Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Martyn-Lloyd-Jones is based on a series of sermons that he preached from Psalm 42. Verses 5–6 read: “Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
I want to highlight two citations from Lloyd-Jones. First, he says, “When we get depressed it is because we have forgotten God.” He does not mean that we forget God’s existence. The point is that we can be so overwhelmed by circumstances that the reality of what we possess by faith in Christ becomes obscured. Lloyd-Jones goes on to say, “The main problem in the whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this—we allow our ‘self’ to talk to us instead of talking to ourselves. David in effect says, ‘Self, listen for a moment to what I have to say, why you are cast down?’ ”
The solution that Lloyd-Jones offers for spiritual depression is grounded in a very important understanding of post-fall anthropology: that which is necessary for human healing at its most needed level is not native to our fallen soul. When the New Testament speaks of us as dead in our trespasses and sins, it is referring both to the corruption of our nature and our inability to change our nature (Eph. 2:1). Our hope and help must come from outside of us. Enter the gospel. The gospel announces that God has sent His Son into the world in human flesh, who has met all the demands of the law on behalf of all those whom His Father has given to Him, and in His death He has atoned for all their sins, thus forgiving them of all unrighteousness. He was buried, and on the third day He rose bodily from the grave, and after forty days He ascended to the Father, where He is seated as the Great High Priest who has offered a once-for-all sacrifice that has forever turned the Father’s wrath away from us. God the Holy Spirit has given life to our dead souls through that message and enables us to receive it by faith and rest savingly in it until the Lord’s return or until He calls us home.
Our reconciliation with God is because of what was done for us, outside of us—and that’s what makes it good news. The gospel connects to a truth that transcends our senses and experiences. We are declared righteous in the gospel, but we don’t always act or feel righteous. The gospel announces the fullness of the Father’s love toward us. And it is in those moments that we are prone, as Lloyd-Jones says, to forget God. And in those moments, we need to speak to our doubts, fears, and failures what God has spoken to us in the gospel. In those very moments, because of what God has done in the gospel, we can join the Apostle Paul in saying:
I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38–39)