Lessons in the Darkness
“The story goes that in his last engagement at the (Las Vegas) Hilton in December 1976, he kept a pad by his bed, and wrote down his thoughts,” Newton says. “This one night, he wrote especially personal thoughts, then crumpled it up and threw it away.”
Wayne Newton says an aide retrieved the note after he saw Elvis throw it away. “When I asked the contents of it” Newton says, “I was so moved that I purchased it.” The lyrics?
I feel so alone sometimes. The night is quiet for me. I’d love to be able to sleep. I am glad that everyone is gone now. I’ll probably not rest. I have no need for all this. Help me, Lord.
Newton wrote his own song called, “The Letter”. In it he sings his own lines — “As I awake again today, the pain won’t go away” — but speaks the entire contents of Elvis’ letter.
“It reflects a man reaching to the ultimate for help. Once I digested it and got over the shock, I realized that is was feelings that I, too, had had at times,” he says. “I realized — that kind of loneliness creeps into everybody’s life.” [USA Today, April 17, 1992, p. 2D]
Has this kind of loneliness ever crept into your life? What does the Bible say to those who are going through those dark times? I invite you to turn to Psalm 102 where we read a Psalm of an afflicted man.
Dark Times Happen – No Need to Feel Guilty
Difficult times came to many in the Bible . . . . .
- King Saul needed music to soothe his emotions
- Elijah needed rest after his encounter with the Prophets of Baal
- Jesus was “overwhelmed”in the Garden (Mk. 14:33,34) His solution was to spend time with the Father
- Paul in his letter to Timothy said, “Everyone has deserted me” three different times. His way of coping was to ask for his parchments and his friends.
History tells us that both Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon were men prone to times of deep melancholy and depression.
On an unforgettable Sunday morning in 1866, the great C. H. Spurgeon stunned his five thousand listeners when from the pulpit of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle he announced, “I am the suject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” For some of his audience it was incomprehensible that the world’s greatest preacher could know the valley of despair. Yet twenty-one years later in 1887 he said from the same pulpit, “Personally I have often passed through the dark valley”.
Martin Luther was subject to such fits of darkness that he would secret himself away for days, and his family would remove all dangerous implements from the house for fear he would harm himself. In the midst of one of these times, his wife, Katherine, entered his room dressed in mourning. Startled, Luther asked who had died. She replied that no one had, but from the way he was acting, she thought God had died!
[Kent Hughes, LIBERATING THE MINISTRY FROM THE SUCCESS SYNDROME p. 143,144]
The fact is that Christians do get depressed. Unfortunately we have put out this message that believers only smile and always know joy. The result is that many people find their depression that much harder to bear because they have to try to hide it from others.
Most of us face situational depression
There are times in life when depression is a normal response to a difficult situation:
- the death of a loved one
- a disappointment in life
- failure in some area of your life
- relational problems
Some battle biological factors
The medical world has learned that some chemical imbalances can lead us to be depressed even though there is no situational reason. These folks can usually be helped with medicine.
Sometimes depression is the result of some other physical problem. When our body is “out of whack” our emotions can be one of the things that alerts us to a problem.
There is even a “Seasonal Affective Disorder”. Apparently human bodies are adversely affected when there is a prolonged lack of sunlight. So, after many gloomy days some people get depressed.
Dark Times Can be Devastating
Let’s just look at the text and see how the Psalmist felt during this time of affliction
- (v. 2) God seemed far away
- (v. 3) Life seemed meaningless
- (v. 3) bones burned- perhaps from an ache or a fever. He just didn’t feel well
- (v. 4) there was a loss of appetite and most likely weight loss
- (v. 6) He felt alone
- (v. 8) Felt persecuted and rejected
- (v. 9) experienced times of sadness and tears
- (v. 10) he was painfully aware of his failures
- (v. 10) he felt tossed aside.
Does this sound like some of the things you are experiencing???
Dark Times Can Be Dealt With
First, we must come to see that much of our depression is directly the result of our thinking. We have developed a pattern of thinking that sees the worst possible scenario to any situation. It is not the circumstance that depresses us . . . .it is our response to the circumstance. In these times we must learn to dwell on the Lord’s goodness . . . not the world’s pain.
Second, we must develop a greater understanding of God’s Sovereignty. God is in charge. He knows what he is doing . . . and even when we don’t understand, we must trust Him.
Michael Quoist has written,
It is only one totally blind who puts himself completely into the hands of God, to be led like a child. So, to raise the service of the Christian above the human level, the Lord is obliged to plunge him into darkness. He then learns to rely on God only.
He once had great faith in organized activities, and now he no longer knows what course to take. He once believed in the effectiveness of his words, and now he can no longer express himself. He once valued meetings, and now those he has carefully prepared fail dismally. When he had met only with success, he now encounters only reverses. And God, seeming to make fun of his sudden and total ineffectiveness, acts along channels of his own without the help of this “useless servant”. When the Christian, ashamed and in despair, turns to Christ to weep, he no longer finds him.
This is a painful time. The Christian mustn’t true to escape it, but he does need to be reassured.
As the dam checks the flow of water to raise its level and unchain its power, so God, through outward failure, raises his disciple above the plane of mediocrity to a transcendence of self by faith. [Prayers p. 138]
God perfects us by means of the furnace.
Third, We must remember that God loves us . In Isaiah 61:1-6 we are told that Jesus came to preach to the broken hearted. God cares. God loves us so much He sent His son to heal our heartaches.
Fourth, We must remember that God is true to His Word. He has promised that he “will never leave you or forsake you.” He has also told us that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
Friend, God has no intention of reneging on a single one of His promises. God will be true. Trust Him.
Finally, We must remember that God is preparing a great place for those who trust Him. As we reach the end of Psalm 102 we see the darkness lifting. Listen to the Psalmist:
In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. So I said: Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth. And the heavens are the work or your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear ouot like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.”
Can you feel the darkness lifting? The Psalmist gains perspective by reminding himself that “this too shall pass.” The only thing permanent is the Lord. We will live in His presence. That is a fact we can count on…..no matter what we feel emotionally.
Are you prone to deep darkness? Are you there even as you read these words? It is devastating isn’t it. It is also a powerful emotion that you seem powerless to change . . . . but friend, there is a powerful God that can help you. Are you trusting Him or are you trying to make it on your own? Maybe this depression is allowed in your life to bring you to a point of surrender to the Lord of life.
Friend, if this depression is persistent. If you trust, and pray and nothing seems to change . . . go see a Doctor. It may be that this is all a physical ailment that can be easily controlled.
Understand what is happening and then take charge of your mind. Don’t deny the emotion . . . face it!
Here are some practical steps. . . .
- get some rest – Like Elijah
- Ponder God’s Character and love – like Jesus
- Make extra time to study God’s Word – like Paul
- Surround yourself with uplifting music – like Saul
- Spend extra time with your Christian friends and church family – like Paul
Mind you, these are usually the opposite of what you feel like doing. But take control!
Minirith Meiers shares seven laws for a life free of Depression:
1. Commit yourself to the purpose of glorifying God in all things
2.Spend time daily meditating on God’s Word and applying it to your life
3. Deal with grudges and anger daily
4. Concentrate on building close relationships with your family
5. Develop solid same sec Christian friendships and spend time each week enjoying these people
6. Be involved in a daily routine (bring order in your life) that brings personal satisfaction to you
7. Do something nice for one special person each week.
I suspect even after these words there will still be dark times in our lives, but it is my hope and prayer that we can learn the lessons of the darkness quickly . . . so we can get back to enjoying the light.