Friday, August 23, 2013

Care for Depression

Just started Sinclair Ferguson's, Deserted by God?

In the first chapter he makes a fine observation worth passing on. He says that folks feeling deserted by God, those struggling with severe melancholy or depression, should not be doing 'devotional' reading of the Bible. I agree.

Let me explain. He argues that such people have a deep need for the Word of God and for the comfort of His Spirit. But his experience has shown, as has mine, that such people have stopped accurately reading their Bible and are thus not receiving the blessing of encouragement and peace from it. By devotional reading, I mean simply sitting down to read a chapter or two from the Bible without any intense study of those Scriptures. Such an exercise tends to focus not so much on what the Bible teaches as a whole but what those verses have for me today.

In the case of a depressed person, such reading tends to focus on all the negative things. For example, if that passage says something about God rescuing His people and destroying the wicked, they will self-identify with the wicked. This is the depressed person's tendency to be inwardly gazing and unable to look outside or directly to the Lord, the One who seems to have deserted them. So, they find in themselves all sorts of reasons why God has justly deserted them.

Instead, Ferguson, quoting Dr. John White in The Masks of Melancholy, suggests a more intense exegetical study of a passage or book of Scripture. Focus on pulling the meaning from the book. What is God saying in this book? Apply the historical/grammatical method. Look up the Hebrew or Greek words. Try to see what God was saying to them at that time and get a real sense of the understanding of that longer passage or entire book. When one does this, the focus is necessarily outward. In this difficult process, one comes to know the will of the Lord more clearly and thus makes room for God's Spirit of truth rather than succumbing to the temptation to listen to yourself speak lies. The accuser speaks lies and he does so, even using the Scriptures when he can. The devil tempted Jesus that way and we should expect that he will also tempt our weakened brothers and sisters in this way.

But if we dig into what the Bible is really saying, trying not to focus on what it is saying to me, right now in this depressing moment, we are much more apt to hear the Lord speak His comforting truths to us.

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