by Fred Pruitt
(A while back someone wrote me concerned with his wife’s continual depression, and asked my thoughts about their situation. )
You have said it yourself, your wife is going through a “spiritual trial,” and there is no set of words I can give you except what is to me the truth. First of all, you have to realize that all “negatives,” i.e., all “darknesses,” are simply the raw material upon which the Positive is built, and the darkness is the empty place that must be in order for the light to shine (2 Cor 4:6). So when you say your wife “feels nothing of God,” then PRAISE THE LORD, because now she is moving from babyhood (having to have feelings and assurances) to adulthood, which means we learn to live out of our inner resources and no longer rely on the outer things of life, such as “feelings,” but on God Only.
God is not “feeling,” and we don’t “feel Him” most of the time, because feeling is an emotion, a “soul” thing. In our innermost selves, where we are joined with Him Spirit to spirit, our real existence is outside the level of feelings. Feelings go up and down, in and out, and we tend to think everything is OK if we feel okay, or conversely something is wrong when we feel depressed or negative. But the Scripture exhorts us to first of all “give thanks in ALL things,” (1 Thes 5:18), and that EVERY DAY (also meaning every circumstance, thought, feelings, emotion, desire, etc. — i.e. anything we can think or conceive of) is the “DAY the Lord hath made, let us rejoice in it and be glad!” That’s where we start.
Now that’s not necessarily a welcome message when we’re feeling great feelings of depression or self-loathing, or fear, or whatever negative thing we might experience. I don’t know, obviously, for certain what is causing your wife’s situation. Sometimes things may have a medical reason, and we trust the Lord to lead us to those solutions if they are the right ones. And of course we thank Him for His life in a medical solution, and we thankfully use those methods if appropriate, as being from Him, as much as we know a “miracle” is from Him.
But sometimes these negatives just come to us with no particular explanation or reason that we can determine, but in either case, we give thanks in all things and rejoice because it is always, “This is the Day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps 118:24). That is the truth in everything everyday, regardless of appearances.
It is like “romance” in a way. Most people who marry started out with romantic feelings for one another, but almost everybody will tell you that after a while those romantic “feelings” don’t come around as much as they used to, and often they are felt, if at all, very infrequently. God uses those romantic feelings to get people together, but they are not what keep us together, because those romantic feelings are not the true love. True love in marriage is deeper and more lasting than romance, and does not depend one iota on whether we “feel” romantically inclined or not.
Love, like faith, comes from within us (from God within) and is true whether we feel loving or not. Love is not a feeling. It is a realized bond of commitment to be for another.
It is the same in our life in Christ. It is common for people starting out to have great euphoria and “spiritual experiences,” but after awhile, like romantic feelings, we don’t have that anymore, or it is less frequent. And that is when the rubber meets the road. Do we still love when we don’t feel it, or is God still there when we don’t “feel” Him?
Many people in marriage drop out at that point, because they don’t “feel in love” any more. But Love is steadfast, unmovable, and seeks not its own – something for itself. So we go on loving because we ARE love, and don’t live from simply outer emotion or warm fuzzy feelings. Divine Faith, Hope and Love are all of this eternal invisible unfelt dimension that is within each of us, while we are at the same time “within” it. That is what “trials” are intended to produce, the realization that we stand on an unmovable ROCK that is solid and eternally unfailing. That is faith tried in the fire that comes out as pure gold, and is something that GOD DOES, and which we are not responsible to produce! It comes from Him, and we simply agree in receptivity from Him as we “exercise” His faith in us every day.
That is why James says to, “count it all joy,” when we are tried (Ja 1:2). Notice he says, “count,” not “feel.” In other words, we stand by faith on what IS, (Christ in us), rather than the ever-changing sea of emotions and thoughts.
To count it joy, in the case of depression, would be to accept it from the Father for His redemptive purposes. People will often associate such things with the devil as their author, and not accept a negative thing like depression as from God. But when we begin to see things from a “single eye,” we see nothing whatsoever outside the realm of God’s perfection. If depression comes, it comes with and for a purpose. Nothing can come my way except from the Father’s hand, even if it be from malevolent men or the devil, or even a consequence of some sin or error of mine. If from the devil, certainly he intends it for evil, but God causes EVERYTHING to turn into good for His loving and reconciliatory purposes, no matter what their source.
One might say to God in this instance something like, “Father, I know all things come from you, and I thank you for these feelings of depression. I trust you to use them for your glory and for the benefit of the others in my life. I see you being my Life, Christ in me, even in these feelings, and I see you manifesting the life of Jesus in my mortal flesh, even though I am afflicted and don’t seem to be doing much good for anybody. This is for others, Lord, not just me, and I trust you and praise You for it. Amen.”
So there you are. Rejoice, because whom the Lord loves, He “chastens,” and that doesn’t mean a “spanking” for doing wrong, but rather the daily direction that underlies everything (“this is the way, walk ye in it” [Is 30:21]), chosen by the Loving Father, Who knows exactly the right times and circumstances for each of us individually, that it takes to bring us to the end of our supposedly (in our own minds) self-sufficient selves, and to the further seeing of the truth of Himself in us, as joined in oneness with us. (Jn 17:11, 20-23; 1 Cor 6:17; Gal 2:20; Col 1:27; 1 Jn 4:17).
You and your wife are in God’s PERFECT place, and therefore I say praise God and thank Him for depression, or whatever comes your way, because as the scripture says, “All things come of Thee O Lord.” (1 Ch 29:14) You are both right where the Father has you for your own maturing and then out from you, from the gold of your faith tried in the fire, to affect the world God has put you in.
(2012 addition: the above was written originally in 2005 and has only been slightly edited from that original. The paragraphs below are new.)
It occurs to me that my advice to “thank Him for depression” might rankle some ears. But how can any of us do any differently, if we are to acknowledge the full truth? Some time ago when I was in an “angst” about some family situations, and actually hating certain circumstances we were living in at the time, the Spirit met me and told me to give thanks for all the things I hated and wished were different as much as for things I am more “emotionally” glad for. So I started naming them one by one – the disagreeable things, the things I didn’t like, some I hated, and thanking the Father for each and every one. There was no “accounting” of where any of that came from, no assessment of good or evil, nor any thought given as to whatever temporal “source” these things came from. From my perspective there is only One Who holds all the cards, and works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11). So why should I consider any other, since there is no God but He?!?!!?
Shall depression separate us? Shall anything separate us?
Well of course depression does not separate us, nor can anything else pluck us out of our Father’s hand. He has a very firm grip. (Jn 10:27-30).
Nor does this “thanksgiving” and “receptivity” of things from the Father’s hand mean that we are necessarily “passive” with them. It is not just rolling over and playing dead. Just the opposite, as “sons in the Son,” we turn compost into Life for others! If we are sick of course we seek healing in whatever way the Lord leads us. But if we are not physically changed, it is not our own body anymore, but the Lord’s, and we trust Him implicitly to use His body to “bring many sons unto glory,” (Heb 2:10), whether it be by our life or our death – and all things in-between! “To live is Christ … to die is gain!”