Discouragement & Depression:

Its Causes and Solutions

Reflections upon Haggai

Paul J. Bucknell

Depression is no doubt one of the growing problems around the world. Why are people depressed? Are there any solutions to depression?

Let us observe God's special way of helping a depressed people wonderfully recover in the Book of Haggai.

Intro to Cycles of Despair
Cycle #1
Caring for the Discouraged (Haggai 1:1-15)
Cycle #2 Caring for the Depressed (Haggai 2:1-23)
Conclusion

Depression:Its Causes and Solutions found in Book of Haggai.

Many people have been writing so much material on depression. People, however, are as perplexed as ever. Our hearts are saddened to see an increasing amount of both older and younger people now taking drugs to avoid the extreme effects of depression. Secular quasi solution to depression finds the problem and supposed solution in drugs.They are told that depression is caused because of a chemical imbalance and therefore must be medically solved. Unfortunately, this is not the whole story.

We do not deny a chemical imbalance in long term depression. We, however, are not at all convinced that this chemical imbalance is the ultimate cause for the depression. In this Book of Haggai, we see God treating discouraged and depressed people through words and exhortations. This began a healing process which in the end helped them finish building the temple in difficult times. We are led to believe from this model that our responses to God can lead to very sad situations or motivating times.

Because causes of depression outside of chemical upset of our bodies are rarely looked for anymore, genuine solutions are not discovered. People are left for long durations under the influence of powerful drugs making healing elusive. We are even more frustrated to see many of God's people fully convinced of this secular model. Confusion rather than healing results. This is not God's perfect will.

The LORD Himself took this case on and showed us how to deal with a person who went from discouragement to depression. God took the initiative and the details of the case help us get a good handle on this issue. Indeed there are other cases that must be dealt with differently, but we see the major means of working with depressed people here in Haggai chapters 1-2. We will focus on this discussion below.

What does Haggai the prophet say about all of this? Very little in fact. He was the prophet God used to speak to the people. He was there, but we see his participation only in voicing God's thoughts to these depressed people. Haggai was only a servant of the High God. If we are called to pray or counsel a depressed person, we should keep our servant status to God in mind. We have not the needed compassion, patience or wisdom on our own. We must humble seek these things from the Lord Himself through prayer and meditation on the scriptures.

We are not trying to say all depression follows this model exactly, but instead that certain factors which are exposed here need to be taken into consideration when dealing with all cases of discouragement, despair and depression. This case will give us lots of encouragement on how to practically deal with people facing discouragement to depression. We even see God having 'problems' getting through to them.

Can God's people fall into despair and depression? Sure can.
                                   Are there solutions for depression? Sure are.

Now let's learn from the many insights that we can gain on how God deals with discouraged and depressed people.

Observing the Cycles of Despair

As we go through the Book of Haggai, we will see God treating the Israelite people differently in different situations. This is no special surprise, but it does give us some organization to the many observations below. Overall, we find two different circumstances and their responses to God. Importantly, we find different patterns on how God deals with these discouraged Israelites. The way they respond to God has a lot to do with their dispositions. We even see a strong cyclic pattern.

Haggai's Cycles of Despair: Discouraged and Depressed.

These cycles demonstrate how our responses to God so strongly influence our inner lives. The strong message that has been circulating in the Western world for these last decades has convinced many that spiritual things are immaterial to our daily lives. People are taught to go through these cycles without realizing the connection they have with their relationship with God. Indeed, the number of clinical cases of depression are a testimony of a world without God's gracious help. May we seek God's intervening hand in our daily lives.

These two cycles show how significant God a place God plays in our lives, whether we like it or not. With each cycle there is a low and a high. We start looking at each cycle at its low. It is as their most desperate times God intervenes and brings extra grace to break the otherwise monotonous low. His grace can and does lead to a high where the path of unresolved disobedience is broken and a tremendous infusion of excitement, motivation and power arrive enabling them to do what was put off for months if not years.

Cycle #1: Caring for the Discouraged (Haggai 1:1-15)

A) The Low: Living with Guilt (Haggai 1:1-11)

Understanding Guilt

The word 'guilt' is not used in Haggai. There is the actual guilt - the failure of living by God's standards. Along with moral guilt come guilty feelings - easily irritated because of one's own disobedience.

We should note that guilt brings us in a situation where God must confront us. This is called judgment. He can choose to postpone this judgment, but it is certain. God always holds people accountable for what they have done. The LORD is the Law Giver (Legislative) as well as the Enforcer of the law (Policeman) and Maintainer (Judge) of the Law.

Notice the clarity this visit of God has:
1:1) the word of the LORD came
1:2) Thus says the LORD of hosts
1:3) Then the word of the LORD came ...
1:5) Thus says the LORD of hosts...

Before we think of a chemical imbalance, we ought first to consider if there is a spiritual imbalance. Have we in some way violated what God has desired for us to do? If so, we are lacking righteousness.

God's confrontation highlights this imbalance. God doesn't have to show up to establish this. He will eventually. Because of this reason, we ought often check ourselves whether we have left something undone or done things that displeased the Lord.

In this case, they could have corrected their situation more than ten years earlier and avoided the second stage we will now observe.

The Book of Haggai begins by describing what has and has not been occurring in the lives of the exiles. We will not go into a full discussion here for this can be found elsewhere. More important is to note how they have neglected to fulfill what they knew they should have been doing.

They had started rebuilding the temple more than ten years earlier but just stopped. The former temple lay in ruins. There must have been some construction done, but for the most part it all just sat there. As is typical, people would no doubt avoid going by this spot as each site or mention of it increased their guilt.

We instead read how they busied themselves on building luxurious homes for themselves.

"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?" (Haggai 1:4).

It appears they were preoccupying themselves with these personal projects so that they could keep the ruins out of their minds. Guilt occurs because we either have neglected to do what we were supposed to do as in this case, or because we have done things which were not right.

In this case they left undone which should have been completed. Clearly the issue was not their work on paneling their houses but neglecting their duty to rebuild the temple. The "while" in the verse above shows how God's house lay desolate.

Plagued with difficulties

Guilt always leads to difficult situations. God calls them to actually, "Consider their ways." In other words, God is telling them that if they were wise, then they would have discerned their problem earlier on. They could have done this by observing the increasing difficulties they were facing as listed in Haggai1:6.

Sown much, but harvest little;
Eat, but not satisfied;
Drink, but not enough to become drunk;
Put on clothing, but not warm enough
Earns, wages put into a purse with holes.

Verses 9-11 reveals even further difficulties. The LORD is saying that He is fully responsible for bringing these difficulties into their lives because of their neglect of rebuilding the temple.

You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away.

Why?" declares the LORD of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. "Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. "And I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands." (Haggai 1:9-11).

The pattern is ever so clear: Sin brings Judgment. In verse 1:6 Haggai tells them the solution is to get on with doing what God wants.

Difficulties in life are not always because of our sins, but it often is. We are wise to consider our ways.

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways! (Haggai 1:5; see also 1:7).

Most people get discouraged when they run out of food, not enough clothes, not warm enough, earnings dwindle away, etc. Life becomes oppressive rather than liberating. God actually uses weather patterns, agricultural problems, etc. to catch and hold a people's attention. After serious storms, people always seem more 'God' conscious.

God disciplines His children. It is a modified judgment with a purpose other than settling accounts. If God was just judging, then He would not tell them to observe their ways. The action has a higher purpose. Look again at the cycle chart above and see where the stars are located. They are in these cases as they often are at the low points. God magnifies His grace and mercy by helping man at his weakest point. If judgment does not end a person's life, then God has a higher purpose of showing mercy and grace.

Disobedience leads to guilt which in turn brings lots of problems that led them to difficult times. Many people go on and on in their lives without ever getting the connection that they should turn from their rebellious ways. Usually, if a person is quiet and listening, he will see how to solve these problems (1:8) along with all of the difficulties. God has been talking all along, but they were too busy on their distracting projects.

LIFE APPLICATIONS

Distracting projects

What hobbies are you involved in? Are you working extra hard? Why?

Do you have a second job? Why? Do you hear people say that you are too busy?

Difficult times

Would you describe your life as one that is blessed or cursed? Do you find things coming your way or going against you each step you take?

Are you low on money? Hard to keep afloat? Considering bankruptcy?

Discerning ear

Do you hear God speaking to you about something you should do or haven't done? Has one or two concerned people suggested that you should change something in your life?

Did you brush them away or listen to them and thank them for their help?

B) The High: Living in Obedience (Haggai 1:12-15)

Cycle #1 can rise or go lower. In their case it had been low for many years. We do not know if God spoke earlier to them. He probably did. If so, they heard but found no real changes. Further difficulties came into their lives. Perhaps they just got more guilty. But this time when they heard God's voice, they positively responded. We should note our response to God's revelation is critical. We will either despise or welcome God's Word. God's revelation always is an opportunity for good and positive changes.

Opportunity > Obedience

Call to Obedience

The 'lift stage' of cycle #1 starts in Haggai 1:12. This occurs because they responded to God with obedience. In this particular situation all of them chose to obey together. They picked up a tremendous amount of momentum. If this obedience was only chosen by one or two groups, then there would also have been a lot of conflict between the two sides. In this case the leaders encouraged the people, and the people encouraged the leaders.

Obedience might sound difficult, and of course it does have certain difficult ramifications, but really it is only doing what one ought to have done. In this case, there was neglect of duty. They would have to stop their work on their own houses if they were going to work on God's house. Obedience always require prioritization of God' wishes and often requires the subduing of our own preferences. The scripture describes this process as 'repentance.' The last phrase of 1:12 wonderfully describes their change of attitude.

And the people showed reverence for the LORD. (Haggai 1:12).

What they had despised and neglected is something they are now choosing to respect and be changed by.

Profession by mouth alone doesn't show change. Obedience only can speak through actions although it begins in the heart. We think that we are doing well when we try to do well. Obedience is not only trying but doing. Only obedience proves that real heart change is there. Jesus again and again spoke against those who profess to obey but in fact do not.

"And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. (Matthew 7:26).

Faith to Obey

The greatest difficult in obeying besides outright not want to is the fear of not being able to carry out the certain required task or change in life. Christians tend to use these 'impossibilities' as excuses. They must be very careful not to allow their discouragement carry over to doubt. Instead they should have the biblical attitude that if God calls anyone to do a certain job, then He will provide all that he will need to do it. This is true of evangelism, giving a testimony, teaching a Sunday School class, overcoming a particular sin, etc.

Obedience brings His people into an arena where they can find God's grace to do what He desires. The key to this grace is God's presence as shown by the phrase, "I am with you." Through God's strength and presence God's people find all they need to rightly carry out His will. We see this in creation when God made man. God fully equipped man with what he would need to compete God's job. Noah found God's grace sufficient when he embarked on obeying God in what seemed to be a frivolous and impossible task.

Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, ""I am with you," declares the LORD." (Haggai 1:13).

So we see this pattern, a pattern of power. Obedience brings assurance and faith in God's presence from God. As this faith comes, so does God's Spirit working in the lives of those individuals. Without this step of obedience, we will not see the faith and power that we would need to carry out what is needed.

Pattern of Power

Obedience brings faith brings empowerment.

One might rightly ask if faith is not a prerequisite to obedience. A certain faith is necessary to make such a choice, but this seed of faith is not the necessary maturing faith to complete the task. It is only the faith to bring you to God or to obey Him. This is where loyalty and faithfulness to God is more important than the thinking that it can be done. One chooses because God has been faithful to him. One chooses to obey because one is desperate.

Empowerment by the Spirit

Let's note more clearly the point of empowering by the Spirit of God. In verse 13 we find God assuring His presence to be with His people. In verse 14 we see this worked out in a specific program of empowerment.

So the LORD stirred up
the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and
the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and
the spirit of all the remnant of the people ... " (Haggai 1:14).

It is clear that Yahweh was the one who empowered the people. Just like in the building of the first temple, we see the Spirit of Yahweh moving in the lives of individuals and groups of people in such a way that they had a mind to work. One should never give into absolute negativism and say, "It is too late."

Nor should we say, "It is impossible." God can bring an amount of God-sized power into the lives of His faithful people to accomplish tasks that they never could do on their own.

The way David faced Goliath is an excellent example of this. No one but God was betting on David to win. David knew he was unbeatable not because of his military strategy but because of the way He learned to trust in God. The key was whether God was present or not. Notice David's dependence upon the Lord in the following verse which he wrote.

Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be Thou to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
(Psalms 31:2).

God always helps His people start and finish a job. In just three weeks time, we find that the Israelites were now working on the house of the LORD of hosts. This is simply amazing. We have no explanations for this other than the obedience of God's people.

"And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God." (Haggai 1:14).

Possible objections

Why doesn't God work more often like this?

We perhaps should say that He always works this way. God always establishes the life of the righteous. The problem is that the Lord is looking for the obedient man to empower him. But there are so few faithful people. What about you? Have you sought the Lord with all of your heart? So few can say yes. If more of us said, "Yes," to this, we would get God's work of building His spiritual house (the church and the Great Commission) done in no time at all. The problem is not money or resources but obedience.

But what if I don't feel like I can do it?

Never go by ones feelings. We are exhorted to obey not to see whether we feel like doing it or not. The success or failure of what He has called us to is up to the Lord. Our job is simply to obey. Many early missionaries died in the field in the first five years of their work there. We might think it failure but God chalked it up as success. We might have to run counter to our feelings. This is fine. Some people think this is not right because it is going against ones true self. Any thought, action or feeling that goes counter to God's will must be rejected and finally subjected to His will. This is what being a Christian is all about. God frees us to serve Him rather than our old man and its desires.

Does obedience always have a good result?

Yes, always. The uncertainty does not lie on whether obedience brings a good result but as to when the end result will come. We have a vast number of examples that show that obedience often has many challenges. The Book of Nehemiah traces these foes. Paul says, "The godly man shall be persecuted." The end result of obedience is always wonderful. Even the times of obedience are accompanied by God's amazing peace. Job was rewarded on earth; others will find their reward for obedience in the next life.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13).

Summary of Cycle #1

The choice of obedience instantly changed a people who were carrying years of guilt. God wanted their participation. God did not reject them, but sent His prophet to call them back into His plans. Sometimes we might be too late to complete what God really wanted to do through our lives, but as we find here, we rather through faith choose obedience to God because He always has some special plan for those who turn from their obstinate sin and choose to follow His ways.

This is true with the old, the utterly wicked, the dead religious and the wild young. Now is the time to change. God is able to foster a spirit of hope, vision and motivation that depression can't hold back. Obedience plays the key to discouragement and failure.

Cycle #1 describes our spiritually dry and barren lives. Circumstances have gown absolutely oppressive. However, in all of this 'low time,' God is trying to speak. He is calling us to again participate in His good and perfect will. To the degree that we and others obey, He brings His Spirit upon His people to accomplish His work.


Cycle #2 Caring for the Depressed (Haggai 2:1-23)

The lack of hope buries us alive in depressionWhere guilt reigned in the lives of the people in the first cycle, we suggest despair and depression have settled in here in this second cycle. Only one month after they started rebuilding, the prophet Haggai is again sent to them. They fell off from their job. What God had so inspiritingly instigated has now disappeared like a sudden storm. This incident very easily can cause a number of fears to rise up in the minds of the unstable.

Might Fail Again

Many people make the unwise decision not to obey because they might fail again. Most of us are aware of this kind of fear. It is one of Satan's favorite tools because it disables an otherwise potent candidate for service to God. What stand between them and a life of obedience? Fear. They fear they might fall again.

This kind of fear strips us from hope. This lack of hope is what buries us alive in depression. We get locked into a situation in which we feel there is no release. Our bondage is not real, but it appears real. Each possible escape has been sealed with an excuse. Each excuse is cleverly disguised in a lie provided by the evil one. Others might come by and try to shake us from our doubts and fears by showing the foolishness of the excuses that we hold to, but in our pride and fear, we can't hear them. Nothing seems to be able to shake the dark doubts that have penetrated the soul of the depressed.

God understands depression. He knows the stages of depression.

Discouragement > Disbelief > Despair > Depressed

It is not easy if not impossible to map when these depressions begin and end. We only know for sure that depression is when a person has locked himself into disbelief so that he cannot escape. Before he is sealed into depression, he comes in and out of despair. It is at this time that excuses are so regularly exercised that they become internalized as part of the thinking process and can no longer be objectively studied. We have believed the lie as true and therefore think highly of our excuses even others around us continue to question us..

Although we might be able to clearly explain the process, we greatly feel for those who have fallen for these lies. They feel lonely, abandoned, rejected and often hated. We can understand why depressed people would contemplate suicide as a solution to their problem. They are convinced there is an infinite mess between them and normalcy and have just accepted as fact the notion that nothing can or will help them.

Deliverance!

God understands this trap of the evil one. He cleverly breaks up the evil one's plan and sets the prisoner free.

We will cover these important steps in a moment, but first let us notice that there is not much that really separates the prisoner from freedom. It is true they might not be in what they call clinical depression. The only substantial difference is the degree to which they have internalized the lies about God and themselves as true.

Our hope stems from the way God can intervene in a depressed person's life and bring back the sparkle of life. Let's look at how God did this. We will note God's wisdom, compassion, and promises.

1) God's wisdom

First mentioned in the text is the way God saw through to the problems of their heart. God always knows the answers to our situations no matter how confused we might be.

Just because we are confused, we should not think that God or others are the same. They indeed have a better and more accurate perspective. When David was guilty in sin, He sent Nathan to target the problem area. So we need to train ourselves to welcome the advice of others. We judge what they said not according to what we feel about it but whether this is what is said in God's Word. The words of healing bring light to a soul held in darkness.

"Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? (Haggai 2:3).

The Lord did not start with rebuke. He started with insight into the key problem area. Rebuke is not suggested with depressed people. They usually already feel bad enough about their ways. Rebuke for self-pity or other wrong thoughts might later be needed, but we need to keep our general goal in mind. God wants to share His Word of light into their souls. The question is not whether God knows what the problem is but (1) how to know this and then (2) how to share it in such a way that they can grasp it for themselves.

We realize that God had what we often don't have. We often do not know what that insight is. We also do not have access to people like God did through Haggai the prophet. But still, we can still gain a lot of insight from how God spoke to this depressed group that fell back into despair about building the temple.

(1) How does one gain God's wisdom and insight needed for a person in despair?

Close to God. We should realize that if we want to know what God thinks about a certain matter, we need to be close to Him. We need to seek the profit of others rather than in pride or self-confidence show how much better we are than them. We need to actively seek and ask for wisdom. If we want to be a vessel for God, we need to be cleansed and obedient.

Faith in God. Secondly, we should have faith that God has a word to say to the depressed person. It might not be us who speaks to this person. It might be at a time different than you have planned or hoped for. We do not know why God waited until the 21rst day of the 7th month to address them. We can plead with God, but we must patiently wait for His plan.

Ask of God. Thirdly, we should ask God for wisdom to understand what we need to say to the person. If we sense God is leading us to talk to someone, and He still hasn't given the word to say, don't worry. Just keep on go praying and meditating in His Word with this purpose in mind, He will help you. However, if He gives you a caring word like in verse 2:3, then one can be pretty sure that he should seek an opportunity to speak with that person.

Pray for them. Fourthly, pray about their person and situation. Usually, one knows enough about that person to understand some things that are going on in their lives. We see God's message had to do with the area they were deficient in. They were suppose to be building the temple. They stopped building the temple. If the cycle of despair and depression is encountered early on, then the problems will seem quite evident.

"I see you have stopped building the temple?"
"Did you run out of materials? Did you have problems with plans?"

"I see you haven't come to church lately?"
"Has someone hurt you?"

"I see you have lost interest in your job?"
"You used to be so eager. When did things change?"

Be alert. If someone has been in despair for quite awhile, other problems come in that are not directly related to the first. For example, they might sneak drugs, steal, be tardy to work, etc. Further guilt piles up. Complete healing will come from solving the original problem, though each additional sin and its consequences must be also confessed and worked through. One can start prying off each problem at a time (start easy to hard), or if God gives grace and insight, go for the root problem.

The Lord knows the heart so He can't miss their root problem. We can miss, and if we have pride, then we will be hard on the other person.

The Solution

God knew that word had got around about how dismal this building was in comparison to the former. A few old timers shared what the old temple looked like and couldn't believe how poor this one looked like in contrast.

"Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy;" (Ezra 3:12).

No exquisite woodwork. No ark of the covenant. No covenant tablets inside the ark. No beautiful gold and other precious metals and metal work. The Lord asks them, "Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?" The Lord didn't give them time to answer. He touched on the root problem from which the discouragement came and caused them to give up. There probably were other problems, no doubt, as there always is. But He knew the real motivational problem.

This attack on worth or value of something that they were working on is often used to discourage faithful hard workers. If the people lose sight of the value of their work, then they start slacking off on the job. This is the reason companies' mission statements have become so valuable. They keep reminding their workers of the importance of their work and faithfulness even if they can't see it. God values their faithfulness. So Satan tempts people saying, "It's not worth it." "How silly it looks." "You will never finish." Satan designs His temptation by targeting a person's characteristic weakness. The goal is all the same -> give up.

Value material things. "It's not worth it." They see that they could be involved in things (like their own house) that would bring more profit and comfort.

Value people's opinion. "How silly it looks." They see how they might be embarrassed if people link them up with something of insignificant value and make fun of them.

Value completeness. "You will never finish." If they see that a possibility of not finishing, then why waste the time and effort.

There are many other character weaknesses which can be exploited. When it comes down to obedience, however, we must obey with our whole heart. We dare not give up. The tendency to give up is temptation. Giving up is disobedience when God has set us to a given task.

Their thinking probably went like this, "What is the sense building a temple like this?! It is ridiculous. There is not even an ark in it. Will God really live here in a place like this? It is impossible to build a temple that will please the Lord. We may as well give up." If their thinking went along these lines, they would have some serious misunderstandings of God. This is unfortunately far too common.

The very thing they doubted - that God would be pleased, was not true. They drew the conclusion that God would not live in the temple like before. They perhaps thought about when Solomon made the offerings and fire came down from heaven. They didn't think that God would fill the temple. We find support for this conclusion from the following verses each emphasizing the true glory of the temple was the Lord Himself. Notice how God identifies their point of discouragement and then states a thorough and truthful perspective of the situation tailored to their needs.

The promise: "For I am with you." (2:4)

"As for the promise .... My Spirit is abiding in your midst," do not fear." (2:5)
"I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts." (2:6-7)
"The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former." (2:8-9)

As a result, two months later we see that they have worked on the temple with such integrity that the Lord saw it as good as finished (2:18). God takes away the judgments that kept prodding them along and brought them His blessing.

Summary

We see the Lord accurately pinpointed the problem. The wall of excuses came down so that the truth could be implanted. Trust in God and the prophet was able to support the truth that was shared. By pinpointing the problem, they felt as if God really understood their heart problems.

He went on to encourage and build them up. He did this with a number of statements which could bump the false lies out of place and build up God's own perspective.

We need God's Word to speak to the hearts of people. Times of meditation on God's Word and prayer is where God will speak most clearly to you, though He is not limited. We dare not only expose their wound, but we must provide a genuine solution. When the screen of falsehood is ripped through, the truth must be quickly and kindly interjected before those lies can again confuse the person in discussion.

The root problem is directly connected to the disobedience.

(2) How do we graciously, and yet assuredly, impart that insight into the person or groups mind?

Even though we might know what to say, it does not give us opportunity to say it. The Lord used Haggai to deliver the important message. However, someone might sense we have a message for someone like a president or head of the church, but do they actually have access to that person? If they have access, do they have the position to be acknowledged and listened to? Without access, the message cannot be delivered to the people.

I am humbled by the times I sensed I had something to say and yet people would not give me audience. Rightly or wrongly, they sense I would be challenging their own ways. Despair comes in a hundred packages, sometimes connected to marital problems, parental problems, failing grades, loss of jobs, or confusion about direction.

In the end, I realize this is primarily an issue of prayer and waiting. Sometimes I sense God wants me to go. After sincerely praying, I take what steps I can. I remember one person facing grave marital problems. He lost his job then separated from his wife. Others were counseling them. Even though I had things to say, I was not an elder in that church nor did I feel led of the Lord to intervene. I made one casual conversation just to sense how things were and make sure he understood he could come to me and talk if he wished. Later after a good number of months, however, I felt I did have a message from the Lord. I relayed that to him. We discussed a little, but he chose not to follow up on it. I continued to pray for that couple. God is mighty and can intervene even in the lives of the proud by His almighty grace and power.

There is another part of this problem. Even when we do have access to a person's presence, sometimes we do not have access to a person's ear. Depression has cut off their hope and this lack of hope has established its fortress of lies. It is so hard to get in. Again, prayer is the key. We need several people to pray or the whole church to pray. A pastor or parent might know what to say but the heart is not open.

God's timing is most important. Sometimes a person needs to hit a 'bottom' before they listen. How we must pray that they will listen before this time, but often they are hardened to God's Word. I remember one depressed person who was very closed. But as I fervently prayed, God opened his heart a little bit so I can speak some words of light which brought some hope for a bit.

When God did speak, He didn't rebuke or criticize, He told them to take courage and work for God is with them. We will discuss this more in the next two sections.

2) God's compassion

A depressed person often feels that God has given up on them or that He has rejected them. This can come about after they think over their disobedience. As in this case, they could easily get double discouraged once everyone stopped working. One only needs to experience the influence of a negative morale among workers to see how integral this is to completing the work. This secondary temptation shouts a series of statements,

"You're no good."
"You are a failure."
"I told you so. You never would finish."
"God has left you for good."

Satan tries to confuse God's people between judgment and discipline. He tries to make us feel that what we have done wrong, cannot be changed. If convinced, then we stay at the bottom, depressed and useless.

We should never think that God has rejected us. This passage should prove that beyond degree. Yes, we might reason that there are more severe cases than this one in Haggai, but can we not see that God really cares for those who have failed Him? Remember Solomon's great prayer in 2 Chronicles 6? God answered He would always be near enough to hear His people's prayer and heal them. Let's note how God reached out to this broken people.

God first of all approaches them.

He didn't reject them. Rejection means 'no more dealing with.' Some parents or pastors are so upset with disobedience that they have rejected those in their charge. This is not God's way. God reaches out in a timely way. He said to Haggai, "Speak now...." We should never harden ourselves from disappointment in such a way that we become unapproachable. In fact, we should touch base with depressed people here and there and see if God would open the door for us to bring hope and love into their lives.

God does not rebuke or criticize the leaders or people.

They have failed. They have failed more than once. God didn't rebuke them though. They were already feeling rejection. (This is contrasted to the pride of the Pharisees who were often rebuked). Although a rebuke would be truth, it would not be loving. The people are already convinced of failure. They were ensnared by discouragement. They let discouragement lead to disobedience. Discouraged people need direction, affirmation and hope. This is what the Lord brought them.

God exhorted them to take courage.

We need to pay special attention to this charge to take courage. God often exhorts people to take courage (see God speak 4 times in Joshua 1) but rarely have I ever heard a preacher or teacher mentioning this. We see God took the same approach to all three groups. If a person is sick with the same disease, and a medicine works, we give others with the same problem the same effective treatment.

-> Take courage, Zerubbabel. -> Take courage also, Joshua. -> All you people of the land take courage

The word to "take courage" is literally to be strong. This is the exhortation that causes a person to recognize who he is and God's call upon his life. It furthermore fosters the willingness to take what little strength he has to respond to God's call. The special call to be strong helps fight discouragement and depression because of numerous reasons.

The 'Call to be Courageous' helps fight depression for a number of reasons.

1)

Calls them from a spirit of confusion and lack of direction.
Counters
"I just exist. That's all!"

2)

Directs them to respond in a specific way back to God's call.
Counters
"I don't know what to do."

3)

Refers back to a undeniable truth deep in their heart that is clear when remembered.
Counters

"God doesn't speak to me."

4)

Encourages them by establishing their response is important and significant.
Counters

"It doesn't matter."

5)

Fosters an expectation of strength which encourages them to be able to do its.
Counters

"I can't do it."

We must see that God does not just infuse strength like pouring water into a bottle. He instead challenges the person to get a hold on his will and exert it. Satan's delight is to get God's people to become listless and irresponsible. Strong Christians are always masters of their will. Strength comes from determining to let God work in them to do His good will. God shows how He cares by calling them back to what He earlier had stated. Clearly God had not rejected them.

Modern Compassion versus God's Mercy

The modern understanding of compassion and mercy is opposite to God's. Where God would exhort people to take responsibility and respond to their duties, the world tolerates them to remain in their sad and defeated state. They most commonly do this by medicating them for the long term. They also do this by calling their weakness an addiction. This makes the state both real and permissable when God says it is not real and impermissible. They end up saying, "That is the way I am."

God calls people to mission, His mission. Be strong or 'take courage' calls them to remember what they had heard and valued long ago and to follow that inner directive. The darkness might be thick, but all one needs is a little light to direct them to their next step. Compassion does not mean leave a person in their sad sin. Biblical compassion leads people from disobedience back to the joy and power of obedience.

Summary

We of course need to be careful to speak kindly. Respect people by dealing kindly with them. Speak firmly. Stir up God's voice from the past by going over their conversion, how God spoke to them in the past, reviewing what led them into different effective ministries, etc. Ask them what promises God had given to them, or what Bible verses used to speak so clearly to you and why. If we cannot get new light into them, let us defog the light that they have etched on their hearts.

God wants His people to be effective. He is building up His people. We should build up His people because we care for them. Never is this so clear when we see God sending His Son like a sheep to be given up for the broken sheep. He would die so that they might enter in and have an abundant life. Truly, God's compassion is so mighty compared to the world. At any time His child can come back to Him and be received into God's love.

3) God's promisesFill pockets with promises!

God's people need to live by His promises if they are going to overcome the temptations thrown at them. If we are going to empower the despairing ad depressed, we will need to place the King's promises before them. Each visit or phone call should be full of promises from God's Word just as we see God lavishly pouring them out to His people here in Haggai 2. It should be like sticking money in every one of his pockets you find. If he has no pocket to hold the promises, make one!

The root promise is found in Haggai 2:4, "for I am with you." This promise addresses the root problems for their discouragement. This promise will need explanation to bring out its full power and this is what God does in the following verses.

Although we should bring many promises to the heart of a person in despair, we should remember to focus the root promise to the area of deepest need. After this, work on finding other similar promises. Find a theme and keep to this theme. This will reinforce what one has already said. It is far more important to drive one good point home than scatter ten good ones all over. Plant a seed. Water it. Baby it. Protect it. Expect fruit from it.

Often times, we need to put flesh on a promise of God. If the person looks as if he is saying, "What has that verse got to do with me or my problem," then we have some clarifying to do. Remember one seed properly planted is worth far more than ten seeds on the surface or even a whole new big package of seeds that remain in the package!

How do promises work?

Calling God's people to take courage points them back to the call of God which they have stored away in their memories. Promises, however, bring hope that God can help one carry out that call. Just to be strong is self-confidence. They already know about failure which destroys self-confidence. They do not need more self-reliance or pep talks for this only reminds them how once before they failed. Then they go back to the lie that they can't do it and might not try again.

They instead need to see how God's call works together with His power. Note Paul's place of confidence.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

His confidence is that it is God working in them to carry it out. We need to be specialists in trusting God. We all know these following verses, but have we all put them to action?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5,6).

Secularism has in many cases destroyed the power of Christians by convincing them that they need to do it on their own. Yesterday, I told my wife of my plans to follow up on looking for some grants. She immediately responded, "Why are you doing this? When did you start thinking about this?" She knew it can be from the Lord or from the flesh. What a great helpmate!

Overcoming Past Failure

When we bring the promises to the discouraged, we should be able to see that one or more excuses come to the forefront of their minds. You can usually hear it in their words or at least see it in their face. Oftentimes, we see the lie that says, "You already tried that before. Remember?! Don't be a fool trying that again."

In this case, we can do several things. The window of opportunity is short. Pray silently for them and yourself. If you cannot pray with them aloud, you must somehow show them that God's promises never failed them. They either misunderstood it, misapplied it, or as in many cases turned to trusting oneself. This can be affirmed by checking out their spiritual life during that time. Ask them specifically, "How often they had prayed and read God's Word?" Try to see if they were trusting the Lord and didn't have a bitter heart.

The promises of God are so powerful. They simultaneously implant faith and expectation in the way God can accomplish His otherwise impossible tasks through your life. Quote God's promise and then repeat it in your own words. Explain it like the Lord took great lengths to explain how this promise of God's presence had to do with His command to build the temple. Promises build up faith which in turn foster a willingness to take the right step of action. Leading people out from depression will require this tender kind of leading them, step by step.

Conclusion

Depression is common, but God seeks to take His people quickly out of it. Depression can enter a Christian's life from many different angles, but more than often it is because they have stopped meeting with God. Or if they are having devotions, they no longer meet God. They have become ineffective.

God brings hope into His people's lives by entering their lives through His faithful servants which bring His truth, compassion and promises to them. God's servants must be clean, regularly praying and meditating on His Word to be used.

They need to call people to 'take courage' or 'be strong' but also to speak out the appropriate promises of God. By calling them to take courage, they exercise their will and mobilize their trust in God. By hearing and trusting His promises, they are empowered to do what they couldn't do for such a long time. God never communicates His willingness for people to stay in places of disobedience. God's will is that they by His strength do His glorious will.

We see that in verse 18 that within 2 months time, they were fully back in operation rebuilding the temple. God had such confidence in their work this time, that He already reversed the curses to blessings.

18 "Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the LORD was founded, consider:
19 "Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.""
(Haggai 2:18,19, NASB).

Final Summary

We have looked at two cycles. At each cycle's low, God intervened. By intervening and speaking through the prophet, God actually led His people out of discouragement and depression. We acknowledge there might be some overlapping of terms and procedures, but clearly the pro-active intervention of God stands out most clearly in these cases. God was never content to let people stay in their discouraged ways.

God always has a solution if man wants to hear it. We need to be more dependent on the Lord so to gain His wisdom and insights. We need to pass on a compassion that only comes from God.

This case study is partial in many ways, and yet hopefully it serves to stir up our responsibility to pray and seek the restoration of those bound in their sins and darkness. We need not administer drugs as His servants. We minister His truth and promises. Each cycle's low was broken when God's people heard the truth. This should motivate us more and more to trust God to be able to break the psycho-babble that is so common and confusing and adopt God's own patterns of counseling.

For further background info: See Ezra and Nehemiah
Special Study: Discovering an Effective Leadership Model from Haggai
Special Study: Overcoming Discouragement & Depression


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