Theme: Enemies Around
In this week’s lessons we are reminded that although there are times when we might feel abandoned by God, we must persevere in prayer in order to enjoy the sense of God’s presence once again.
Scripture: Psalm 13:1-6
Yesterday we concluded that the third reason we can feel abandoned is because of dark thoughts and uncontrollable emotions.
Let me make two more points here. First, some people are more prone to morbidity than others, and it is helpful to know this, especially if we are among them. Martyn Lloyd-Jones begins his book on depression by saying that “foremost” among all causes of spiritual depression is “temperament.”5 Knowing that you are temperamentally inclined to depression may not cure the depression, but it is an important factor to weigh when evaluating your condition.
Second, a plunge into disquieting thoughts and emotions can be caused by physical factors, such as illness, for example. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one of the greatest evangelical leaders of the nineteenth century, but he suffered from severe bouts of depression. Why? The main reason is that he suffered from gout, which finally killed him. Gout is marked by painful inflammation of the joints and excess of uric acid in the blood. It was very common back then, and it drained Spurgeon’s energies.
Into this same category can be placed all forms of physical tiredness, mental fatigue and strain. A woman who is up half the night with a colicky baby and is exhausted by it should not be blamed if she feels abandoned. It is hard to be attuned to God when you are wrung-out physically.
Another physical factor is the letdown following some great effort. A good example is the depression experienced by Elijah after he had accomplished the great victory on Mount Carmel. While the battle was on he stood tall and won it. But after it was over he sank to such a low state that he supposed he was the only faithful person left in Israel. What Elijah needed was rest and nourishment, which was exactly what God provided for him (cf. 1 Kings 19).
The fourth reason is enemies. When Elijah told God that it would be better for him to die than to live, it was not only the emotional letdown following his victory that had affected him. There was also the very real presence of his enemies, Ahab and Jezebel. This is why he said, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:10). In the same way, David knew what it was to be pursued by King Saul, his relentless enemy, and perhaps by others too. It is why he says, “How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
As far as we are concerned, most of us probably do not have literal human enemies, at least not serious enemies. But if you are a Christian, you do have one great spiritual enemy who is worse than any human enemy imaginable. This is the devil, whom the Apostle Peter compared to “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Lloyd-Jones says of this foe, “The devil is the adversary of our souls. He can use our temperaments and our physical condition. He so deals with us that we allow our temperament to control and govern us, instead of keeping temperament where it should be kept. There is no end to the ways the devil produces spiritual depression. We must always bear him in mind.”6
Reviewing this long list of causes of feeling abandoned by God is helpful, because it shows us that these feelings are not unique to us. David had them, and so have countless others throughout the long ages of the church. But knowing that others have also felt abandoned is not all we need, of course. We need to get out of our depression and recover a sense of God’s presence.
From the lesson we saw that one’s temperament and physical difficulties can cause depression. Can you think of any examples from the Bible where one’s situation caused deep despair or anxiety?
What is the fourth reason we can feel abandoned? What are different ways this can be applied?
Application: Do you know someone who is struggling with depression and despair? How will you seek to help them?
5D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), p. 14.
6Ibid., p. 19.