In my final post in the Hope for Depressed Hearts series, discover 2 causes of depression and how God can use them as tools for heart healing and deeper intimacy with God.
What does your response to the challenges you face reveal about you?
My pastor shook his head, his brow furrowed in concentration as he listened. “What about you?” he asked as I finished recounting the final explosion in the Macklin minefield of 2016. “What do you think God may be doing in you through all this?”
“Trust God with my loved ones comes immediately to mind . . .” I trailed off sensing God wanted a deeper, more thoughtful response.
My pastor’s questions shifted my focus from “What is happening?” to “What does my response to suffering reveal about my faith in God? God used this powerful question to make eye contact and make me think beyond my emotions and circumstances.
What about you? What does your response to the struggle you’re facing today reveal about your faith in God?
In the throes of depression, we can either allow struggles to draw us into God’s arms or we can allow them to drive us away from Him. It’s a choice we must make because until we surrender to God’s sovereign rule over our lives, we will never get closer to Him than we are right now. Until we surrender to God's sovereign rule over our lives, we will never get closer to Him than we are right now. Click To Tweet
That makes our season of depression important because we can let God use it to deepen our faith or we can let our melancholy muse lead us into a ditch. And since I’ve never aspired to ditch dwelling, (I imagine you haven’t either), let’s allow God to use this season to lead us deeper into His heart.
Two ways God uses depression as a tool for deeper intimacy with Him
God uses depression to expose hinderances in our relationship with Christ.
A powerful hindrance to intimacy with God is Idolatry.
A powerful hindrance to intimacy with God is Idolatry. Click To TweetThe toppling of an “idol” in our life can cause depression. An idol is anything or anyone we desire, seek, or treasure more than God. Like that job promotion we neglect our family or God to secure: the success for our children that we can’t be happy without; the image we work so hard to maintain; that ungodly habit we work so hard to conceal. Even good things like our spouse, kids, career, or ministry can become idols when they dominate our attention and affections. But Jesus claims the throne of our blood-bought, Spirit-sealed heart for Himself and secures His position as First Love in our lives.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Luke 10:27
But sometimes our love for family and friends, careers, dreams, and hobbies usurps our First Love. Though we try to hold these good things on open palms as gifts on loan from God, for most of us, that open palm gets tested: unexplained suffering and loss for loved ones, debilitating illness, a cancer diagnosis, a job loss, among other heartaches that can test our devotion to Christ. For me, maybe it was because my family’s suffering experiences were packed tight and stretched taut over several years that they sifted my heart so.
Or maybe my trials simply revealed what was already there.
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:37
Has this seemingly omnipresent passage followed you as it has me for the last two years? This verse appears when we resent God’s way of working with family and friends. It springs up when we argue that they (or we) “deserve more” or when we think our worldly plans are better than God’s eternal purposes. In His faithful love, God uses Scriptures like these to lift the veil and expose idols pumping poison into our hearts.
What is challenging your faith and commitment to God today? What loss or grief is tempting you to take a step back from God in doubt or unbelief?
An additional hindrance to intimacy with God is unbiblical expectations.Unbiblical expectations are a hindrance to intimacy with God is. Click To Tweet Unmet expectations can cause depression. For instance, expectations that we should be happy more than holy; that God is supposed to give us what we want, instead of what we need; that suffering shouldn’t happen to Christians — none of which Scripture teaches.
For me, I expected God to “come through” for my loved ones, but God revealed my expectations rested more on my experience with Him than they did on the authority of His Word alone. God deals with us in different ways — I knew that — but His long silence in the face of suffering didn’t make sense and discouragement set in when God didn’t “come through” according to any expectation I hoped for or understood.
Do your expectations of God reflect Biblical thinking or your own thoughts? What do your expectations of Him reveal about your faith? What worldly attitudes, affections, or motives do your expectations expose?
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. I Peter 1:6-7
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29
2. God uses depression as a tool for heart healing in our relationship with Christ.
Depression reminds us that we need God. The heaviness of our hearts and our hemmed in perspectives remind us that the world is broken — it needs a Savior and so do we. Need is the food of faith.¹ It drives us to God’s throne where we find a listening ear and open arms we can fall into and pour out our hearts.
Think of the supreme grace of that gift. No need for “the right words.” No fear of rejection from the Gentle One waiting there to receive our burdens and heal our hearts. Jesus invites us to cast our cares upon Him. Do you know anyone else like that? I sure don’t.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7
What anxious thoughts are consuming you today? Get alone with God, open your Bible (the Psalms are a great place to start) and pour every fear, worry, injustice, and longing at His feet — and repeat as needed. Friend, He will meet you there! He has never cast out any who have come to Him in need and He won’t start with you or me.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37
God exposed the idols in my heart robbing me of joy and strength. He identified my unbiblical thinking, too. And the result? Surrender, renewed faith, and heart healing through deeper intimacy with Him.
Now it’s your turn to make eye contact with God. What has God revealed about you and your faith in this season of depression? Has He uncovered an idol or unbiblical expectation that is feeding your depression?
Friend, confess it or it will poison your faith. Surrender and repent that times of refreshing may come! Allow God to transform your struggle into a vehicle of deeper intimacy with Him. Then praise God who alone can draw new life and fresh hope out of anything.
Extra Resources for Help:
Association of Certified Biblical Counselors: ACBC is the oldest and largest biblical counseling organization in the world and is recognized worldwide in 30 countries. All counselors are certified and counseling is often offered at NO COST as a discipleship ministry of local churches. To find a Biblical Counselor in your area click this link: Find A Certified Counselor
Going Deep with God in Depression, a 10-minute interview with Randy Alcorn at Desiring God.
Hope for Depressed Hearts, Part 1
Hope for Depressed Hearts, Part 2: Prayer
Hope for Depressed Hearts, Part 3: Community
¹Miles Sanford, Principles of Spiritual Growth
Featured photo courtesy of Photo by Diego PH
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am just a fellow traveler on the road of faith. Therefore no post on my website is EVER intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Always seek the advice of a qualified doctor or practitioner with any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of anything you have read on my site.