Dedicated To The Men of God Who Preach the Word of God As It
Is To Men As They Are
"Preach The Word"
DANGER OF DESPONDENCY
Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within
me ? Hope thou in God : for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the health of my
countenance, and my God " (Psalm 42. II).
The book of Psalms, it has been said, contains the whole music of the heart
of man swept by the hand of his Maker. " In it are gathered the lyrical
outburst of his tenderness, the moan of his penitence, the pathos of his
sorrow, the triumph of his victory, the despair of his defeat, the firmness
of his confidence, the rapture of his assured hope."
The Scripture with which we commence this subject has been described as the
Psalmist's malady and medicine. It reveals him in one of those hours that
ever and anon come to the saintliest and the best—an hour of despondency and
gloom. Unaccountably depressed in spirit he addresses himself as if he were
speaking to another person and says : " Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul ?
and why art thou disquieted within me ? " In doing this, David acted with
much wisdom ; for, since the devil, in seeking to discourage us, appeals to
our feelings rather than to our reason, a little commonsense and practical
logic will oftentimes lift the gloom and dispel the mists. The only real
occasion for despondency in a Christian is sin ; everything else may be
brought to the Lord in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. And if you
have the priceless possession of an uncondemning heart, you may take it for
certain that the attempt to dishearten you, is the enemy's endeavour to
paralyse your energies and to thwart the purposes of God in your life. " A
de-pressed Christian is a prisoner of war, under the power of the enemy,
unable efficiently to serve his rightful King. Satan knows this all too well
; for this is his very purpose in all the attacks of depression that come
upon us. He knows that temptations from without no longer have the effect
upon us that they once had, and that the worker in the vineyard will not
likely be tempted away from his appointed task by the attractions or the
opinions of the world." And so he concentrates on the attempt to get us
discouraged, dejected, depressed.
I. NATURAL CAUSES OF DESPONDENCY
Whilst, however, there are seasons of despondency that are directly
traceable to Satanic influence, there are others that come from very natural
causes ; and it would seem that the latter are mainly occasioned by three
things : overwork, introspection, and trial. Let us touch on each of these.
It should be recognized once for all that the laws of nature are the will of
God for the body ; and that if we violate these laws knowingly or
unknowingly—for Nature knows no forgiveness of sins and takes no account of
motives—we will suffer. Spirit and soul and body are so strangely and so
strongly interlinked that undue strain on any one of them vitally affects
the other two.
Now, since manual work builds up the muscles, and mental work wears out the
nerves, it is found that those who suffer most from dejection are the people
who have excessive sedentary and brain work. The monotony and strain of
their daily tasks have the effect of lowering the vitality of the body, and
of damping the ardour of their spirits ; and these in turn blur the outlook
and darken the sky, depress the mind and sadden the heart.
But despondency is not limited to such. The courageous Elijah faced over
eight hundred of the enemies of God (I Kings 18. 19) and did so
unflinchingly (verse 27). And yet, when the ordeal was over, the inevitable
reaction came even to him. " He went a day's journey into the wilderness,
and came and sat down under a juniper tree : and he requested for himself
that he might die ; and said, It is enough ; now, 0 Lord, take away my life
; for I amnot better than my fathers ' " . But see how tenderly God dealt
with him, providing just what he needed—rest and food (verses 5-8). Ah ! our
Maker re-members that we are dust (Psalm 103. 14 ; Genesis 2. 7) ; it is we
who forget it and act as if we were made of iron. After a season of
strenuous activity, the Master said to His disciples : " Come ye yourselves
apart into a desert place, and rest a while : for there were many coming and
going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat " (Mark 6. 31). And
possibly all that is needed to lift from the life of any one of us the gloom
and heaviness that have fallen upon it, is a little change and holiday in
I should say also that, if the reader is indoors all day, exercise in the
fresh air is absolutely indispensable to the maintenance of health. Of the
various forms of recreation none can exceed in utility work in the garden.
Contact with the soil—digging, pruning, planting, watering—gives the body
just the exercise which it needs, and reacts most helpfully on mind and
heart and nerves.
This is another most potent cause of despondency. Some have a constitutional
tendency to look on the black side of things and are constantly living under
a cloud. Just as to the jealous, trifles light as air become proofs strong
as declarations of holy writ, so, to those given to much introspection, the
slightest mishap will turn them in upon themselves and overshadow their
brightest sky. " There are anatomists of piety," says Isaac Taylor, " who
destroy all the freshness of faith and hope and charity by immuring
themselves night and day in the infected atmosphere of their own bosoms."
John Bunyan has portrayed in living words
what usually happens to these. His description of how the pilgrims wandered
in-to Bypath Meadow, thence to Doubting Castle and into the hands of Giant
Despair is one of the greatest illustrations of his wonderful knowledge of
the heart of man. The Giant's suggestion that the pilgrims should forthwith
make an end of themselves, " either with knife or halter or poison " ; the
account of how, in sunshiny weather, he lost for the time being his power
over them ; the discovery by Christian that he had in his bosom a key called
Promise that would open any lock in Doubting Castle ; the narration of how
the insertion of that key opened the door of their dungeon, and of how the
prisoners escaped and regained the King's Highway—these are among the
highest touches of Bunyan's genius, and set forth what has been re-enacted
thousands of times in those who get depressed.
As a rule it will be found that such
unfortunate sufferers refuse to be comforted. " There is no more meeting
those who suffer thus, directly, than meeting an iceberg in the frozen zone.
They must be gently floated to a warmer atmosphere and left to the gradual
air that God breathes in upon them. Reasoning is breath that freezes almost
as it touches." " Infinite toil would not enable you to sweep away a mist ;
but by ascending a little, you may often look over it altogether." If only
their viewpoint could be changed, wonders might be achieved. " How dismal
you look," said a bucket to his companion as they were going to the well. "
Ah," replied the other, " I was reflecting upon the uselessness of our being
filled ; for let us go away ever so full we always come back empty." " Dear
me ! How strange to look at it in that way," said the other bucket. " Now, I
enjoy the thought that, how-ever empty we come, we always go away full." Of
similar import is the fable of the two frogs who fell into a large vessel of
cream. They both commenced to paddle in order to keep themselves afloat ;
but presently one of them—Pessimist by name—said : " What is the use of
going on paddling ? I will drown sooner or later, and I may as well do so
now." And so he sank to the bottom and was drowned. But the other little
fellow—Optimist by name—kept steadily paddling on ; and when the sun
appeared next morning there he was, sitting on a pat of butter
The basis of deliverance from all forms of
self-occupation lies in the fact that we have been crucified with Christ,
and that it is our privilege to reckon ourselves to be dead (Romans 6). A
wise servant of Christ was, on one occasion, speaking with Mr. Richard Hill,
a Christian judge, and put four questions to him. The first was " Is Christ
between you and the wrath of God ? " And to that question Mr. Hill replied
in the affirmative. The second was " Is Christ between you and your sins ? "
Again the judge replied in the affirmative. The third question was " Is
Christ between you and the world ? " And once more Mr. Hill replied
affirmatively. The fourth question was the most searching of all, " Is
Christ between you and Richard Hill ? " Mr. Hill hesitated, and then
answered : " I fear I cannot say He is. Thank you, I shall think that out."
The apprehension in living power of what is involved in the fourth question,
together with the fact that we are risen with Christ (Colossians 3. 1) would
end all forms of introspection, and the depression of spirit which they
occasion. For there is a whole philosophy of life in the old saying which
tells us that if we want to be miserable we have just to look within ; that
if we want to be distracted we have only to look around ; but that if we
want to be happy we must look up.
" Buried with Christ and raised with Him too, What is there left for me to
Simply to cease from worry and strife ; Simply to walk in newness of life."
This is the third great cause of despondency ; and both the Old and New
Testaments bear witness to the sad effects which it sometimes occasions. In
the Old Testament we read that, as God's pilgrims journeyed to their
inheritance in the land of Canaan, " the soul of the people was much
discouraged because of the way " (Numbers 21. 4). In the New Testament,
after reminding us of the incorruptibility, stainlessness, and permanence of
our spiritual inheritance, we read : " Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though
now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold trials
that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that
perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and
honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ " (I Peter i. 6, 7).
These words remind us that the way home leads through the Valley of the
Shadow as well as over the Delectable Mountains ; that our web of time is
woven with mercy and with judgment ; that for every trial there is a need be
that they are only for a season ; and that the end and purpose of them all
is the purifying and the strengthening of our faith in God.
" For a season." The soul, then, equally
with Nature, has its seasons of winter as well as of summer, of spring as
well as of autumn ; and each of them has something to contribute to its
" Far too well thy Saviour loves thee, to allow thy life to be One long,
calm, unbroken summer, one unruffled, stormless sea.
He would have thee fondly nestling closer to His loving breast, He would
have that world seem brighter, where alone is perfect rest."
" This is for you, man of the broken heart, and tear-stained cheek, and
reddened eyes, and furrowed brow."
SOVEREIGN REMEDY FOR DESPONDENCY
The cure for the depression occasioned by overwork, is rest ; for that
caused by introspection, heart-occupation with the exalted Lord ; and for
that which is sometimes brought on by trial, a view of the beneficent
purposes which God is accomplishing by its means. But referring once more to
Psalm 42. 11, we have a sovereign remedy for despondency which never ,fails.
" Hope thou in God ; for I shall yet praise Him Who is the health of my
countenance and my God." Hope lightens the heart and enables us to endure ;
praise brightens the face and enables us to sing away what we cannot reason
away (Psalm 50. 23). The volume of praise may be very small to begin with ;
but if you keep lifting up the face to God that volume will steadily
increase. " Bless God for starlight and He will give you moonlight ; praise
Him for moonlight and He will give you sunlight ; thank Him for sunlight,
and you shall yet come to that land where they need not the light of the
sun, for the Lord God giveth them light for ever and ever." Trials may come
and go ; summer sunshine may be replaced by wintry gloom ; but He Who is the
health of your countenance abides. Above the door of a small hotel in one of
the country towns of Arizona, there is a huge sign-board bearing the words
" Free board every day the sun doesn't shine "
If an unwary traveller should enter the hotel on some gloomy day and demand
a meal free of charge on the strength of this inscription, he would be
blandly asked by the proprietor : " My dear sir, do you really imagine that
the sun has ceased to shine ? It may be gloomy here, but surely the sun is
still shining somewhere in all its glorious brightness ! " We are reminded
of the man who said : ` The inner side of every cloud is bright and shining
; I therefore turn my clouds about, and always wear them inside out, to show
" Do you ever feel downhearted or
discouraged ? Do you ever think your work is all in vain ?
Do the burdens thrust upon you make you tremble, And you fear that you shall
ne'er the victory gain?
Have faith in God, the sun will shine,
Though dark the clouds may be to-day ;
His heart hath planned your path and mine ;
Have faith in God, have faith away."
(A Scottish Preacher)
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