Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When the Darkness Will Not Lift

I earnestly believe that one of the primary reasons that God brought Steve and I together in marriage was because we are both emotive people.  Whether we like it or not, feelings are an integral part of our personalities and many times we act or neglect to act based on these feelings.  While we want to feel good and happy all of the time (and I will say that marriage has done much for us in that respect), we are both prone to battle with bouts of melancholy and depression.  Each of us went through a particularly dark period during our high school years.  For me, the weight of 2.5 years of a depressing cloud was completely overwhelming and seemingly endless.  Now I can see that this experience helps me to understand Steve and that his experiences "in the miry bog" help him to sensitively understand me.  

Interestingly, encountering believers dealing with depression is something that pops up rather frequently amongst our little circle of family and friends.  As a been-there-done-that gal, I'm always eager to gain insight as to how to help others who experience depression as well as how to help others understand what serious down-in-the-dumps can be like (particularly if they are of the naturally sanguine disposition).  Therefore, I was happy this week to read John Piper's little book When the Darkness Will Not Lift.

The Book was Quick and Easy
I really appreciated the short, concise treatment by Piper on the spiritual aspects of depression.  While acknowledging that depression is very much a real thing (major props here...there's nothing as detrimental to a depressed person than for someone to tell him or her that depression doesn't exist or that it is only a spiritual problem), Piper touches on possible physical influences, the role of medication, the vital importance of not confusing justification with sanctification, and some foundational truths to remember when bogged down in the darkness.  Piper incorporates thoughts from well-known theologians and preachers throughout the centuries (Richard Baxter and Martin Lloyd-Jones, for example) to provide a balanced perspective.  At just seventy-three pages, the littleness of this book makes it a more inviting read for those whose just don't feel like handling much more.

The Tone was Gentle yet Convicting
Throughout the book, Piper maintains that depression and the pain associated with it are realities.  Rarely are his suggestions for gaining hope in the fight for joy stated in such as way as to pile guilt onto the depressed individual.  While keeping a gentle tone, Piper is not lax in firmly stating spiritual truth and pointing out areas of possible sin.  I was convicted in reading this passage:
Sometimes the darkness of our souls is owing in part to the fact that we have drifted into patterns of life that are not blatantly sinful but are constricted and uncaring.... We find ourselves not energized for any great cause, but always thinking about the way to maximize our leisure and escape pressure....God has made us to flourish by being spent for others.  Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).  Most of us don't choose against this life of outpouring; we drift away from it.
(Eesh.  So true.  That went right along with my thoughts on servanthood verses martyrdom a few weeks ago.)

The Advice was Helpful
The final chapter mentions a few things that those who are not naturally inclined toward depression can do to be supportive for those who are faced with darkness.  Suggestions such as not giving up on a depressed person, continuing to lovingly share truth, and providing supportive friendship all require a hearty Amen!  A brief recounting of how John Newton's persistent yet humble influence on the suicidal William Cowper is both inspirational and encouraging.

I do think that much of the premise of When the Darkness Will Not Lift is based on Piper's other books, such as Desiring God and When I Don't Desire God.  Some of the impact of When the Darkness Will Not Lift may be lost without reading those other titles, but

In summation...
It was a profitable read and I would recommend it to those who battle with depression, as well as those who love them.

(You can purchase a copy of When the Darkness Will Not Lift here.  I actually downloaded the PDF copy to my computer and read it for free.)


my name is Liz said...

Thanks for this post! I have started reading the book online... definitely helpful in situations that I keep finding myself in :P

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