"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

This blog has been moved to www.fallenpastor.com.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Providence And Depression

Depression is an awful thing.

Those who have never experienced it cannot identify.

Those who have seen loved ones go through it have had a taste of it. I watched my mother endure a lifetime of horrible depression. It wasn't until my college years that I learned that I was suffering from it.

It's interesting to hear people who don't understand depression give you their cures for it. I was corresponding today with a friend who suffers from it. Those who don't know about depression say things that don't really help much because they don't understand it.

"If you had more faith, you'd get better."

"Just snap out of it. Think of what you have."

"It's all in your head."

"You don't have any reason to be depressed."

Friends, we could argue about clinical depression until the cows came home. Some people suffer from depression and others don't. There are chemical triggers that bring some down into the pits of despair and you can't describe. It's like being lost in a world that you wouldn't want to be in. Nothing makes you happy. Nothing could bring you out of it.

It's a realm that can't be described. Nothing can make you happy. You can't pray yourself out of it. You can't pull yourself out of it. If you could, you would. It's a deep, dank, dark, horrible place that you don't want to be in. You want to pull yourself out of the hole. You know there's a world out there to participate in and live in. You want to be happy and free, but you can't do anything about it.

It's a horrible existence.

That's where I've been the last two weeks. I've been here before. Right after my adultery got discovered. And at other times in life. I don't know what has brought this recent bout of depression on but it's very real and very hard.

Cynthia has been very good to me. She's helping me through it. I'm medicated for anxiety but the depression is tough to deal with.

I've blogged before about my theological difficulties with providence. I was/am a Calvinist. I honestly don't know where I am now. You know that if you've read this blog.

I caught hell from commenters over my David and Bathsheba posts. And on some level, I should have. I wasn't trying to make a deep point on those, but I was trying to make sense about God's providence. I didn't communicate it well, that's for darn sure.

Let me explain it another way, and please, if you've been hard on me in the past, feel free to keep being hard on me. But at least listen to what I'm trying to say. Everyone has a theological background. None of us can escape our worldview. We all think a certain way because that's the way we were raised. It's the way we were taught. It's the way we think because someone told us it was the truth. Do we ever really stop to ask ourselves if we really know the truth? Whether what we think is true or not?

One pastor friend I have, who is a Calvinist (maybe a hyper-Calvinist, I don't know) would tell me that every single motion we make is pre-ordained by God. Once, during lunch, I poked him with my fork and asked him, "was me poking you on the arm with my fork preordained by God?" He said, "Absolutely."

I said, "Then was my adultery preordained?"

He said, "Yes."

I said, "But my adultery was my own fault and my own responsibility. I was fully culpable for it, right?"

He said, "Yes, it's the mystery of God."


Then I have another friend who is a Calvinist. Of sorts. He says that God's sovereign election only pertains to His choices in matters of salvation. Anything else is a matter of our free choice. Great.

That's what prompted me to write those blogs about David and Bathsheba. That's what was at the heart of them. If David hadn't have sinned, we wouldn't have had Solomon. Bathsheba is mentioned as being in the lineage of Christ. Does that make David's sin permissible? Absolutely NOT! Was Solomon God's Plan B? No. I don't believe that either. God is a sovereign God who has had a plan since the beginning.

I hear what you're thinking. God's plans are unknowable. It's useless for us to pry into the secret things of God. Please don't hear me trying to blame God for my sin either. I'm not. I'm the vile sinner who violated God's law. I am.

But how does it all fit together? I have no idea. But it keeps me up at night. Too much seminary education.

But something else has happened to me with my depression in the past two weeks to let me know God is at work. I've wanted to absolutely drop off the face of the earth in the last three days. I've thought that the world would be better off without me. I have wept, I have cried, I have wanted to be erased. I can't explain where the depression has come from or what triggered it, but it is very real.

But so is my God.

Today and yesterday, He responded. Despite my lack of theology and understanding, He responded through people.

First, He responded through my beautiful wife, Cynthia. She was there for me. She understood my grief, depression and sorrow. She just listened. She wrapped her arms around me and held me. She comforted me and prayed for me. She reminded me that this grief and depression are temporary.

Secondly, I got a phone call from another fallen pastor I haven't heard from in a month and a half. What are the odds? He called me today to check on me. I poured out my heart to him. He has depression as well. We had only talked once before, but he said he felt the need to call me and talk to me. That's the providence and grace of God, friends.

Thirdly, another fallen pastor friend of mine emailed me and told me he was suffering from a bout of depression as well. We have shared a common experience from almost the day I have published this blog. While we have both sinned, we also recognize that God's grace is great and there is a world of redemption before us. We love each other as brothers and give each other great encouragement.

Finally, I received an email from a fallen pastor I had emailed over two months ago. I thought he had forgotten about me. He reached out to me finally. He had several things going on and reassured me he had not forgotten about emailing me. He was compassionate about my plight and was encouraging. He reminded me that God was with me and would be with me.

All of these things happened to me within a 48 hour period. A time period when I didn't know if I would make it or not. When I needed God the most. God didn't speak to me directly, but He didn't need to. He spoke through His people - fallen, broken people who the world has mostly given up on.

And you know what? Those are the people God uses. And I needed to be reminded of that. I thank God for His practical providence.


  1. I was very judgmental about depression too. I honestly thought this is a "reach-people-sickness". I am really sorry, but I just didn't get it...until...crapp...you know, God just let me fall in everything I condemned.

    Now I know, the depth of it and I know that there is a way out of it, and there is a God who helps when you cry out, but is a dam dark place to bee.

    I love the way God uses people in sooo many different circumstances to reach out to us.

    And God uses us to reach out for others too. Am I available?

  2. Horrible, isn't it? Thank you for being available to others. One of the best things we can do is let others know of our experience and share it with them.

    You're doing a great thing and I commend you.


  3. Well, my brother, depression was where I have lived for about the past 7 months. It is lingering. There are circumstances that are beyond my influence, but, being a strong Calvinist, I believe in the best of all possible worlds, which "means that God governs the course of history so that, in the long run, His glory will be more fully displayed and His people more fully satisfied than would have been the case in any other world. If we look only at the way things are now in the present era of this fallen world, this is not the best-of-all-possible worlds. But if we look at the whole course of history, from creation to redemption to eternity and beyond, and see the entirety of God's plan, it is the best-of-all-possible plans and leads to the best-of-all-possible eternities." http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/2006/1418_What_does_Piper_mean_when_he_says_hes_a_sevenpoint_Calvinist/.

    Anyway brother, I read and contemplate writing, then some thought occurs that throws my emotions into a tailspin and I resist. One day I hope to be able to write of the struggles in my own soul as you do. Right now it is too hard.

  4. Great quote. Thanks for reading, as always and for sharing.

    God bless you.