“Spiritual Depression” By Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Summaries to Encourage, Edify, and Bless
Chapter 8 Feelings
2 Timothy 1:6
Feelings brings many Christians to their pastors to address depression. While the mind and will are integral to the Christian faith, feelings and emotions are equally vital. These feelings must be handled correctly according to Biblical truth just like the mind and will. Some are more prone to being overcome by such emotions than others and conversion does not negate that tendency.
Just as each Christian have specific talents, so do they each face specific challenges unshared by all. However, there are general principles which can direct all Christians. One is that our feelings should be just as actively engaged as our mind and will, yet we cannot create feelings nor can we command them. They are the most variable part of our being, yet we cannot permit them to rule us. Both our temperament and our feelings must be kept in their places.
Simultaneously, the experience of certain feelings is not necessary to be a Christian. While certain denominations and nationalities tend toward certain temperaments, some have gone too far and said that a Christian may be too happy.
In addressing depressed feelings, first look for obvious causes such as sin. Then one must avoid the mistake of concentrating over much on feelings. We must submit ourselves to truth and have feelings follow it. All saints of old have emphasized self-examination. Thomas Sheppard made himself miserable by overemphasis on self-examination however.
Another point regards the different between rejoicing and feeling happy. In Philippians Paul commands them to rejoice, not be happy. While we can’t force happiness, we can obey the command to rejoice. Happiness is in ourselves while rejoicing is in the Lord. Rejoicing requires a stirring up of the spirit as Paul urged to Timothy. MLJ calls this “speaking to ourselves”. We speak words of truth to ourselves. MLJ urges one to say to himself, “’I have no time to worry about feelings, I am interested in something else. I want to be happy but still more I want to be righteous, I want to be holy. I want to be like my Lord, I want to live in the world as He lived, I want to walk through it as he walked through it’”. Rather than feel, we must believe and then remind ourselves of our belief. Jesus must be our joy.
Being a physician scientist type, I read this chapter of MLJ and consider the biological nature of these “feelings” from two aspects. First, the power of these feelings comes from the hormones and brain chemicals released by these entities of our being. Once released, they are the proverbial horses out of a barn, difficult to regain control of and strong challenges to self-control. Second, the moral question of whether such biological aspects absolve one from succumbing to their power arises. While we are only scratching the surface of understanding the interplay of hormones and chemicals upon our mind and emotions, Scripture provides a clear testimony that we are accountable for sins committed both under and above such feelings. Biology acknowledges the strength and nature of our foe, but theology calls us to obedience regardless of our feelings.
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