We’d suggest that there may be at least two different dimensions to the struggles you’re experiencing. First there’s the spiritual or theological side. Then there’s the psycho/physical. Both are real and both deserve to be taken into account. That’s because you are a whole person, made up of body, soul, and spirit. Spiritual troubles can affect your mind and body. In the same way, physical illnesses and imbalances can upset your emotions. They can even touch off episodes of mental distress and spiritual depression. If you know where the source of the problem lies you’ll be able to address it more effectively.
Thankfully, the Gospel message is clear. God’s Word tells us that there is no room for uncertainty on the theological side of the ledger. As you said yourself, the Bible promises us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Jesus says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). He also assures us that once we belong to Him, there is no power in heaven or earth that can separate us from His redeeming love: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:27-30). The apostle John also tells us that if we fall under conviction and become aware of the presence of sin in our lives, we need only confess it. When we do, God will be “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). We can have no possible cause to doubt Him, for even when we are faithless, “He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (II Timothy 2:13).
This is why Martin Luther was able to say, “All heaviness of mind and melancholy come from the devil: especially these thoughts that God is not gracious unto him; that God will have no mercy upon him, etc.” Luther knew what he was talking about, since he was himself subject to frequent bouts of doubt and depression. He continues:
“Whosoever you are, possessed with such heavy thoughts, know for certain, that they are a work of the devil. God sent His Son into the world, not to affright, but to comfort. Therefore be of good courage, and think, that henceforward you are not the child of a human creature, but of God, through faith in Christ, in whose name you are baptized; therefore the spear of death cannot enter into you; he has no right unto you, much less can he hurt or prejudice you, for he is everlastingly swallowed up through Christ.” ( Table Talk)
It’s easy, of course, to say that the attacks you’ve endured come straight from the enemy and that, biblically speaking, there are no valid grounds for the charge of guilt he’s brought against you. It’s quite another thing, as you’ve learned by hard experience, to rid yourself of the feeling that you’re hopelessly condemned in spite of so many uncompromising scriptural assurances.
There can be a number of reasons for this. At least one of them may have to do with the fact that feelings often have a psycho/physical as well as a spiritual basis. You’ve made some statements that lead us to suspect this may be true in your case. For instance, you said that “this was more than a feeling; it was debilitating,” and “I was beyond functioning.” This kind of “debilitation” was also a part of Luther’s experience. Indeed, some contemporary scholars have surmised that Martin Luther may have been struggling with clinical depression, a variety of bipolar disorder, or some other psychiatric condition. If he had lived in modern times, it’s possible that a qualified counselor or psychiatrist might have been able to help him find substantial relief from his sufferings.
We’d like to offer you an opportunity to do the same. If you think it might be helpful to discuss your situation at greater length, call us. We have a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.
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