Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Search results: "depression"

Three Follow-Up Reflections on Anxiety

This morning I just wanted to offer three follow-up thoughts to my reflections on anxiety. Thank you to all who commented and offered feedback!

1. A Blog Post Never Tells the Whole Story.

It’s easy, I’m sure, on the basis of one blog post, to assume that you know me as ‘that preacher’ who yells and tells you to get over your sin and doesn’t seem to deal with any genuine struggles of his own. But that’s just not the whole story.

A quick search of this blog for ‘depression’, for example, will land you on a couple posts where I’ve mentioned and reflected on my own battle with depression and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. There are many similarities, I think, between depression and anxiety.

And if you were to talk to me about anxiety — the real, genuine, gripping, out-of-nowhere kind — in a personal, conversational context, I could tell you about loved ones very close to me with whom I’ve had to work through these issues. I’m well aware — from first-hand experience — of how paralyzing mental states like these can be.

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It’s a Strange Thing Being a Pastor

Being a pastor is a strange thing.

We proclaim a message with the power of God to change people, but we can’t even change ourselves. We call others to perfection, as Jesus did, but our lives are full of imperfection. We must shepherd like the Shepherd though we’re just one of the sheep.

We seek to make Christ increase (though he’s invisible to human eyes) as we seek to decrease (though we stand in plain view week-by-week). We say numbers don’t matter, but long for many to be saved. We labour to grow the church, even though we realize each soul increases our accountability before God.

We try to express the Infinite and Eternal in 45 minutes or less; obviously we fail, so we try again next week.

We spend our lives studying a book that we’ll never fully grasp and we labour to explain it to a people who can’t understand apart from the work of a third party. The more we study, the more certain we become of the wisdom of God and our own foolishness; and yet we must preach on.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **


Following up yesterday’s thoughts on the disordered nature of the heart, I thought I would share a little reflection on being melancholy. The dictionary defines melancholy as follows:

1. a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression.
2. sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness.

One of the more significant malfunctions of my disordered heart throughout my life has been a tendency toward melancholy (I hesitate to use the depression because it has many connotations that I don’t wish to infer here). It’s something that I have tried hard to keep private over the years. I think my desire to keep quiet about it has largely been pride, but also because I don’t want to make much of my weakness, unless it is to make much of my Saviour who overcomes it. I have also thought many times that it is not always wise for those in leadership to give full vent to the exasperations of their heart (Ps 73.15).

The Prince of Preachers

However, I do want to mention it now because it has been such an important shaping influence on my life, that when I reflect back on who I am and who I’ve been I can’t help but see how whole seasons of my life have been dominated by feelings of sadness. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad reasons, sometimes for no apparent reasons at all. Sometimes those seasons are short (a day), but sometimes they are long (a month or more). Sometimes I can tell what brings it on… other times I can’t. It’s just there.

I have come to see over the years that I am not alone. As I read through the Psalms, I read passages like Psalm 42-43, Psalm 73, Psalm 88, and others, where I hear my experience in the voice of the psalmist, broken by living in a broken world. And inasmuch as David anticipates Christ, I see my Saviour who was ‘a man of sorrows’. And then as I read through church history I stumble across some pretty major Christian figures who loved the Lord and served him faithfully, but who were perpetually burdened with depression to some degree.

I don’t want to write today to say ‘how to get past it’ or ‘what is the reason for it’ because space doesn’t allow that discussion (but let me recommend these resources by Ed Welch and John Piper in particular). What I do want to do is just say to any who battle depression (more often than not, battling it secretly and alone): realize that there is hope.

Satan is an accuser who reminds us of our sin and our shortcomings; he strengthens those feelings by isolating us and making us feel that no one else feels what we feel. Those are lies. Many, many Christians (strong ones!) have gone before you and have known the very same discouragements. But the gospel is the power of God and in the gospel life triumphs over death, mercy triumphs over judgement. God has saved us by the gospel–by good news that brings joy.

As we learn to cling to the truth of the finality of his goodness toward us in Christ, we will find him always drawing us up out of the miry bog, setting our feet on a firm rock, making our steps secure; the gospel puts a new song in our mouths (Ps 40.1-3). Remember that he knows all your tossings, he puts your tears in a bottle–they are precious to him–and he desires that you would cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you (Ps 56.8-9; 1 Pet 5.7). You are his inheritance, a treasured possession, and will be kept (Eph 1.13-14; 1 Pet 2.9; Phil 1.6). The more quickly and unwaveringly we learn to hold on to those truths when seasons of melancholy come, the sweeter and stronger will be the grace we receive through the struggle.

I wanted to conclude with the following words because, honestly, can anyone ever say it better than Spurgeon? Here is CH Spurgeon speaking on depression:

“I know that wise brethren say, ‘You should not give way to feelings of depression.’ If those who blame quite so furiously could once know what depression is, they would think it cruel to scatter blame where comfort is needed. There are experiences of the children of God which are full of spiritual darkness; and I am almost persuaded that those of God’s servants who have been most highly favoured have, nevertheless, suffered more times of darkness than others.

“The covenant is never known to Abraham so well as when a horror of great darkness comes over him, and then he sees the shining lamp moving between the pieces of the sacrifice. A greater than Abraham was early led of the Spirit into the wilderness, and yet again ere He closed His life He was sorrowful and very heavy in the garden.

“No sin is necessarily connected with sorrow of heart, for Jesus Christ our Lord once said, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’ There was no sin in Him, and consequently none in His deep depression.

“I would, therefore, try to cheer any brother who is sad, for his sadness is not necessarily blameworthy. If his downcast spirit arises from unbelief, let him flog himself, and cry to God to be delivered from it; but if the soul is sighing–’though he slay me, yet will I trust in him’–its being slain is not a fault.

“The way of sorrow is not the way of sin, but a hallowed road sanctified by the prayers of myriads of pilgrims now with God–pilgrims who, passing through the valley of Baca [lit: of weeping], made it a well, the rain also filled the pools: of such it is written: ‘They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.’
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1881, vol. 27, p. 1595 (source)

I Will Remember You

Below is something I wrote for my devotions over six years ago now, and I just happened to stumble across the file on my computer tonight. A lot has changed in my life since I wrote it, but one thing remains the same: my God. He who held me then, has held me every day since, and keeps me now. My love for him has only  grown as I have beheld his steadfast love and faithfulness over these past six years.

I hope this blesses you in some little way, as it blessed me tonight in preparation for gathering to worship with God’s people tomorrow.


Therefore I will remember You
– Psalm 42:6

Amidst the blackness of the deepest depression of his soul, the psalmist brings to mind the character of His God. It is not God’s will for His people to always know ease and comfort. The Lord is like a good father, disciplining the children He loves. This world has not known a mighty servant of God who has not endured much trial and hardship. Moses and Elijah both fled to the wilderness for fear of human threats. David was chased from his own kingdom by his own son, who was intent on taking his life. John appeared from the wilderness and was beheaded. Christ suffered rejection all His life, and the climax of His ministry and the extent of His love led Him to His death.

Likewise, it is through many trials that we must enter the Kingdom of God. Curse the soul who thinks he deserves better! Rather we should, with the Apostle, count it a blessing to partake in the sufferings and persecutions of Christ! When our weakness is strong, and our strength is weak, we must remember our God.

Oh my soul, why are you downcast? Has not God been gracious? Even in Jordan–even on the heights of Hermon and Mount Mizar–God has been gracious in preserving me! Though the waves and breakers swept over me–though the waterfalls of life have threatened to drown me–yet here I am!

When I am overpowered, I must remember His power. When I am weak, I must remember His strength. When I am hopeless and starved for love, I must remember that my God is Love, and the source of the only true hope. When faithless, he is faithful; when weary, he is rest; when restless, he is comfort.

Have I forgotten this night that my God is all that I am not? Am I guilty of believing that He could not supply my wants and needs? Though the waves and breakers roar, though the waterfalls and tides are crushing, I will not be swept away. The Lord’s grace preserves me. My strength fails, but His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is perfected and shown true in my weakness. If the Lord is more glorified in my suffering, may I die a thousand martyr deaths! If God be glorified, may I be weaker than a child. But Lord, preserve me and pull me through. For without Your grace I could not stand.

But now, Christian, stand tall! For He who is able to make you stand is He who is faithful to continue on the good work that He began in you, until the telling Day of Christ.

Thoughts on Reading the Psalms

Here are just a few things that I find helpful on a very basic level with regard to reading the Psalms as a Christan.

  1. Read the Psalms regularly. One of the reasons the Psalms can be so little help to some Christians in their time of need is simply this: We’re not familiar with them. They’re a different type of literature than we’re used to reading or hearing preached (usually a gospel or an epistle). When times of hardship and suffering, or feelings of guilt and depression, or seasons of joy and exuberance come, we don’t know how to use the Psalms because we don’t know where to look in the Psalms to find a suitable song for our emotions. Familiarizing ourself with the basic contents of the book and the different types of songs in the book will help us be quicker to flee to the Psalms in whatever season.
  2. Think hard through the Psalms. There are some tough passages and some tough expressions of anger, some strong words of love, some passionate promises to God… how much of this can we agree with? Can we apply it all? How much of what David writes is simply poetic expression (i.e. hyperbole, simile, metaphor, merism, etc.) and how much of it is ‘literal’? Is it appropriate to pray these particular things as a member of the New Covenant? These are good questions to ask regularly–they are tough issues that each Christian will need to work through. Unfortunately, since there are some tough questions attendant with reading the Psalms, this often scares some Christians away. But it shouldn’t!
  3. Develop a plan for reading the Psalms. Here’s mine, that I’ve used several times. To read through the whole book of Psalms (a seemingly daunting task) really isn’t that hard. You can do it no problem in a month. On the first day of the month (i.e. July 1), I read Psalms 1, 31, 61, 91, 121. On the second, I read Psalms 2, 32, 62, 92, 122. Today I read Psalms 3, 33, 63, 93, 123. There are 150 Psalms, so 30 days at this pace will get you through quite easily. Reading this intensely will help with both 1. and 2. above as well.
  4. Get help. Pick up a commentary if you need to. Ask one of your elders or a mature Christian you know well to help you through some of the tough questions that will come up.
  5. Pray. It’s the word of the Lord, and therefore, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and to apply. Ask him in faith, with no doubting, and he will.
  6. Ask to identify, not just understand. Sometimes we can become accustomed to just trying to ‘understand’ the words of the Bible. The Psalms will have nothing of that. If you’re not affected in your heart by the truths of God and his work in revelation and redemption, then the Psalms won’t make sense to you. Pray that the Spirit of God would give not just insight, but a heart that is genuinely affected by what it sees. Hearts affected by God’s truth, for God’s glory is the goal of the Psalms.

Hopefully I’ll be able to post more on the interpretation of Psalms and how to ‘get to Christ’ from the Psalms shortly.

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