wrestling with depression or deep discouragement.

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