Inspiration (6 & 7), Gathering Data (8 & 9), Interpreting Data (10)
Here are the first five lectures I gave some years ago as an introduction to Biblical Counseling;
Introduction, Sin, The Counselor, The Heart and Involvement
True Way of Shaking off a
There is a case which all good men, that ever were of any consideration in this evil world, have had occasion to take into their most serious consideration. A case it is, whereto a right answer cannot but be acceptable to all good men; cannot but be serviceable to exert and increase their goodness and bring about the Glory of Him that has adorned them with it.
The Case is
What should good men do when they are evil spoken of?
What should be the conduct of a Christian when defamations are order for him to exercise his Christianity.
Upon this general case of all good men, the First Thing that I would propose is this:
Let them defamed Christian set himself immediately to consider, what his carriage ought now to be.
My friend, be more solicitous to do well under defamations and be better for them, than now to vindicate yourself against them. Let this be the first care on this occasion. Immediately pour out your fervent supplications, Lord enable me now to glorify thee. Oh! Leave me not to any forwardness or foolishness that may dishonor thy name when my own has dishonor cast upon it.
Immediately set yourself to study and contrive, what is the behavior wherewith now I must endeavor to glorify God? Study and contrive, what shall I do that I may in the issue have cause to bless the name of God for those things wherein my names seems to be wounded?
When a scurrilous person once abused a very virtuous person, the wronged and patient servant of the Lord said. 2 Sam. 16.12. It may be the Lord will look upon mine affliction and that the Lord will requite [return] me good for his cursing this day. Truly if you begin your encounter with defamations ‘tis beyond any, it may be, that the Lord will requite you good for the cursing of your friend Shimei. He has already done you good, that good which abundantly makes good for all the cursing. You are most certainly in the way of coming at good that will surpass all imagination.
Blessed, blessed of the Lord thou art. Oh! Cursed of them that have blessing far from them! Having proposed and premised this blessed introduction to all manner of good, I will proceed unto a more particular description of a defamed Christian pursuing the honor of Christianity.
 The Glory of God.
In August 1710, Thomas Boston preached a sermon entitled, “The Instability of Human Goodness” based upon the text of Hosea 6:4, “For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.” The text itself concerned the instability of the Israelites faced by the prophet Hosea. Boston takes the text, which first applied particularly to the Israelites as a common attribute of us humans. The fault of the Israelites was not unique to them:
Such is the instability of many in the good way of the Lord, that the goodness at which they sometimes arrive, passeth away as a morning cloud, and as the early dew.
He then begins to make observations on the good state of human beings. First, he notes that he often fails quickly after some good thing has come to them. The Israelites turned to the Golden Calf just after Mount Sinai. How quickly the disciples deserted Christ after the Last Supper. How quickly the disciples feared after the miracle of the loaves and fish.
Second, goodness often fails slowly,
The devil does not always act the part of a roaring lion when he intends to strip people of their attained goodness, but in this work advances with a soft pace. We may observe that men’s goodness ordinarily goes away by degrees, almost imperceptibly.
He goes on to note:
It is a piece of Satan’s policy to attack people with slender temptations at first, when he designs to rob them; for then they think they are strong enough for them, therefore they grapple with them on their own strength and are foiled. A small temptation will take off the chariot wheels of the soul. An unseasonable thought has sometimes proved a wide door, by which a good frame has escaped.
Third, goodness will fail when it is most needed:
As the heat of summer produces many insects which are not to be seen in the frost of winter; so the time of peace in the church produces many false friends who will never stand the shock of trouble for the gospel.
Why then does goodness fail? The primary reason he gives is that the one who fails truly does not know the Lord. He notes this in three ways: The Spirit does not dwell in them. They are not united to Christ. They may be frequent in a church, but that is not their real element.
He then addresses those who know the Lord, do show a loss of their goodness. And for this he gives four types.
First, they become discouraged; they will not seize heaven by force. They face a difficulty, a delay and they quit:
They cannot wait on at Christ’s gate. They know not what it is to have their appetite sharpened with disappointments; but as soon as they feel not that sweetness in religion which they imagined, they go directly to their old lusts; and find in them what they could not find in religion.
Second, they will not mortify their sin, but let it linger until it turns on them in force:
Another reason is, the entertaining of unmortified lusts, which are like the suckers that draw the sap from the tree and make it barren. It is hard to get wet wood to take fire, but harder to get it to keep in the fire, but hardest of all, to get a heart polluted with, and enslaved to vile affections, to retain any attained goodness. They that have many friends in the enemy’s camp will find their hands sore bound up in the day of battle. …That heart will not abide with God that has secret filthy lusts to nourish.
He then considers these two matters from a different angle; rather than consider them subjectively, he states them objectively: :The profits and pleasures of the world soon charm away men’s goodness.” He gives these in rather strking terms:
They are tenter hooks of the soul, the black devils that draw men from God, and from that sweetness that is in the enjoyment of him, and drive them like the demoniac among the tombs in the region of the dead. They are the wasps and flies that buzz about and sting the soul when it should rest in the bosom of God. And for the pleasures of the world, when they once get a hold of the heart, they quickly run away with it.
He gives a final statement which helps explain the whole, “Unwatchfulness over the heart and life. Our goodness is a tender bud that will easily be blasted if we do not take all possible care of it.” He turns this into a remarkable picture:
What wonder then, if in such a case our goodness goes away, when there is no watching; for such a soul is like a great fair, where some are going out, some entering, and those within are all in confusion.
He ends with an admonition to jealously protect what goodness we have. To this he provides practical direction:
Advices 1. Do not sit down contented with any measure that you have attained. Alas! little satisfies people in religion. He that does not exert himself to grow, will assuredly decay. “Do not think that you have already attained, or are already perfect; but follow after, if that you may apprehend that for which also you are apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Labour to make two talents of your one by industry. The fire will be extinguished by withholding fuel, as well as by throwing water upon it.
Lastly, And what I say to one I say to all, watch. The time is short. Watch, and ere long you shall be in that place, where the gates are not shut by day, and there is no night there. But if any man draw back, the Lord’s Spirit will have no pleasure in him. Amen.
Wayne Grudem has recently made an argument that abuse is permissible basis for divorce in accordance with 1 Corinthians 7:15. The issues of divorce is fraught with peril; and so, my arguments here are quite tentative and based upon a brief consideration. I am merely thinking out loud. But I do believe that Grudem’s argument is plausible and could be strengthened significantly.
Here experience as an attorney helps to understand what is happening with Paul’s legislation.
The argument made by Dr. Grudem is quite similar to the sort of interpretation which is faced routinely in litigation: A particular statute will include both a definite statement of some category and a list of examples. The particular section of his presentation at issue concerns the phrase “in such cases” found in 1 Corinthians 7:15:
But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
(ESV). Grudem’s argument hinges upon the plural use in the original:
1 Corinthians 7:15 (SBLGNT)
15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω· οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις, ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός.
The structure is similar to that faced by the courts. The difficulty here lies with the nature of translation, particular when dealing with a grammatical connective (as opposed to the translation of a noun or verb which have a clearer reference in the physical world). The translation runs to either “in such cases” or “in such circumstances”.
Grudem gives a number of examples from other extra-biblical Greek texts where the phrase is used to introduce an open-ended list (as opposed to giving a restricted list: these items and no more). However, Grudem’s examples from other texts is insufficient to make a solid conclusion.
The interpretative question is whether Paul intends for his example to be read as an exhaustive list: “in this circumstance only”; or is it to be read as an example, “in circumstances like this”. The plural could mean either any time an unbeliever separates (and thus multiple unbelievers) or it could mean circumstances similar to an unbeliever separating.
The phrase “in such circumstances/cases” is not a common phrase in statutory construction. But there are other quite similar phrases which could inform our analysis.
Perhaps the most common introductory comment is “includes”. For example, a case in Nebraska of an employee seeking benefits sustained by an injury turned upon whether the phrases following “high risk duty includes:” were an exhaustive list or an exemplary list. The court found that use of the word “include” introduces an expansive list:
We recognize that some courts have concluded that the word “include,” standing alone, is ambiguous whether the contracting parties meant for the word to be expansive or restrictive. But we are not persuaded by these cases. Concluding that the parties’ intent regarding a list is ambiguous if a list is preceded only by the verb “include” is contrary to its plain and ordinary meaning. The word “include” means “1. to contain, embrace, or comprise, as a whole does parts or any part or element … 2. to place in an aggregate, class, category, or the like. 3. to contain as a subordinate element; involve as a factor.” Contrary to the county’s argument, these definitions support the conclusion that enumerated items in a list preceded by the word “include” are normally a part of the whole—not that the parts restrict the whole. Particularly in legal contexts, the “participle including typically indicates a partial list,” and this meaning holds true whether or not the drafter(s) added emphatic language such as “ including but not limited to.” Obviously, interpretative aids cannot override the parties’ clear intent when a contract is considered as a whole. But the word “include” preceding a list does not indicate an exclusive list absent other language showing a contrary intent.
Timberlake v. Douglas Cnty., 865 N.W.2d 788, 797 (Neb. 2015). Prodigy Svcs. v. Johnson, 125 S.W.3d 413, 417 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003) (A related phrase which is much easier to apply is “includes, but is not limited to:” “Following that line of argument the Commissioner finds expansive language in the statute, such as “transmission by or through any media” and “includes but is not limited to, all types of telecommunication transmissions.” See Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-6-102(31)(BC)(Supp. 2002).”) Thus, if we read Paul’s “in such cases” as “includes”, we have a basis for reading abandonment as one example, not a complete list.
A related phrase connecting a general to a specific reference is “such as” – which is perhaps more similar to Paul’s construction. A Michigan case involving the scope of the phrase “earth movement” provides some useful analysis:
Relying on the doctrine of ejusdem generis, Andriacchi argues that the term “earth movement” is constricted by the words of limitation “such as.” Because the exclusion only identifies natural events—”earthquake, landslide or earth sinking, rising or shifting”—Andriacchi argues that the term “earth movement” is limited to naturally occurring events. Reliance on this doctrine is misplaced. Under the ejusdem generis doctrine, “when a general word or phrase follows a list of specifics, the general word or phrase will be interpreted to include only items of the same class as those listed.” Black’s Law Dictionary(10th ed.). But as the trial court recognized, that doctrine (or, for that matter, any other canon of statutory interpretation) does not apply where the language of the contract is clear, see, e.g., Utica State Savings Bank v. Village of Oak Park, 279 Mich. 568, 573, 273 N.W. 271 (1937), as is the case here. Further, the phrase “such as” conveys that the cited examples are not all-inclusive or restrictive in nature, and thus does not serve to narrow the types of earth movement excluded under the policy. Moreover, the cited examples of earth movement are not only caused by natural phenomena. For example, landslides can occur naturally or be caused by man, as can the “sinking, rising or shifting” of the earth.
Home-Owners Ins. Co. v. Andriacchi, 903 N.W.2d 197, 203-4 (Mich. Ct. App. 2017). Here we had a party arguing that “such as” acted as a limitation, and the court responding with the observation that here are examples where “such as” did not limit the general proposition. But something is important here: the canons of construction are not iron clad rules, they are helps to understanding: “But as the trial court recognized, that doctrine (or, for that matter, any other canon of statutory interpretation) does not apply where the language of the contract is clear”.
In a criminal case which hinged upon scope of the word “matter” in a jury instruction concerned the computer hardware or computer disk which held an image or the image itself.
The statute indicates that at a minimum, a “matter” must be capable of containing a visual depiction. See 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B). Although both the disks and the GIF files could be viewed as “containing” the visual depiction, we conclude the “matter” is the physical medium that contains the visual depiction — in this case, the hard drive of Lacy’s computer and the disks found in his apartment. This interpretation is supported by two principles of statutory interpretation, noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis. “The first means that a word is understood by the associated words, the second, that a general term following more specific terms means that the things embraced in the general term are of the same kind as those denoted by the specific terms.” United States v. Baird, 85 F.3d 450, 453 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing 2A Norman J. Singer, Sutherland-Statutory Construction §§ 47.16, 47.17 (5th ed. 1992)). Although canons of construction do not mandate how a phrase is to be read, they “describe what we usually mean by a particular manner of expression.” Longview Fibre Co. v. Rasmussen, 980 F.2d 1307, 1313 (9th Cir. 1992). Here, the word “matter” appears at the end of the list “books, magazines, periodicals, films, [and] video tapes,” all of which are physical media capable of containing images. See Baird, 85 F.3d at 453 (looking to list’s “theme” to determine the meaning of a general term).
United States v. Lacy, 119 F.3d 742, 748 (9th Cir. 1997). There are two elements of this argument which are useful here: the purpose of a list of examples is to help understand a particular term. There is always a bit of ambiguity in language; at times a list of examples can help to diminish the ambiguity. The second observation is that no “rule” can absolutely answer the question; it only helps when it comes to interpretation.
So here with we have additional help. What do not have is a conclusive answer.
As noted above, Grudem makes much of the use of the phrase in other extra-biblical Greek texts. His examples demonstrate that it is possible to read the phrase as introducing one example, rather than a restrictive list. But that is all his argument proves.
I do not believe his argument as it stands is sufficient to make the case. He merely notes that the grammatical structure could permit a broad reading; not that it must permit a broad reading. The answer to that question does not hinge upon the use of the particular, but upon the structure of the argument.
To understand Paul’s argument correctly, we must do more than atomistically look at phrase and then compare that phrase to other not necessarily parallel uses. That is not how language works. It is true that the phrase at least sometimes has the force of “includes but not limited to”. But does it here?
If one looks at verse 15 alone, it is difficult to see how one could construct such an argument for the use of phrase. The plural could just mean “every time an unbeliever leaves a marriage”: or every unbeliever who leaves: “15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”
To construct an “includes but is not limited to” argument, would have to first define a general category in which abandonment (“separates”) is a common not though exhaustive example. The trouble is the verse does not provide us with any general category. In fact, looked at alone, the preceding reference for “in such cases” is the sole instance of an unbelieving spouse abandoning the marriage.
However, if we back up to verse 13 (verse 14 is merely explains the principle underlying the rule) we can see the following argument running from verse 13 through 15:
13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. …. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
General rule: if an unbeliever “consents to live with”. The clause “consents to live with” is uncertain. What does it mean to “consent to live with”?
Verse 15 introduces an example: “If the unbelieving partner separates”. Thus, abandoning the marriage would not be the sole instance of not consenting to live with but merely an example of one who does not consent to live with.
The counter argument would be that “pleased to dwell with” has only one opposite term, abandonment. But again, looked at from this angle, Grudem’s argument based upon the Greek seems more plausible: Is the only opposite of “pleased to dwell with” abandonment? Certainly, abandonment is one opposite term, but it does not seem to be the only opposite term.
Conclusion: I think Grudem has presented the beginning of a good argument. His argument would actually be much stronger if it were anchored in the structure of Paul’s argument and not in a narrow reading of the phrase.
Moreover, anchoring the argument in the overall structure of the Paul’s argument has the additional advantage of not trying to contend that abuse is a form of abandonment, but rather that abuse is inconsistent with “pleased to dwell” (1 Cor. 7:13, KJV).
In addition, (I don’t have the cite available), I recall reading (in Baxter’s Christian Directory?) that to stay in a marriage where one’s life was in danger is a violation of the 6th Commandment, because we don’t have a right to let others kill us. I’m surprised that Baxter’s argument has not received more traction: I think it a good argument and far simpler to apply than looking for grounds for divorce. Now, Baxter’s argument may not sufficient to anchor a remarriage (I just don’t know), but it certainly provides for separation for safety.
Physical abuse is a sin and a crime. Congregations have serious obligations to protect the safety of their members, and to utilize both the process of church discipline and the legal protections available. Failure to do these things has resulted in many congregations sinning against those who were most in need of protection.
A final important caution: the introduction of an example, even if only one in a series of other possible example, does form a kind of restriction. Only things which are the opposite of “pleased to dwell with” and similar to “separates” are included within Paul’s list. If we read the scope of permissible divorce as broader than abandonment, we must have some limiting mechanism to distinguish those instances which are plainly outside of Paul’s injunction.
Some very general rules about relationships and communication: something which is far easier to understand than it is follow:
First, there is the matter of communication. It is to be clear and direct, not manipulative. That is what Jesus meant by “let your yes be yes”; and what is behind the command in Matthew and James against swearing:
The theme of greater righteousness continues, but Jesus’ examples move outside the Decalogue. As with his teaching on divorce, he again forbids what the Old Testament permitted. “Do not break your oath” alludes to Lev 19:12 and Num 30:2 and would more commonly be translated “do not swear falsely” or “do not perjure yourself.” To “swear” (v. 34) does not mean to curse or use bad words but to affirm the truth of a statement while calling on God to judge oneself if it is in fact untrue. Again qualifications are implicit. There are oaths which are consistent with God’s character and demands even in the New Testament (e.g., 2 Cor 1:18; Gal 1:20), but given the casuistry (an elaborate hierarchy of laws) of first-century Judaism on oaths (cf. the entire Mishnaic tractate Shebuoth), Jesus declares that it would be best to avoid them altogether. The situation described is one in which many Jews viewed swearing by “heaven,” “earth,” “Jerusalem,” or “one’s head” as less binding than swearing “by God.” Jesus stresses that each of these items belongs to God in an important way (cf. Isa 66:1) so that the conventional Jewish distinctions are spurious. Even one’s head, which might be thought to be uniquely under an individual’s control, has divinely predetermined features, such as hair coloring (temporary dyeing is not in view here!). Rather, Jesus’ followers should be people whose words are so characterized by integrity that others need no formal assurance of their truthfulness in order to trust them.
Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 112.
Communication is to be timely, build up the other (edify), and gives grace. Eph. 4:29
We will be judged for every careless word. Matt. 12:36
Second, there is general matter of behavior. Put simply we must act in a way which makes it easy for the other person to act properly before God and man.
The marriage relationship as the most basic (Gen. 2) and intimate, contains some basic elements of relationship which will be illustrative of other relationships.
For example: If a wife respects her husband, it makes easy for him to love her. If a husband loves his wife, it makes it easy for him to respect her. The duty of each is independent of what their spouse does (your bad behavior doesn’t excuse my sin): but if I make it hard you to be holy, if I tempt you to sin by my behavior, I am responsible for that also. It is causing a little one to stumble.
Phil. 2:3 Do not act in a way to promote yourself at the expense of others. Instead begin with humility and consider the other person as more important than me.
These basic elements of love, respect, humility are intrinsic to all relationships: even relationship of authority:
24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The difficulty: These commands are difficult to fulfill, because our emotions get in the way. It will often cross our own desires and fears to do this.
First, the other person does not “deserve” this conduct. Kirkegaard gave a good illustration here. If I loan someone money, I can require that they repay that money by giving it to someone other than me. God has a right to make any demand upon us. He has the right to require that we show love to others who do not deserve it.
Second, we may not get what we want from the relationship. Again, we need to understand in relationship to God. We are not supposed to think of other persons as resources. We do not have the right to expect other people to do anything for us or to reward us. We are to do what God requires and look to God for the reward.
Third, we are afraid we will be hurt. Again, our task is to do what God commands to leave the result to God.
On this point: it is the case that when both parties do what they are required to do in relationships, we both get what we desire. We want the other person to show us love and respect; we get that by first showing love and respect.
This is very, very hard to do. And the more we do the opposite, the harder it becomes.
(Again, notes not text of a lecture. There would be a lot of fill-in between discrete notes)
There are three potential types of causation for depression: physiological, environment, or spiritual. Often these three elements will affect one-another.
A Physical Causes of Depression
There are number of physical diseases and physiological conditions which will either cause symptoms of depression or which are associated with depression.
The Mayo Clinic webpage makes the following statements respecting physical causes of depression:
It’s not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as:
Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Recent research indicates that changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.
Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result with pregnancy and during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.
Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.
Since there are actual physical diseases which can cause depression symptoms (remember depression is a description of symptoms, not the diagnosis of a singular disease), it is appropriate to send someone to a medical doctor for a check-up. For instance, heart attack, stroke and thyroid disease are associated with depression.
This is what most people think of as a physiological cause of depression. There have been theories about the relative levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin as a cause of depression. But there is no possible way to measure the relative levels of neurotransmitters, particularly between the salient neurons relative to a state of depression.
This “chemical imbalance” theory of depression has largely been set aside. As was explained in a Harvard Medical School article:
It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.
To be sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.
The article goes on to make a case for physiological elements of depression, but the point is that a simplistic “chemical imbalance” theory is simply inadequate.
B Environmental causes
Depression can be a response to something in one’s environment. And again remember that depression can refer to sadness, fearfulness even anxiety of a sort.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
Here we have Paul explaining that death can lead to sorrow and that if not rightly understood can lead to a sorrow without hope.
One of the best tests for determining whether a depression is the result of a environmental cause is to ask when the depression began (learned of this test from Charles Hodges, M.D., excellent book, Good Mood Bad Mood). If you receive a response that the depression began shortly after my dad died, you have good evidence of a response to environment
C Spiritual Depression
There are three types of spiritual depression
1 Depression for unrepentant sin
2 Depression as a response to a corrective of God
2 Cor. 1:8-10 & 12.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes of spiritual depression which comes out a defective theology and thus a misunderstanding of the Christian life.
V Responses to Depression
The response will be dependent upon the cause.
A Physical disease
Where there is a diagnosable disease with a discrete treatment, then physical treatment is appropriate.
Aside on antidepressant medication
Antidepressant medication is typically medication meant to affect the “chemical imbalance” in the brain. In private conversation with a well-respected psychiatrist at a major university (he has since deceased), said over dinner, “Sometimes antidepressants work, sometimes they don’t; and we don’t know why.”
There many issues when it comes to antidepressants.
First, if the depression is not physical, then medication is inappropriate.
Second, feeling bad may be unpleasant but it is not necessarily bad. As noted in the citations above for spiritual depression, bad feelings may be means of correction or training.
Consider this passage from Paul:
Romans 5:1–5 (ESV)
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
At the end of verse two, Paul identifies the “hope of the glory of God” as the basis upon which we rejoice. The question then arises, who then do I increase hope? He goes on to explain that painful circumstances which could overwhelm us (as explained in 2 Corinthians) are used as a means to increase hope, in the end.
Third, antidepressants are subject to a substantial placebo effect. For mild to moderate depression, the placebo effect of antidepressant medication appears to be the principle benefit, “The combined effect of these and other biases suggests that the benefits of antidepressant drugs for mild to moderate depression (over and above the placebo effect) may not be clinically significant.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/doctor-you/201907/its-time-depression-make-friends-the-placebo
For those who suffer “severe” depression, the medical indications are different.
Fourth, antidepressants have serious side effects. For instance:
In the latest and most comprehensive analysis, published last week in BMJ (the British Medical Journal),a group of researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen showed that pharmaceutical companies were not presenting the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports, which are detailed documents sent to regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when applying for approval of a new drug. The researchers examined documents from 70 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of two common types of antidepressants—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)—and found that the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior doubled in children and adolescents who used these medications.
Aside on electroshock
Electroshock therapy has returned as a therapy in cases of severe depression. In a recent conversation, a psychiatrist explained to me that the current theory is that the electroshock causes a “hard reset” of the neurotransmitters and shows some alleviation of depression symptoms following the treatment. When I see her next, I’ll ask about her current opinion of the treatment.
B Spiritual depression
Obviously, exploration of unrepentant sin is appropriate and repentance (Ps. 32 & 51) may be the necessary response to depression. A warning here: be careful of insisting on this point, because it could easily cause despondency in a troubled conscience.
Administration of Hope
Ps. 77 Gives a good example of how to perform this work:
Psalm 77:1–10 (ESV)
The first four verses describe a case of serious depression
1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
At this point, the Psalmist administers a series of questions which force him to realize that he has reason to hope:
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, taking instruction from Psalm 42-43 explained that our trouble lies that we listen to ourselves rather than preach to ourselves. We allow our feelings to cloud and our judgment and we make our emotional state the truth of our condition. He explains that we must turn this on its head must take ourselves by the hand and tell ourselves the truth:
Psalm 42:5 (ESV)
5 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,
C Environmental Depression
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Understanding the matter correctly as a means of remedying the sorrow of loss.
Romans 8:28–29 (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Note that “good” is defined in v. 29 as being conformed to the image of Christ (not in getting a new car or a better job or some other possible “good”).