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About this series
Finding God When You Need Him Most
In Finding God When You Need Him Most, Chip Ingram reveals how you can meet God in the midst of your most difficult moments. Through Chip's teaching from some of the most comforting and encouraging Psalms, you will move from "knowing about God" to profoundly experiencing His presence and power in your life. Whether you're struggling with a rocky relationship, an unexpected crisis, depression, or injustice, this series will remind you that the Lord is faithful to hear your heart's cry and will be there for you, time and again.More from this series
How to experience God when you feel depressed. We’re going to touch on what depression is and give you a little bit of information. But I want to say at the outset we’re talking about that normal kind of depression. The ups and downs that all of us have from day to day.
In 1994, in August, I remember it was the beginning of a study break, it was the hardest most difficult year I had ever had in my life to that point. And you know how when there’s something you’ve got to do, something you’ve got to do, something you’ve got to do, you keep pushing, you keep pushing, you keep pushing and then you stop? I stopped in August. And I still remember because the eleventh day I was up at Donner.
And the eleventh day in August, I woke up one morning and there was just a tiny, little, barely, tiny flicker of joy, of maybe a little happiness. Not much. And I just realized how depressed I was. I was unmotivated. I was having thoughts, the first ten, eleven days of August, “I don’t want to live this way anymore. I don’t want to be a pastor. I don’t want to teach God’s Word. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to go anywhere.”
My anger was just underneath the surface. My poor family, you know, I’m not a yeller and screamer but I just, I wanted to be disconnected. The phone rang, “It’s not for me.” I didn’t want to go to a meeting, I didn’t want to see people. Some of you understand exactly what I’m talking about. I was depressed. I was really depressed.
Now, I learned that there were a lot of good reasons for that. I learned some things that were unwise about not getting the emotional renewal that I needed. I learned that fatigue and stress and physical things can pour into this deal.
And I made some decisions in 1994 about how I would live the rest of my life that I have stuck to.
Depression worked for my good in the long haul. As you pull out the teaching handout, I put an excerpt from a book that might be helpful for all of us. Follow along as I read because I want you to get some perspective on this.
It says, “Depression is as old as human history. The Bible has many examples of people struggling with despondency and despair. In his depression and fatigue, Elijah asked for his life to be taken.” Pretty godly man. And he said, “God take me out.”
“Jonah felt deeply despondent after God did not destroy Nineveh. Jeremiah regretted the day he was born. Job’s wife advised him to curse God and die in the midst of his suffering and pain. And then even well-known church leaders like Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and J.B. Phillips had massive struggles with depression.
“World leaders like Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln, clearly documented, had waves of depression that were debilitating to their life. Depression, in fact, is no respecter of persons, it has been called the common cold of emotional disorders, and it appears to be on the rise.
“In the United States it’s the most prevalent and most serious of mental disorders, it afflicts about twenty percent of the population at some time in their life.” And according to something I read recently, one out of eight people in America will need medical attention for their depression at some point in their life.
“People of both genders get depressed although women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.” Now, before you turn the page, I want to ask you a couple questions.
Where is God when this happens? I mean, when you feel depressed, where’s God? Where’s your faith? Where’s the victorious Christian life? Where is the peace that passes understanding? Where is that abundant life, John 10:10, that you have experienced and you have told other people about?
And then how are you supposed to deal with this? I mean, what would God say? How do you deal with this? Do you deny it? Do you fake it? Do you bury it? Do you repress it? When you feel really down, really blue, really sad, really depressed, what’s the right response? Buy a new toy? Turn on the TV? Eat more? Have an affair? Those are the kind of things people do. Pretend it doesn’t exist? What exactly would God have us do when we experience what so many of us do experience and what we all will experience from time to time?
Now, turn the page and what I’d like to suggest is that the answers to those questions are very complex. And what I want you to know, by way of expectation, is I’m not going to try and give you a twenty-five-cent answer to a twenty-five-thousand-dollar question.
Depression is very complex. It has multiple causes and it has to do with situations that involve your whole life. Physical issues, spiritual issues, relational issues, psychological issues. But here’s what I want you to know for sure: God understands your depression and God wants to help you in your depression.
And what I also want you to understand is that when you’re depressed, it doesn’t mean that God has left, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sinned, and I also want you to know that if you’re depressed, you’re in good company. A lot of very, very godly people, people much more godly, people with more faith than you or me will ever have, struggle with depression.
In fact, look at the text here. We have what I have entitled, “A Song of Comfort for the Dark Night of the Soul,” by David’s choir director, Asaph, he wrote this psalm inspired by the Holy Spirit. Listen carefully to the first nine verses and what you’re going to hear, even among the most godly of people, there are days, there are times when depression just slams us to the ground and you hear this man of God pour out his heart.
Verse 1, “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; and I mused, and my spirit grew faint.”
Do you hear those words? These are the words of a very depressed guy. In fact, literally, the first line there, it’s, “My voice to God.” The author puts it in an unusual word order to let you know there’s emphasis, there’s pain, there’s hurt.
He said, “My voice, I’m trying to get up to God.” And we’re going to learn, he’s in great distress. But his experience is God can’t be found. Look at verse 4, “You kept my eyes from closing.” Translation: “I can’t sleep!” “I was too troubled to speak.” “I’m confused inside, I can’t sort this out.”
“I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night.” He’s so depressed and then he starts to reflect, you know how you do that? He thinks, “You know, gosh, I used to be up at night but not like this. I remember getting up in the middle of the night and,” you know, he’s a musician. And he said, “I remember getting up in the night and singing songs to you, Lord, I remember rehearsing the great things You did and the answers to prayer and the great relationships and the joy in my heart.”
And then he goes on to say, “When I remember back and reflect,” he says, “I mused,” that word means, “I thought; I considered; I meditated; I pondered,” “and my spirit inquired.” And you’re going to see, in the next few verses, he’s going to ask six rhetorical questions and behind these six rhetorical questions are two premises.
And the premises are mainly this, he is questioning, he is so depressed, his thinking has become so distorted, he is so down, he is in the dark night of his soul, he is going to question two things that are at the core of our existence: The promise of God’s presence and the commitment of God to keep His promises.
And he’s going to be so depressed, basically, these six questions are going to ask, “God, are you even there?” Doubt, confusion, distress. And, “God, are You going to do what You said You would do? I mean, can You be trusted to keep Your word?”
Look at the six questions. First, “Will the Lord reject forever?” In other words, is this going to go on and on and on? “Will He never show His favor again?” Are all the good memories going to be in the rearview mirror?
Nothing in the windshield of my life? “Has His unfailing,” or “hessed,” “His covenant love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful?
“God, is that the problem? Is there something I did wrong that I don’t understand? I’m alone, I hurt, I’m down, I’m sad, I’m blue and two things I’ve got that I can’t understand. Where are You and what about those promises?”
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt just like what he’s saying? Boy, I sure have. I get it in little waves probably a few days a week. Not big, just little waves. And if they get stacked up and if you don’t deal with these kind of feelings and these kind of thoughts well, they can grow into big waves, can’t they?
And they can get to where the alarm goes off and you don’t want to get up. They can get to where when the phone rings, you let it ring. It’s just one more layer, one more guilt, one more pain, one more message to return. Well, I want you to know, God understands your depression and today He wants to help you.
We’re going to look at two major life lessons. And under the second life lesson or principle about how to handle depression, we’re going to look at specifically how God teaches us, through Asaph, how to deal with those low, blue feelings.
The first life lesson, times of depression are something that even the most godly wrestle with on occasion. Translation: This is normal. This is normal.
Now, what I’d like to do is spend some time and I don’t have time, I’ve got probably a three or four part series I could do on depression. I’ve got a folder about this thick on the subject. I’ve studied the area quite a bit.
What I want to do is try and briefly, before we go on, define depression a little bit; talk about some of the symptoms that I don’t have to spend too much time on because when you’re there, you know it; and give you just a brief rundown on the causes so that at least we’re all on the same page in the kind of depression we’re talking about.
To do that, let me give you, first, some very quick symptoms. This is what happens when you’re depressed. You have feelings of hopelessness and apathy; you lose perspective; it’s hard to concentrate; there are often physical side-effects; sleeplessness; a total loss of diet, or just the opposite; a change, loss of sex drive, often; a sense of, “I don’t care;” low self-esteem, you start not liking yourself; you tend to withdraw from people in relationships; you begin fantasy thinking like you want to escape, like, “I just want to get out of here.”
There are times when I have been really feeling low and I finished the last service and I have just felt like, “If I talk to one more person my head is going to bust right off my shoulders.” And I’ve wanted to say, “Amen,” at the end of the service and turn and run out the back door. But that’s not usually an option.
But, don’t look at me that way! You’re looking at me like, “Uh.” Yeah, I have a bad day now and then too, but I have to go to go to work when I’m having a bad day too, I just pray my way through it.
When it gets very severe, often suicidal thinking. You know, you get so helpless, especially if it gets to be clinical depression. You’re oversensitive to what others do; you interpret others’ actions, you think everybody is against you; anger becomes a real issue, it’s just below the surface, you tend to cast it where it doesn’t really belong, at yourself and others; a lot of guilt is involved, you start not liking yourself, feel bad, feel guilty; dependency can grow and you need help and then when people help you, then you’re angry at them because you feel helpless and that’s not a good cycle.
And, finally, how we act when we’re depressed tends to, unless we make some radical choices, promote further depression.
Now, let me give you some kind of definitions of depression, just a couple definitions here so that we’re all on the same page. One, depression is an emotion like any other emotion. It’s just a description of how you feel.
Second, as an emotion, depression is, for the most part – are you ready for this? morally neutral. In fact, some depression is very normal.
Grief is a form of depression. Depression varies tremendously. We have it from the mild forms of disappointments and letdowns or feeling a little blue to what you call clinical depression where there are suicidal thoughts and you can’t eat and you don’t want to eat and there’s escapism behavior.
Depression is not sin. It’s a normal reaction to what’s occurring spiritually, psychologically, or physically. But, let me add, it can be sin. Psalm 32, you might jot that down, David has sinned and he exhibits in Psalm 32 the characteristics of clinical depression. Unresolved sin, and guilt before God, will bring about depression.
But depression, in and of itself, as you’re going to see, has a lot of different causes. It’s not necessarily sin. Depression is a scream. It’s a message that we have neglected some area of our life or there is a need in our life and that our perception of reality has been distorted. Depression also can be a warning system that we’re moving toward deeper water. It’s a protective device to remove us from stress, to give us time, here’s the goal, to recover, explore its purpose, and grow from the process, if we’re willing to use it in that way.
I made decisions that have changed my life and my habits forever because I decided, “If I live like this, I’m not going to do this anymore.” I decided what I’m going to do and some priorities with my family. I decided about emotional renewal, what’s going to be built into my week if I’m going to keep doing this job. And that depression served me well.
Finally, although depression is normal, that’s not to say that we should linger in depression. It can quickly grow into a monster that saps our strength and paralyzes our life.
By way of causes of depression there are, I think, at least four major causes. You could put them in three categories, really. One, is physical; two, is psychological; and three, is spiritual. And you know what? I’m going to go briefly because here’s all I want to do. I want to paint a quick background so that when we get back into the text, you’ll understand the kind of depression this text is dealing with, and get help.
But for some of you, if you’re clinically depressed, there are some things that happen in your brain and the neurotransmitters in your brain, the synapses don’t connect anymore and you have some chemicals in your brain. But when those things don’t happen in your brain right, I’ll tell you what, you can’t think right.
There are some of you, and some of you feel very badly about it, that are on medication, you’re on anti-depressants, and you’ve had clinical depression. And I want you to know that there are certain times you need medicine to get your thinking and your brain working in a way so that you can begin to work through the issues.
In fact, some of you have physical problems that cause your depression. There’s a type of blood pressure medicine, medication that will cause this to happen. If you have an underactive thyroid, if your electrolytes get low.
There are multiple, physical reasons why people get depressed. Fatigue, hypoglycemia, endocrine imbalance, certain kinds of diet, viral infections. Those of you that have had babies, one out of ten women experience severe post-partum depression.
Those are physical causes that can lead people into severe depression. Praying isn’t the only answer. Now, let me be quick to say, because I know I’m on delicate ground here, many people get depressed and it’s sort of a chicken versus the egg, which comes first? And there are unresolved issues and there’s unresolved anger and there’s stress and there’s lifestyle changes and spiritual changes that need to happen. You get clinically depressed, you get on medication, let me be quick to say, medication is not the answer.
You may need medication temporarily to get your body right so you can deal with the root issues. But to use medication to mask those and not work on those issues is as faulty a thinking as saying that medication is never right. So, I’m trying to balance it out and I think it’s very important that we say this.
Root causes of depression? Some are physical. Some are psychological. A great loss of any type, real or concrete. Anger that has turned inward. Whoo. That is ninety-five percent of people’s depression. Guilt, real or imagined. Stress. Major transitions in your life: Going through adolescence, career choice, marriage, parenthood, first home, teenagers, mid-life, retirement.
Grief; faulty thinking where you begin to have a poor self-image, unrealistic expectation, self-pity.
Spiritual causes of depression, there are times where it’s spiritual. Spiritually, when you have an intensive period of ministry, depression can happen. When there’s true guilt, spiritually, you can get depressed. When you have a wrong perspective, wrong expectations, Psalm 73, you can get depressed. When there is satanic attack, you can get depressed. When you try and do the will of God out of the energy of the flesh, instead of out of the energy and power of the Spirit, you can get depressed.
When your priorities are out of whack, spiritually, you can get depressed. When you have a relationship breakdown, you can get depressed. Do you see how complex this is?
Depression is rooted in physical issues, psychological issues, emotional issues, and relational issues. And unlike how we think, God did not make us where we have a spiritual compartment and a physical compartment and a relational compartment. All those things fit together.
And so what you need to do is you need to understand a little bit about who you are, what God is doing – but by and large, there is going to maybe ten percent of the people or less who are clinically depressed and you need medical help.
But for the ninety percent of us, we just basically have ups and downs, ebbs and flows. It’s responding to life, responding to people, responding to kids, responding to some minor health issues, responding to a little bit of anger.
And what can happen is that depression can take us down the tube. How do you respond to that? How do you respond when you have the normal type of up and down, occasional depression that everyone experiences, even the most godly?
And that is the answer given in the rest of this Psalm, verses 10 to 20. Follow along and here’s what you’re going to see. Here’s the second life lesson. I’ll give it to you and then see if you don’t see it in the Psalm.
Second life lesson: Not only are times of depression normal, even with godly people on occasion, but secondly, taking time to recall God’s specific blessings in our past, provides perspective and peace in the present.
When you feel yourself slipping, when you’re starting to go into the tank, here’s the key: Taking time, it won’t come, taking time to recall God’s specific blessings in your past provides perspective and peace in the present.
Notice, let’s pick it up in verse 10. Look what the Psalmist does. And let’s remember verses 1 through 9. I mean, this guy is in the dark night of the soul. He’s in the tunnel except there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Notice what he does, verses 10 to 12.
He says, “Then I thought,” he is willfully, in his mind, not letting his mind drift, not letting world and the depressive thoughts take him downhill. He says, “Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.’”
He says, “Wait, wait a second. I’ve got to get a hold of myself. “To this I will appeal - I’m going to think back to who God really is and what He has done in my past.” And the little phrase here, “Most High,” is an interesting name of God. It’s El Elyon. And it means, “God as Creator and God as Protector.”
He said, “To this I will appeal. I’m going to go back to who God is as the Creator of all and as the Protector.” Now notice what he does. Notice the word, “Remember, meditate, or consider.” Look where his thought processes go.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;” or Yahweh, “yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.” If you have a pen or a pencil, pull it out, let me have you circle about four or five words.
Circle the words, “I will appeal.” That’s a thought process, he’s looking backwards. Then circle the words, “I remember.” Then next, “I remember.” Then, “I will meditate.” And then circle, “Consider.”
There, in two, three verses, you have one, two, three, four, five instances. He is taking control of his thoughts. He’s not letting him slide. Did you notice the phrase, “I will, I will, I will, I will?” He didn’t say, “I feel, I feel, I feel.” When you’re depressed, you got plenty of feelings that are no good. You’ve got to make choices. You willfully take time. It’s a choice. To do what? Remember.
So, how do you do this? Let me give you the “how-to” here. Stop. Take time to remember. When you’re sliding into depression, when you’re feeling like the clouds are getting dark, when you are going down, down, dooby-doo, down, down, right? What do you do?
And I don’t know about you, when I get there, you can almost feel it coming in. It’s just like the fog. It kind of creeps in and you see it and you say, “Oh, gosh.” And then you say, “It’s out there.” And then it gets closer. And the closer it gets, it’s kind of like,“It’d feel kind of good to be depressed right now.” You know what I mean? It’s like, “Yeah, I deserve to be depressed. And everyone should feel sorry for me. And I should get attention when I’m depressed and, in fact, come on in, fog.” You know?
And you’ve got to stop it! You’ve got to stop it and keep the fog at bay. How? Stop, take time to remember. That’s what he did. Now, let me give you some very specific ways to do that.
1994, in August, I mean, I’m not in a good situation. These first two weeks were designed to study God’s Word. I don’t even want to pray, I don’t want to read the Bible, and I’m on study break. Not good. Not good.
And so, I got up and I went to a little, I don’t know, it’s a McDonalds or Burger King up there, and I said, “God, I need to reconnect with Your presence. I know I’ve obeyed You but I have obeyed You out of my will. I have trusted You but my feelings are just, I don’t have any, I’m numb. I don’t feel anything.”
And I found a little phrase in the Psalms called, “His unfailing love.” And I took out a little colored marker and I said, “God, I’m going to get up every day and I’m just going to willfully choose to read. And every time the phrase ‘Unfailing love’ happens in the Psalms, I’m going to circle it and I’m going to underline it and I just want You to pour some love. I just want to believe that You, no matter what, love me.”
And for ten days, that’s all I did. I got up in the morning, I’d read. Just keep reading, reading through the Psalms. And I looked at what came after “unfailing love,” and before “unfailing love.” And I just let it seep into my soul and reminded myself, “It’s not my performance, it’s not who I am, I’m not the center of the universe, God loves me, God loves me, and His love is unfailing. It’s never going to go away. He cares.”
And I just willfully had to do that. I had to remember.
The second thing that I do on a real regular basis when I feel the fog of depression coming in, I call it, “The Napkin Exercise.” I pull out a napkin and I ask, “What great things did God do today?” And I start writing. And you start thinking about it, He did a lot of things you take for granted.
And if I can’t come up with much, I say, “What did He do great this week?” And then I start writing. If I’m still having trouble, “What did He do this month?” And I can usually fill a napkin and what it does, it forces me to get objective.
“God, this thing You did in my son, and I met this person, and this person came to Christ, and this was an answer to prayer.” When we get depressed, just start going on tilt. You can’t go there.
A third thing that has been very helpful for me is I keep a journal so I can process. Often, this unresolved anger and all this kind of junk, we don’t deal with it and we push it down and then we wake up two days later and depressed and don’t know why. And so, I write things out as soon as I feel things jumbled.
And then the other thing that does is that when I really get in the tank, I need some objectivity. I can pull out last week’s or last month’s and say, “Okay, this, this, this, this.” And in my journal, I’ve got check marks, date, answer to prayer. This was a huge problem, it was impossible. And two weeks later it’s got a check mark, a date, this is what God did. A check mark, a date, this is what God did. A check mark…
Guess what, I’m thinking, “Hmm. If He did it last month, last year.” Now, I got stacks of these journals. And when I get really down, I’m remembering. I willfully take time to remember what God has done. When’s the last time you got out the movie camera? Well, better yet, when’s the last time you ever watched some of those movies that you made? You ever wonder why, everyone’s got these cameras, or they used to all the time.
No one watches them! Go home today, make some popcorn, and put on an old vacation! Everyone is so concerned about the wedding, the photographer. And we pay all this money. When is the last time you looked at your wedding pictures?
Go get some pictures out and look at them and stop and remember! There is a good God and He has been good to you. It’s critical. But that’s not all.
Notice verses 14, 13 through 16. He’s going to move from remember God’s acts, he’s going to stop, and now he’s going to look. Notice what he does.
He goes, “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; You display Your power among the peoples. With Your mighty arm You redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.”
Underline the word, “Holy,” underline the words, “Performs miracles,” and underline the word, “Redeemed.” Do you see what happened?
He is in the tank and he’s so depressed and then he says, “I’m going to appeal to God, I’m going to start remembering.” So, he makes his list of all the specific things God did and that list of God’s great acts moves him to – what? God’s ways, His character, who He really is.
And what’s he remember? Number one, “Oh, yeah, that’s right. God is holy!” The word “holy” means He is an unapproachable light. He’s all-powerful, He’s totally other, He’s sovereign, He’s in control!”
But not only that, He performed miracles. He is holy, He is great. And then the third part of His character that he remembers is He is caring. That little word for “Redeemer.”
It’s a Hebrew word and if you understand Hebrew culture, read the book of Ruth, the only person who can redeem someone is a relative. He looks at God as not only, being this awesome God but as a friend, as a father. He redeemed. He bought us back because we matter, because we’re part of His family.
And now he’s gone from being in the tank and saying, “God, where are you?” to remembering God’s acts that move him to who God is, “God is holy. God is great. And that great, holy God cares about me.”
The second little “how-to” for this principle is: Look – get a fresh perspective. Here’s an axiom that you just need to take with you: When you have a big problem, you have a very small God. And if you have a very big God, you have a very small problem.
See, the way it works is you have this problem and it’s out there, right there, right? And then you focus on it. Really work at it. Focus on, “Well, I don’t, I’m really, except this job situation, this relationship situation, this unresolved issue, this parent, this child,” that’s right, keep it up there, keep it up there, keep it up there.
I’ll tell you what, this problem is really, now what? All of life is looked at through the lens of this problem. Or you can pull that problem back in light of a holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, miracle-working God who knows everything, you can look at that problem in light of that. And guess what you get: perspective.
At the heart of all depression is a loss of perspective, a loss of hope. When I’m depressed, I have this distorted thinking, “It’ll never get better. This relationship stinks and it will always be terrible! We got financial trouble and we’ll always have financial trouble! I’ve got a problem in this area and I’ll always have a problem! Therefore, why try?” Right? Who cares?
That’s a lie. You must take time to remember God’s specific acts in the past, in order to get perspective and peace in the present. Where does it start? You stop and you remember His acts. You remember.
Second, you look and you get a fresh perspective. But when you get a fresh perspective, he doesn’t end here. He gets very, very specific because he has told us about God’s ways, in general. It’s nice to know God is holy, God is great, and God is caring.
But now, in verses 16 to 20, he’s going to apply it and he’s going to say, “God has been holy to me, God has been great to me, God has been caring to me.” Look at verse 16 to 20.
It says, “The waters saw You,” what an interesting, poetic phrase, “O God, the waters saw you,” and then this next word is, they just shrunk back. “The very depths were convulsed.” I mean, he’s looking at the creation here. “The clouds poured down water; the skies resounded with thunder; Your arrows flashed back and forth; Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind; Your lightening lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.”
He’s going back to that concept of God, El Elyon. He is the God who is Creator and the God who is Deliverer or Protector. And this is written in the context… you need to remember that Israel, where did they live? Their context is among the Canaanites. The Canaanites’ great god was called Baal. And Baal was the god of the storm, the god of thunder, the god of the elements.
And they were living in a world where all these false gods were all around them and all the other nations saying, “Our god is strongest!” He is coming back, he gets perspective, and he’s thinking, “Wow! Our God doesn’t do that! He’s above all that! He’s the Creator! My Creator.”
But notice he goes on. He says, “Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen.” He’s going to go back to where every writer of the Old Testament always goes back when their back is against the wall.
They go back to God as Creator, number one; and God as Deliverer, number two. What’s the reference? When can you ever remember in Israel’s history where their back was against the wall, where they were being chased by enemies, and they were, like, “Uh-oh! We got a problem.” And now there is a sea, a Red Sea in front of them, “We’re trapped, we’re surrounded,” it’s an impossible situation. If there’s ever a time to get depressed, that was it.
I mean, children of Israel. Can you imagine being a regular Joe on that trip? “Red Sea, boy, all those ten plagues! That was pretty cool. You know, Moses, he and Aaron, they’re doing some really neat stuff and Pharaoh let us go and we took our kids, we took our animals, and, you know, the unleavened bread, I still don’t get that part of it. And, you know, here we’re going and here we’re going and, you know, there’s this pillar by day and fire by night and it’s like, whoa! Man, God is really real!”
And then you get up and here’s this huge body of water. And then the scouts come back and say, “Pharaoh, his army, his chariots, his soldiers. They’re on the way and they have you surrounded this way,” and the only thing is water this way.
All of a sudden, “You know, Moses, this was not a good idea. This is dumb! There’s no way out! We have no hope!” And what did God do? He made a way where there was no way! He took the waters and He heaped it up on both sides, He made a pathway, and His footprints, He personally carried His people through, but you couldn’t see it, He did it invisibly. And they were safe and the enemies were destroyed.
They were saved, they were delivered. And Israel, in times of conflict… and this Psalmist goes back and he drives a stake and basically says, “God made me and God saved me. And I don’t know what I’m going through right now but it can’t get any bigger than not being made,” and it can’t get any bigger than the deliverance that occurred at the Red Sea.
Now let me ask you a question: What are you facing, what do you struggle with where you feel so hemmed in, where it seems so impossible that you think God just can’t make a way and so you’re depressed and you’re hopeless and you’re listless and you don’t want to get with it and you’re not motivated?
Now, I encourage you to go back to God as your Creator and then, especially for every, single person here there’s one snapshot I always go back to.
Oberlin College in a gymnasium or an auditorium with six hundred other athletes. The fullback of Illinois has just sung the Lord’s Prayer.
I have understood the gospel for the first time in my life, coming from a non-Christian home. And I heard Revelation 3:20 and the Spirit of God has illumined my mind and I now understand, “Behold, Chip, I stand at the door of your heart, and knock. If you will open it, I will come in to you, and I will live or sup with you, fellowship with you, and you with Me. I will give you a new life, Chip. I’ll forgive your sin, Chip. I can change you, Chip. I will take all your sin and move it as far as the east is from the west. Any person who is in Christ is a new creature. I want to save you, Chip, from your sin. I want to deliver you.”
Not understanding the whole picture but realizing, “This is a defining moment of truth.” And in that auditorium, with all those athletes, I said, “God, I don’t know much about this, I didn’t even know for sure whether You really exist. But I’ve seen real love here, I’ve heard Your Word taught for the first time, and I believe today that Jesus died for me. Whatever it means for Him to come into my life right now, forgive me, cleanse me, and make me a new person, will You do that?”
See, I don’t know where you’re at, but you need to go back to that date. You need to go back to the day that you were delivered, the day that you were saved, and realize the almighty, all-powerful God of the universe did not start something with you that He is going to bail out on.
And that’s what the Psalmist did. And when he did that he learned this final lesson. He will deliver you. He will deliver you. That’s hope! He will, not deliver the guy next to you, the woman next to you. He’ll deliver you in your situation.
Now, there’s one thing we ought to say before we go on and let me give you a little homework assignment. That is, if you have never had a point in time in your life
where you are not only aware of God, that He’s the Creator, but that He is your Deliverer and your Savior.
I would assume that God brought me to this room, this day, to hear this message and I would ask Jesus to deliver me from my sin. Right in your chair, right where you’re at, in your heart I would say, Jesus said, “Unless you become like a child,” where you simply say, “You know, me running my life doesn’t work. My sin is keeping me from a holy God. I have worked it out my way and I have lots of depression. And I know that God is not going to snap His fingers or wave a wand and make everything rosy tomorrow. But I need a friend who is all-powerful, all-knowing, who will always be committed, who loves me, who is the sovereign Lord of the universe and history, and I need Him to forgive me and come into my life and change me and make me the man or woman that He wants me to be.”
If you’ve never done that then you need to do that before you leave. You can just pray, you can pray right now in your heart. God will hear. He’ll hear. And you will now have the resources to not just overcome depression but the resources to become the person that you long to become.