The Enabling Grace that Overcomes Depression
...a Principle of Abiding Truth from Psalm 77
SEVERAL YEARS AGO while pastoring in California, we met daily with our staff and others to wait before the Lord. One morning we were impressed to read Psalm 77. The next day, the same. And so, for several weeks that Psalm became the basis for our meditation. There was something important in it for us. We discovered its interesting outline.
77:1--Occupation with self
:7-lOa--Its sure results.
:10b-1--Occupation with God.
:13-20--Its sure results.
Conviction was growing in my heart and Glenda's that we belonged to the nations. Our children were grown. We were free to give attention to that calling. This Psalm offered some of our greatest instruction in preparation for what lay ahead.
The lessons we learned then are even more sure and firm with us now. For this reason we share them again.
We began making our way to go abroad, but depressing reasons kept arising for not going. Frequently, someone close to us entered a personal crisis. Our health came under test. There was never enough money since we never had time to raise expenses, other than to loose them from the heavenlies. Circumstances declared time and again, "There is no way you can go abroad. You must remain and become taken with what faces you at home." These all became occasions for depression. We had to learn to keep the door closed against the attitude that would say, "There is no hope of becoming obedient to the Lord."
It was here we began understanding why the Lord kept us in Psalm 77. It contained principles to guide us through the impossibility of the years ahead. In it, we learned how distressing circumstances can become occasions for God to work.
LOOKING AT THIS PSALM, we divide it into two parts. The first reveals the quest of a man--a religious man, if you please--whose thoughts, prayers, and relationship with God centered in himself. This religious Occupation with self brought depression of the most severe sort. All his trust in the Lord turned into questions of doubt, fear, and misunderstanding.
The second part of the Psalm reveals how, through a simple act of the mind--the ability to remember--the man turned from centering on himself to centering on God. What a difference!
Depression left. Instead of "Has God forgotten to be gracious?"--the question of a depressed person, he began to exclaim, "Who is so great a God as our God! "--the outburst of a soul set free.
In the first part of the Psalm, note the use of the First Person Pronouns--I, me, and my. This is a giveaway as to why he was depressed. Even though religious, his life centered in himself.
1 I cried unto God with MY voice, even unto God with MY voice; and He gave ear unto ME.
2 In the day of MY trouble, I sought the Lord; MY sore ran in the night and ceased not; MY soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered God and was troubled; I complained and MY spirit was overwhelmed.
4 Thou holdest MINE eyes waking; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.
6 I call to remembrance MY song in the night; I commune with MINE own heart; and MY spirit made diligent search.
Twenty times he spoke from himself, about himself, and for himself. All this led to the questions that betrayed his depression and revealed he had a disregard for God and for His grace.
The man may have known God in a measure. At least he admitted His existence and gave attention to religion. But at the time of these questions he was not knowing God in the living of life. While maintaining attendance at worship and in praying, he grew depressed because he failed to learn the basics of a relationship with Him. His religion was self-centered not God-centered. He regarded the Redemption in the light of what he could get from God, instead of that God got him by redeeming him. Therefore, his questions were:
7 Will the Lord cast off forever? (He had doubts about God's care for him.)
Will He be favorable no more? (He had doubts about His grace.)
8 Is His mercy clean gone forever? (He had doubts about His mercy.)
Doth His promise fail forevermore? (He had doubts about the truth of His Word.)
9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? (He doubted God's faithfulness.)
Hath He in His anger shut up His tender mercies? (He had doubts about God's love.)
These are the questions of despair, the marks of depression. They disable a person and make obedience nearly impossible. They lead to the following conclusion:
10a And I said, This is my infirmity.
He meant, "This is the weakened condition where I must reside." His attitude turned to continuing discouragement, with no more bursts of enthusiasm. At least he no longer would have mood changes. He settled into one mood, a low one.
He could say, "Everyone will always know where to find me now. I will live in the dismal forebodings of life. The goals I once had have faded and nothing is worth the striving."
But, he had one thing left--the ability to remember. God had given him this ability. He had used it to maintain depression. Now, he took control, turned it around, and his outlook changed. He did a small thing, but the results were large.
The ability to remember remains in a mind overrun with depression. It's one thing that keeps depression going. Memory of negative events and their trauma, of hurtful and disappointing relationships, and the bitterness of failure all feed depression. We all have these kinds of memory and can use them in building a case for depression.
A marvelous change for the man in the Psalm came when he decided to flip his memory from the bad to the good. This was so small a thing that it might seem of no account, but it started a process that worked wonders. It was like the switching of a train from one track to another. A switch, even though small, can change the destination of the train.
We'll discover the process as we look at the remainder of the Psalm and note the dramatic change in mood in the middle of verse 10. It was a switch we would hardly notice--except that the "locomotive" was sent steaming down a different track.
FOR SOME, becoming free from depression calls for deliverance from a seducing spirit. Because of some negative ground, a spirit might come and implement depression. Things like resentment, fear, insecurity, hatred, weariness, or rejection--to name a few--provide grounds to which spirits attach themselves. Depression is a sign of their activity. These spirits must be expelled before the principles of which we speak in this article will work. If we know our position in Christ, as believers. We can do this ourselves and send the spirits packing. Some times a spirit is so entrenched, or the person so weak that others who know their position in Christ must help.
There are others in whom trouble with depression comes from physical cause. This may call for the help of a physician--or for a miracle of healing. That's why we pray for the sick.
AS WE GO ON, we can see four steps toward freedom from depression. Even if a spirit of depression is at work, or if there are physical reasons for depression, regarding these steps will weaken its hold and prepare the soul for healing.
10b... But (1) I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.
11 (2) I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.
12 (3) I will meditate also of all Thy work, and (4) I will talk of Thy doings.
As he took these steps, the Psalmist discovered the Way of the Lord. His outlook on life--and about God--changed. He no more centered in on himself. There was no more excessive use of the First Person Pronoun. He replaced I, me and my with Thou and Thy. He found a new way of thinking and living.
13 THY Way, O God, is in the Sanctuary: Who is so great a God as our God?
14 THOU art the God that doest wonders: THOU hast declared THY strength among the people.
15 THOU hast with THINE arm redeemed THY people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph…
19 THY Way is in the sea, and THY path is in the great waters, and THY footsteps are not known.
20 THOU didst lead THY people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
To know His way in the Sanctuary and His way in the sea is to know God's enabling grace. This releases the soul to live out of the resources of Christ Jesus in the heavenlies.
TAKE NOTE OF THE FOUR STEPS TO FREEDOM. The Psalmist said, I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. He began to think about the times God was real to him. Stored in his memory were times when God showed power and grace on his behalf. These were times when he was protected, relieved, or delivered by the right hand of God.
Then, he said, Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. He recalled some times when God worked wonders for others. Many of these are recorded in the Scriptures. They are when God moved wonderfully and powerfully in behalf of some person or for His people Israel.
Next, he said, I will meditate also of all Thy work. He began to speak to himself about the works of God. Meditate is from a Hebrew Old Testament word meaning "to talk under one's breath." The Psalmist talked to himself about what God had done. We can learn this kind of meditation. It is mumbling of a good sort. It is quiet reflection on the works and ways of God. Meditation and memory go together. The memory supplies the material for the meditation.
Next came the release. He said, I will talk of thy doings. He gave testimony of God's grace. Once difficult, this became easy to do. He could not contain within himself that God had come near. He talked to others about it. His words became life to those around him. The new-found boldness did not come off as fanaticism; it came off as reality.
What that man of the Psalm saw and said then still ministers life to us now. When we saw his four simple steps, we were challenged to take them. Then we were challenged to make them our continuing practice. This has required a little time, but not nearly as much as it would take being depressed.
FIRST, WE DECIDED to start recalling the years of the right hand of the Most High. These were times when God moved in our behalf. For some, this was difficult, but it was set in motion as we waited quietly and others began sharing. We found it good to meditate on the first memory that came of something God did that was personal.
There were many good memories from which I could draw, but a certain one came first to my mind. It was when God established a principle with me, one I've had to remember over and over. It was when He said to me, "You don't have to take the trip; I will."
It was in January. We had traveled from New York, where I was teaching in a Bible school, about 1500 miles south to spend the Christmas holidays with our relatives. The trip had been perilous. Rain had turned to ice and made the roads treacherous. We were forced to stop over where we were strangers. When we reached our destination, all our resources were depleted.
Throughout the days we were with our relatives, I thought some way would open to gain enough money to make the trip back to New York. No opportunity arose. The next to the last day arrived and I found enough money for gas for the 130 mile trip to a fellowship of believers who had invited me to minister.
I thought, "These people will give a generous offering for my ministry. That's how God will provide."
While traveling to the meeting, the Lord spoke tome, "They will give you no offering."
I heard accurately.
I spoke that night from the Song of Solomon about the Beloved coming into His garden. A spirit of revelation attended that meeting as we considered the Lord coming to dwell in us.
At the close of the message, all the people worshipped the Lord. They rejoiced in His dwelling within us.
I began to pout and turned from being anointed in ministry to having a bad attitude.
I told the Lord, "Well might they worship! They have homes nearby. They have jobs for which they receive a salary. I have one dollar and an empty gas tank. I must travel 130 miles to get back to my family and then take the 1500 mile trip north in the worst time of the year."
My thoughts rushed on. Depression started. I had gone to the house of the Lord, and poured forth my soul to the people, but I was left with the question, Has God forgotten to be gracious?
After a few moments--through my fretting, and in His graciousness--the Lord broke down the wall I was building against Him. He spoke to me, "You don't have to take the trip; I will."
That snapped me out of my depression. "What a relief!" I thought. The trip is His, not mine!" I could be at ease for the moment--but I would have to see it worked out.
After the meeting, everyone extended their love and appreciation. They were all glad I was able to be with them, and so on. They placed a spiritual blessing upon my trip. And, it was just as the Lord said about the offering.
When I made it to my car with the dollar in my pocket, a brother who was in the meeting asked if I would be coming back that way the next day. If so, he wanted to go with me for the ride.
I told him I was, and would be happy for him to ride with me. We drove to a nearby service station where I asked for a dollar's worth of gas. My friend asked why I was buying so little. I muttered something that sounded like, "It's all I need."
He said he didn't have any money, but he did have a credit card, and would like to fill the tank for me.
So we started out with a full tank--and one dollar.
When we arrived where my family was visiting with their grandmother, I found out we were to "stop by Sister Lou's for sweet potatoes to take with us." Sister Lou was a widow with little of life's goods.
As I put the potatoes in the car, she put something in my shirt pocket. Miles later, I looked at it; it was a twenty dollar bill.
"Praise the Lord," I said. This would take us to Tennessee where I had been invited to preach on Sunday. Surely there the offering would be sufficient for the rest of the trip.
I was finding it difficult remembering it was the Lord's trip, not mine. The responsibility was His.
We did receive an offering in Tennessee--two dollars and sixty-five cents, plus some canned goods!
We traveled on. All through Ohio the roads were covered with ice, yet the car never slipped. The children were peaceful. We were comfortable in the car and we arrived home with money left.
That was an impossibility. I don't know how we did it. It was His trip, not mine.
As we reflected on Psalm 77, it was the above story that came to my mind--a time in my own life of the right hand of the Most High. This was not as big as later trips we would have to take, but the principle learned back then remained to guide out lives.
If we would remember this principle, many a depressing time would be turned into a time of rejoicing. The Lord was showing us when we commit our way to Him, and there is no natural provision, He takes the responsibility to supply that need.
This applies not only to financial needs, but to all the other needs one may have.
Now--if you think there is nothing in your life that has come from the right hand of God, skip this point. Go to the second one we find in Psalm 77 and begin to consider a wonder of old from the Scriptures. Soon into your own life will come a wonder.
LET ME TELL YOU how we remembered a wonder of old. We asked each one to share the first biblical wonder that came to mind. We thought together about these. The first that came to my mind was when David stood before Goliath. We began seeing powerful principles of truth in that I Samuel 17 passage. We saw the men of Israel caught in a depressing situation. None had strength or fortitude to face the giant they said came to defy Israel (17:25). Yet a small lad could slay him because he considered Goliath came to defy the armies of the living God (17:26).
The men of Israel considered Goliath their enemy. David didn't see it this Way; the giant was God's enemy. Knowing this, he knew God would overthrow him. He was learning when the cause belongs to the Lord, the battle is the Lord's (17:47).
After a while I saw the parallel between my trip and David's battle; they both belonged to the Lord. Remembering the two events, and meditating on them worked something into me. First, my mind began to be taken up with the ways of the Lord--His way with David before Goliath, and His way with me on the trip. This began working its way into my spirit. What formerly depressed me became a signal to watch the Lord. I learned, when my life is given over to His cause, He fights my battles.
Another wonder of old held our attention for some time. It was the wonder of Moses sitting on the hill with his arms raised while Joshua led battle against the Amalekites. (Exodus 17:8-16) What a case for reflection! When Moses lifted his hand, Israel prevailed; when he let down his hands, Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur came to the aid of Moses and held up his hands. Amalek was defeated.
Those men didn't go to Joshua's side; they went to Moses. Joshua was not fighting the decisive battle; the old man on the hill was. Moses knew something. He had a relationship with God in the heavenlies and saw beyond the earthly scene. Because of this, he became the intercessor. The victory came through him.
THE LAST THREE VERSES of this Exodus passage are interesting--and revealing. In them, we get a glimpse into what Moses knew in the heavenlies.
Exodus 17:1--And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua.... Like the Psalmist, Joshua was to remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. This is the same thing the Lord had impressed upon us. He said.. "Don't forget what I have already done for you. Keep it strong in your memory."
Joshua was to hear the account of that battle--and re-hear it--all the days of his life. He was never to forget what took place that day. He was to keep it vivid in his mind that battles are not won by many men with swords, but by a few men who hold their hands unto the Lord.
Exodus 17:15--And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi. This name means, "The Lord is my leader in battle. He is my triumphant Commander. I follow His Standard." Moses did not put the altar there to be worshipped. He put it there to point to the Lord Who alone is worthy of worship. The name on that altar was a testimony saying, "Let it never be forgotten! The Lord is our triumphant Leader." This is similar to what Paul said in II Corinthians 2:14a--Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ... One translator interpreted this to say, "Now thanks be unto God who makes our life a constant pageant of triumph in Christ." Another said, "Now thanks be unto God who leads us from triumph to triumph in the train of Christ's triumph."
Exodus 17:1--For he said, Because the Lord has sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. This verse has been difficult for translators. If we take it from the King James Version, we miss the significance of what Moses was doing as he held up His hands. By looking at it in the Hebrew, we gain some understanding. There it reads, "A hand is against the Throne of the Lord, therefore the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."
Amalek, like Goliath, raised his hand, not against Israel, but against the throne of the Lord. He defied God's rule.
Moses knew what was happening in the Amalakite attacks. He knew their assault was against God's Throne. They were His enemies before they became the enemies of Israel. He countered their defiance by lifting his hands in surrender to, and recognition of, God's Throne. What a difference, and what an effect! Through that simple act, he released from the heavens the power to defeat them.
With Moses, the battle was the Lord's. With David, the battle was the Lord's. With me, the trip was the Lord's.
How dare I put my little trial in category with David and Moses? It is because we each have the same Lord. With conflict great or small, His power prevails and His provision avails itself.
When the Psalmist's life turned from being self-centered to being God-centered, he learned some things about the ways of the Lord. He said, Thy way, 0 God, is in the sanctuary. "Where You are becomes a holy place"--before a giant, before an army, or on an icy road. When we trust God, He comes--and we find His sanctuary right where we are.
Then, the Psalmist said, Thy way is in the sea. A way in the sea? There are no paths there! What a thought!
In the blind paths of the sea we discover His ways, His provisions, and the continuing expressions of His enabling grace--all to remain with us to the end.
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