"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in
You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be
afraid. What can mere man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4)
A number of articles have been written about Mother Teresa, and
we have seen that this wonderful woman of God who loved and helped so many,
suffered from depression. And people, whether they’re in the church or not, tend
to be unkind toward those who are depressed. There was a recent poll sponsored
by the U.S. National Mental Health Association and half of those polled said
that, even though they or their family members have suffered from depression,
less than half considered it a health problem, and 43% saw it as a "sign of personal or emotional weakness." People
everywhere seem to have little patience with those who suffer mentally. Many
Christians seem to accept and even be willing to help those who are physically
in need, but at the same time tend to have less sympathy for those who are
Mother Teresa’s name became a symbol of holiness and faith for
many, but she also experienced what has been called “dark
nights of the soul.” Between September, 1946, and October, 1947, she was
given visions of Jesus instructing her to found the Sisters of Charity, but she
sank into spiritual depression when they stopped. "My
smile is a great cloak that hides a multitude of pains," she wrote in
1958. People "think that my faith, my hope and my love are
overflowing, and that my intimacy with God and union with His will fill my heart”
– she continued, “If only they knew." Later she
said, "The damned of hell suffer eternal punishment
because they experiment with the loss of God. In my own soul, I feel the
terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not
God, and that God does not exist." She was lonely, fearful and
Given that the visions were real, the fact that they stopped
occurring reveals their purpose. Everything that was needed to initiate and then
continue the Sisters of Charity had already been given to her. Further visions
were unnecessary. And this, including the visions that started it, was not from
the enemy, but this is instead an organization that continues to help uncounted
millions to this very day. For those who have known the touch of God, you want
it to continue. We are just people - depression is possible when we call out to
God and He does not seem to answer like He did in the past.
One of England's finest preachers was Charles H. Spurgeon, who
lived from 1834 to 1892. Very often during his ministry he was plunged into
severe depression, due in part to the physical problem called “gout,” which is
very painful, but there were other reasons also. In a biography of Spurgeon
called the "Prince of Preachers," Arnold Dallimore
wrote, "What he suffered in those times of darkness we may
not know...even his desperate calling on God brought no relief; 'There are
dungeons', he said, 'beneath the castles of despair.'"
Charles Swindoll spoke of a young lawyer who suffered from such
deep depression that his friends thought it best to keep knives and razors away
from him. The young man questioned his life's calling and whether he would even
attempt to follow it through. During this time he wrote, "I
am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot
tell. I awfully forebode I shall not." But somehow, from somewhere, U.S.
President Abraham Lincoln became encouraged, and the achievements of his life
thoroughly vindicated his bouts of depression.
Florence Nightingale, who lived from 1820 to 1910, was a nurse
who remarkably helped thousands of soldiers. Ten times more of them died from
diseases than from battle wounds. Through her efforts in relation to hospitals,
the ventilation of air was improved, defective sewers were fixed, and
overcrowding was reduced. But she suffered from depression and made statements
like this: “O weary days, O evenings that never end! For
how many long years I have watched that drawing-room clock and thought it would
never reach the ten! In my thirty-first year I see nothing desirable, but death.”
In 1835, a man visited a doctor in Florence, Italy. He was
anxious and exhausted. He couldn't eat and avoided his friends. The doctor
examined him and found that he was in fine physical condition. Concluding that
his patient needed to have a good time, the physician told him about a circus in
town and its star performer, a clown named Grimaldi. Night-after-night he had
the people laughing. "You must go and see him," the
doctor advised. "Grimaldi is the world's funniest clown.
He'll make you laugh and cure your sadness." "No,"
replied the despairing man, "he can't help me. You see, I
To some extent, every one of us IS “Grimaldi.”
We seem to be one thing on the outside and may be very useful to other people,
but inside, it might not be the same. It is widely considered to be very
important that we don’t walk around with long faces, and so we don’t; often even
fooling ourselves that all is well.
Paul the Apostle suffered from depression. He said of himself
and his colleagues, “We were burdened beyond measure,
above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” And then he continued
with a very good reason why we are sometimes allowed to feel this way: “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should
not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians
1:8-9). We must look to God.
Paul, like David, had learned to trust in the Lord during times
of sorrow. As in our Psalm for today, David recognized that God treasures us,
keeping our “tears” in the “bottle”
of His heart, writing them in His “book” (Psalm
56:8). David was surrounded by enemies, and sometimes life is that way for us.
He said, “Be merciful to me, O God, for many would swallow
me up; fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, for
there are many who fight against me, O Most High” (Psalm 56:1-2).
Paul and David lived centuries apart, but they both knew fear
and depression. It was the same for Mother Teresa, Spurgeon, President Lincoln,
Florence Nightingale and Grimaldi. Circumstances that are too great can engulf
us and we need help, not only from one another, but most of all from the Lord
Himself. At such times David cried out to the Lord, admitting his fear, his
insufficiency and his trust in the Lord. He said, “When I
am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I
have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?"
Lord, life is hard and I am afraid. Help me, Lord. I trust in
You. In Jesus Name. Amen.