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Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure

Book Review

Instead of allowing thoughts to control us, we must speak biblical truth to ourselves.

Jun 1, 2021

In his book Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones confronts the issues that may lead someone to wrestle with their faith. In every case he presents an honest analysis and hopeful solution. Anyone who humbly endeavors to read this book will walk away with renewed faith.  

Martyn Lloyd-Jones seeks to help readers understand the causes for spiritual depression. He describes how temperament or personality may fuel one’s proclivity to doubt (page 18). More than that, he provides some of the most helpful and practical tools for fighting doubt in your own life. Lloyd-Jones does not just unearth the reasons one may doubt, he also equips the reader with practical solutions to apply. His words are full of compassion and truth. In chapter 1 the author explains that “the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief” (page 20). He teaches that unbelief is the exchange of listening to God’s truth for the truth of the devil (page 20). The cure for this type of thinking is to control the thoughts that run through your mind. Instead of allowing thoughts to control us, we must speak biblical truth to ourselves. We must control our thoughts, even our doubts. Throughout the rest of the book, the author builds off this principle by outlining every practical reason one may struggle with their faith. He provides biblical, Scripture-saturated solutions.  

In the first part of the book, Lloyd-Jones speaks to those who grew up in the church. He describes how they often fail to recognize the gravity of their sin. The author explains that “we go astray because we are not truly convicted of our sin” (page 28). There are some believers who constantly compare their actions to the deeds of those around them. In so doing they judge themselves and decide that they are good. They end up on the top of every nice list. However, when we do this, we need to recognize that we are using the wrong measurement. Instead, we must compare our heart to the first and greatest commandment. Only then do we come to recognize that our hearts fall short of God’s glory. By comparing our lives to God’s command, we realize that we have not loved the Lord our God with all our hearts. We see that we have not loved the Lord our God with all our souls. We have not loved the Lord with all our minds, and we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Instead, we have lived for our own glory and pleasure. When a human soul is compared to this standard, it never meets the goal. Lloyd-Jones explains that “the essence of sin … is that we do not live entirely to the glory of God” (page 31). On top of that, we allow lesser things to satisfy our hearts. This is a major cause for spiritual depression. All people, and especially those who grow up in the church, must come to realize that they have failed God’s law and are in desperate need of saving.  

Spiritual depression also seizes those who are paralyzed by their sinful past. These people are often consumed by regret and controlled by feelings. They cannot move forward; they feel bound by spiritual depression because of what they have done. To these people, the author exhorts us to remove our self-centered perspective. He explains that God is interested in who you are currently pursuing, not who you once were (page 86). We cannot allow spiritual depression to steal our time on earth. Instead fix your eyes on what Christ has done in your life and pursue relationship with Him wholeheartedly. Rely on belief, not feelings. Do not let your feelings dictate the direction of your life. Instead, let Scripture aggressively combat your feelings. He writes, “what the Scriptures do is to teach us how to speak to ourselves” (page 116). Instead of letting your feelings and thoughts drive your life, use Scripture to guide your thinking. Using vivid illustration, the author then seeks to explain how to use Scripture to confront spiritual depression.  

Wherever you are at in your faith, whether you are a new believer, a struggling believer, or a long-time believer, where is your faith? Stop allowing your fears to control you. Be controlled by the promises of God. Are you weary? Are you weak? Are you discouraged? Do you find yourself temporarily satisfied by the world? Where is your faith? It must be in the completed work of Christ alone; He is your righteousness. Rest in that. Cling to the finished work of Christ with all your heart, soul, and mind. That gospel message will infuse your life with joy. There is freedom in acknowledging spiritual depression, because there is a cure for those who accept the diagnosis. Embrace the cure through Christ.  

Helpful Quotes 

  1. “You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind and spirit” (page 19). 
  2. “The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief. For if it were not for unbelief even the devil could do nothing. It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that we go down before him and fall before his attacks” (page 20). 
  3. “We must talk to ourselves instead of letting ‘ourselves’ talk to us. … 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?” (page 20). 
  4. “So do not think of your own weakness; think of the power of the Spirit of God. It is when we begin to do that that we balance our doctrine and see the whole position clearly” (page 101). 
  5. “Our danger is to submit ourselves to our feelings and to allow them to dictate to us, to govern and to master us and to control the whole of our lives” (page 112). 
  6. “I do my utmost, but He controls the supply and the power, He infuses it. He is the heavenly physician, and He knows my every variation in my condition. He sees my complexion; He feels my pulse. He knows my inadequate preaching, He knows everything” (page 300).