His eyes can barely stay open. A graven look overwhelms his thin face. You can tell that this young man hasn’t eaten for days. He is starving to death.
You, being the good chap you are, offer this dying man a bit of bread and water. You know that he needs to eat and wonder why in a land flowing with milk and honey he hasn’t eaten in awhile.
Much to your surprise this pitiable lad refuses your bread and water. He says, “No thanks, man. I tried those once and they didn’t work. I found myself hungry again after a few hours. I’m looking for something that lasts a bit longer. But it’s starting to look hopeless man. I’ve tried everything. Nothing seems to work.”
Such are the irrational thoughts of those with depression.
If you’ve watched any of those depressing commercials trying to sell meds, then you’ve heard that one of the symptoms is a feeling of hopelessness. When we have feelings of hopelessness it means that we think this terrible state we are in is going to last forever. And it also means that we feel unique in our suffering. We’ve convinced ourselves that nobody understands. And because of this nothing will work. Ever.
When you are attempting to counsel with God’s Word a depressed person will tell you, “I’ve tried that man. It didn’t work. I’m still back here in the pit”.
And they are correct. In part.
The Scriptures don’t work if we are expecting them to be a panacea or talisman. That’s a fancy way of saying if we expect the Scriptures to magically fix-everything in such a way that we’ll never be back in a valley, then we are going to be sorely disappointed.
It is also true that you cannot reason with someone from the Scriptures when they no longer have the capacity to reason. But does this mean we should put our Bible on the shelf and begin a search for other means of help?
I don’t believe so. While pondering the life of William Cowper, John Piper had these words to say:
Let us rehearse the mercies of Jesus often in the presence of discouraged people. Let us point them again and again to the blood of Jesus…Don’t make your mercy to the downcast contingent on quick results. You cannot persuade a person that he is not reprobate if he is utterly persuaded that he is. He will tell you he is deaf. No matter. Keep soaking him in the “benevolence, mercy, goodness, and sympathy” of Jesus and “the sufficiency of the atonement” and “the fullness and completeness of [Christ’s] justification”…Pray that in God’s time these truths may yet be given the power to awaken hope and beget a spirit of adoption. (Piper, The Hidden Smile of God, 117-19)
Piper is correct. We cannot shelve the Bible just because the person we are speaking to doesn’t have the capacity for sight. It’s the same thing with an unbeliever—we don’t stop preaching the gospel because they don’t believe it. We know that this is the means that God uses to save. Likewise, we know that God’s Word is powerful to rescue us from the pit of despair.
Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not intending to say that Scripture is the onlymeans that God uses. But what I am saying is that most depressed people will let their Bibles collect dust. If you are living with someone who is depressed they cannot afford for you to put your Bible on the sidelines too. They need God’s Word they just don’t know it. So keep lovingly, soaking them in the beauty and worth of Jesus.
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