CAN FAITH AND DESPONDENCY COEXIST?
Is virile faith in the living God of the Bible inconsistent with bouts of despondency? Not if you base your answer on the profiles of Jeremiah and King David.
Jeremiah warned the people of Judah of the consequences of sin, then grieved the destruction of Jerusalem and their deportation to Babylon. Lamentations 1:16 is representative of other verses referring to his tears: “For these things I weep; my eyes run down with water; because far from me is a comforter… my children are desolate because the enemy has prevailed.”
But Jeremiah also lamented his own circumstances: their mocking of his message, and unjust confinement.
· “O Lord, you have deceived me and I was deceived. You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long” (Jer. 20:7).
· “For me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision” (Jer. 20:8).
· “Cursed be the day that I was born” (Jer. 20:14).
· “Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow” (Jer. 20:18).
David, Israel’s second king, often felt despair and abandonment by God.
· “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day?” (Ps. 13:1-2).
· David prayed so much because he often had a “faint heart” (Ps 61:2).
· Opposition prompted David to write, “I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; my eyes fail while I wait for God’ (Ps 69:3).
I’m not saying that these two Old Testament figures were “clinically depressed.” I can’t impose such a diagnosis on them. Yet they did exhibit symptoms that mimic my depressive episodes: uncontrolled weeping; overwhelming despair; doubts about God, or complaint over His apparent lack of concern; self-absorption; and in Jeremiah’s case, the perception that death would be preferred to the emotional pain.
Yet both men persisted in their faith and service to God! In the same chapter where Jeremiah complained to God and wished he had never been born, he cried, “But God is with me like a dread champion” (vs. 11), and “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord” (vs. 13). In Psalm 54:4, David cited what kept him going: “Behold, God is my Helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.”
If you vacillate between trust and doubt, exhilaration and despair, between optimism and despondency, yet you still believe…at least you’re in good company.
How do these profiles of Jeremiah and David make you feel? Why?
Next time, I’ll explain how our weakness and dependency may result in greater glory to God, not less.