The source of depression and of joy
John 16.16-22 – “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.”
17 Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”
19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 20 Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
21 “When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.
22 “So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
The depression of the disciples was very real. They had left all to follow Jesus, and now he was leaving them. For three years they had been in the daily presence of the greatest Being of all. Now, they were confronted with the very real prospect of his absence from their lives.
Jesus told them that their great anguish would be replaced by joy. The resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit would fill their hearts with joy.
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, depression, anxiety, and worry are legitimate feelings. The massive loss of life throughout the world, unemployment, loneliness, fear of the future, and the prospect of a major recession are but a few of the realities people face today.
The reality of Jesus’ resurrection and present existence at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1.20-23) should help us put the events of the world in perspective. I don’t think it is accidental that the next verses contain another prayer promise from Jesus.
Prayer helps overcome anxiety, worry and depression
John 16.23-24 – “On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
Let’s not miss the emphasis Jesus places on prayer. In chapters 14-16, he emphasized prayer and his willingness to answer prayer six times. There is no question that Jesus wants us to make prayer a priority in our lives.
The disciples had to grow in their understanding of Jesus, just like we do. Until this point in their lives, they didn’t know that they could pray to Jesus. Verse 24 opened the door for them and for us to bring our requests to Jesus.
In what way does prayer help us overcome anxiety, worry and depression? Here are three suggestions. I am sure there are many more answers, but here are some thoughts.
Prayer gives us a heavenly view.
As Isaiah brought his concerns to God, he received a message from the Lord.
“For the Lord spoke thus to me while his hand was strong upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.'” (Isaiah 8.11-13).
When we pray, God is able to reveal to us his “news” behind the news. He lifts our thinking above the confusion of the crowd and enables us to not fear what the crowd dreads and fears.
In prayer, God is able to show us what he is doing in the world. He does this so we can join him in his work. He helps us regard him and honor him larger than the troubles we are facing.
Yesterday, Jan had an excellent comment on Facebook. She said that this kind of talk is for moms, and not just for preachers. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of her post. All of us can go to God in prayer and obtain his heavenly view of what is going on. We can trust him to direct us, because he wants us to regard him as holy and to fear him more than the troubles of the world.
We can cast our anxieties on God in prayer.
A powerful phrase in Peter tells us: “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7).
One of my favorite prayer leaders was conducting a conference in Germany. One of the attendees came to breakfast looking horrible. The prayer leader asked him what was wrong and the attendee responded, “If you had been up all night burdened for the entire world, you’d look like this, too.”
To this the prayer leader broke into song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands/He’s got the whole world in his hands . . .”
The Bible says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder . . .” (Isaiah 9.6).
In prayer we are able to take all of our burdens and to roll them onto the shoulder of our Lord. He truly has the whole world in his hands and he can care for our burdens, fears and anxieties.
We can intercede with Jesus and the Holy Spirit
The author of Hebrews identified Jesus as our Great High Priest. The author wrote, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7.25).
Don’t miss what the last phrase says about Jesus, “He always lives to make intercession.”
In Romans 8, this is what is written about the Holy Spirit: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8.26-27).
Not just Jesus, but the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God.
I do not know how the continued intercession of Jesus and the Holy Spirit works. I do know this is a Bible truth and I accept it by faith. I also know the role we are to play. In John 14-16, Jesus gave people like us clear instructions to pray. I believe we are to pray alongside of Jesus and the Holy Spirit for God’s purposes to be obtained in the world.
Every concern is an opportunity
During difficult times in my life, the Spirit has taught me to pray. I have learned that every time I get angry, worried, anxious, or some other troubling emotion it is praying time. These emotions are like a big flag waving, calling me to pray.
I have often used Galatians 2.20 during these times of stressful praying.
Galatians 2.20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Let me show you how I have prayed, using Galatians 2.20: “Lord, when you died, I died with you. By your grace, I am alive. Actually, you are living your life within me. Lord, this issue I face (name the issue) is bigger than I am, but it is not bigger than you. You, who live in me, please work on this issue. I am living by faith that you are doing this right now in my life and I thank you for it.”
Please know, there have been times when I have prayed this kind of prayer for months and have prayed it several times each day. Every time the difficult emotion came to mind, I prayed from Galatians 2.20 like this. Over time, Jesus gave me the victory in every instance. He will do that for you, too. Remember, he is the One who gave us six prayer promises from John 14-16.
Dear Jesus, please teach us to pray. Please immerse us in the life of the Holy Spirit, so we can best pray for ourselves, our families, our church, Independence and the world. Thank you for the abundant gift of prayer.