Responding to Tough Days
Bill was depressed. Many traumatic things started to occur in his life all at once. He had injured someone at work and even though it was an accident, he was let go from the job. His wife was troubled with “empty nest syndrome” and she could not let her children live their own life. She would try to have Bill control their decisions and would constantly talk about them. With his prospects for a job thin, and his wife’s emotional troubles, Bill had had enough. He was not sure what to do, but he needed help. The mornings were hard because there was no real reason to get up and get going. His motivation dropped, his desires for the things of life waned and he was flat out depressed. He could no longer afford the paper and the internet was cut off because of not paying for it. Bill moped around feeling sorry for himself. The zeal and enthusiasm he once had had disappeared. Bill asked the classic questions: “Why? Why me? Why this?” He would come up with self-philosophized answers that soured his outlook. Sometimes he would ask well-meaning friends, who could not really help. Their answers only fed the humanistic nature of Bill as a man and led to a more self-righteous and selfish perspective. Every day, the same cycle of depression increased until the point that Bill no longer wanted to live. What can Bill or someone like Bill do? You know of similar stories.
Every reader of this post will either be discouraged or know someone that is discouraged. Each of us know or will know someone fighting with depression. Perhaps you or I will battle with depression. What should we do in troublesome times? How should we respond when the going gets tough and we do not know what to do?
Isaiah was an Old Testament prophet for the Lord. His name means “salvation of the Lord.” Isaiah was a married man. The people called his wife “prophetess” according to Isaiah 8:3. They had 2 sons who they trained to serve the Lord. He started his preaching ministry during the year that King Uzziah died in Isaiah 6:1 which would be around 739 BC. He preached during reigns of King Jotham, King Ahaz, and King Hezekiah. He was contemporary with the Prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Tradition says that King Manasseh had Isaiah sawed in half. He could be the one “sawn asunder” that Hebrews 11:37 speaks about: “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” What a tragic time of history Isaiah lived in! Could imagine facing a saw for execution for doing what was right?
For over 50 years Isaiah preached. They were difficult days internationally. Nations could come and go defeating and carrying away the Hebrew people. Civil war between Israel and Judah was commonplace. Wars, fighting, spying, crime, famine, shortages, and other problems connect to international war were the life and times of Isaiah. They were also dangerous days internally. Most problems we face come from our own sinful nature. Many times we are the ones who create the problems we face. It could be because of our lack or faith, the friends we choose, or the focus of our heart. In this case, the people had forsaken the Lord again. The people would swerve back and forth between false gods and the Lord Jehovah God Isaiah delivers a message of judgment and also a message of hope. We find that salvation and deliverance are major themes of this Book of Isaiah.
To a man who could have been depressed, who could have lived a discouraged, defeated life, God gave an answer. We find this helpful answer in Isaiah 1:17 which says: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” When the pressures of life are pressing down on you, the Lord gives us a solution.
Let’s break down this verse and apply the 4 truths we discover in it in our lives.
“Learn to do well.” This is the goal when facing difficult times. We all want to do well, to do right by God, others, and ourselves. We should do well in actions, do well in our thinking, and do well in our talking. The goal is to “do well.” Then we find 4 measurable objectives to help us achieve the goal of “doing well.”
- Seek judgment.
- Relieve the Oppressed.
- Judge the Fatherless.
- Plead for the Widow.
Objective #1: “Seek Judgment” is the only point given that has to do with how the individual thinks about himself. Many times people who are depressed will say “I have to work on me for a while.” It sounds noble, but it is only ¼ of the solution. All discouragement comes from some form of selfishness. All selfishness comes from pride. Proverbs 13:10 informs us “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” To seek judgment has to do with making a judgment call. It is to make a right choice after perceiving and looking at the situation the right way. Each person dealing with depression MUST see their situation the way God sees it. They must look at their lives with the lens of God’s Word and through the prism of the Holy Spirit. Only then can they identify the pride that may have taken form in their lives in self-pity, self-denial, or plain old selfishness. This is a discipline of self-examination in light of the Lord. “Are things really that bad? Am I overdramatizing the situation?” It may be a truly bad situation, but things could always be worse. No matter what, the Lord is always there to help. Are you seeking God’s perspective on your life?
Objective #2: “Relieving the Oppressed” turns the attention of the individual from self-assessment to assessing and assisting the needs of others. It is answering the question of “How can I help other people?” The ridiculed co-worker needs a friend. The laughed at classmate needs someone to talk to. The loners in the office, the seemingly “backward” individuals on the floor, and the lonely person in a corner all need an advocate. They need someone to help them. That person can and should be you. No longer looking at your situation alone, you can relate your experiences and help others that are being oppressed. Who have you helped in the last month that was being oppressed?
Objective #3: “Judging the Fatherless” is a Hebrew phrased rooted in the word “justice.” When judging the orphaned and abandoned, it is not in a condemning way, but looking at them in a compassionate way. Life has given them a difficult start. A father has not nurtured them or cared for them. The fatherless develop emotionally without knowing the love of a daddy. The warm embrace, pats on the back, and words of affirmation a father would normally give are missing in their lives. Seeing their needs and deficiencies with the eyes of justice will help you choose to do right by them. A person in this case would offer to take a boy to the Father and Son Campout and be a personal mentor to him. A girl and her mother would be asked to enjoy dinner with a “more complete family” comprised of a father and a mother. A leader in the church will teach these children how to pray, how to serve, and how to live in a mentoring type way. There are fatherless children at your church; are you helping and encouraging them each time you see them?
Objective #4: “Pleading for the Widow” is seeing the needs in a widow’s life and trying to meet those needs. She may have chores to be done that are beyond her ability. She may need to have special care as the years increase. A Christian will look to help the widow. 1 Timothy 5:16 says: “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.” She may or may not have sons and daughters around to help her. She could really be all alone with no-one to turn to. The Lord gave the widows the church in this situation. Each widow with no-one else should be connected to a local church. Perhaps every church member should have at least one widow they are looking out for. It can be a for sure cure for preventing and curing depression! Who are you ministering to that is a widow?
Conclusion: Notice how ¾ of these objectives have to do with serving other people. This is a great cure for battling depression. When the previously depressed person is focused on these 4 objectives, he will have victory daily to the temptation to become depressed again. To focus on yourself in a moment of depression is a foolish thing to do as Proverbs 26:12 states: “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.” You can have hope today because of the wisdom of the Lord! Respond to tough days by “doing well” according to the Lord’s plan in Isaiah 1:17..
Bill will live to see another day. With Bible counseling such as this in his mind, he can have victory and Bible hope for a bright future serving the Lord on this earth. When focused on serving others, the time and miscalculated attention he was devoting to himself will turn into productivity for others and this will change his sadness into joy. He will discover the satisfaction he had been missing and he will have a fresh motivation for each new day.