Many of us go through spiritually depressed periods that feel like near-death experiences. On advice, we read the rich biblical texts that have helped so many others, yet our hearts remain as cheerless and lifeless as a cold fireplace. Our depression deepens, and despair begins to knock on the doors of our hearts.
All those cures are supposed to work! They appear to have worked for other people and churches, why not us? That they haven’t worked for us is a matter of real concern if we are serious about having a relationship with God that pleases rather than grieves Him, one that involves our giving as well as receiving. Despair or near despair sets in.
The words of the sufferer become ours, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1).
They aren’t words snarled in bitterness – they’re weary and disappointed rather than angry. Still – we were hoping that God in His mercy would take sides with us against ourselves and deliver us for His own name’s sake.
“Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One;
You are the praise of Israel.
In You our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and You delivered them.
They cried to You and were saved;
in You they trusted and were not disappointed” (Psalm 22:4-5).
Wonderful stories. Salvation stories. True stories. But all the more distressing because they are true. Others called and were saved. We call and, instead of rescue, continue to see ourselves as worms, and our “enemies” mock us even though we throw ourselves on God for deliverance. (Psalm 22:6)
As a nation Israel had tried everything to stave off the death they richly deserved. They paid tribute until they were broke, made treaties with foreign powers, and sent ambassadors north, south, east, and west. They fortified cities and studied the ways of war. They even tried religion – they built altars and prayed. But there was no salvation in any of their efforts. They were all just new ways of speeding the death process, and they ended up in a national grave. (Ezekiel 37.1-14)
Their bones were more than dry; they were “very dry.” And there weren’t only a few of them – the valley, like one giant coffin, was choked with them. The prophet spoke, and bone came together with bone; but there was no life – only a huge ravine full of skeletons. Sinews and flesh wound themselves around the bones, but there was no life – only a mighty gorge filled with corpses, an eerie, silent valley of corpses!
Well, not absolutely silent. There was the wind. The man was told to speak the word of God to the wind, and the wind became the Spirit of God entering those lifeless figures – just as on the day of creation – and they were filled with life and stood on their feet, a mighty army. A nation alive from the dead!
Hearing their story, we’re persuaded to trust again. God, and may it please Him to be soon, will give us reason to rejoice as life courses through us, delivering us from one enemy after another. In the strength and joy of the Spirit of God, we’ll dismiss depression’s view of sadder days and say with the psalmist:
He has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
He has not hidden His face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
And we, as our forefathers did, will enthrone God as the Holy One and the praise of our hearts. From Him will come the theme of our praise in the great assembly, (v.25) and our story will be told as one of deliverance to children not born, and people will trust because we were delivered (Psalm 22:30-31).
And what is true of individuals can be true of whole congregations, and what is true of congregations can be true of cities and nations! What is true for others can be true for you. What is true for you can be true for me. Weep if you must, and tell Him your poor heart’s breaking – but trust, wait, and listen for the wind!
– Jim McGuiggan