But what did the gospel aim to do? Make people happy? Meet our unmet needs? Or did the gospel aim to set God’s children from death to life and begin the work of total redemption? If I believe the gospel is meant to make men happy here then I have to concede that in some instances it doesn’t work. We’d have to say the gospel only partially took in the life of someone like William Cowper. But I imagine we’ll sing a different tune in glory. The gospel is meant to get people to God. Mission accomplished. But until we reach glory we might still struggle with shaking off the remnants of our finitude and fallenness.
In a sense a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms, and he is a very poor recommendation for the gospel. –Martyn LloydJones (Spiritual Depression)
I’ve labored over this quote for quite some time. I battle depression. So when I read statements like this from a pastor I revere it causes me to be a bit unsettled. Even more so when he says things like, “such people are very poor representatives of the Christian faith”. Now it’s possible that what Lloyd-Jones means by “depression” is different than what I mean by depression. It is a bit difficult to pin down exactly what he means by “spiritual depression” but he continued to use terms like “unhappy Christians” and “cast down” and “their souls are disquieted within them”. So, I think for the most part we have similar definitions of depression.
When I go through one of my seasons of darkness is it true that I’m a poor recommendation of the gospel?
I know in the midst of that darkness it certainly feels that way. And as I’ve given this some thought I have to admit that there won’t be depression in heaven. So whether it’s part of my finitude or fallenness it really doesn’t matter. It’ll be gone in the New Jerusalem. So depression isn’t the ideal state. If all Lloyd-Jones means is that the depressed Christian doesn’t accurately represent the full victory Christ has purchased for us, then I suppose I’d give him a thousand “Amen’s”.
I also know that some of the sinful responses which often accompany depression are definitely poor representations of Christ. Grumbling, being malcontent, and the like are certainly expressly forbidden in Scripture. This is not to mention that Scripture calls us to “be joyful always”. I suppose not being joyful is a poor witness to Christ.
But I’m not yet ready to concede.
I’m arguing that there is a type of robust faith that sits upon the ash heap of one like Job. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, was not a poor witness. Nor was King David and the other Psalmists of whom God used to give us a song book filled with lament. These are not miserable witnesses or poor recommendations of the gospel but beacons—though shrouded in darkness—of the redeeming Christ.
If Lloyd-Jones is saying what I believe he is saying then I disagree with him about the witness of those Christians battling depression.
First, I believe in this instance MLJ is reflecting a very pragmatic understanding of the gospel. He admits this much when he concedes that we live in a pragmatic age and such folks are drawn away from the gospel because of depressed Christians. Because “Christian people too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums and too often give this appearance of unhappiness and a lack of freedom and of absence of joy” then “there is no question at all but that this is the main reason why large number of people have ceased to be interested in Christianity”.