It’s been almost two years since I wrote about being diagnosed with depression back in the early 2010s and the burnout causes that led up to it. Thankfully, by following the road to recovery I described in the article, I’ve not experienced it again.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t get the blues from time to time.
Having grief or sadness may not be the same thing as a medically-diagnosed depression, however it can still take a toll on you if it’s a prolonged season of unhappiness. At times, all sorts of negative things can weigh us down to the point where life sometimes just collectively feels like one big disappointment.
Maybe you watch your kids make one bad decision after another and you hurt because you can see that what lies ahead for them isn’t good. Or you have physical ailments that are a real challenge and relief from them is hard to come by. Perhaps things rarely go well on the job, at school, home, etc., and it seems nothing is working out like you had planned.
All that can get anyone down. Sometimes, for a long time.
If that’s you right now, let me pass along something that helped me a great deal the last time I had a lengthy patch of the blahs.
Theology to the rescue
“I bet this is going to be a bit dry.”
That’s what I initially thought when I tapped ‘play’ to listen to a podcast by Tim Keller, entitled The Unchanging God. Turns out, I was completely wrong and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Keller’s masterfully-crafted message takes you down a road to the most unlikely cure for the blues: an inward acknowledgement of God’s immutability.
Now right out of the gate, you may be wondering what immutability means. It’s actually quite straightforward: God doesn’t change. Ever.
“I, the LORD, do not change,” God says in Mal. 3:6. In the New Testament, James describes God as being one, “with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). There are other verses saying the same thing, but the gist is that God’s immutability equates to Him possessing an unchanging nature and character.
So now you’re most likely thinking: OK, interesting, but how, in the world, is that supposed to snap me out of my despondency?
Keller’s message takes you to Psalm 102, aptly subtitled in some Bibles as, “Prayer of an Afflicted Man.” Read through the first eleven verses and — if you’ve got the blues right now — see if you don’t spot a thing or two that feels a bit familiar.
The guy is in distress (v. 2), can’t eat (v. 4), can’t sleep (v. 7), feels alone (v.7), and has the terrible sensation that time is passing him by (v. 11). Life has become mostly a dumpster fire.
He feels like he’s losing everything and that should strike a chord with all of us because at the heart of many bouts of grief is some kind of loss.
Racking up painful losses brings with it the idea that life is radically transient; everything seems to slip through our fingers. A number of ancient philosophers like Heraclitus argued that a person “never steps into the same river twice,” meaning that the only constant in life is change and one that is usually not for the better.
The body blows of change and loss can be hard to keep absorbing, which is what the man in Psalm 102 is wrestling with. His light at the end of the tunnel takes the form of realizing two things.
First, although everything else in life results in loss and change, he declares that God is the giver of all good things and never changes. The takeaway from that is He and He alone can be relied on in life. The Psalmist says that God abides forever (v. 12), and that although “everything will perish, You endure … You are the same and Your years will not come to an end” (vv. 26-27).
In a swirling world of bereavement, the man is saved from his sorrow by good theology; in this case, the understanding of God’s immutability. But there’s an important second piece to the puzzle.
God may be unchanging, but that fact alone doesn’t mean that He cares about you and me. This is why the afflicted man in Psalm 102 goes further to acknowledge another of God’s attributes, which is His unchanging love.
He speaks about God hearing “the groaning of the prisoner” (v. 20), having regard for the “prayer of the destitute (v. 17), “setting free” those who feel doomed (v. 20), and finishes by declaring “The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You” (v. 28).
In other words, he says there will come a time when there is no more loss or painful change. And we New Testament believers have some knowledge the author of Psalm 102 didn’t have, which is seeing that promise fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — an event that occurred in our space-time history and seals the deal where trusting God’s love for us is concerned.
This is a cure for the blues like no other and is beautifully summed up by A. W. Tozer in his work, The Knowledge of the Holy, where he says this about God’s immutability:
O Christ our Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. As conies to their rock, so have we run to Thee for safety; as birds from their wanderings, so have we flown to Thee for peace. Chance and change are busy in our little world of nature and men, but in Thee we find no variableness nor shadow of turning. We rest in Thee without fear or doubt and face our tomorrows without anxiety. Amen.
On Tozer’s last point, Keller tells us to never forget that there is no refuge from God; there is only refuge in God. In other words, to quote part of a hymn you most likely know: on Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
I don’t know about you, but I feel better now.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.