Solomon looks at our spirit’s health and how hardship affects it. Our physical and mental health has a lot to do with our spiritual health. Where do we find help?
The first thing that came to my mind after reading our verse is depression. I have personally walked through depression and identify well with the “crushed spirit.” I’ve interacted, through this website, others who have suffered and are suffering depression. Something critical I want to say about depression is that there IS help! And there is hope!
Before I get to the “help” and “hope” for depression, let’s go back and look at the first part of this verse.
“A man’s spirit will endure sickness” (verse 14a). If you are like many people, sickness knocks you down. Sometimes it feels like it will never end. Sometimes you feel like you would be better off dead. Many illnesses are not life threatening but can certainly be life altering. As long as we are fighting back and looking for hope, our spirit holds us from despair.
I want to share my husband’s story (again probably). He had a brain tumor back in 1996. When he was first diagnosed he was determined to beat it. He happened to come across one doctor in his journey that told him, “No matter what you do, you are going to die.” This only made him fight harder and look for any treatment he could find. He grasped at everything anyone suggested. His doctors prescribed radiation treatment and “stereotactic radio wave surgery.” The treatments he received didn’t shrink it. The radiation actually made matters worse. The only hope left was to remove it surgically. It was in the very center of his brain. No matter how they reached it, there would be consequences. Because of the radiation treatments, those consequences were HUGE.
When he woke up his life was drastically changed. He refused to give up though. He fought his way through rehabilitation and regained a large part of his life back. But there are pieces he was never able to regain. He still laments these at times today.
After recovering much as much of his physical strength, ability to walk, and most of his vision he was faced with a new problem; constant pain. Nothing took it away completely but medication at least took it down a little. For 21 years he endured this pain. It altered his life too. But he kept fighting. There were times when he succumbed to depression but it didn’t last long. Or at least severe depression never lasted long. He kept fighting and hoping for relief.
In year 19 we were given a glimmer of hope. There was a device on the market that promised relief. But every time we got close to receiving that hope, it was moved farther away again and Again and AGAIN. I even quoted part of Proverbs 13:12 (“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”) to the doctor, after multiple times of hope being moved farther out. FINALLY after TWO YEARS of me pushing forward, he was given relief. The pain was finally gone, or at least suppressed to a level that he didn’t even notice it. No longer did he clutch his arm and rock in pain. Today, he is free of all pain medication because of the device.
His outlook brightened but he still had the effects of the radiation treatments. Scarring continues to develop in his brain and he has lost some of the things he had regained. This makes him angry, often at me, but he doesn’t give up. His spirit, even in sickness, is strong. There have been times when he feels down and depressed, but he doesn’t stay there. “Why is this”, you ask. Because he KNOWS where his strength comes from.
On the way into surgery he had a heart to heart with God. It was quick but it was life changing. He told God, “If I wake up before You or if I am still here, it is OK.” He then felt God’s presence surround him. He has never doubted that God brought him through the surgery. Sometimes he wonders why and becomes angry about the damage the doctors did but he never blames God. There are times he asks me about his salvation or asks if he had the brain tumor as punishment for his sins. I remind him that God LOVES him and he loves God. That renews his hope. He KNOWS that his help comes from the Lord. THAT is why he is still with me, ‘warts and all’.
Hope is what feeds the spirit. Faith is its framework. Without both the spirit crumbles; it is crushed. The writer of Hebrews gives us the definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Everyone has “faith” in something. Faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. Faith in if you work hard you will succeed. Faith in our fellow man, either for good or bad. Only faith in God can save though. All others will ultimately fail. Yes, even the sun will refuse to rise one day.
Hope is more conditional for us. It is dependent on our circumstances, our character, and where we have put our faith & trust. When conditions become rocky and what we have put our faith in crumbles, we lose hope. Our character helps or hinders our hope. Some are “glass half full” people, some “glass half empty” and some “what glass” people. How we look at the world and the circumstance we are in is colored by our view of the world. NO. “Half full” people don’t refuse to see adversity. They just look for the tiny bit of good in everything. Like looking for that flake of gold in the pan full of sand. They are certain it’s there so they focus on finding it. “Half empty” people do just the opposite. They look for the cloud in an otherwise blue sky. They cannot believe that anything is all good. Flaws are magnified and good shrinks in their presence.
You can probably tell which group suffers more from depression. But that doesn’t mean that the “half full” people don’t experience depression. It just takes more to get them down and keep them there. So let’s get back to the topic of depression and a crushed spirit. Solomon doesn’t say “No one can beat this condition.” Or that “This is hopeless.” What he does say is, “But a crushed spirit who can bear?” (verse 14b).
Many people commit suicide because they can’t bear it. Their hope is gone and their framework of faith has broken. ON THEIR OWN no one can bear this. There is One who can though, and His name is Jesus. The ONLY way I know of out of depression is to lean into Him. I know from first-hand experience that He can break those bonds, return your hope, and renew your faith. He did it for me and I’m no more special than anyone else!
The days I thought about how to end my life because I was crushed under the weight of my circumstances, HE reminded me of the things I had to live for. He showed me the speck of gold in my pan of sand. My depression didn’t magically disappear. It took time to walk through it WITH Him. Each day He rebuilt my hope and strengthened my faith. Little by little I leaned even harder into Him and worked on our relationship from my side. I began seeing the hope He was holding out for me. And one day I was finally able to grasp it.
HE holds the hope we ALL are seeking. He IS the only source of faith that cannot be shaken. He will walk you out of depression too, if you will only but ask.
Yes, I availed myself of medications but they were not what finally broke that bondage. Medication is a tool God has given us the intellect to use. He made the doctors and provided the knowledge. I would be refusing one of His gifts if I flatly refused to try it. I even spent a good deal of time in counseling. These things WITHOUT HIM did not raise me from my pit. I’m grateful for their assistance in clearing my mind enough that I remembered our previous relationship and went searching again. It probably would have taken longer without them.
To anyone suffering from depression, He is calling to you right now. He LOVES you more than you can imagine. And He wants to wrap you in His arms and walk with you out of it. He isn’t promising an instant transformation but even that isn’t beyond His power. Trust Him. Lean into Him. And open your eyes and search for that flake of gold. It’s there.
Father God, THANK YOU for carrying me through the lowest times of my life. THANK YOU for providing me with AMAZING times too! You are my strength and my hope. Without You I would NOT be here today, among the land of the living. I know You never turned loose of me even in the beginnings of my dark times. You were always there, waiting for me to turn around and notice You. You even called out to me but until I took my fingers out of my ears, I didn’t hear You. I’m SO SORRY it took so long! I’m just grateful that You kept on calling and didn’t give up on me. I LOVE YOU Father with ALL my heart!
I pray for everyone else struggling with a crushed spirit today. Reach into their lives and show them too that YOU are the one who can bear it. Let them finally turn around and see. Let them pull their fingers from their ears and hear. YOU ARE THERE FOR THEM TOO!!!