Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I can't remember another message which garnered as much feedback as the one I preached on Psalm 39 a week ago.

We all experience seasons of sorrow, but generally don't talk about them. I think we need to. Thankfully, the Psalms show us this season of our spiritual lives, just as they show us all seasons.

Several people mentioned to me the recent revelations of Mother Teresa's decades-long depression. Here's the TIME article.

(I'm curious what you do with this? Was Mother Teresa even saved? Did she trust in Christ alone? No one, but God, knows the soul of another. While I think that Roman Catholic theology can contribute to an unsettled, unassured and sorrowful soul . . . . David in Psalm 39, the testimonies of the saints throughout the ages and our own experience reminds us that even "evangelical protestants" (or whatever you want to call us or them) experience seasons of sorrow. I think that's one of the reasons Psalm 39 is there. . . to normalize this experience. )

As I mentioned in the message, Charles Spurgeon experienced regular bouts of depression. He talks openly about this in a chapter from his famous Lectures to My Students written to and for pastors. The chapter, available online, is titled "The Minister's Fainting Fits."

The chapter is long, but well worth the read and classic Spurgeon. If you think you don't have time to read it, perhaps the ending will inspire and challenge you to make the time.

By all the castings down of his servants God is glorified, for they are led to magnify him when again he sets them on their feet, and even while prostrate in the dust their faith yields him praise. They speak all time more sweetly of his faithfulness, and are the more firmly established in his love. Such mature men as sonic elderly preachers are, could scarcely have been produced if they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and made to see their own emptiness and the vanity of all things round about them. Glory be to God for the furnace, the hammer, and the file. Heaven shall be all the fuller of bliss because we have been filled with anguish here below, and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.

The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy's foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith?s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watch-tower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS.


Brianna Heldt said...

i have to say that i loved your message on psalm 39, and really appreciated the distinction btwn. clinical depression and spiritual depression (i always wanted to go into psychology, and was a psych. major in college, and i've always cringed when christians downplay any sort of psychological issue and try to make it about not reading the Bible enough or praying hard enough or something.)

interesting about mother teresa. sad that she struggled so much, i guess that whatever the reason, God used her in mighty ways to impact many people--ourselves included. yosef and biniam lived at her missionaries of charity orphanage for about 6 mos. in ethiopia.

that spurgeon stuff was really good also. thanks for sharing it!

Josh Mock said...

Interesting timing, in that I just wrote a blog entry about another friend's frustrations amidst his striving towards wisdom. He specifically points out Ecclesiastes 1:18, which says, "For the greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow."

Allen Peek said...

Pastor Tim,

I know this blog thread is about depression but I have to jump in on your Mother Teresa point.

I agree that only God knows Mother Teresa's eternal destiny.

However, what we can say is that she represents a works righteous theology. Maybe that's why she's known for her good deeds.

Not only can Roman Catholic doctrine contribute to depression, and an unsettled, unassured and sorrowful soul, it has and will damn souls. The one thing we do know about Mother Teresa is that she aligned herself with Catholic teachings that are contrary to the Scriptures. She represents that stanch Roman Catholic theology Spurgeon himself came out hard against. Have you ever read his sermon entitled, "War! War! War!"? Wow...

In it he exhorts Christians to, “cry against error and false doctrine." His text was, “Fight the battles of the Lord” from 1 Samuel 18:17. Listen to what he said about Roman Catholic doctrine.

“Some men’s minds are growing weaker in the battle. I hear them speaking of incorporating certain Roman Catholic beliefs into our Protestantism - and what is that but Roman Catholicism made worse than it was before, by being more despicable and deceivable than even Catholicism itself. Don’t you hear men talk of the Roman Catholics these days and say, “Oh! well, they differ a little from us.” Doesn’t the evangelical party in the Church of England seem at the present moment to embrace some of the Roman Catholic teachings? All is well with that Church when it is separated from the heretics, and a great gulf is fixed, but all that helps to bridge that gulf will mar her glory and destroy her power. We must have no truce, no treaty with Rome. War! War! War! with her! There cannot be peace. She cannot have peace with us - we cannot have peace with her. She hates the true Church, and we can only say that the hatred is reciprocated. We would not lay a hand on her priests; we would not touch a hair of their heads. Let them be free; but we will attempt to destroy their doctrine from the face of the earth because it is the doctrine of demons. O God, let the Roman Catholic Church perish, let it be consumed in the smoke.” – C.H. Spurgeon

Pastor Tim Theule said...

I'm with you, Allen. What we believe matters forever!

Suzette said...

Randy Alcorn has written about his experiences with depression on his blog

I don't know why that suprised me. it just did. But it was very insightful.

I don't really understand the Catholic view so it is hard for me to know what Mother Teresa meant in her letters. It is hard to tell if she was trying unsuccessfully to earn God's favor, or just strugling with an undiagnosed and untreated medical condition.