Perhaps you’ve heard this kernel of Christian “wisdom”: If you feel far from God, guess who moved? The implications are clear: you are at fault for feeling distant from God. It’s no wonder Christians have a hard time dealing with periods of spiritual depression—when our faith walk becomes a slog.
The term spiritual depression is often used to describe feeling far from God, even feeling cut off from his presence. For example, it could be a season of praying and reading Scripture without experiencing spiritual refreshment, without sensing God’s reply, or without feeling God’s presence. But should we really use our sense of God’s closeness as a test of our spiritual health?
As R. C. Sproul says, “The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression.” This is evidenced throughout Scripture: In Psalm 42, David cries out, “O God my rock . . . Why have you forgotten me?” Elijah cries out to Yahweh, “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” Throughout Christian history, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite nun, admitted, “If only you knew what darkness I am plunged into.” Even Mother Teresa wrote in 1959, “In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me—of God not being God—of God not existing.” According to her private journals and letters published as Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, she felt this way up until her death in 1997.1
Slogging Through Our Faith
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