When you see or hear the word “theology,” what pops into your mind?
A few Christians associate it with academic study, thinking of a seminary’s systematic theology classes and the thick tomes students must read. Some church members equate theology with ivory-tower concepts that have little to do with the grit of daily life. Yet theology, or a study of God, is integral to spiritual growth and to right living.
In his book, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, R. C. Sproul admitted that one’s mind may be teeming with doctrine without it changing one’s life. Yet he also implied that our hearts cannot change without it: “You can have theology in your head without it being in your heart, but it cannot be in your heart unless it is first in your head.” In a similar vein, Stuart Briscoe insisted, “Spiritual experience begins in the mind.” He based his remark on Romans 12:2, which implies that what we know and how we think determine what we feel and how we act: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Pursued with a desire to know and to please God, there is no more practical realm of study than theology.
And a study of theology is vital to battling depression! One weapon that I often wield in fighting despondency is meditation on attributes of God cited throughout the Bible. The practice enables me to shift my inward focus to a Godward focus, especially when I mull over the implications of His attributes for my life.
In this article I’m listing just twelve texts dealing with the character of God. Some attributes encourage me, others challenge me. The inspired authors directly list most traits. Others are implied by the context or what the authors say. Plan an unhurried devotional time on these verses, and use the questions at the end to facilitate a meaningful time with the Lord. Knowing more about Him will enhance your appreciation and love for Him, and may boost your faith for handling a depressive episode.
Joel 2:12-13: “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping , and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil.”
Isaiah 8:13: “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.”
Psalm 103:19: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.”
Exodus 20:3, 5: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not worship or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”
Psalm 89:14: “Righteousness and justice are the foundations of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.”
Psalm 54:4: “Behold, God is My Helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.”
Isaiah 30:18: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; and therefore, He waits on high to have compassion on you.”
Lamentations 3:22-25: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore, I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3: “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
Nahum 1:7: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”
1 Timothy 1:17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen.” (Written on the heels of Paul’s testimony in verses 12-16.)
Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
List the various attributes stated or implied, then ponder these questions:
*Which attribute of God convicts or challenges me most? Why?
*Which attribute encourages me most? Why?
*Which text is God nudging me to memorize? What would be the value of memorizing it?
*What are the implications of each attribute for my own attitudes or actions?
*How should meditation on these traits deepen my trust in the Lord?
*Which attributes have the most pertinence to a person going through depression?
In his book Future Grace, in a chapter titled “Future Grace Versus Despondency,” John Piper applies theology to depression. “No matter where depression comes from,” he asserts,” there is still a spiritual battle to wage.” He goes on to say that fighting depression, at least in part, is a matter of belief. Will we believe things will never get better, that God has abandoned us, or will we believe that He will redeem the pain, that His light will eventually penetrate the darkness? What He says in His Word–including what He says about Himself–is far more reliable than our feelings.
The verses I’ve posted here won’t suddenly vaporize your despondency. But as the lyrics to a decades-old song insist, “Things get a little easier once you understand.”