Depressed jesus

How I Cope with Depression by Looking at The Greatest Depression

depressed jesus

Christ experienced mental distress and agony and felt the pain of it, except his was far more devastating.  Jesus suffered and endured through the most horrific depression known to man: The Greatest Depression.  Let me explain:

‘Depression’ come from a Latin word meaning ‘to press down; low in spirits; vertically flattened.’  I think about all of my failures as a Christian and how many times I have fallen spiritually.  But I am reminded of Proverbs 24:16 that says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again.”  My former pastor and mentor Travis Cooke commenting on this verse in a message once said (paraphrase from memory), “Seven being the number of completion, you may think you are a complete failure, but if you are in Christ, you will rise in victory!”  And if I might add to this…because we are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).  Christ knew what it was like to be vertically flattened in the grave, but he also knows what it is like to be the Hope of Mankind who raised up out of the grave.  So in this life, as believers experience depression, by faith we believe that Hope can rise up within us. 

The term ‘valley’ in the King James Bible is mentioned 127 times in the Old Testament, but only ONCE in the New Testament: Luke 3:5 says, “Every valley shall be FILLED.”  In Isaiah 40:4 the prophet of God comforts the people of Israel by letting them know that “Every valley shall be EXALTED” when the Messiah comes to deliver his people and this will be the message of the forerunner God will send, which we know to be John the Baptist.  Isaiah used the term ‘exalted’ which means ‘to lift’ but John uses the term ‘filled’ which means ‘replete; complete; in connection with another word meaning ‘fill, influence, supply, satisfy, execute.’  Not only does this deliverer walk with you in times of difficulty and spiritual darkness, but also for you: and this is how he actually delivers his people.  Isaiah knew that God promised to send the Deliverer to ‘come alongside’ and free His people (Colossians 1:26), but did not fully understand the hidden mystery God revealed to Paul that Christ would ‘come alongside-inside’ and free His people through the ministry of the Holy Spirit—Christ in us (Colossians 1:27).

A few years later the Apostle Paul uses the same Greek word through the authority given to him by Christ to the church at Ephesus and says, “Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Sprit. (5:18).  He paints a picture of the practical nature of someone who desires to be controlled by the Holy Spirit by observing someone who sits long at wine.  I was riding my 4-wheeler up a 100 ft slope and got to the top only to shrink in fear, resulting in me not committing to the throttle to make it over.  I came back down.  What happened?  My mind was filled with fear to the point it controlled my decisions and actions.  My mind was focused on my fear and the by-product was it took over.  In the same way we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. 

The more I dwell and think on the cross of Christ and recognized I can do nothing righteous apart from him (John 15:5) the more the Holy Spirit will control me and produce fruit to be plucked for our Heavenly Father to enjoy (the Greek word for ‘fruit’ in Galations 5:22 comes from another Greek word where we get our word ‘rapture’ from: harpazo).  And this was His plan to make the Church pleasant to be around because the world around them will pluck the sweet life of Jesus off the believer and be ‘intoxicated’ by his perfume.  The more we drink from the earthly vine we lose control, but the more we drink from the heavenly Vine the more ‘we are under control’ because we are cooperating with our divine nature (I say ‘we’ because this is the mystery of the sovereignty of God/responsibility of man).  The only life pleasing to God the Father was the life of God the Son and nothing has changed: the only life pleasing to God the Father is the life of God the Son manifesting through His children. 

Once Christ had resurrected from the dead sealing our justification, He had to approach the Heavenly Tabernacle to present His blood to the Father—the payment for our freedom–in which He sends the Holy Spirit down to earth to fill his people.  Christ told Mary that she must physically let him go if He was to spiritually NEVER let her go (John 20:17). 

I looked up a couple of valleys known in the Old Testament and the meaning of their names and here is what I found:

  1. Genesis 14:17: Valley of Shaveh means deep depression; level or equalize, resemble, counterbalance. Christ is Melchizedek, the Kingly High Priest from Salem (Peace) who brings bread (Bread of Life) and wine (Fruit of the Vine) and blesses Abram—and those who are of the spiritual seed of Abraham, he controls with His Spirit enabling them to worship in the Heavenly Tabernacle where the presence of God dwells for eternity.  Melchizedek’s birth place or burying place are never mentioned— Christ is the Alpha and Omega.  
  2. Genesis 26:17: Valley of Gerar means to inherit, bequeath, to leave a testament or will, to occupy, distribute, leave; a stream, flood, a narrow valley in which a brook runs. Abraham lied about his wife for fear they would kill him (Genesis 12); Isaac lied about his wife for fear they would kill him (Genesis 26); Christ declared his love for his Bride expecting to be put to death, which is the greatest act of love (John 8).  In the beginning of John 8, Christ stood up for the lady caught in adultery while at the same time fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah 17:13 by stooping down to write the names of the condemning Pharisee’s in sand who have forsaken and turned away from God who intended to stone the adulteress. He does this with a pen of iron with the point (Hebrew-to claw with a fingernail) of a diamond to engrave their sin on the tablet of their heart (Jeremiah 17:1).  The finger that engraved the Ten Commandments on stone was the same finger that engraved the sin on their stony heart.  At the end of John 8, the angry Jews turn their eyes on Jesus, pick up stones and intend to stone him, only to find him disappearing in front of their eyes.  The Breath of Life had appeared for a little time, and then vanished away (James 4:14.)  Ironically, the angry sinful Jews were the ones who ended up getting Corner-Stoned to death by the full force of The Law, Jesus, who were guilty of committing spiritually what the adulterous lady was guilty of physically.  The cool thing is, the Mosaic Law demanded that BOTH guilty parties be presented to suffer the punishment of being stoned to death.  The man involved with her act was not presented but Jesus presented himself with her, meaning Christ identified with her in her sin in which he ultimately does on the cross in her place so that she can be free to ‘go and sin no more.’

I recently had a series of events of panic attacks, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, gout attacks, and bouts of depression and the question I kept asking myself was “How in the world am I experiencing hopelessness when I have the God of Hope living inside of me?  After all, I am a preacher of this Hope so I wrongly started to feel hypocritical: because our culture sometimes views depression as someone who is ‘unhappy or not pleased with the way things are going.’  Actually, it was the opposite.  I passionately go to the office every day because I absolutely love what I do.  The Christian life is rooted in faith not feelings, but who doesn’t like to feel like everything is ok on the inside?  So I told Satan to shut up. 

The Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10: “That I may know (know by experience) him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”  Paul experienced the power of being raised with Christ, the sweet fellowship of Christ in his sufferings (paradox I know), and was well aware that in the process he was being made like him—which IS our deliverance.  

The Psalmist said “The LORD is your keeper” (121:5).  The Hebrew word for ‘keeper’ means ‘to hedge about with thorns; to guard with thorns’.  Jesus protects us with thorns…the Crown of Thorns.  Not only that, but this Keeper applies a thorn from His crown when he sees fit to keep us from going astray.  God is not concerned about keeping enemies out as much as to keep us in.  Paul came to terms with this in 2 Corinthians 12:7 when he speaks of the ‘thorn in the flesh’.  The thorn had a particular ministry given to Paul by our Savior to keep him humble—a hard truth to grasp at times.

I have read about Charles Spurgeon and other people suffering from depression which brought great encouragement to my heart…but it did not change my heart. 

“So how was Christ depressed?” you may be asking?  And how did He identify with those who suffer from depression?  We find our answer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Located at the foot of Mt. Olives (not a coincidence) Gethsemane means ‘oil press, wine press, perfume, richness, gross’ and connected to a word that means ‘to make music and melody” (Mark 14:32).  I read this and was stunned…and confused.  We always associate worship music as ‘feel good’ and what we can take away from a worship service; but sometimes God desires for his suffering children to bring a song of grief (Travis Cooke).  The natural default mode of our heart tends to turn to the world to find comfort when the pressures of this life come, but God wants to bring us to His side, where we actually find comfort that satisfies the soul.  It was in the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ began to get a foretaste of the cross of Calvary (Jonathan Edwards), the place later he was crushed for our sins (Isaiah 53:5).  Notice how the agony of Christ begins to unfold: “And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane…and began to be sore amazed (to throw into amazement or terror, to alarm thoroughly, to terrify, to be struck with terror—Kenneth Wuest), and to be very heavy (uncomfortable, not at rest, distress—Kenneth Wuest); And saith unto them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death:” (Mark 14:33-34).

Matthew’s gospel account of Gethsemane says that Jesus begins to sweat drops of blood, a medical term known as Hematidrosis, “a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture…occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress” (Wikipedia).  Whoa.  Hebrews 5:1 describes Jesus, our Great High Priest and Mediator, as One who was touched with the feeling of our weaknesses, meaning he experientially knows, understands, and feels what depression is like—except he chose to take on such suffering.  If you were to ask me, “Gary, would you choose to suffer from depression?” I would say ‘no’ every…single…time.  Not so with Jesus.  He willingly stepped down from his throne and took on the form of a servant to bear all of our suffering. 

Christ told his disciples in John 15:1 that he was the true vine and his Father was the husbandman that works the vineyard.  The Husbandman worked the vineyard collecting the fruit from the seed he planted beforehand to enjoy the sweet flavor that the vine had produced: but in order to taste the fruit of the vine it must first be placed in the winepress and crushed (hence, the picture with this post).  John the Baptist denied the Pharisees and Sadducees of being baptized because they lacked ‘fruits worthy of repentance’ because they lacked faith (Luke 3:8-a generation of people who followed in the faithless footsteps of their fore-fathers who refused to enter Canaan, which means ‘humiliation’)—they were of the physical seed of Abraham but not the spiritual seed.  The only works worthy of turning us and bringing us to the presence of God is the works of Christ which he freely gives to those who ask in faith.  The rotten fruit they produce is from the seed of Satan.  Which John goes on to the tell them they are going to be cut off from the physical family of Abraham and eventually thrown in the fire—eternal damnation. 

As time grew closer for the Husbandman to collect and ‘pluck the fruits of righteousness’ from the Vine, the overwhelming sense of being crushed was weighing on the shoulders of Jesus in Gethsemane.  Paul suffering persecution in prison said that we are “being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11.)  Because Paul had traded his self-righteousness for Christ’s righteousness, he was suffering just as His Savior did because if he hadn’t he would not be suffering in prison.  So our times of ‘spiritual prison’ are a time of ‘fellowshipping with the sufferings of Jesus.’  Ironically, while the Philippians were freaking out that one of the top spokespersons of the church of Jesus was locked up in prison he boldly proclaims that although he is bound in chains, he is really bound to Christ and his sufferings and in spiritual freedom.  His persecution was resulting in the pioneer advancement of the gospel (Kenneth Wuest).  Whatever mental distress you deal with whether it be depression, anxiety, etc., if you love Christ and are walking in obedience rooted in faith, the suffering you are experiencing is not worthless and random, but a ‘thorn’ in which God uses to keep you near his side.

People always tell me that there is no way God is good because of all of the suffering in the world.  “If God exist and he is as powerful as you say he is; why doesn’t he just stop it all?” is their question.  But if you think about it, if you take God out of suffering what are you left with?  Pointless suffering.  Jesus IS the point, and all suffering in this life points to the cross, the place where Christ absorbed the holy wrath of God—for injustice he did not even commit.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  For the believer, our judgment day was Mt. Calvary where all of the injustice we have contributed to, currently contributing to, and will contribute to in the future was put on Jesus—and he suffered the most terrible suffering.  John Stott points out that to meet Christ now you meet him as Savior; meet him after this life and you meet him as Judge. 

I recently taught the chapel service at CrossPointe Christian Academy and I invited two students on the stage with me.  In front of them I put a Styrofoam cooler and told them to use their imagination and picture that my cooler is made of gold and worth a million dollars.  I put wiffle-ball bats in their hands and told them their objection was to totally crush the cooler to pieces.  To my amazement, there is a lot of aggression in a 4nd grader, because the cooler set in front of them was totally broken to pieces.  After the laughter had died down, I asked “Ok, here is how God’s forgiveness works.”  I told them I had two choices: make them settle their debt to me by buying me a new ‘million-dollar’ cooler (how the Law works; they said they didn’t have a million dollars) OR I could forgive them by releasing them of their debt and letting them walk away free (how Grace works; they liked that idea).

But here is how forgiveness operates according to the Bible: by releasing them of the responsibility of paying the debt, that meant that I had to absorb their debt for them (If I didn’t want to go without my million-dollar cooler).  Then I had everybody fix their eyes on the broken pieces of the Styrofoam cooler that were scattered all over the altar and said, “Did you see how totally committed they were to crushing the cooler down to pieces?  They laughed.  Then I said, “This is how God the Father treated His innocent, adoring Son Jesus on the cross” and quoted Isaiah 53:10 where it says that “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.”  I was speaking to students from kindergarten to 6th grade and there was not a smile in the room (Timothy Keller helped me grasp and understand this principle-the Holy Spirit gave me grace to apply this to everyday life).

Because I did not want to temporarily go without my ‘million-dollar’ cooler, I forked up the money and bought another one ($2 from Dollar General).  Likewise, there is a gracious heavenly Father in heaven who did not want to go on without his children for eternity who He called by name before they were even born (1 Peter 1:2) and who He loves so dearly (John 3:16).  So he sent Jesus to pay the debt that we could not pay, but with his blood.  Hebrews 9:22 says that there is no freedom or deliverance from sin without the shedding of blood.  Scholars say that the act of shedding blood meant taking life before it’s natural end.  Every lamb in the Old Testament had to be spotless with no scars or blemishes, which was a type of the sinless Lamb of God who would give His life before his natural end.  Jesus carried out the greatest act of love for his people that could ever take place.  John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, to which the writer John says a couple verses before that this Lamb was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; 29)

The penalty for sinning against God’s holy, righteous Law is death and separation (Romans 3:23; 6:23) from His presence: the Source of all Life and happiness.  This was the only way God could rightfully release the guilty criminal Barrabbas without breaking his own standard of holiness.  This is how he releases us.  There is a reason why “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1): because it is impossible to be condemned for a debt that has already been paid.  God would have to break His own Law to do that and we all know he is perfect and just.

This is the reason Jesus came.  Legally, if Barabbas actually did watch the crucifixion of Christ (we are unsure if he actually did) there would have been some sobering thoughts that would have popped in his mind as he watched what songwriters have called the ‘Beautiful, Terrible Cross’ (Selah) and witnessed the substitutionary atonement first-hand: “Jesus is innocent, and I am the guilty one”; “I should be up there”; and “I am a free man because of the grace shown to me by Jesus”—which was free by the way.  But the one astounding reality that gets my heart every time is the fact that not one person could legally call Barrabbas ‘guilty’ from the crowd because his debt had been paid and the demands of the Law had been satisfied (Clarence Larkin).  This is true for us if we would only fix our eyes on Jesus hanging on the cross.

Sometimes we forget that according to God, you can still be a ‘law-abiding citizen’ by earthly standards and still commit injustice in the eyes of God.  There was only One actual ‘Law-Abiding Citizen of Heaven’ and he offers his perfect record to those who understand they are criminals according to God’s standard.  But when he gives me his perfect record, that means I give him my criminal record in which he nails to the cross (Colossians 2:14).  Isaiah 64:6 says our robes of righteousness are nothing more than the puss-filled rags that cover a leper.  Zechariah said we are are covered in excrement no matter how much we try cleaning ourselves up apart from the righteousness of Christ (Zechariah 3:3).  This ‘swapping of righteousness’ enables the believer to become a ‘Law-abiding Citizen of Heaven’ as we sit at the feet of Jesus and drink of his cup (John 15).

David the shepherd rejoiced that Christ leads his sheep to calm waters.  The word ‘waters’ in Hebrew means ‘water; juice; by euphemism urine, semen; piss’ (Psalms 23:2).  A ‘euphemism’ is a term used by someone who does not want to be too harsh to embarrass the hearer.  The same kind of water mentioned in Exodus 15:25 that God miraculously turned sweet after Moses threw a tree into the water.  Christ leads his sheep to quiet waters, because he drank of the bitter cup on the cross that brought on calamity.  The refreshing water David drank came at the expense of Christ drinking the bitter water from the cup the promised Seed from his lineage will have to drink on the cross of Calvary.  It was the cup of spiritual separation.  This leads me to believe that there is a term only found in God’s personal vocabulary that describes the vile, gross, and defiling nature of the depravity and sin of man that we are incapable of understanding.  We enjoy our sin, but Christ despised it.

Even the writer of Hebrews quotes David the Psalmist (8:2) when he says ‘what is man that you are mindful of him’ (Hebrews 2:6).  ‘Mindful’ means ‘to remember; to bear in mind.’  David sings a song of delight (Spurgeon), but this particular song was written to the Chief Musician upon Gittith.  Scholars are uncertain of the origin of ‘Gittith’ but it is connected to ‘wine press’—the same meaning of our word “Gethsemane.”  In other words, David could sing of the excellency of God and his majestic wonders, because Christ sang a song of grief on the cross (Psalms 22) while being crushed by the wrath of God on our behalf.

So how do I cope with depression?

I look at Jesus and his suffering.  He even asked his disciples to watch him in Gethsemane only to find them sleeping.  But I also look at his victorious ascension.  I guess one of the most encouraging Scriptures to me is Colossians 2:15 where it says Christ ‘disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them , triumphing over them in it.’  As Christ ascended to the throne, Satan and his demons literally tried holding him down, but with one command from the lips of our Savior he stripped Satan of his authority and depressed them with his power.  There was a great trembling of fear among the kingdom of darkness, which means I no longer need to fear and tremble over the devil and his power because he has no authority over me.  I can now spend my time working out the salvation already given to me with ‘fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12).

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Depressed? Jesus can help.

That’s what the electronic billboard in front of the church by the freeway said. In twenty foot high sparkling letters.

Depressed? Jesus can help.

I didn’t find comfort in the sign. I just felt angry after reading it. I’ve tried the Jesus remedy for depression and I can tell you that he didn’t help me with my depression. I’m not talking about a sad feeling every now and then. I’m talking about wearing a thick, heavy, sopping wet coat of depression that you wake up wearing every morning and you go to bed with every night. I have been wearing the same coat now for over 30 years. I am so damned tired of wearing that coat.

I tried praying. And fasting. Sometimes for several days straight. And memorizing passages from the Bible. And having people lay hands on me in supplication to Jesus. I begged, cried and pleaded on my knees, for years, asking Jesus to take the depression away. The depression that I have battled every day of my life since I was a kid. The depression that runs in my family and drove my grandmother to “take to her bed”, as people would politely say, for the last 20 years of her life. The same depression that causes my mother to isolate herself from everyone and everything, just a slow motion suicide as she withers into a gnarled and bitter old woman.

So, my question is, if Jesus has the power to take the depression away, but for some reason hasn’t, doesn’t that just make him a sadistic jerk?

What kind of God would choose to not answer my prayers and supplications? Is it just sport for him? Does he get off on withholding the answer to my prayers? Or do I need to do something…do I have to perform some additional act of faith? Were the years of prayers and fasting and going to church three times a week and memorizing scripture and going door to door witnessing and going down on the inner city streets talking to homeless people and prostitutes about the wonder working power of God…was that not enough? Do I need to do even more? Would it be more entertaining to him and perhaps catch his favor if I jumped through flaming hoops like a circus poodle?

How about simple faith? Just believing and trusting in him…not trying to do any good works…will that do it? I have sat in quiet prayer and thanked him for taking it away and getting up and walking away in faith believing. But it still comes back. Same as ever.

Depressed? Jesus can help.

What a condescending, irresponsible Hallmark greeting card platitude. Am I angry? Yes I am. I have been lied to. For over 30 years I was lied to. I was told that once I asked Jesus into my heart that he would heal all my hurts and pains. I was told that he loves me unconditionally and all I had to do was pray to the Father in the name of Jesus and God would hear my prayers and because he loved me God would answer them. I’ve not been praying for a Ferrari and a house in Bel Air. All I’ve asked for is that God would take away the depression that has decimated my family and has eaten at me all these years.

After being told “no” for over 30 years I have stopped looking to Jesus for the answers. Giving myself the freedom to look elsewhere and freeing myself from a belief system that held me in bondage are the first steps to finding the help I need. I am no longer going to look outside of myself for the help I need. The road to my healing leads within.

Depressed? I can help myself.

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