Avoiding Despair (i.e. Depression) in Difficult Times (Part 1 of 2)
What is the difference between being perplexed and being despairing? A person in despair looks at a challenge and says, “There is no way out!”, while a child of God, in the same challenge, can look and say, “I don’t see any way out, but I believe God will provide.” Depression is a hopeless response to a challenging circumstance.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, Paul describes his tough circumstances. He was “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down”; and yet, note the four faith-filled responses to those circumstances (underlined below):

(2 Cor 4:8-9 NASB) we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; {9} persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Biblically, depression can be diagnosed as a hopeless response that causes spiritual inability to handle life to the glory of God. And because hopelessness is sin, there is hope for the depressed! A despairing believer must first gain biblical hope by gaining a divine perspective on the challenge; This will not necessarily change the circumstances, but will change our ability to obediently persevere in doing God’s will. It can be helpful to read through the perspective of Jeremiah in Lamentations in 3:17-26, or Caleb and Joshua in Numbers 13:25-14:9 to see how perplexing situations do not have to become despairing (i.e. hopeless.)

What to Believe in Perplexing Circumstances
God declares in His Word that He is responsible for both the challenging circumstances and the pleasant circumstances of our life – this is called God’s Sovereignty. (Read Job 2:10; Ecc 7:14; Is 45:7; Lam 3:38; 1 Sam 2:6-7; James 4:15; Mk 10:29).

God declares in His Word that He uses secondary causes to bring these challenges about: 1) God Works Good Through Satan’s Sin (Read about Job’s loss – Job 1:12, Job 2:6); 2) God Works Good Through People’s Sin (Read about the Christ’s death (Jn 19:11; Acts 4:27:28); 3) God Works Good Through a Nation or Ruler’s Sin (Read about the invasion of Israel – Prov 21:1; 2 Kings 17:18-20); 4) God Works Good Through Natural Disasters (Read about the disciples stormy sea experience – Matt 8:26,27).

If we are in Christ, God’s control over all things is used to help us become more dependent upon Him and grow in Christlikeness (Read Rom 28- 29; 2 Cor 1:8-9). Every challenging circumstance will accomplish good for the child of God if handled rightly (Read Heb 12; Gen 50:20; 2 Cor 1; 2 Cor 4:17; 1 Pet 1:7).

We may be tempted to believe that somehow God can produce good in us without the bad in our lives and that somehow suffering is a negotiable tool for God as He seeks to strengthen our faith and change us into Christ’s image. This is not true. (Read Phil 3:10- 11; 1 Pet 4:18; James 1; Phil 1:19; Rom 8:16-17).

What to Do & Not Do in Perplexity
Responding to challenging circumstances wrongly will not lead to any intended good, but rather lead to greater challenges in your life (Gal 6:9 -10). Here are some typical disobedient responses to challenging circumstances:
1. Worry – Mat 6:25-34
2. Anger – Eph 4:26,27; Eph 4:31-32
3. Neglect of responsibilities—2 Tim 4:5; Eph 5:1-17 (becoming a hermit, few productive activities, undisciplined eating and sleeping routines, slack on care and training of children, etc.)
4. Sinful Escapes – Matt 5:27ff; Rom 13:14; Mk 4:18-19 (heavy drinking, internet obsession, hanging out with wrong crowd, shopping sprees, responding to flirtation, off limit conversation with men, and even worse spending time with them, soap operas and romance novels, etc.)

All these responses will lead to earthly despair and possibly even eternal despair in hell. (Read Prov 13:15; Ps 32:3-5; 1 Jn 2:19). This downward spiral of emotional depression and despair is evidence of a lack of biblical faith and hope actively in control of the mind and actions. (Read Gen 4:6-7; Ps 27:13; Heb 11:6).

But at any time in this downward spiral of depression, if you confess any sin and turn to Christ and His way of escape, the spiral can be reversed (see Prov 28:13; 1 Jn 1:9). Your circumstances may not change, but your spiritual eyes and desires will.

Part 2 will provide a clear method for reversing the spiral of despair by biblical faith (To read part 2 click here)

At our media store you can watch the full length biblical training on overcoming depression (click here)