Sorrow, Depression, & the Holidays

Here are 11 truths for strength in sorrow

It’s not abnormal to feel depressed at times. A bout with depression is less a clinical thing, and more a normal thing. That is not to say that everyone experiences the same level of depression, but everyone experiences some level of it. For the most part, depression is somewhat normal because we all live somewhere between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20. Since we are all fallen human beings living in fallen bodies on a fallen earth, then the presence of sorrow means that things are probably pretty normal. It just means that you’re alive.

 

Depression and discouragement are not respecters of the holidays. For many reasons, the normal sorrow of life can reach a highpoint this time of year for some.

It may be a reminder that we are without a loved one. It may be financial stress, or loss, in a time where the pressure is to purchase. It might be emotional pressure of getting together with broken family. We just may not have a clue why we are discouraged, which can be discouraging itself. We can, even unintentionally, place big demands on this time of year to deliver and fulfill us in impossible ways, apart from God.

And Christmas time or not, many of us experience the normal, heavy weight of discouragement and depression as a regular thing; dejection, confusion, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, anxiousness, anger, darkness, despair.

But God has answers and real hope from his word for the battle.

Here are 11 truths for strength in sorrow:

  1. Especially during depression, our souls are thirsty for God.

Places like Psalm 42 picture this well: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps 42:1-2).

The idea here is of a parched soul that feels like the cracked, barren mud, having gone months without a drop of rain.

Every soul is born with a deep thirst. The psalmist wisely knows that the only thing that can quench his soul is not a thing. Perhaps he’s tried quenching his soul-thirst with things of the world. Perhaps like the unwise deer which attempts to quench his thirst by licking mud, we have looked to spiritual and moral mud to deal with our soul-thirst. It doesn’t work.

The psalmist knows something in his depression: feelings are no guide for the urgency to drink from God. In fact, the severity of soul-drought can be discerned by the fact that we may not feel like going to God. It’s at those times that we often need him most.

The thirst my soul feels is a God-thirst, not a gold or glitter-thirst. For that reason, we have to be careful about making big life decisions in our sorrow. We may be seeking to distract the thirst. We need to go to God.

  1. God does not promise happy feelings for his people this side of heaven.

Right expectations position us well for stability, even in the instability.

Even if the Bible ended after Genesis 3, humanity would be sufficiently furnished to expect the realistic scarcity of happy feelings. Phrases like, “pain” (v. 16), “cursed” and “toil” (v. 17), “thorns and thistles” (v. 18), “sweat” (v. 19), and last but not least, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (v. 19); they set the stage. Happy feelings will be scarce.

  1. It is normal for everyone, even strong believers, to feel depressed and discouraged.

Often the writers of Scripture pull back the layers to expose their deep sorrow.

“O my God, my soul is in despair within me” (Ps 42:6).

“I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears” (Ps 6:6).

Regarding unregenerate Jews, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I am telling the truth in Christ…that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart” (Rom 9:1-2).

These are men who have walked with God; men of strong faith.

It’s possible for strong, sincere faith and depression to be bound up in one person. Saving faith and deep discouragement are sometimes found in the same soul. Ed Welch writes, “It is a myth that faith is always smiling. The truth is that faith often feels like the very ordinary process of dragging one foot in front of the other because we are conscious of God” (Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, 31).

It’s not abnormal to feel depressed at times. A bout with depression is less a clinical thing, and more a normal thing. That is not to say that everyone experiences the same level of depression, but everyone experiences some level of it.

For the most part, depression is somewhat normal because we all live somewhere between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20. Since we are all fallen human beings living in fallen bodies on a fallen earth, then the presence of sorrow means that things are probably pretty normal. It just means that you’re alive.

And a bout with depression does not automatically mean you are sinning. Charles Spurgeon, having experienced many bouts with depression, wrote, “No sin is necessarily connected with sorrow of heart, for Jesus Christ our Lord once said, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.’ There was no sin in him, and consequently none in his deep depression” (Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, 32).

Sorrow is going to be normal in a place that is not heaven, around people who are not heavenly (like us).

  1. There is not usually a pixie-dust answer to sorrow.

If such a thing as the, “Just trust God,” formula worked, then we would have far fewer cases of sorrow and people like Paul and David and the sons of Korah would have not likely written what they did. But there is not usually a quick-fix, one-size-fits-all answer. That necessitates a compassion and patience towards those around us battling through this darkness.

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