Battling Spiritual Depression

How is a Christian to grieve honestly while also hoping deeply? When life’s losses and crosses come our way, what does it feel like and look like to suffer well? In this post and others (Part 1 and Part 2) we ponder how to find hope when you’re hurting.

Satan’s Scheme in Our Suffering

How does Satan want to trap, trick, and trip us up when suffering enters our world? Here’s his persistent ploy, his constant lie. “Life is bad. God must be bad, too.”

Here’s another way to put it. The theological reality of suffering teaches that our world is fallen and it often falls on us. The personal reality of suffering tutors us in the truth that our world is a mess and it messes with our minds. Suffering is not only what happens to us, it is also, and more importantly, what happens in us.

All suffering and mourning amount to a sense of death, divorce, being alone, and being forsaken. The doubts that we endure while in the casket of suffering lead to a potential hemorrhage in our relationship to God so that we end up feeling spiritual abandonment.

Spiritual Abandonment: “I Feel Forsaken”

In spiritual abandonment, Satan tempts me to see God as my enemy (Job 3:1-26; 6:4; 10:1-3; Psalm 13; 88; Jeremiah 20:7-18; Lamentations 3:1-20; 5:20). Luther called this spiritual depression. It’s the trial of faith produced when I reflect on and interpret my suffering with reason unaided by faith.

It results in a terrified conscience in which I perceive that God is against me, and in the sense of ultimate terror that God may have forsaken me. The presence of suffering can result in the absence of faith.

I call it “spiritual separation anxiety”—the terror of a felt sense of abandonment. Satan incites this terror when he whispers, “Life is bad. God controls life. God must be bad, too. How can you trust His heart? He has left you all alone. Again.”

Spiritual depression and spiritual separation anxiety are the results of our internal interpretations of external events. They are satanic temptations to doubt God, spiritual terrors, restlessness, despair, pangs, panic, desolation, and desperation. The absence of faith in God in the presence of external suffering leads to a terrified conscience which perceives God to be angry and evil instead of loving and good.

Jeremiah felt and expressed such condemnation and rejection. “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” (Lamentations 5:20). In Jeremiah 20:7, his language is even stronger, making us squeamish. “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed.”

Heman, considered one of the wisest believers ever (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chronicles 2:6), pens the “Psalm of the Dark Night of the Soul” (Psalm 88) in which his concluding line summarizes his spiritual struggle. “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18).

If you’re honest; if I’m honest, we admit that we’ve felt what Heman felt. We’ve thought what Jeremiah thought.

The Rest of the Story

You say, “Bob, you can’t stop here!”

Interestingly, Psalm 88 does. It stops with verse 18 that I quoted above. Life is not a situation comedy where everything is wrapped up in twenty-two minutes. It’s messy.

However…you’re right. We can’t stop with Satan’s scheme. We have a choice when faced with Satan’s temptation to doubt God. In fact…we have two choices. Our next post will outline our options when suffering enters and Satan enters with it…

Join the Conversation

Have you ever felt like Heman or Jeremiah, and if so, did you choose to be honest with God?

Note: Excerpted from God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting.

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