Depression cannot stand in the presence of worship
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to… give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” Isaiah 61:1-3
It’s often called a lot of things: depression, mental illness, a chemical imbalance. The Bible has another word for it: a spirit of heaviness. It is also called a spirit of despair, or fainting. The Hebrew word for it means to be dull, dim or faint.
A person who yields to this spirit or who discerns its’ presence will often feel the dirty D’s: discouragement, despair, defeat, disappointment or even death. It often leads to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It has the ability to make small problems look like mountains. Things that used to interest a person now lose their appeal. It has the potential to reduce our lives to coping rather than thriving.
What does it mean to yield to this spirit? It means that we give the devil a foothold in our lives through allowing thoughts of despair, discouragement, defeat, etc. to remain without resisting them. We of all people have reason to hope. It is the enemy, not God’s people who has reason to feel hopeless and defeated. Jesus won the victory over all of the schemes of the enemy at Calvary. In the spiritual realm, He put His foot on Satan’s neck, declaring Himself the victor over death, sin and the grave. He came to set the captives free, to bind up the brokenhearted and to comfort those who mourn. If, however, we do not resist the lies that tell us that we have no choice but to allow despairing thoughts to run rampant in our minds, the anguish caused by the spirit of heaviness will remain. Medication may dull the pain, but it’s important that we address the underlying reason for it.
When we recognize that we have been entertaining thoughts of depression, despair, defeat, etc., it’s time to stop and ask ourselves: What have I done to resist this? If we haven’t done anything, then it’s time to! We have been given (by God) a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. This means that we have a part to play in this: we must put it on. We do this as we worship. It means taking that first uncomfortable step of worshiping God, not just on Sunday mornings in church, but also in our individual homes and cars.
Luke 10:19 tells us: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Beloved, we have been given authority over the spirit of heaviness! Worship is one way we KICK IT OFF ourselves.
When feeling heaviness has nothing to do with ourself:
One day as I was doing my grocery shopping in a nearby town, I suddenly discerned the presence of the spirit of heaviness. I often sense this spirit operating over this town, and today it was THICK! I finished up my grocery shopping, and as I drove home I turned on worship music. I turned my eyes onto our Savior whose work on the cross was, in part, accomplished so that we His people would no longer have to live under the oppression of this spirit. I thanked God for being the One who comforts the depressed. I acknowledged Him as the Lifter of our heads, our Deliverer, the God of hope, and any other attribute of God I could think of that deserves our praise. I asked Him to forgive us as a people for yielding to this spirit of heaviness. I asked Him to send His warring angels to do battle against this spirit who have come against this region. It didn’t lift right away. I knew from experience in prayer and worship that sometimes it will lift quickly, and sometimes it takes time. Today it took a while.
The enemy cannot stand to listen to our worship of God. He will flee when we resist him and submit to God. (James 4:7) When we go into worship because we are discerning the presence of the spirit of heaviness over a city or region, we are standing in the gap for our people. It may or may not have had anything to do with our agreement that allowed it to be present. Whether we have opened the door to the enemy by yielding to heaviness or not, we still have an opportunity to intercede on behalf of our people. If we have yielded to heaviness before we recognize its’ presence, repentance is called for, but it is secondary to entering God’s presence with worship. We enter His courts with praise first. (Psalm 100:4) By the time I arrived at home some 30 minutes later, it had lifted.
One of the first things I do when I recognize that the spirit of heaviness is operating is ask myself: “Where were my thoughts before this?” Was I entertaining any thoughts that led to despair, discouragement, defeat, death, etc.? If I have, I don’t get bogged down in self-condemnation. The blood of Jesus is enough. Repentance is called for, but shaming ourselves is not helpful or beneficial. When we sin, we still have an advocate in Jesus. Learning to discipline our minds to regularly resist despair takes time and practice, but we have been given Jesus’ shield of victory!
May the joy of the Lord be your strength…