Depression is a very very real phenomena and it attacks Christians as well as non Christians. Depression is an equal opportunity destroyer. So I don’t approach the topic vainly or arrogantly. I have in the past suffered with great bouts of depression and I’m constantly amazed at the large number of God’s servants that have done the same. (see previous posts Freedom From Darkness & On being the Pastor).
While reading today regarding Cain’s sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-8) not being accepted by God (Genesis 4:5) I was struck not only by the question “Why not?” but by the mental state of Cain combined with God’s reaction.
God’s reasons for rejecting Cain’s sacrifice doubtless stemmed from numerous factors.
- It wasn’t a blood sacrifice
- Cain himself approached it with the wrong attitude
- There was definitely a disparity in faith between Abel and Cain in their offering (Hebrews 11:4)
Yet for all of this it is Cain’s reaction – his countenance fell. Countenance is an unused word for the most part in our society today; but it simply means “facial expression.” The clear indication is that Cain’s face demonstrated the deep depression within. He wanted God to be pleased with his sacrifice and he was emotionally wounded when God wasn’t.
With that background I find God’s response intriguing. The Lord’s recipe for getting out of this depression is to reverse what put him into it.
The the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?… (Genesis 4:6-7a NASB)
God was in effect telling Cain, “Your attitude responds to your actions. Don’t try to change your feelings (which is the thrust of much modern Psychology) but rather modify your actions – your feelings will follow.
This same principle is given by Zophar in Job 11:14-15:
If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and do not let wickedness dwell in your tents; Then indeed, you could lift up your face without moral defect, and you would be steadfast and not fear.”
I’ll grant you that in the end God declares that Zophar and his buddies didn’t speak what was right about God but inasmuch as this lines up with God’s counsel to Cain I’d say it holds water.
Behavioral therapy is not a new method of counseling. Neither is it the universal cure for all forms of depression, but it’s origins are well founded and fashioned upon the very words of God.