The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Resolving to Fight Depression

Christian, leaving the Slough of Despond

On the Lord's Day evening, April 4th, 1886, Charles Spurgeon looked up from his pulpit,  into the eyes of his vast congregation, and confessed his depression. This was not the first, nor would it be the last time, that he openly shared his struggle with soul-darkness. However, Spurgeon did not speak on that evening with an air of defeatism about his situation. Nor did he imagine that he was resigned to a life of unhappiness. He looked to Christ, sought the help of God's Spirit, and he resolved to fight again with God-ordained weaponry.

What a help it is to a Christian man to be glad in the Lord!  I know what it is to be depressed; I do not suppose there is any person in this place who knows what it is to be cast down so low as I sometimes am. Then I feel that there is no help for me, and no hope of living and working, except I can get out of that sad condition, and get glad in the Lord; and I cry, 'My heart, my heart, what art thou at? Why are thou cast down, O my soul And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.' There is no way of getting right out of the Stygian bog of the Slough of Despond like rejoicing in the Lord. If you try to rejoice in yourself, you will have a poor reason for joy; but if you rejoice and be glad in the Lord, you have the real, abiding, unchanging source of joy; for he who rejoices in Christ rejoices in him who is 'the same yesterday, today, and forever'; and he may always rejoice in him. Come, then, and for your own good hang up the sackbut, and take down the psaltery; put away the ashes. What if men do call this season 'Lent?' We will keep no Lent tonight; this is our Eastertide, our Lord has risen from the dead, and he is amoung us, and we will rejoice in him. 

Think of what you just read about Spurgeon:

1. He knew what it was to be depressed. Charles Spurgeon, one of God's choicest servants in all of history, knew depression. You are not alone. Many of God's faithful servants have suffered as you may be suffering.

2. He imagined that no one in his church had been cast down as low as he sometimes was.
The beloved Spurgeon, with raw honesty, laid his soul bare before his congregation. How they must have been helped to know that Spurgeon was not immune from the trials of life. Learn from your heroes but don't imagine that they were shielded from trouble. They were, like you are, frail and feeble.

3. Sometimes Spurgeon felt helpless and despaired of life itself. Let that percolate in your heart for a moment and then read on. One might despair even of life itself, yet they must not quit. Keep reading!

4. He felt hopeless unless he could get out of that "sad condition and get glad in the Lord." Spurgeon, though sometimes depressed, nevertheless looked for a godly exit out of the slough of depression and an entrance into the gladness of the Lord. Though you make walk through great darkness, look for a biblical way out of your heart-sadness.

5.  He cried out to God by praying the Psalms (42-43). Here is a biblical remedy. Have you ever prayed the Psalms? Jesus did (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22). If I might be honest with you for a moment, I do not think that I would survive if there were no Psalms. If I woke up one morning and someone had removed the Psalms from the Bible, it is hard for me to see how I would carry on. Every morning, I open Psalms and pray God's Word back to him. Jesus did and so did Spurgeon.

6. He recognized that rejoicing in God was essential to getting out of the "Slough of Despond." Certainly he didn't feel like rejoicing but, acting against his sadness, he purposefully rejoiced. You are a Christian and you are not to allow your feelings to rule over you as a hard master. Against your feelings, rise up and rejoice!

7. He encouraged his congregation to put away the ashes of Lent, to take up the psaltery, remember that Jesus has risen from the grave, and to rejoice.
His name should be so deeply engraved on our hearts that we cannot forget him. Let us remember his love, for surely, if there is anything that we ought ever to remember, it is that undying love which is our choicest portion on earth, and which will be the main constituent of our highest bliss in heaven. 
For this to be true for you, you must take up your Bible and read, study, and meditate deeply. Paul wrote: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel" (2 Timothy 2:8). Purposefully remember the Gospel and let such remembrance stir you up to sing.

8. He stirred up his congregation to connect their rejoicing to their remembering of the love of Jesus. In another sermon he exhorted his people:
What wondrous love is there! Oh! then, let us have Christ's love in the cup, the love that we may daily drink, the love that we may personally drink just now at this moment, the love which shall be all our own, as if there were no others in the world, and yet a love in which ten thousand times ten thousand have an equal share with ourselves.
Humbly, prayerfully, and purposefully seek to know God and His love for you through Jesus our Savior. Are you a Christian? Jesus loves you. He loves you. He loves you. No one or nothing can separate you from his love (Romans 8). Drink deeply from the love of Christ.

Spurgeon often felt the cold rain of depression saturating his weary heart, however, he skillfully wielded deliberate rejoicing and remembering as a weapons in his fight against heart-sadness.

You may be one who is often depressed. You must fight! Don't raise the white flag of surrender and declare, "That's just the way that I am. I am prone to depression, I must accept it." No! Though many godly people struggle with depression, if you know Christ, you can "fight the good fight of faith." How? Resolve to be glad and rejoice. Resolve to remember God's love.

We will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine. (Song of Solomon 1:4).

*Are you depressed? Look to Christ. Purposefully remember His love and rejoice. Seek counsel from your pastors. Make sure that you vist your doctor for a regular physical, including blood-work. Learn from Spurgeon's example. His honesty with his congregation allowed them to join in his struggle by praying for and encouraging him. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why God Gave Perfume

Chateau Elan

The rain is falling. It is cold outside. I am sitting at a cafe in Cleveland, GA. Country music is playing over the loud speaker. It is small town Georgia. Everyone that walks by greets me. Georgia folks are friendly.

Since I am not at home this morning I had to deliver my Song of Solomon letter to Lori via email.

Why have I not been often writing letters to my dearest friend, prior to the last eight days? I have no good answer. You know.

Perhaps the eight days will lead to twenty-one days, will lead to sixty days, and the good thing of letter writing will become a habit. Letter writing to Lori should happen till death us do part. Let me rephrase that. Letter writing to Lori can happen. I get to write letters to her. It is a delight.

Eight days of letters has also meant eight days of The Song of Solomon (SOS). Why did God give us a book about kissing, perfume, wine, flowers, fruit, vineyards, gardens, and apple-trees? Why a book that provides graphic detail about how a man feels, thinks, and sees his beloved? Our English versions of the Bible do not really capture the graphic nature of SOS. Why a book that gives us, what we might imagine, should have been the private thoughts of a woman in love?

I know the answer. It is simple. God is good. God is generous. God is kind. God is not stingy. He gives good gifts.

His gifts are to glide over lips and teeth (7:9). Taste buds are for tasting, eyes are for seeing, ears are for hearing, and air is for breathing.

God did not create the world as a museum for tourists to press face to display windows and nod their heads while encountering foreboding signs that read, Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.  No! God gave flowers, fields, streams, mountains, valleys, milk, honey, perfume, wine, and fruit so that we can handle, taste, and touch. God is not glorified when all that we do is admire his gifts and then walk away.  Imagine giving your wife a lovely necklace and she simply says, It is beautiful, but no thanks. What an offense.

God is glorified when we kiss our spouse with the kisses of our mouth. He is glorified when a wife purposefully puts on perfume to draw her husband to her side. He is glorified when we swirl the wine of love all around our palate. His gifts are to be received, savored, and enjoyed.

There is a form of religion that consists of man-made regulations.  It focuses on the exterior while leaving the heart unchanged. It appears to be wise. The adherent of such a piety is admired for his rigor, his discipline, and his soberness. However, such a person has not tasted the goodness of God. He has not really smelled and enjoyed the sweet perfume of his wife. He may have sniffed at her the way a beast does his prey —but he has not really smelled. He does not know how to say, You have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.  How much better is your love than wine. Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue... (4:9-11)

The person focused merely on externals sees flowers, hears background music, and then passes by the vineyard. But he is convinced that a serious believer is one who fights the urge to feast. He nibbles at the plate but leaves the meal largely untouched. Or he devours the meal as a savage and fails to savor the spices. His regulations or his thoughtlessness forbid true enjoyment.

In a world of toil, sorrow, and grief, God gives the music of Solomon. He reminds us that though this world is fallen and groaning for final redemption—that it still reflects his glory, his beauty, and his goodness.

In the midst of sickness, death, birth, marriage, gain, loss, and the duties of life—God paints with color, he offers song, he provides smell, and he sets a table for his children in the banquet hall of love.

We glorify him when we drink, when we eat, when we taste, and when we enjoy his gifts. The gifts are not the end-all. The gifts glorify the gift-giver. They are not to be refused. They tell us that God is great and God is good.

Yes, God gave perfume because God is great and God is good. Enjoy life to His glory!

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries, pastor of Grace Community Church and the author of several books. Mostly, he is a husband, daddy, and grandaddy. To schedule Ray to speak for your next event friend/message on FB Contact Ray