Editor's Note: Thank you to Catherine Shu of the blog "Shu Flies," for her kind permission to use her writing in this post. While I have encouraged the use and reprinting of my work on this blog as long as it is not used to make a profit for anyone. (I believe the word of God should remain free.) I would ask that you respect Catherine's copyright and not use or reprint her work without permission. Thank you.
According to suicide.org:
Untreated Depression is the Number One Cause of Suicide
I struggled with those feelings for a long time. My parents came to visit me during my first semester of graduate school. I started crying during lunch and apologized for being a horrible daughter.Catherine Shu, Shu Flies, Dealing With Depression and Living Abroad Part 2
My Dad said, “I know what that is. That’s the depression talking. It will say things like that, but you just can’t listen to it.”
I remember feeling surprised that I had the option not to listen. My anxiety was almost a talisman. If I fretted about doing poorly in school, I would succeed. If I worried about something bad happening to the people I loved, I could somehow protect them.
It seems as if there is an epidemic of depression throughout the world today. I talk to people all the time who complain about depression. I think this passage from Shu Flies illustrates an interesting point about depression:
"My Dad said, 'I know what that is. That’s the depression talking. It will say things like that, but you just can’t listen to it.'”
I’ve lived through major depression. I’m not talking about that feeling of having “the blues” or feeling kind of sad for a day or two. I’m talking about the type of depression that demobilizes you: a spiral into hopelessness. I can tell you, Ms. Shu’s father has it exactly right. It does speak to you.
It speaks to you about your worthlessness. It tells you that you can never be happy. It tells you that people can never care for you or love you. It speaks.
But as a Christian I’ve learned a bit about depression. Depression is a spirit. If depression can speak, then it’s a spirit. Depression is spiritual. It's a form of demonic influence. There are others: Schizophrenia, Paranoia, Bi-polar Disorder, and Depression, they all have the common symptom of hearing voices that speak to you.
Today I want to write about the root of depression. I’ve studied this out. I think the saddest thing in the world is a Christian; a follower of Jesus who struggles with depression and I want to deal with this from a Christian perspective. There is a root to depression and I believe it can be overcome.
Matthew 18:21-35 (NKJV)
18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
This scripture mentions “the torturers.” I think this is an interesting choice of words. Jesus, in this parable, refers to them as torturers or in the King Kames version, they’re called “the tormentors.” Look at the definition of torture:
1 : anguish of body or mind
2 : the infliction of severe pain especially to punish or coerce
A torturer is one who inflicts torture on others. So what does Jesus mean when he refers to the torturers? Look at the book of Job for a moment.
In the first chapter of the book, Job, a blameless and upright man, loses his wealth, his family and his health all in one day. He loses everything. We know the story:
Job 1:6-7 (NKJV)
1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."
So God calls the angels and among them comes Satan. God points out Job to Satan as a blameless and upright man who worships God. But Satan tells God that Job worships Him because God has protected and blessed Job. If things went wrong in Job’s life, Job would curse God. So God allows Satan to attack Job. Satan takes all of Job’s possessions, kills his servants and his children and afflicts Job with boils. Does that accurately depict what we have defined as torture? I would say it is an exact picture of torture. In addition, look at this scripture for a moment:
Revelation 12:7-9 (NKJV)
12:7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
I believe these are the torturers. It is certainly a strategy of Satan to torment, wear people down and try to turn them away from God. This is exactly what he was attempting with Job. He attacked Job in a way that would cause him to turn away from God.
The devil attacks us mainly with lies. Jesus refers to him as the “father of lies.” If we look at the Garden of Eden, he deceived Eve through a series of lies. In those things he lied about God’s character and made Him out to be a liar, “You will not surely die.” Through that one lie Satan took down the entire human race. His strategy today is the same. He continues to attack with lies and attempts to turn us away from God.
He does that by lying to us about our worth and value not only to ourselves, but our worth to God as well. It is an attempt to turn us away from God by impugning God’s character and desire for relationship with people. If we know God and his desire for us then we should be joyful. After all, Joy is the character of salvation. Our relationship with God should be defined by joy.
1 Peter 1:7-8 (NKJV)
1:7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
Joy inexpressible; we should be unable to express how joyful we are in Jesus. If that's true than why do so many Christians suffer with depression? Why are so many Christians tormented and beaten down by depression? I believe the answer to that is found in scripture.
Opening the Door to the Torturers
As Christians, God protects us. He has built a hedge around us. This was Satan’s complaint about Job.
Job 1:8-10 (NKJV)
1:8 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
Satan complains that Job only worships God because God has protected and blessed him. As Christians, that’s something that God does for us as well. That isn’t to say that we don’t have troubles and afflictions, of course we do. Life is full of trouble and affliction, but God has built a hedge around us to protect us.
The problem is that we open the door to demonic influence on our own. Through certain actions we pierce the hedge of protection that’s built around us.
Ecclesiastes 10:8 (KJV)
10:8 He that digs a pit shall fall into it; and whoever breaks a hedge, a serpent shall bite him.
The phrase, “a serpent will bite him,” is interesting. Who is the serpent of old? Satan is referred to as the serpent of old. If we pierce the hedge then we’re in danger of a serpent’s bite.
We can do things that open the door to demonic influence. There are a number of things that pierce the hedge. Involvement in the occult or the paranormal will open that door to demonic influence. Certain sins like alcohol or drug use, fornication and pornography are all sins that carry a link to demonic influence. There is one thing that’s more common. How we deal with hurt and disappointment, especially with regard to other people can open the door to demonic influence. According to our text unforgivensss can pierce the hedge of protection around us.
Look at what our text is about. A man comes to settle accounts with his servants. He is looking to be repaid for loans that he’s made to them. There is one man who has borrowed a huge sum of many from the master: An amount that he can never repay. When the master asks for that repayment, this man begs for more time and the master forgives the debt.
This same man who has been forgiven this huge debt comes to a man who owes him a small amount and demands payment. When the man begs for the same mercy the first man received, the Bible tells us that he is sent to prison until the debt is paid. The first man shows no mercy and refuses to give him more time or to forgive the debt. It is at this point, because he, the first man, doesn’t forgive that he is sent to the torturers.
So a lack of forgiveness also pierces the hedge of protection. And opens us up to demonic assault, “A serpent will bite him.” It’s so sad because I’ve met so many people who can’t forgive. A woman one time came to our church in Riverside who was suffering. I preached a sermon on forgiveness; simple forgiveness. This woman was very angry at me, because she said, “I refuse to forgive my father.”
The interesting thing about forgiveness is that forgiveness is for us. Our forgiveness does nothing for the other person. The chances are, they don’t even know you’re suffering, or if they do, they don’t care. When we forgive we release ourselves from the bondage and torment of unforgiveness.
Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV)
12:15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Unforgiveness causes a root of bitterness to spring up in us. Have you met someone who can’t forgive slights or hurts? They become bitter and angry about everything. It really ruins their lives in so many ways. People lose relationships because of their bitterness. Who wants to be around a bitter, angry person? Bitterness is an ugly thing. Some diseases, specifically arthritis has a root in bitterness. Bitterness comes from unforgiveness. People can’t forgive others and it begins to torment them.
Our text warns us about the consequences of not forgiving those who’ve hurt us.
Matthew 18:35 (NKJV)So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
What does this say? If we won’t forgive then we are also in danger of being delivered to the torturers. Forgiveness is essential to our salvation.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV)
6:14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If we want to be forgiven of our sin, we must first forgive. We need to forgive those who have mistreated us. We also need to forgive ourselves. Sometimes, the ones who we’re hardest on are us. We have done things that we don’t think can be forgiven.
I have always found it very sad when someone is looking for the forgiveness and love of Christ, but can’t find it, because they don’t think what they’ve done can be forgiven by God. People have told me, “God can’t forgive me.” And I quote scripture to them: “If we will confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive.” (1 John 1:9) They always say, “But you don’t know what I’ve done!” Do you know what they’re really saying? How can God forgive me when I can’t forgive myself?
How much self-inflicted torment do we accept when we think God won’t forgive us because we can’t forgive ourselves? When we think we're unforgivable, we're saying that the peace of God is out of reach.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We need the peace of God. It’s the peace of God that guards our hearts…and what else? The peace of God guards our minds. It surpasses all understanding. We can’t even understand the peace of God, but it protects us. Forgiveness is key to the peace of God.
So in order to protect ourselves from depression we need to practice forgiveness. We need to be forgiving. That’s not always easy, though, is it? People have inflicted us with some painful things. We have beaten ourselves down. It’s not always easy to let go of hurts and sufferings. Look at this:
Luke 17:3-5 (NKJV)
17:3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." 5 And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
Jesus is telling the disciples they need to forgive. These are the men who spent three years with him. These are the men who knew Jesus intimately; they met him in the flesh. He tells them they need to forgive and what is their prayer? “Increase our faith.” A lot of forgiveness is just simply turning it over to God. God has said, “I will Judge, I will avenge.” He has said he will avenge our hurts. But it takes faith to turn those things over to Him, doesn’t it?
We can see from this that we need to forgive. Forgiveness keeps us within God’s hedge of protection. We want to treat these things with medication, but in my mind medication opens us up to even more demonic influence. Look at this that I saw on Twitter, recently.
“In the 60’s and 70’s people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it look normal.”
Prozac doesn’t cure anything; it only changes the way your mind works. It masks and hides the problem but it doesn’t cure them. If you want peace, peace comes from God. What good does it do you to hold onto hurts and all those things that make you bitter. What is the good thing about bitterness and suffering? I have never understood why people don’t forgive. God requires forgiveness from us. It’s in our best interest to forgive.