Life has not been easy for anyone, particularly the past year with Covid-19 and the lockdown, not to mention the election. Anxiety, worry, fear - dare we say – depression. Yes, we are in the midst of a battle, and war is tiring. Sometimes we find ourselves wondering where God is; does He see? Does He hear? Well, the nation of Judah found itself in a similar position.
The nation of Judah was about to be judged, and things were not going so well for those who worshipped the true God. Isaiah, chapter 39, recounts how the Lord spared the life of Hezekiah, king of Judah. In response, the King of Babylon sent emissaries to "rejoice" with Hezekiah. While they were there, King Hezekiah, in his pride, foolishly showed these ambassadors all the treasures of the kingdom, including the Lord's temple. The Lord pronounces judgment upon the nation for its pride and sin while also sparing Hezekiah. His response: "Good is the word of the LORD which thou has spoken…for there shall be peach and truth in my days." In so doing, he threw the next generation under the bus, including his son, who would be considered the evilest of kings and who would subsequently murder Isaiah, the prophet. There was no repentance in Hezekiah; he was ok with it all, as long as it did not affect him.
The clock was counting down. Hezekiah would not live long, and the idea of God's judgment brought anxiety, worry, fear, and, yes, depression. Wonderfully, God did not stop at pronouncing judgment. At the same time, He released a word of comfort to His people, and not just once. He comforts them first with the promise of the coming Messiah and a reminder of His own greatness (Is. 40). When depression comes knocking, first, remember that Jesus is on His way. His return is imminent! We serve a majestic and mighty God! In this we can take comfort. But what about while we are waiting for His return, and the spiritual atmosphere around us grows darker and more menacing?
I encourage you to read the entirety of Isaiah, chapters 40 and 41 – and do so aloud. Faith comes by hearing! Throughout chapter 41, God reiterates that they are His people, and they are not to fear. I, however, want to focus on specifically verses 17-20.
"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none,
and their tongue faileth for thirst,
I the LORD will hear them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys:
I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle,
And the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, the pine,
and the box tree together.
That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together,
That the word of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it."
Before we explore the implication of these verses, let's first define what depression precisely is. After all, I would say the vast majority of us would probably admit we have felt it, even if we could not define it. To depress means to press, pull, or push down, lower in value or suppress; to decrease the force or activity of, and discourage, sadden, and weaken. Webster's dictionary tells us that it is "an emotional condition characterized by hopelessness and inadequacy." When I found myself in such a state, the Lord gave me the following definition of depression:
An emotion nurtured by the enemy that lowers our spirits, discouraging us, making us feel hopeless and inadequate to the point that we disdain ourselves and question our value In God's eyes, thereby decreasing and weakening our force and effectiveness in the Kingdom of God.
Let me first tell you that God created us as emotional beings, and emotions in and of themselves are not sinful. So, DO NOT RECEIVE CONDEMNATION! However, sometimes the enemy exploits these emotions to paralyze us, and as a result, we are prevented from walking in the power and joy God has granted us as His children. That said, let's look at this beautiful promise God has given to us as His people.
First, this passage is about those who are poor and needy. Before you think that you do not fall into this category, let's do a short word study. The word for poor here has the connotation of being depressed in mind and circumstances. It also suggests those who are walking in condemnation or guilt. Because people review it over and over in their minds, they chasten and deal harshly with themselves. The word needy is a sense of being destitute and hopeless, knowing there is a sense of want and neediness, but feeling entirely on your own. So, let me ask, how are you feeling about being in this category of a poor and needy person? I have certainly been there! If you are there now, then this is a wonderful word specifically for you! The only prerequisite to receiving this promise is that the poor and needy be seeking, searching Him out, really wanting to find water. We know from Scripture that water has several implications, but mainly the water of God’s Word. When you feel inferior and needy, and God seems silent, and you seek a word, to the point that your tongue fails for thirst, the Lord promises to hear you, refusing to forsake you!
When you are depressed, it feels as though words don't suffice for the deep hurt, rejection, sense of self-loathing, and sadness you are experiencing. I know. I suffered severe postpartum depression with our oldest son (now nineteen), and depression will make you think about things that would never gain access to your mind when it is at rest and sound. Sometimes, if it lasts long enough, words can become your worst enemy as you give mental assent to the enemy's lies, and you find those lies coming out of your mouth. My dear friend, God hears you amid your despair. He is near and has something extraordinary He is speaking over you! Choose to come into agreement with what He is saying.
When we are depressed, we often feel that God is judging us, and we begin to recount every horrible thing that has happened in our lives that could justify God allowing this to happen. The enemy makes us feel unworthy to approach the Lord about our emotions. Interestingly, God tells us that He will open rivers in high places. What does that mean? High places mean the place where Yah has judged. God promises to release His healing word – the word that reminds us that we are redeemed by the blood of Christ. He is opening rivers in the place where you feel condemned, and it’s not just any water He’s releasing, but glistening water! He is pronouncing a word that sparkles like the sheen of a running stream with cheerfulness and light-heartedness – a word of delight!
He also promises to open fountains in valleys, providing a source of satisfaction from which you can drink. This water will fill in the gaps of what has broken and split apart in your life. In the wilderness, He will create a pool of water. In your desert place, when your tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth when words will not come, when your spirit is parched and dehydrated, in the place of your barrenness, that solitary place, where you are isolated and alone with the tormenting thoughts of what was, or is, or what might come, God breaks through as the One WHO was, and is, and is to come – the Eternal Reality crushing every lie and revealing Himself to you! He is not bringing just a little refreshment, but all of Himself into your situation!
In Scripture, water can also have the connotation of semen – that which creates life and reproduces. God is coming into your circumstance as the God who is not only keeping you alive but the God in whom you live and move and have your being. The God who causes you to thrive to the point that growth and productivity can once again occur not only promises to pour out streams of His presence in your life, but He is also bringing a shovel with Him, intent on planting something in you. And what is He planting? Trees. Seven to be exact - the number of completion. His desire is that you not only return from the brink of despair but return to a garden of rest and nourishment.