A True Foundation For Overcoming Spiritual Depression

Last week we looked at the General Causes and Treatment of the condition Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls Spiritual Depression.

Today, looking at Chapter 2, we will get more specific and look at the True Foundation that we need in order to overcome Spiritual Depression.

true foundation

This true foundation is rooted in two things:

  1. Conviction of Sin
  2. Salvation in Christ

Lloyd-Jones states that it seems Spiritual Depression happens more to those brought up in a religious manner than those who were not.

It is more likely to affect those who have been brought up in Christian homes and families and who have always been taken to a place of worship than those who have not…… They are in the realm of the Church, and very interested in Christian things; and yet when you compare them with the New Testament description of the new man in Christ you see at once that there is a great difference. Indeed they themselves see that, and this is often the main cause of their depression and their unhappiness. They see other Christians rejoicing and they say: ‘Well, I cannot say that I am like that. That person has got something that I have not got’, and they would give the whole world if they could but get something which the other person has.

There are large numbers of people in this unhappy situation. The Christian life seems to them to be a constant problem, and they are always asking the same question. ‘Why cannot I get there? Why cannot I be like that?’ They read books which are meant to give instruction about the Christian way of life, they attend meetings and conferences, always seeking this something which they do not find.

And here is what I find to be the key phrase of this chapter:

I would not say that they are not Christians but I am suggesting that they are what I would call miserable Christians, simply because they have not understood the way of salvation, and for that reason all their beliefs and efforts have been more or less useless. They often concentrate on the question of sanctification, but it does not help them because they have not understood justification. Having assumed that they were on the right road, they assume that all they have to do is to continue along it.

A person is inclined toward a state of Spiritual Depression if he focuses on sanctification without first grasping the weight of justification. Paul states in the first chapter of Romans:

‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written the just shall live by faith’.

The devout Jews of Paul’s day would had a hard time with this statement. They did not see the need for this righteousness of God as they merely could obtain it by keeping the law, being children of Abraham, etc.

Closer to home, this sort of thinking pervades many of us who grew up in the church but are bent toward this Spiritual Depression. Perhaps the message has gotten “old” to us since we have heard it so much. Now we feel like we need to keep being more and more spiritual and devoted in order to have the passion of those who are newly converted. No? Well listen to this story:

I remember such a person putting this very dramatically to me on one occasion. She was a woman who had been brought up in a very religious home, who had always attended a place of worship and been busily and actively engaged in the life of the Church. She was then a member in a church where a number of people had been converted suddenly from the world and from various kinds of evil living— drunkenness and such like things. I well remember her saying to me: ‘You know, I almost wish that I had not been brought up in the way I have been brought up. I could wish that I had been living their kind of life in order that I might have their marvelous experience’. What did she mean? What she was really saying was that she had never seen herself as a sinner.

If those who have been years and years in the church see their life or their conversion as less “exciting” or “fruitful” than those who are converted (or newly converted) from a non-religious background, then they have not seen themselves for who they really are, sinners. They are the Pharisees looking upon Gentiles.

Now that those “Gentiles” are abounding with joy, they feel feel depressed as their walk is no longer zealous. They begin to compare themselves. Yet the foundational problem is they have lost their conviction of sin and feel less “priveleged” as if they were not redeemed from as rough a lifestyle as their more lively brother or sister.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Conviction of Sin

If we get to this point and are concerned about this lack of conviction of sin, the first thing we have to do is stop thinking about particular sins. Here is what Lloyd Jones states:

We confine sin to certain things only, and because we are not guilty of these we think that we are not sinners…Here is the test for you and me: Are you loving God with all your being? If you are not, you are a sinner. That is the test. ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

The essence of sin, in other words, is that we do not live entirely to the glory of God. Of course by committing particular sins we aggravate our guilt before God, but you can be innocent of all gross sins and yet be guilty of this terrible thing, of being satisfied with your life, of having pride in your achievements and of looking down on others and feeling that you are better than others. There is nothing worse than that because you are saying to yourself that you are somehow nearer to God than they are, and yet the whole time you are not.

His conclusion is this:

If you have not a conviction of sin, and if you do not realize that you are unworthy before God, and that you are utterly condemned and a complete failure before God, pay attention to nothing else until you have it, until you come to this realization, because you will never find joy, you will never get rid of your depression until you are right about that. Conviction of sin is an essential preliminary to a true experience of salvation.

Salvation in Christ

Second, when we have grasped this solid conviction of sin, we need to fully embrace Salvation in Christ. Salvation is in Christ alone. Your salvation is based on HIS righteousness and HIS work. Christ, in the flesh, obeyed the law perfectly. In his death our sins were placed on him and in exchange we were granted his righteousness. Not our righteousness…..remember All Have Sinned and Fall Short. It is HIS righteousness.

As long as you go on thinking about yourself and saying: ‘Ah, yes, I would like to, but I am not good enough; I am a sinner, a great sinner,’ you are denying God and you will never be happy. You will continue to be cast down and disquieted in your soul. You will think you are better at times and then again you will find that you are not as good as you thought you were. You read the lives of the saints and you realize that you are nowhere. So you keep on asking: ‘What can I do? I still feel that I am not good enough’. Forget yourself, forget all about yourself. Of course you are not good enough, you never will be good enough.

Here is the conclusion of the matter:

Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: ‘It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ’. That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! you just begin to say: ‘I rest my faith on Him alone Who died for my transgressions to atone.’

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

If we look at other Christians who are zealous and full of joy, and start to desire that and beat ourselves up thinking something must be wrong or that our lives are boring, then we need to revisit the doctrine of justification. If we think that having a more hectic past and having a radical encounter with the Lord would make us more joyful, then we by default assume that we are not as inherently sinful as those people.

Again, we are as Pharisees judging Gentiles.

As Lloyd Jones stated, stop looking at particular sins (“They did this and that, I only have done this…..They must feel more gratitude….If only I could feel that”) and start seeing the overall condition of every man. We are ALL lost apart from Christ, separated from the Hope of the glorious Gospel.

Do those who were not brought up religious have a more dramatic conversion? Perhaps. But are they more saved than you? No. Should you be just a joyful and thankful as them? Yes. You both were brought from darkness to light. You both have been clothed with the Righteousness of Christ.

Rejoice.

Remain faithful and thankful, day after day, year after year, throughout your life. You cannot be good enough, but Jesus was and is, and because of that you are.

Let that sink in.


Other Posts In This Series:
Introduction – Let’s Strive Toward A More Consistent Joy
Chapter 1 – Spiritual Depression – General Causes and Treatment
Chapter 2 – A True Foundation For Overcoming Spiritual Depression
Chapter 3 – The Uncertain Christian: “Men as trees, walking”
Chapter 4 – The Balanced Christian: Mind, Heart, and Will

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