Greg appeared to be moving along smoothly as a Christian. After 37 years in the classroom he was still enjoying teaching. But within a relatively short time suicidal thoughts compelled him to ask to be admitted to a psychiatric ward! These are the things that helped restore his health and his faith.
1. Realising that JESUS is the key to all my problems
William Bridge shows us that Christ is bigger than our sins.
Someone might say “As for me, my sin is exceeding great, gross and heinous, and have I not just cause and reason now to be discouraged?” No, not yet, for though your sin be great, is not God’s mercy great, exceeding great? Is not the satisfaction of Christ great? Are the merits of Christ’s blood small? Is not God, the great God of heaven and earth, able to do great things? You grant that God is almighty in providing for you; and is he not almighty also in pardoning: will you spoil God of his almightiness in pardoning?
You say your sin is great, but is it infinite? Is not God alone infinite? Is your sin as big as God, as big as Christ? Is Jesus Christ only a Mediator for small sins? 1
2. Bible passages
In the darkness, various Bible passages seemed to condemn and threaten me. But there was one passage that encouraged me. “When my heart was grieved and my spirit bitter, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Psalm 73: 21-24).
These verses showed me that even though my life was completely out of control; God was almighty and full of mercy for me. I thought my situation was beyond repair but Jesus was not panicking.
It was of much encouragement to me when “(the prideful and rebellious) Nebuchadnezzar, (simply) raised his eyes toward heaven, and his sanity was restored”.(Daniel 4:34). On one hand the solution to depression and anxiety is complicated but on the other hand the answer can be summed up in three words … FAITH IN JESUS.
3. Realising the danger of being dominated
Fear of speaking out can lead to being dominated by others which can lead to anxiety and depression which may lead to suicidal thoughts. At times, we need to be assertive (speaking the truth in love) for our own well being.
4: The experiences of Martin Luther
The description of what happened to Martin Luther is very similar to what happened to me. This was an encouragement to me.
Historian David Steinmetz describes the terror that Luther experienced at these times as a fear that God had turned his back on him once and for all, abandoning him to suffer the pains of hell. Feeling alone in the universe, Luther doubted his own faith, his own mission, and the goodness of God.
Luther’s prayers met a wall of indifferent silence. He experienced heart palpitations, crying spells and profuse sweating. He was convinced that he would die soon and go straight to hell. “I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation.” His faith was as if it had never been. He despised himself.
5. The book of Job
I would ask myself; “Why would God allow me to face such suffering?” Then I would think of Job. I am only a small fraction of the man Job was. God allowed Job to be become severely depressed, to have many hours of sleeplessness, to have thoughts on suicide, to think God had become his enemy and to be terrified by visions.
“When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning” (Job 7:13-16).
If God saw fit to allow an upright man like Job to suffer these things including losing his health, who was I to question God?
6. Recognising fear as a key tool of the enemy
In the Bible, we are told hundreds of times to overcome fear. Obviously God thinks this is important.
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
It is not God but the devil that sends us this crippling fear.
I found material like the following from Claire Weekes’ book of much value and encouragement*.
Fear is a vicious circle. You are fearful and this can produce more fear. Your hands may shake and this may cause you to fear more. A nervous breakdown can have some strange symptoms like the sound of a gun going off in your head. Try not to let these symptoms produce more fear. Fear is the fertile bed from which a nervous breakdown or suicidal thoughts could come. Depression can be triggered by an exhausting surgical operation, an accident, a debilitating disease, strenuous dieting, conflict, sorrow, guilt or disgrace. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHr4a71XGJE link for Claire Weekes)
* Like all books, judge them against God’s Word.
1 William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast, The Banner of Truth, p. 74
Listen to How Can You Say No by Julie Miller
7. Preachers from earlier days
The discovery of preachers like William Bridge, Charles Spurgeon, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, George Whitefield and Martin Luther was uplifting for me. If I explained my experiences to these men, they would not panic nor would they think my experiences were very strange for a Christian nor would they be miserable comforters like Job’s friends (Job 16:2).
These preachers knew about the reality of the devil’s injection of blasphemous thoughts and his urgings for you to “curse God and die”. They knew of the devil’s use of Bible verses to threaten us and his strategic withdrawing from us till an opportune time. My absolute favourite is William Bridge and his book “A Lifting Up of the Downcast”. A great place to start is to listen to four chapters of this book on YouTube.
From these preachers I have selected some quotes which focus on the devices of the devil.
Device 1: Injection of blasphemous and slanderous thoughts
“Satan, as he slanders Christ to us, so he slanders us to ourselves.” 4
“There is [no device] … in which he [the devil] is more successful, or by which he grieves the children of God worse than … troubling you with blasphemous, profane, unbelieving thoughts; and sometimes to such a degree, that they are as tormenting as the rack.” 1
“He [the devil] drives his unclean beasts [blasphemous thoughts] into your field [your mind] and then calls them [these thoughts] yours.” 2
“Satan … presents such horrid, inhuman suggestions to [us], that he may scare [us] from the good ways of God … Now Satan, being a spirit, he is able to present these blasphemies to your spirits …” 3
“But marvel not [at these blasphemous thoughts], as though some strange thing happened to you; for this has been the common lot of all God’s children.” 2
Device 2: Urging you to ‘Curse God and die’
“You that have felt [the devil’s] fiery darts, can subscribe to the truth of this, … how often he [the devil] has bid you, “curse God and die” 1I almost literally fell off my chair as this thought had plagued me. Many Christians I mentioned this to, were in general very surprised, even shocked. But Gorge Whitefield (acclaimed by many as the greatest Evangelist of all time) had a different idea when he says. “But marvel not, as though some strange thing happened to you; for this has been the common lot of all God’s children.”
Device 3: Threaten you with Bible verses
“If the devil cannot overcome you there, he tries another method; he takes all the threatening passages out of God’s Word, and says they all apply to you.” 2
Device 4: The devil withdraws until an opportune time
“The devil has a … device, which is … dangerous … by not tempting us at all, or rather, by withdrawing himself for a while, in order to come upon us at an hour when we think not of it.” 1
8. Improving health, physical and emotional
Avoid caffeine, have a good sleep pattern, watch your weight, avoid excessive sugar, exercise regularly. Address issues and don’t hide from them, deal with emotions. Relax and enjoy what you are doing.
1 Sermon by George Whitefield, Satan’s Devices
2 Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, The Comer’s Conflict with Satan
3 William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast, The Banner of Truth, p. 161
4 Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, The banner of Truth Trust, p. 64