Navigating the Darkness- Dr. Lloyd-Jones on the Believer Suffering in Depression

March 3, 2009

Last September I was first introduced to Pastor Paul David Tripp by watching him speak at John Piper’s Desiring God 2008 conference in Minneapolis, MN.  Ever since that night his ministry has been twisting on my heart.  Tripp, by education, is a not just a pastor, but is also a certified biblical counsellor.  This intrigued me.  Up until this point I really had no opinion on biblical counselling.  (Not that I felt poorly towards it; I simply didn’t feel anything.)  However, the more I learn and the more I reflect on the difficulties that I have dealt with in my own life and Christian development, the more I am coming to appreciate the need for strong biblical counselling-counselling that is beyond just a psychologist who happens to be a Christian- in supporting the ministry of the church.

As I learn, I am preparing for a Bible study I will be presenting shortly concerning physical and spiritual depression.  To go further on the side of spiritual depression, one thing I have done is to pick up the book by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones bearing the same name, Spiritual Depression: Its’ Causes and Cure.  Reading through this, I came across a thought that really struck me.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones, after discussing how it may come to pass that a believer can be controlled by his emotions to the point that it drags him into a miserable, depressed state, offers up the following encouragement for them:

Yes, [Pastor] J. C. Philpot was right at that point, the child of the light is sometimes found walking in darkness but he goes on walking.  He does not sit down and commiserate with himself- that is the thing- the child of light walking in darkness.  He does not see the face of the Lord at this point, but he knows that He is there; so he goes on. [p.117, emphasis added]

This is our hope.  Some may say that a person’s hope is lost if they walk in darkness, that they’re salvation is in question for being depressed to begin with.  But the good doctor offers that it is not the constant walking in light that defines the believer; it is the constant understanding that the face of the Lord is there, shining the light of the knowledge of the glory of God out for us to see, and that, even if it is not visible for a moment, it has not ceased being there for us to strive towards.

This idea is based off of the tenth verse of the fiftieth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, which says, 

Who among you fears the LORD
     and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
     and has no light
trust in the name of the LORD
     and rely on his God.

Let us not be deceived by the health-wealth-prosperity folks who would condemn us for ever being downtrodden.  The Lord knew this would occur, and so in his foreknowing of it, spoke to it in his Word.  It happens.  Depression and dejectedness and remorse happen.  Yet this is not to be a moment of questioning our salvation- if anything that will lead to a deeper depression- but instead it is to be a moment of exercising even greater faith, trusting that God will navigate us through the darkness as we seek to once again be basking in his light.