John Piper's When the Darkness Will Not Lift: a wonderful encouragement for the depressed

WHILE MY PRIMARY disposition is sunny, there are days when I'm down and lonely. This is true for most, if not all, people—part of the ongoing, unpredictable cycle of ups and downs we all experience. Sometimes the melancholia goes away after a few hours. Sometimes it goes on for days, even months, but we go on normally with life. However, there's what we call clinical depression, where persistent sadness already interferes with work or relationship. I know of some people, and I have diagnosed some patients, with this clinical condition. Christians, being humans themselves, are not exempt from this.

When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper is a helpful book for me. Piper asks, "How can we help Christians who seem unable to break out of darkness into the light of joy?" I read it in the wee hours of the morning because I couldn't sleep, my mind wracked by so many thoughts and problems that I wished would go away at the flick of the finger.

Piper begins by saying, in all humility,

In addressing the topic of spiritual darkness, I am aware that I have put my oar in a very large sea. I rise from my desk and walk past a wall of books that speak more wisely than I on the care and cure of sad Christian souls. Just opening these volumes reminds me of how many wise and valuable things could be said—and cannot be said in a book of this size. It will always be so. The Word of God is inexhaustible, and the world he made holds countless treasures waiting to be found by clear eyes in search of Christ-exalting joy.

The book quotes John Bunyan (author of The Pilgrim's Progress), John Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, and other Christian writers who have gone through depression themselves. Piper explains the role of pyschiatry vis-a-vis Biblical truth. He explains that depression can be caused by sin—but not all the time. He writes a separate chapter on the moving words of King David in Psalm 40. He explains how crucial it is for believers to fight for joy and to help others do the same. He also explains that depression in a Christian's life is no indicator of his salvation.

The most moving paragraph below brought so much encouragement to me, and I hope it will do the same for you, too.

But I do know that true saints enter dark seasons, and should they die in the midst of one, it is no sure sign that they were not born again, nor that they were not sustained in their darkness by the sovereign hand of grace. God has his reasons why he would leave one of his dear children feeling so forsaken. Indeed he left his own precious Son forsaken on the cross—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). And we know his reasons were full of love for him and for us.

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