Depression redeemed Pt 1: Gratefulness

By Bob Bickford

“I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.” – C.H. Spurgeon

It is beyond a well-established fact that depression is present in abundance in the life of many pastors. It is also fortunate that beyond mere recognition it is being both talked about and addressed.

God has been kind to give us the honest confessions and encouragement from the great preacher of London, C.H. Spurgeon, himself, a pastor afflicted with depression. Spurgeon confesses: “For I am much tossed up and down, and although my joy is greater than the most of men, my depression of spirit is such as few can have an idea of.”

By God’s grace, he was able to see something in the darkness that gave him hope – a redemptive purpose.

Elsewhere Spurgeon says; “I often feel very grateful to God that I have undergone fearful depression,” “I know the borders of despair and the horrible brink of that gulf of darkness into which my feet have almost gone.”

And he then continues by revealing what it is that has made him grateful for this darkness of the soul: “Hundreds of times I have been able to give a helpful grip to brethren and sisters who have come into that same condition, which grip I could never have given if I had not known their deep despondency.”

By God’s grace Spurgeon was able to see a bigger picture than his own suffering – he was given the gift of perspective.

This perspective, I believe, was not some self-created and -empowered act of the will, it was a result of him understanding that God often uses our suffering to create greater dependency upon Him and to equip us in the grace work of encouraging others.

Paul writes of his hardships to the Corinthians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

Pastor know this: You are afflicted for a season and for a reason.

The suffering pastor who is comforted by God, becomes the pastoral comforter who helps the sufferer. His credibility comes not from what he learned in the seminary classroom but in the laboratory of real life.

And this darkness is a work of God’s grace.

That’s hard to believe and accept in “real time.” In fact, most often I attempt to reject it, resist it or change it, rather than trust that God has a greater purpose in it.

Accepting dark times from God is not the same as passively succumbing to depression as one might do in defeat to a stronger foe. Acknowledging that depression, suffering and difficulty often have a greater spiritual purpose allows you to see that a dark season doesn’t mean you are alone – rather that you are loved, that God is near and that comfort will come.

In time, as one who has navigated the depths of despair and yet lives, God will bring a sufferer to you for encouragement and counsel.

You cannot speak of God’s comfort with integrity if you have not needed it for yourself personally. Power in preaching comes from suffering well, credible counsel comes from know that Christ sustains in crisis.

Your depression isn’t without a purpose. You can be thankful and grateful that God is present and is working something in you that he will use for His glory and others good.

Published February 2, 2022

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick