“Fear of the Future and Spiritual Depression”

Dawn Breaks by Eugene Kurenkov
There are times in life when a person, though mentally fit, experiences a nameless unhappiness in the soul.  It is the same condition reflected in the Psalmist’s lament, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” 1 This affliction touches many, including Christians, and it is a state that leads to spiritual depression. 

One of the causes of spiritual depression is fear of the future.  This was a peculiar problem of one young man in the New Testament named Timothy.  He was dependent on the Apostle Paul, and fears arose with the impending perils that his mentor was facing.  Alongside was a fear of failure in the seemingly daunting tasks that lay ahead of him while Paul was in prison.

Paul addressed Timothy’s fear with a two-step approach:  a reprimand and a reminder. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Paul reprimands Timothy for being gripped by the spirit of fear: a spirit which does not come from God.  If we suffer from this manifestation of spiritual depression, it is due to our inability as Christians to realize what God has given us and is giving us — the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is being negligent to stir up ourselves, to think, to take ourselves in hand.

What then, has God given us?  First in the list is the spirit of power. Victorious, miraculous power in living the Christian life, in battling with temptation and sin, “a power to go on whatever the conditions, whatever the circumstances, power to hold on and to hold out”.

Next, Paul mentions the spirit of love. One of the root causes of the problem is that fearful people are too involved in self. The way to rid of self is to be so absorbed in someone or something else, leaving no room for thinking about oneself.  The spirit of love.

Lastly, God has given us the spirit of a sound mind.  In spite of our natural weaknesses, God has given us, for us to appropriate, the spirit of self-control, discipline and judgment.

As Christians, we do not live on and by ourselves. Through God’s marvelous work of salvation, He has implanted within us a principle of a divine spiritual life through Jesus Christ. We need to “stir up the gift”, reminding ourselves of who we are in Christ. And casting fear aside, let us move steadily forward in life, giving glory to the One Who gave His all for us.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, Great Britain: Pickering and Inglis, Ltd, 1977, pp. 92-105

1  Psalm 45:3, ESV

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, Great Britain: Pickering and Inglis, Ltd, 1977, p.  102

Photography Credit: Dawn Breaks by Eugene Kurenkov

29 thoughts on ““Fear of the Future and Spiritual Depression”

  1. Hi~ I agree, but it’s not always that easy! I had disassociated from my father raping me when I was 12 and that buried memory affected my entire life. At age 45, God revealed that memory to me and I was able to forgive my dad and the fears and insecurities in my life were greatly reduced. Now I can rebuke the spirit of fear and receive the blessings of God in their place; but not until that memory was revealed from my subconscious mind.

    So, don’t be too quick to judge people who are weak in soul. They may be strong in spirit but need some healing from their past.

    God bless you, kat

    On Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 5:10 PM, lilies, sparrows and grass wrote:

    > liliessparrowsandgrass posted: ” There are times in life when a > person, though mentally fit, experiences a nameless unhappiness in the > soul. It is the same condition reflected in the Psalmist’s lament, “Why > are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” 1 This > af”

    • Dear Kat, Thank you for sharing a very painful and traumatic experience in your childhood. I am in awe of God’s overwhelming grace in bringing you out of that terrible memory.

      I apologize if this post came across as “judging people who are weak in soul”, as this was not the intended purpose of this synopsis by Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ writing as referenced. Notice that the first line of this post qualifies those who are normal or “mentally fit” to receive the Apostle Paul’s instruction, as Timothy was. Paul knew Timothy could handle the reprimand. I doubt if the Apostle would have the same direct words to people who have had painful experiences in life, but always, he would speak the truth in love.

      God bless you,

  2. Very wise words from Martin Lloyd Jones, and you. Definitely worth a re-read from time to time when those times of ‘spiritual depression’ strike us. And I think they do strike a lot of us. I agree too with the comments above, that sometimes people need to deal with and receive healing from things of the past. Thanks, Dee, for posting this. I’m bookmarking it to read again.

    • Thank you, Ellen. I have had the book “Spiritual Depression” by Dr. Lloyd-Jones since the 1980s, and the teachings have helped me through the years. I was led to share a chapter of it here. How wonderful to know that you are bookmarking this post to read it again. Blessings, Dee

  3. Wonderfully put, Dee. I am always needing to remind myself of the power and strength we have in Christ to fight the spirit of fear, that the spirit of fear is from the enemy who wants to break us and wear us down during moments of weakness. But a scripture that says, “Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world” is one too that enforces that, that we can be the over comer.

  4. I am reminded of a conversation recently with a friend who spoke of her own depression and how she had prayed and prayed……..and God hadn’t answered her. I reminded her that God had answered her – she has legs, and ears and a voice…….she has power that was given to her by God. Surely, if she wanted it badly enough, she could do some of the work herself. “God isn’t the one that keeps you on the couch.” My love to you, dearest Dee. ~ Always, Bobbie

    • That is enlightening, Bobbie — that God has already equipped us with what we need to overcome our difficulties. We only need to realize it and flex our muscles to use what He has given us. This concurs with the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “stir up the gift”. Thank you for sharing the conversation with your friend. Sometimes, instead of tiptoeing around the issue, a direct word is more helpful. I must say what you shared with your friend is a mark of true friendship. Love to you too, Bobbie. Dee

  5. Dee, I appreciate how you qualified that this was intended for those who are “mentally fit”. This is an excellent post. II Timothy 1:7 is my favorite verse. As a new Christian,over 30 years ago, I memorized it to help me in recovery from eating disorders. I was blessed with a fast recovery due to the prayers of others and the wonderful work that the LORD did through the intense Bible reading and memorization that I felt led to do. In all phases of life we need to keep our focus on the Word–otherwise foolish thoughts move in and create havoc.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Hi Wendy, I am glad to know you found this post helpful. I made the qualification because I was concerned that the post might sound a bit strict, and certainly there are exceptions to consider. In general, however, the Bible frequently states in Proverbs that rebuke and admonition are good for the soul, and the wise receive them, that the wise love correction.

      Thank you for sharing how II Timothy 1:7 was instrumental in your recovery from eating disorders. I agree wholeheartedly that “in all phases of life, we need to keep focus on the Word otherwise foolish thoughts move in and create havoc”. Very wisely said.

      Blessings, Dee

  6. I was afraid to write a comment because I felt this yet another negative judgment against those who despite prayer and trying to focus on the welfare of others are besieged by fears. I saw you said “mentally fit” and that is the key here. Those not mentally fit, such as I, cannot through an act of will, fight on all fronts and are judged badly by most. In fact, unless properly medicated, in many cases, even talk therapy cannot help much. There are reasons conditions are called mental illnesses some due to experiences growing up, others due to genes and chemistry. Forgive me for writing this but I have to speak for those who may not be able to. I was once there and the stigma is still way too real.

    • Dear Ellen,

      I am so glad you are writing your perspective on this post, to speak for others. I was sharing something quite dogmatic and doctrinal, and as such may have come across as harsh, although there are some who found comfort, hope and direction in this post. That is why I qualified this post for those who are “mentally fit”. You describe the trauma and anguish of those who are not within the norm, and it is very sad that they are misunderstood and judged badly by others.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts, as well as increasing the awareness of the struggles of those who have mental and psychological ailments. The problems and pain, though not overtly visible, are, as you say, way too real. May the rest of us raise the level of our compassion and understanding towards them.


      • Dear Dee,

        Thank you for your understanding. Would that there were many more like you!

        I hope I was not too harsh in my comment. I wasn’t going to comment at all. Of course, I know the trick to overcoming fear (which IS selfish and appears because we are out of tune with God and listening to self) is to think of others. But those who are mentally ill cannot control that much of the time. I have succeeded some times and it feels great but too often I fail. I was blamed for that most of my life, and I still blame myself even though medicated and in therapy and married to a very excellent therapist. So many write about the Bible and do not consider the victims of mental illness in their interpretations. This just confirms the self-hate so many of us feel.

        Thank you for understanding and listening and allowing me another viewpoint.

        Blessings to you, Ellen

        • Dear Ellen,
          Thank you for your candor and expounding further. No, you were not harsh in your comment at all. I pray that God’s love will capture all our hearts to bring healing and understanding especially to those who need it most. By His grace we live each moment on this earth…

  7. Great post! I have struggled with spiritual depression in the past. Lloyd-Jones’ book was and continues to be a great help. I especially like the part in the book when he exhorts us to spend less time listening to ourselves and more time talking to ourselves.

    • Greetings! That’s wonderful to know that Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ book continues to be a great help to you, as this book is to me. I like that part about talking to ourselves, as well, where he sets the example of the Psalmist talking to himself, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?”. The methods he prescribes on how to deal with spiritual depression, based on God’s Word, are very practical and helpful. Thank you for reading and God bless you!

  8. Dear Dee, I have reflected back on this post many times since I first read it, as it profoundly captures my experience of faith. Following two suicides in my family, I lived for a long time with a malaise of the soul. It was not until God gave me faith that the pain and suffering were lifted and that I began to understand that when we walk with Him, the despair of this world is an illusion. Many blessings, Vivian

    • Oh Vivian, thank you so much for sharing your experience and what is in your heart. The two suicides in your family must have been quite unbearable, if only for the Lord’s grace. How precious is the gift of faith from God, the measure that is given to each of us. And how true it is that when we walk with Him, the despair of this world is an illusion.

      I have been quite out of circulation, focused on work. I miss you and my friends on WP… the demands of business are quite heavy right now…. but I always reflect upon the words of Jesus about “the cares of this world”. I hope to jump into the refreshing flow once again… and I pray, not a long time from now. Blessings and love to you, Vivian, my friend. Dee

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