In this week of “Defeating Depression” Pastor David Boone of New Covenant Fellowship shows that the key to defeating depression may be changing one’s perspective. Through the character of Job, we can learn that godly pre-actions often support godly reactions and that all gifts are a loaner from the Owner.
Part 4 – He gives and takes away
Fill in the blank. Don’t say anything out loud, but just think about your response and fill in the blank. If I were the head of the household I would do things differently; if I were the head of the household I would [fill in the blank]. How about this one: if I were the boss; I would do things differently. If I were the boss I would [fill in the blank]. Or if I were the CEO of my company I would [fill in the blank]. How about this one: if I were the President of the United States I would do things differently; if I were the President of the United States I would [fill in the blank]. Aright last one. If I ruled the world [fill in the blank]. Now your answers may vary to some degree. If you’re like me, your answer is something like, if I was in charge I would insure that I never lose. I would never lose a game, never lose an argument, never lose ground. I would never lose a friendship, would never lose my keys or wallet, I would never lose a loved one, would never lose my health, and I would never lose my marbles.
If we ruled the world, would we not insure that we would always gain, we would always score, we would always win. Would we not ensure stellar circumstances for ourselves? That is, IF we ruled the world. IF I ruled the world not SINCE I rule the world. We don’t rule the world, Jehovah does. In His rule, in his sovereign reign over all things, sometimes God allows for some crummy circumstances, circumstances that we would never choose for ourselves. Those sour circumstances can sometimes lead us to a deep depression. This morning we are taking a look at a man who had everything. One day he faced some sour circumstances; he suffered a great loss. We will learn from the text how to defeat the depression that results from sour circumstances.
Turn in your Bibles to Job chapter 1.
1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
4 His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
6 One day the angels [sons of God] came to present themselves before the Lord, and [the Adversary] also came with them. 7 The Lord said to [the Adversary], “Where have you come from?”
[the Adversary] answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
8 Then the Lord said to [the Adversary], “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” [the Adversary] replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The Lord said to [the Adversary], “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then [the Adversary] went out from the presence of the Lord.
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job had it all; the man had everything. He had a large family, a great number of servants, a great number of possessions – his wealth was bound up in his herds and flocks. And it was one of those days for Job. One thing after another.
Job has lost all. How did he respond? Worship. Job was a righteous man, an upright man who feared God and shunned evil. Job had holy habits. Thus, his immediate response was to worship depression out of his way; he recognized that he is not God but Jehovah is. He experienced a great loss, indeed. But he immediately declared the fact that all he had to lose was given to him by God and that God can take it all away. He recognized that God is sovereign over circumstances.
We see that because of his godly pre actions Job had a godly reaction. Godly preactions lead to godly reactions. When we develop holy habits; when we develop a lifestyle of worship and prayer, a life of saturating ourselves in the Word of God and the truth of the scriptures, when we surround ourselves with godly people who speak words of truth, love, encouragement and edification into our lives, we are developing a Biblical worldview, a God-centered paradigm, a perspective that prepares us to react in Biblical and God-centered ways when we face sour circumstances. Then, like Job, we are prepared to worship depression out of our way, to look depression in the face and say, “checkmate.”
Our perspective will be that I came out of my mother’s womb naked. I didn’t bring anything into this world. Everything I have ever had has been a gift from the Giver. Everything I have and ever will have has come from the hand of God. When I die, I can’t take any of it with me. God gave it all to me; God has the right to take it all away from me. It’s all a loaner from the owner. He has simply entrusted me with my home, my job, my family. I cannot control when they are taken from me. The only thing I can control is my stewardship, how well I manage them as long as they are in my possession.
Talk about sour circumstances. It couldn’t get any worse, right? Well, it gets worse. Take a look at what happens in chapter 2.
2 On another day the angels [sons of God] came to present themselves before the Lord, and [the Adversary] also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to [the Adversary], “Where have you come from?”
[the Adversary] answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
3 Then the Lord said to [the Adversary], “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
4 “Skin for skin!” [the Adversary] replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
6 The Lord said to [the Adversary], “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
7 So [the Adversary] went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish [denotes moral deficiency] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
Job has already lost his possessions now he loses his health; he’s got painful sores all over his body from head to toe. Have you ever had a painful sore? Just one. One mosquito bite or one ant bite or one pimple, one ingrown hair, one little agitation. Just one. One is bad enough, but can you imagine painful sores from head to toe?
Now let’s really get in the story. Let’s make it ours; let’s identify with Job.
What do you have to lose? Do you have a family? Girlfriend, or boyfriend? A job? Possessions? Health? Do you like to walk? Run? Play sports? Eat without a feeding tube? Breathe without a respirator machine? In a flash, in a twinkling of an eye, you can lose them. You can lose a family member. You can lose your job. Your house can catch on fire or get destroyed in a tornado or flood and you can lose all of your possessions. Tomorrow you can get diagnosed with cancer or get in car wreck and end up paralyzed, parapalegic, you can be an amputee, ride a wheelchair for the rest of your life. If you ruled the world, you would never opt to lose any of them, but you don’t rule the world and you don’t get to dictate all of your circumstances. Any of these things can be taken from you. If they were taken from you, how would you respond?
Look at jobs response even when his wife gave him un godly counsel: are you still holding on to your integrity curse God and die. What was Job’s response? Shall we accept good and not trouble from the Lord? He recognizes that which we should recognize: God is sovereign over circumstances.
Why do you think Job so easily and readily responded with a God-centered, God-honoring answer? I would say, once again godly pre-actions led to a godly reaction.
Imagine if Job did not have those godly pre-actions; imagine if Job lived a life of practical atheism. Imagine if he went throughout his days completely self-centered. Imagine if Job went days without praying. Imagine if Job went days without making a sacrifice or offering to God. Imagine if Job did not live a lifestyle of worship. If Job was completely and utterly self centered, seeking only pleasure and self-gratification, well, selfish pre-actions lead to selfish reactions. His response to his wife’s excellent counsel may have been right in line with her. “You’re right. I can’t believe God would let this happen to me. I am righteous. I deserve nothing but good. God owes me big time.”
Then, at the end of chapter 2, we read 11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite,heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
They sit with him for 7 days. Now for these seven days they said the most loving, comforting, and wise words they said during the whole book. They said…nothing.
In chapter 3, Job finally speaks and then the next thirty six chapters are a dialogue back and forth between Job and his friends wherein they try to counsel him and say “Well if you are righteous then this wouldn’t happen to you; obviously you have sinned in some way. You should plead your case before God.” They didn’t know what was going on in the grand scheme of things. Yes, generally, you reap what you sow and the righteous are blessed and the wicked perish. However, Job did nothing wrong. His circumstances were not a result of his sin.
In the epilogue at the end of the book, God says to Eliphaz in Job 42:7ff “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.
How do we counsel others who are depressed? At times, the best thing that we can say is nothing…UNLESS they ask. Then and only then (IMHO) shall we speak. And our response should be nothing less than utter compassion, lest we repeat the folly of Job’s friends. “Well, you reap what you sow. Have you considered changing your ways? What did you do that may have caused this?” Who needs enemies when you have friends like this? Who wants to hear this when they are depressed, in a pit of despair, struggling with sorrow?
Once again, sometimes the best thing we can say is nothing and the best thing we can do is simply be there.
So after seven days Job breaks the silence at the beginning of chapter 3.
3 After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said: 3 “May the day of my birth perish,
11 “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?
16 Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?
Job’s initial response was God-centered. But here after seven days, we see that he is on a downward spiral into the deep dark pit of despair; he is moving into deep depression, asking that he had never been born.
Something changed over the course of that week. Now this is simply speculation but I wonder if it had something to do with where his head was. I would venture to say that it was no longer: blessed be the name of the Lord he gives and takes away. I would venture to say it was more like if I ruled the world. Or why God? What did I do to deserve this? Don’t you owe it to me to continue to bless me and not afflict me with the loss of possessions, loss of loved ones, and loss of health? My servants are dead, by sheep are burned up, my donkeys, oxen, and camels have been carried off, my children are dead, and now I have these painful sores. When it rains it pours. Why the dark cloud over me?
It seems that in these seven days his perspective has shifted. It started out, “You give and take away; you’re God and I’m not. Blessed be your name. Shall we except only good and not trouble from you.” Then it became, “Why the trouble? What happened to the good? Why have you taken away?”
I would venture to say that if job maintained his initial response and continued to meditate on the truths he spoke in chapters 1 and 2, he would have remained victorious over depression.
But that’s easier said than done. I don’t know what it’s like to experience what Job experienced and I’m not saying we shouldn’t experience a deep depression as a result of losses like this. This is no small thing to lose everything.
Depression as the result of sour circumstances is not a sin, nor is it a sign of weakness. It is nothing you should feel ashamed of or condemned for.
But, if you want to have the victory over that depression, the way out of the pit of despair is a proper perspective. It requires a certain mentality, a certain viewpoint. It requires a certain amount of reason and logic. But the problem is that depression is highly emotional. When we are in the midst of sour circumstances we tend to be more emotional than rational. We don’t always tend to comply with reason. So what do we do?
We preach to ourselves. We counsel our souls with the truth of Job’s statements in chapters 1 and 2. And we do so continually.
We remind ourselves that:
We are not God. Jehovah is God and he is far more qualified for the position
Though we wouldn’t have allowed for such circumstances if we ruled the world he has and we should trust Him
That he owes us nothing; he is not indebted to us, we are not entitled to anything
Naked we came, naked we will depart. Anything we have, whether possessions, loved ones, employment, friends, health, wealth, prosperity, it was all given to us by God; He gives and He has the right to take away
That we should be willing to accept not only good from his hand but trouble as well
And even when we emerge victorious and defeat depression, it doesn’t negate the sting of our losses. The pain may well remain. We may never be the same. We will experience healing and a restoration of joy, but much like a scar that remains more sensitive than the rest of our skin, there may well be a place in our heart that still hurts.
Job lived a long time ago in a land far far away. Where is Uz anyway? And who measures wealth in terms of 7000 sheep? Who has servants these days? And who makes animal sacrifice? Job’s story is hard for us to relate to in many ways, but there is a story of a man that may hit closer to home and provide comfort to those of us living in sour circumstances thousands of years later.
Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures.
At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.
In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.
With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, it is well with my soul.
I’ll share a few stanzas with you:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
Even when we perceive that all has been stripped away, the real perspective on our sour circumstances, is that in the midst of all that has been taken much more has been given.
God gave his only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace upon him and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Therefore, we have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, and therefore, fellowship with God, and favor with God. We deserve his wrath; we deserve death. We don’t deserve the life we have been given in Jesus. While he may take away all of the presents he has given us, His presence remains. He has given us the most extravagant gift of all in Jesus. And while all of the other gifts are great, job, family, friends, health, wealth, prosperity, the gifts are not nearly as important as the Giver.
So when our circumstances stink, and depression rears its ugly head and says put up your dukes, hits us with a few left jabs, then a right cross, a left hook and then a right uppercut, throws us into the pit of despair and looks down upon us laughing, we have set in place the Biblical worldview, the foundation, the proper paradigm, the perspective that allows us to defeat depression. Godly pre-actions will lead to godly reactions and we can say with Job:
Shall we accept only good from the hand of Jehovah and not trouble?
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Though all of the gifts are taken, we have the presence of the Giver and we can say with Spafford, “it is well with my soul.”