On the other hand, the onset of depression can also destroy our plans for the future, which in turn makes depression worse.
Some Christians blame God for allowing those plans and dreams to be shattered. Others, doubting God’s goodness, accuse Him of destroying those plans deliberately.
I stand amongst those whose plans for the future were destroyed by depression. When I was nineteen, I felt a strong burden for the Asian peoples and spent the next five years preparing to go to Thailand as a pastor and missionary. I went to Bible College, helped plant a local church, and went to Thailand on a missionary orientation course. The plan for 1990 was additional Bible college studies and more church planting experience.
It was at that point in my life that depression overwhelmed me. As the days turned to weeks and then months, with no sign of the unbelievably intense suffering abating, I had no choice but to quit the ministry and abandon my plans for the future.
Yet having been convinced that God had called me to be a missionary in Asia, forsaking that dream left me terribly confused and wracked with guilt. I remember wondering during those dark months how Jesus viewed me, was He displeased and disappointed in me for making that decision? As I pondered this and my horrific condition, I began to get angry with Him, as you can see from this diary entry.
8th February 1990 – ‘Jesus cannot blame me for throwing in all thoughts of the ministry. He would have known that I would give up after going through all this - so He can’t blame me for pulling out. Also, I would have been heading for Thailand, doing Bible college etc right now, if all this stuff had not happened. So if Jesus wanted me to be a missionary, then He would not have or (should not have) let all this happen to me. But the truth is, all this has happened to me, but why? Where has it come from?’
Due to counselling and prayer, I eventually realised that I had made the mistake of placing my faith and trust in obediently following the path that I believed God had set for me. In fact, I became terrified of making a wrong step in the erroneous belief that this would destroy His plans for my life.
Such faulty thought processes had placed me in a fearful bondage. We are not to place our faith in the path we believe God has called us to follow - we are to place our faith and trust in God Himself. As to fearing I could destroy God’s plans for my life, God tells us to follow His precepts as presented in His word, and that He will never leave or forsake us. "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20.
Let us have a look at Proverbs 3:5. ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.’
I learnt that we must not place our hope in our understanding of how our future will turn out. For if we do, when things do not turn out as we expect them to, this may shake our life’s foundations. We are to build our lives upon Christ, the Cornerstone, the sure foundation – we must not build our lives upon our own understandings of what the future will be.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
There is a saying in the military. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” There is a great lesson to learn here – not only do plans encounter resistance, but calculated or random events alter their course too. We must expect this and be flexible. When things do not turn out as we were expecting, trust in God instead of fearing, doubting, or blaming Him. God is in control, and uses all things for good for those who love Him.
Romans 8:28 says, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’
Now it turns out that God did indeed give me a burden for the Asian peoples. But His plan for my life was not to be a missionary in Thailand planting churches. Instead, He led me to marry a Japanese girl and serve Him in a Japanese Christian church in my city. I had made plans, but God determined my steps. Letting go of the fears that depression had destroyed God’s plan for my life, I acknowledged Him with each step I took and He led me down a straight path.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
(On a side note, for those situations where sin, backsliding, waywardness or rebellion against God appears to have destroyed our future, there is still cause for hope. We need to return to God, confess our sins to Him, and turn our back upon those sins. God will forgive us and restore our relationship with Him. Although consequences of our prior actions may send our life in an undesired or unexpected direction, God is still with us. Please read about the prodigal son returning to God in Luke 15:11-32.)
We must place our faith, hope and trust in God our Father and in Christ our Lord, for ‘He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.’ Psalm 23:3 And then whatever path He leads us down, what ever storm He leads us through, even if our dreams for the future are shattered in the process, we will respond by clinging to, relying on, and trusting in Him, instead of responding with shock, confusion and anger.
John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust also in Me.”
Jesus set me free from the prison of thinking that one wrong step would ruin His plans for my life. He taught me that He would always be with me, wherever I went.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
All verses from NIV.
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