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Month 5:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5939:140 AM
2Exodus 1/40, 50/70 Firstborn Mourning
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 17 August 2014
Depression
How to Conquer It Yahweh's Way

    Introduction

    Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and may the ahavah (love) and grace (undeserved loving kindness) of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be with all those assembled here at Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon and with the delegates at the women's conference in Migori, Kenya, to whom I, and the brethren, send greetings.

    The Death of Robin Williams

    By now most of you have heard of the suicide of the American comedian Robin Williams made famous in many movies. My own family remember him from Mork and Mindy and some of his movies like Good Morning Vietnam. Raised an Episcopalian (though his mother was a Christian Scientist), Williams joined the liberal Hollywood set, abandoned his faith and became vehemently anti-Christian. As you know depression is what drove him to suicide. There are other actors like him who, turning their back on Yahweh, are close to giving up. I think of Stephen Fry of Jeeves and Wooster fame - their lives are not happy ones.

    Characteristics of Depressed People

    Every single one of us has experienced depression to one degree or another and at some time in our life. Some people find themselves in the depths of it and are unable to enjoy everything even though outwardly everything seems to be going their way. They don't take interest in their work, they're withdrawn, they're restless and irritable. They often see themselves as worthless and vacillate between reproach and self-excuse. Not untypically they talk about their heavy feelings of guilt. Sometimes they wish they were dead and take the same fateful step as Robin Williams. They feel tired all the time, can't sleep, and complain about aches and pains. Medical research shows that people who are prone to depression have more heart attacks and a higher rate of cancer and arthritis than the average population. The continual inner tension interferes with the natural functions of their bodies.

    Spiritual, Psychological or Chemical?

    Though I have not gone remotely as far as Williams or others who have taken that terrible final step, I do know what it is to be depressed. There have been some tough times. Some of you here share that experience. Some argue that depression is one of the worst afflictions of all. Whether its cause is spiritual, psychological or biochemical isn't really as imporant as the fact that it is real and that all three dimensions of the soul are heavily impacted. The fact, though, that people spend a lot of time and money using psychoanalysis, shock therapy, drugs and diet treatments without ever really being helped is good evidence, in my view, that the main issue is spiritual.

    The Four P's: Solving Depression

    I want today to approach this subject without touching on things like diet and psycho-analysis which help the symptoms but rarely the cause. Richard W. De Haan proposes four main spiritual solutions to depression which we can call the "Four P's" to help us remember them:

    • 1. Accept Yahweh's Pardon;
    • 2. Acknowledge Yahweh's Providence;
    • 3. Admit Yahweh's Prerogative; and
    • 4. Appropriate Yahweh's Provision.

    1. Accept Yahweh's Pardon

    Accepting Yahweh's pardon or forgiveness is the first and most important step in the battle against depression. It is arguably the most important decision you can make and I'll explain why. Guilt is the basic aspect of the problem of depression whether it involves specific sins of the past or simply an overall sinful feeling that you can't quite put your finger on. It is surely one of the most distressing situations to find oneself in when one feels plagued by a guilty conscience. And the reason why it is so depressing is threefold:

    • 1. He doesn't love himself;
    • 2. He can't love anyone else; and
    • 3. He doesn't think anyone loves him.

    Forgiveness for Sin, Cleansing from Guilt

    He sinks deeper and deeper into a state of despondency so it becomes critical for him to start the journey out of the darkness of depression and by receiving the forgiveness and the freedom from guilt that Yahweh so generously offers.

    What the Unbeliever Must Do

    Now obviously as an unbeliever you cannot receive this forgiveness because you don't believe in the supernatural source of that forgiveness. So the unbeliever must first of all make a leap of emunah (faith) and start trusting in Yah'shua (Jesus) as his Deliverer - his Saviour. Even if it is false guilt you are experiencing - guilt for something you are not guilty of - this fact in no way minimises the existence of real guilt. So the person who has never been saved must acknowledge his sin, even if he can't fully describe or explain it yet (though he has a sense deep inside that something isn't right), and accept Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) as his Master (Lord) and Deliverer (Saviour). It doesn't matter how 'good' or 'righteous' you may believe yourself to be (that's called 'self-righteeousness') because the Davar Elohim (Word of God) testifies:

      "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa.53:6, NKJV).

    Forgiveness is Freely Available

    Paul would later testify:

      "Praise be the Elohim (God) and Father of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Lord Jesus Christ), who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be qadosh (holy, set-apart) and without blame before Him in ahavah (love), having predestined us to adoption as sons by Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph.1:3-7, NKJV).

    What Yah'shua Did For You

    This is the heart of the Besorah (Gospel) of which we speak, and preach and testify, and it applies to the whole of the problem of the human condition as much as it does to depression, which is one of its symptoms, so it is vital emet (truth). Yah'shua (Jesus), the Son of the Eternal Father, was born a human being like you and me in Bethlehem. He became our substitute through His perfect, Torah-obedient life, His sacrificial death as an atonement for our sins, and glorious resurrection. He died to pay the price for our sins. And because of what He accomplished, those who believe in Him and trust Him with their whole being are given not only freedom from the torment of the very real guilt that results from sin and rebellion, but they also get relief from the awful feeling of worthlessness and alienation from Yahweh. Wonderful blessings await those who accept Yah'shua (Jesus) and experience the reality of sins forgiven.

    When Believers Stop Trusting

    And yet there are plenty of believers who are tormented by terrible feelings of guilt. Why? Guilt returns when we stop trusting. Guilt returns when we believe the lies of the Deceiver who wants us to believe either that we haven't done enough to be forgiven or that we aren't really believers. Not infrequently Christians and Messianics don't actually know what the Scriptures teach about Elohim's (God's) forgiveness or they have been taught false doctrines and have come to believe that they must somehow earn their forgiveness through good works. If the victorious life we once lived has slipped through our fingers and instead of feeling victorious we now feel condemned - if sins still bother us and we constantly feel condemned - then there are some things that need to be put straight right away. That involves trusting Yahweh's timeless Davar (Word) and declaring them to be true for you right now. You must take Him at His word in the same way you did when you first received Him and experienced the forgiveness of sin. If sin truly bothers you, confess these sins daily that defile and trouble you, and accept the cleansing that the Davar Elohim (Word of God) promises at face value. Here is the first promise we must never forget:

      "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9, NKJV).

    Yahweh Honours Confession and Reptentance

    Do you have any idea how pleased Yahweh is when you do this? He always loves earnest confession and repentance, and honours it promptly. Why? Because He wants to forgive you. All you have to do is take him at His word! Just agree with Him! Agree with Him about your failures and then simply accept His forgiveness and removal of guilt. As you agree - as you really trust Him - you are opening a channel to Him down which He pours the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) who comforts and cleanses you. This is perhaps the most important step upward out of the depths of depression to their heights of shalom (peace) and assurance. That is the first step.

    2. Acknowledge Yahweh's Providence

    The second is to realise that your life actually has a purpose. There is a plan for your life that Yahweh has ordained for you if you will simply accept it. He doesn't just cleanse us from guilt and then walk off. He wants us to be productive and happy in our service. The trouble is that many people are not content with Yahweh's plan for their lives. They have other plans, thinking they know better, believing that they understand far better than their Creator what will bring them happiness and fulfilment. It's a fatal error and the journey out of it can be long and painful if it is made. Not only that, but you'd be surprised the excuses people make. They complain about their appearance, their temperament, their abilities and their circumstances. They magnify the negative and soon forget all about the positive.

    Towards Peace of Mind

    Let us engage in some reality checks right away. Some people do seem to get more than their share of what the world calls 'bad luck' or 'bad breaks'. You may be physically deformed. Perhap's you're lonely. Maybe you're chronically ill. Maybe you're financially broke or worse totally destitute without a place to live. But please listen! If you will acknowledge Yahweh's providence - that He will provide for you if you trust Him - if you will accept that He has a special plan for everyone and that life isn't just a matter of chance, or fortune or fate - if you start with that, you will immediately get one important thing: peace of mind. Indeed, it will give you a heart filled with simcha (joy) even when everything seems to be going to wrong.

    Complaining is Rebellion

    When a believer complains because he doesn't like himself, his looks, his personality, or the things around him over which he has no control, he is really rebelling against Elohim (God). Since we are His creation, we as believers must first of all acknowledge that Yahweh made us. We are not accidental freaks of evolution. We didn't appear just because some cosmic dice by chance rolled our number of DNA base sequences. Yahweh knows our weaknesses. He is well aware of our limitations. Both of those have a purpose. He expects no more from us that He in His grace - His undeserved loving kindness - supplies to us. That is what is meant by Yahweh's Providence. So before you do anything else, acknowledge that providence. Declare it to be so in your mind and heart. And be thankful for that special niche in life that you and you alone are called to fill.

    Everyone is Important

    In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul uses the analogy of the human body to explain the function of the individual members of the Messianic Community (Church), which is the Body of Messiah. Everyone is needed. Not all have a place of equal honour to be sure, but each one is useful, necessary and important. So this is the second step to overcoming depression - accepting Yahweh's providence and being content with the place He has prepared for you to occupy in the Body of Messiah. Though it may seem small and insignificant to you, it is actually vitally important, and without you, the Body of Messiah - whether local, global or heavenly - is going to be that much poorer. Every one of you in this assembly is important and has been been providentially placed here for a purpose.

    3. Admit to Yahweh's Prerogative

    It is not, however, enough to recognise and accept Yahweh's pardon and providence. The third item is one that the flesh loathes, which means the flesh must be overcome in order for it to become real in your life. It is vitally important that you recognise and accept that Yahweh has an absolute and perfect right to do with you as He pleases. When we declare in our request to be saved that Yah'shua is our 'Master' or 'Lord', this is not some ceremonial collection of religious words but a declaration of the reality that He owns us lock, stock and barrel. We do not own ourselves and, though we may have deluded ourselves into thinking we did, we never actually did. We'll take a look at Romans chapter 9 so that we are clear about the matter:

      "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with Elohim (God)? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of Elohim (God) who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My Name (Yahweh) may be declared in all the earth.' Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against Elohim (God)? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honour and another for dishonour? What if Elohim (God), wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory..." (Rom.9:14-23, NKJV).

    We Do Not Own Ourselves

    To help you better understand this important passage, especially for the younger ones here, let me read from the following paraphrase:

      "What shall we say, then? That Elohim (God) is unjust? Not at all. For He said to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I wish, I will take pity on whom I wish.' So then, it does not depend on what man wants or does, but only on Elohim's (God's) mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, 'I made you king for this very purpose, to use you to show my power, and to make My Name (Yahweh) known in all the world. So, then, Elohim (God) has mercy on whom He wishes, and He makes stubborn whom He wishes. One of you, then, will say to me, 'If this is so, how can Elohim (God) find fault with a man? For who can resist Elohim's (God's) will? But who are you, my friend, to talk back to Elohim (God)? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, 'Why did you make me like this?' After all, the man who makes the pots has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from the same lump of clay, an expensive pot and a cheap one. And the same is true of what Elohim (God) has done. He wanted to show His wrath and to make His power known. So He was very patient in enduring those who were the objects of His wrath, who were ready to be destroyed. And He wanted also to reveal His rich glory, which was poured out on us who are the objects of His mercy, those of us whom He prepared to receive His glory" (Rom.9:14-23, GNB/TEV).

    Bought With a Price

    Now I admit that this is tough Scripture. Many people stumble over this reality of the whole concept of ownership because over the last two centuries we in the West in particular have been heavily indoctrinated in secular liberal thinking. And rationalise away this emet (truth) though we may try, we cannot change the emet (truth), and the more honest person will admit, when he gets a true perspective of things, how absurd it is to quarrel with the Author of this reality. We are not our own, we do not belong to ourselves, and never have, as Scripture likewise tells us:

      "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) who is in you, whom you have from Elohim (God), and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price" (1 Cor.6:19-20, NKJV).

    No Grounds for Objection

    So when you are tempted to complain because of your circumstances, when you feel sorry for yourself because everything about you seems wrong, when you complain because you believe Yahweh has made a mistake, when you feel blue because others have it so much better than you (as you suppose), then remember Paul's words in Romans 9:20:

      "But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against Elohim (God)? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?'" (Rom.9:20, NKJV).

    Yah Knows Best

    Yahweh has the right to do with us as He pleases. And as His creatures, we should accept whatever He indicates is best. In fact, we should rejoice when He exercises His privilege as Creator, and do so with the confidence that His ways are perfect. As Abraham said to Elohim (God) when it came to the judgment of Sodom:

      "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen.18:25, NIV).

    His Work is Perfect

    What it all boils down to is whether or not you accept that Yahweh will never do anything wrong. All the great men of Yahweh came to this testimony. Moses did too:

      "He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, an Elohim (God) of emet (truth) and without injustice, righteous and upright is He" (Deut.32:4, NKJV).

    The Just and Righteous One

    They did not learn this emet (truth) in a day, mind you, but they trusted in it by emunah (faith) until it became a sure knowledge to them. We are in the hands of One who is just and right. And as we admit Yahweh's prerogative, namely, that He has a perfect right to do with us as He pleases - as we do that rather than bemoan our circumstances, we will come to rejoice in His perfect wisdom and power. And then we'll surrender to His perfect will. This is another and critically important step out of the depths of depression.

    4. Appropriate Yahweh's Provision

    Once you have accepted Yahweh's forgiveness, and acknowledged His providence, and once you have surrendered to Yahweh's prerogative, you must then go on to do what you know to be right. However, you will never accomplish it in your own strength, and if you try, you will fail. So many fail because they do it in the wrong way. Remember, that in order to live a victorious life and to avoid the depression of spiritual defeat, you must make use of Yahweh's gracious provision.

    What the Believer Already Has

    What do I mean by that? And how shall you avail yourself of this provision? Just think of all Yahweh has done for you already! If you are a believer, He has given you new life through the miracle of regeneration. He has placed the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in you. He has given you His righteousness. He has made you a citizen of His Heavenly Kingdom and promised you a glorious resurrection. He has admitted you into His Family! He has blessed you with the Messianic Community (Church), and with the fellowship of other believers on the same journey as you are on. He has assured you that He will supply all your needs. And He invites you to the throne of grace at any time to find help in time of need. So once you recognise and draw upon Yah's abundant provision, do what is right - obey the Torah and His will for you personally - in His strength and with His help. As you do this then I promise you that you will prevent the discouragement that comes when you fail to do Yahweh's will.

    What to Do Now

    I think an illustration would help here because I know this is hard to grasp, especially if you are a young or new believer, as I know some of you in Migori are, having come to faith only yesterday! If you have had a quarrel with someone, go and make things right. If you have neglected honouring the Sabbath and assembling with the qodeshim (set-apart ones, saints), start attending again, making sure you choose a place where the Davar Elohim (Word of God) is really believed and obeyed, and where the Master Yah'shua (Jesus) is truly honoured. If you have been self-centred, endeavour by Yah's grace to show a genuine interest in others. Look for someone who needs a friend. Go out of your way to be of assistance. There is always something you can do. And once you start doing what Yahweh wants you to do - in His strength and with His enablement - you'll be on the way! You'll find freedom from the emptiness and despair of a life that is lived only for self, with no regard for Elohim (God) or others.

    When Nothing Seems to be Right

    All of us have moments when we are down - from a few hours or days to sometimes months or years. At these times nothing looks right to us, everything seems to be going wrong. To make matters worse, no deliverance seems to be in sight. At such times we need to make declarations to ourself and to Yahweh, as David did speaking out of his own experience, when he cried out:

      "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in Elohim (God)" (Ps.42:11, NKJV).

    That is excellent advice!

    Paul on the Sinking Ship

    In the Acts of the Apostles the Apostle Paul relates an experience while he was a prisoner on a ship bound for Rome. A violent storm threatened to send the vessel and all its passengers to the bottom of the sea. One night a malak (angel) sent from Yahweh appeared to Paul and assured him that not a person on board would perish. Paul chose to believe the messenger and said to his fellow passengers:

      "Take heart, men, for I believe Elohim (God) that it will be just as it was told me" (Acts 27:25, NKJV).

    Conclusion

    Even though you may be fearful and discouraged, you can always find cause for cheer if you look to our Heavenly Father, Yahweh. As David said, "Hope in Elohim (God)". And say with Paul, "I believe Elohim (God)". It doesn't take long to come out of depression if you exercise this four-fold kind of emunah (faith). There need not be a long arduous climb of the pit. Just accept Yahweh's Pardon, acknowledge Yahweh's Providence, admit Yahweh's Prerogative and Appropriate Yahweh's Provision, and He will provide everything you need supernaturally. I have experienced it myself so many times. There is no one so mired down in depression that he cannot be saved out of it though the enemy will try to persuade us that it is impossible or that the journey will be long and torturous. If sin has led you into depression, there may indeed be other consequences to pay over a long time, but you need not remain in depression. So make that decision today, make your declarations in emunah (faith) and be a witness to the salvation of our Elohim (God)! Amen.

    Acknowledgments

    [1] Richard W. De Haan, How To Get Up...When You're Down! (Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1983)

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