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“Why Are You Cast Down,…

01.22.17 | by Ray Jones

    “Why Are You Cast Down,…

    O my soul and why are you in turmoil within me?” These words are repeated, presumably as an expression of David, in Psalm 42 more than once. Simply put they were words of despair, depression, and discouragement. David, the man after God’s own heart confesses his battle with soul despair. Even Jesus, the perfectly divine human, expressed that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow, even to the point of death. 

    Charles Spurgeon, perhaps the greatest preacher of the 19th Century wrote, “Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.” Spurgeon certainly understood these sessions and seasons of such despair. He battled them throughout his extraordinary ministry, and severely so. In a sermon titled “Joy and Peace in Believing,” he made the statement; “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”

    Many servants of God, Pastors in particular, understand these sentiments through personal observation and experience on an unusual level—they’ve seen it, and like David, Elijah, Spurgeon, and other great leaders, they’ve lived it. It often manifests after a great spiritual victory or before a great spiritual challenge. It can seemingly come out of nowhere and for no reason—and consequently, the soul can be plunged into what St. John of the Cross called, “the dark night of the soul.” If you’ve ever been there, you know that that is a fitting description. Generally, with Pastors and Christian leaders it starts with burdens like, sheep that are hurting and need counsel, lambs that are dying and going home, attacks upon the work of God, fatigue, juggling many plates and wearing many hats, hoping to keep multitudes happy, preparing multiple messages that are fresh and from heaven, and just finding time to connect with people, among a host of other culprits. Most of these are not bad, but like David in Psalm 42, they become overwhelming and are used by the enemy of our soul to bring down our soul to the depths of discouragement.

    Unlike the era of David or past generations like Spurgeon, who spoke frequently and candidly about depression and discouragement, it is rarely admitted among pastors or discussed in modern congregations. Today it is often viewed as theological weakness among ministers and as immature faith among the sheep in the church family. Thus, few are honest about its reality in their lives and the battle for victory.

    Frankly, I found myself headed there this past week. But, fortunately, over the years, I have learned some valuable spiritual disciplines that I practice to get through… and I’ve had a lot of practice. So if you find yourself in that place and wonder what a believer should do, let me pass on to you what God has taught me:

    1. I Focus quickly on Jesus… lift up your eyes--- get them off of yourself.
    2. I Immerse myself in the Word of God… large quantities of it.
    3. I Pray… get in conversation with Jesus immediately.
    4. I Worship through praise music… (for me it’s the Brooklyn Tab and Chris Tomlin)
    5. I Remember the goodness of God… look back over what He’s brought you through.
    6. I Reaffirm His promised presence with me … His presence is not related to my feelings.
    7. I Relinquish control back to the Holy Spirit… Where the Spirit reigns, discouragement cannot.

    I hope that is helpful to you when you find yourself in a season of despair. Now, lift your heads to heaven and your hearts to Him as we worship … our help, our hope and our healer. And remember, God is always trying to take you someplace new. I love being your Pastor!

    For God’s Glory Alone,

    Bro. Ray