I am prone to melancholy. I’m not sure why. It’s just one of my struggles. I guess that’s one of the reasons I so easily identify with another preacher who struggled with it as well. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a pastor in England from the 1930’s-1960’s. When I read his book Spiritual Depression, I was both grateful and regretful for not having it earlier.
He writes: “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?…You must take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, you have to preach to yourself, question yourself…then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done and what God has pledged Himself to do.”
This is me! When melancholy strikes, if you could hear my thoughts you would hear me thinking a lot about me and the threats around me. “What did ‘so and so’ mean by that?” “I wonder what they think about me?” “I know I really messed that up.” I am the main character of this story. When I make myself the main character of the story, I create ideal growing conditions for melancholy.
Instead, I need to learn to preach to myself rather than listen to myself. The Psalmist does this so clearly for us:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5-6).
Do you see the writer taking himself in hand and preaching to himself rather than listening to himself? This forces us to make God the main character of the story unfolding in our heads. This is the only way to joy. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong with me or “those people,” we need to focus on what’s right with Jesus.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Php. 4:8).