Category Archives: Depression

Many follow pastors, but few encourage them. (Luke 7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 23-24, Psalm 51, and Luke 7. Our devotional is from Luke 7.

Luke 7 records some of Jesus’ greatest miracles: Healing a dying servant in response to a Roman centurion’s faith (Luke 7:1-10; note also Matthew 8:5-13) and raising the son of a poor widow from the dead in a village identified as Nain (7:11-17).

We are also made privy to an intriguing interview when the followers of John the Baptist, the forerunner and maternal second cousin of Christ, come to Jesus desiring on John’s behalf the affirmation that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 7:18-35).  Lest we be tempted to criticize  John the Baptist, we should remember John was in prison after boldly confronting king Herod’s adultery (Luke 3:19-20).  There is little doubt the hardships of prison, his isolation from the people, and knowledge his own life and ministry are nearing the end moved John to seek assurance Jesus was the promised One, Israel’s Messiah.

Rather than rebuke John for doubting, Jesus responded to the questions with reassurances. The first response was in deeds; we read, “in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight” (Luke 7:21).  Having performed many miracles, Jesus sent the Baptist’s followers away commanding them, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 7:22).

Turning to the people, Jesus affirmed the ministry of His forerunner (7:24-28) and hailed his character saying, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

I close with an exhortation to believers: If John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets (Luke 7:28), could succumb to doubts and fears, realize the same is true of your pastor. 

The number of disciples who followed John the Baptist is uncertain; however, in his most vulnerable hour there were “two of his disciples” (Luke 7:19) to whom he expressed his earnest desires and “sent them to Jesus saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19b).

I have learned there are many who follow faithful pastors, but few who encourage them.

John the Baptist had at least “two of his disciples” in whom he confided (Luke 7:19-20); however, I am afraid that number may be two more than many pastors feel they have.

Many pastors quit the pastorate prematurely and the pulpit of many Bible-believing churches has become like a revolving door. Why? Why is the minister retention rate so deplorable in our churches?  I am of the opinion many pastors feel taken for granted and there are few church members who make an effort to encourage them.

A hurting pastor in the midst of his sheep might raise the anxiety level of a church; however, loving, understanding and compassionate church members will get their pastor through dark days and trying times.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51; 2 Samuel 12:7-13)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 21-22 and Psalm 51. Our devotional is from Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance, and a plea for restoration.

Written after the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with king David (2 Samuel 12:7-13), Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his illegitimate son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite on the battlefield.  David’s hush-hush sins were secret no more and the king’s disgrace was exposed in his court.

Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power and unaccountable to any who might mercifully and lovingly warn, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also, men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked.

One should ponder how David falls from the innocence of a boy tending sheep in his teens, a national hero in his young-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at 50 years of age descends to become an adulterer and murderer.

Be forewarned: Given the right provocation, the potential of such egregious sins lies within us all.   David acknowledged the nature and bent of sin within us when he writes, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  Indeed, the inclination for sin is within the heart of all, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Even more disconcerting, while in the throes of sin David continued to act as judge in other men’s matters while tolerating the curse and burden of his own sins.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs like David held absolute authority and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!”(2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done thisevil in thy sight…”(Psalm 51:1-4a).

David prayed, “10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12a).

I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women. 

The first, David entertained unbridled passions that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king. The second, David’s role as king had insulated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone.  Finally, until confronted by Nathan, David was too proud to confess his sins and humbly accept the consequences (2 Samuel 11:6-22).

Friend, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

I invite you to humble yourself before God knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down? (Psalm 43)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 27, Psalm 43, and Mark 15. Our devotional is from Psalm 43.

Heavy heart, cast down soul, melancholy, and depression are terms men employ to define what the Scriptures describe as a “weary” soul (Job 10:1) and a broken spirit (Proverbs 17:22). 

While words defining depression have evolved, no one denies it afflicts men’s souls.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: “If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy [of] man’s heart.”

Let’s take a page out of King David’s life and learn how he not only identified the loneliness of depression, but also the one place he could turn for deliverance. David writes.

Psalm 43:1-2– “1Judge [vindicate] me, O God, and plead [argue] my cause against an ungodly [unmerciful] nation: O deliver [preserve] me from the deceitful [dishonest; deceptive] and unjust [wicked; unrighteous] man.  2For thou art the God of my strength [place of safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake]? why go I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?”

David does not name his enemy; however, the tactics of his enemy were the same as those you and I face in our day.  Lies, libel, slander, threats, and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, His Church and His people.

Rallying his heart, David states what he knows, “God is my strength”(43:2); literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  David struggled that his knowledge of the LORD and His promises was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by adversaries (43:2).

Psalm 43:3-4– “O send out [stretch forth] thy light [illumination] and thy truth: let them lead [guide] me; let them [God’s light and truth] bring me unto thy holy [sacred] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [place representing the presence of God]4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Turning his heart and thoughts from his despair, David looked to the LORD in the same manner the captain of a ship peers through the fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse.  David appealed to God to illuminate his way and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).

Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to the LORD and singing His praises (43:4).

Psalm 43:5– “Why art thou cast down [depressed], O my soul [life; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled] within me? hope [wait; trust ] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

David counseled his soul with two questions (43:5a): Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?

Realizing the error of his fear, David counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)! 

Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion of self-pity to trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise Him [the LORD], who is the health of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

My friend, I do not know what fears and doubts haunt your soul, but I challenge you to pass through this time of trouble by turning your thoughts from self-pity to trust in the LORD!

1 Corinthians 10:13 –   “There hath no temptation [trial] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. your trouble is not unique]: but God is faithful [true], who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [lit. to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Cry of a Wounded Soul (Psalm 41)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 23-24, Psalm 41, and Mark 13. Our devotional is from Psalm 41.

Psalm 41 challenges believers to consider their relationship with others and how they respond to them who disappoint and betray.

King David was at a low point in his life, physically and emotionally, when he composed this psalm. Rehearsing the LORD’s promise to hear and heed the cries of His people in their hour of need (41:1), David remembered God keeps watch over His people and delivers them out of trouble in His time (41:2).  David writes,

Psalm 41:1-4 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands] the poor [weak; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save] him in time of trouble [sin; wickedness; evil]. 2  The LORD will preserve [keep; guard] him, and keep him alive [sustain]and he shall be blessed [prosperous] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will  [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe]3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; overthrow] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].  4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David tossed and turned upon his bed; as sorrow and disappointment washed over his soul.  He spent sleepless nights praying and waiting on the LORD (41:3).  Searching his soul, David confessed his sin and believed God would show Him favor and restore him (41:4).

Psalm 41:5-6 – “Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.”

Every saint who strives to serve the LORD and walk with integrity will inevitably face the bitter distress of betrayal.   When you feel the sorrow of duplicity, remember the LORD felt the caress of Judas’ kiss upon His own cheek.

Psalm 41:7-8 –  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt.8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

It is a terrible way when embittered souls wait the day they can take satisfaction in the fall of a pastor or a fellow believer (41:8).

Psalm 41:9 gives us insight into the personal nature of the betrayal that befell David.

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

David’s adversary wanted to grind the king under his heel and humiliate him.  His enemy waited for the satisfaction of the king’s demise.  Although not identified by name, I believe David’s enemy was either Absalom, the king’s own son (2 Samuel 15) or Ahithophel, the king’s trusted counselor (2 Samuel 16:23).

Let’s take a lesson from David’s life and remember betrayal and sorrow is the affliction of saints who walk with integrity and minister to others with abandon.

Be watchful you do not become embittered when you suffer injustices and betrayals; after all, the LORD suffered the same and He will never abandon you (Psalm 41:10-13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Unforgiveness: A Bitter Fruit that Steals Your Joy and Saps Your Soul (Mark 11:22-26)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 39, and Mark 11. Our devotional is from Mark 11.

Mark 11 records the beginning of the final week of Christ’s earthly life . Tradition states Christ’s “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem occurred on Sunday (Mark 11:1-11); however, there are many who believe it likely occurred on Monday.  Christ’s cursing the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves and driving the money-changers out of the Temple are both recorded in Mark 11:12-21.

Faith” and “Forgiveness” is the focus of our devotional and the subject of Mark 11:22-26.

Following a challenge on faith and prayer, Jesus admonished: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).

Forty years in ministry has taught me there are many believers who bear a spirit of bitterness in their souls.  In fact, one of the most besetting sins in the 21stcentury church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner motivated by love for God and love for others.  Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls and, like cancer in the body, spread until family, friendships, and fellowships are spiritually, emotionally, and physically infected.

The writer of Hebrews warns the same: Looking diligently [intently; be watching] lest any man fail of [fall short of] the grace [favor and blessing] of God; lest any root of bitterness [i.e. hatred or resentment] springing up [sprouting up] trouble you, and thereby many [i.e. perhaps the majority] be defiled [tainted; i.e. like one diseased](Hebrews 12:15).

Friend, have you lost your joy because bitterness festers in your soul?  Do you harbor bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights of your youth? Are you a parent who struggles with forgiving a child who has disgraced your home with foolish, sinful actions?   Have callous words and broken vows embittered your marriage?  Have you allowed slights and offenses to embitter you toward fellow believers and pastors?

An unwillingness to forgive others is indicative of a soul who has not entered into the joy of God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” is the LORD’s will (Ephesians 4:32) and when you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no reason to be unwilling to forgive others!

Harbor an unforgiving spirit and you do so at the sacrifice of joy and unanswered prayers.

Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Psychology Attempts to Reform What Salvation Promises to Transform (Mark 5)

A devotional bonus from Mark 5.

The Christian radio broadcast, Unshackled”, is the longest continually running radio program in history.   Produced by the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago for over 69 years, “Unshackled” has conveyed the real life stories of thousands of sinner’s whose lives were transformed by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior!

The great validating testimony of the Christian faith above all the world’s religions is not reformation but transformation!   For more than a century doctors have practiced “psychology” attempting to address the ailments of man’s mind and soul. Medications, rehab centers, and mental institutions have all failed to “fix” troubled souls.  Today’s “bonus devotional thought” from Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the terrible ravages sin takes on a man’s life.

Crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shore known as Gadara where they were met by a man with an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).  We are not told when the man gave his soul over to demons; however, sin had taken every corner of his thoughts and affections, degrading and destroying his life.

Notice three visible details about the man.  The first, his pitiful physical appearance:  His body scarred by self-inflicted wounds; ropes hanging around his ankles and chains about his neck and wrists, all evidencing the desperate attempts of loved ones to control him (5:3-4).  The second characteristic of this troubled man is his social isolation: cut off from family, friends, and neighbors, he made his abode among the caves and tombs (5:5).  The third detail is his emotional condition exhibited by his tormented screams echoing off the hillsides “always, night and day” (5:5).

Seeing Jesus, in a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran out of the hills and came to Him and worshipped Him (5:6).  Jesus, evidencing His authority over demons cast them out of the man and they entered swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life immediately gave evidence of his conversion and transformation (5:8, 15).   The change was so transformative that his family, friends, and neighbors observed he was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15).  Sitting”… he was at peace, no longer needing to be bound with chains and ropes; clothed”… no longer a wild man crying and cutting himself;  in his right mind… repentant and rational.

How great was this transformation?  In Mark 5:7 he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; however, in Mark 5:18 his love and gratitude for Jesus moved him to want nothing more than to be with Jesus.

Everything about the maniac of Gadara changed: His attitudes— he was “in his right mind” (5:15); His actions— he was “sitting” with Jesus (5:15); His appearance— he was “clothed” (5:15); His affections— “prayed Him that he might be with Him [Jesus]” (5:15).

God’s power not only overcame his rebellious spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.  The power of the Gospel of Christ promises not only reformation; it promises total transformation!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore if any man bein Christ, he isa new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook, will you take time to pray? (Psalm 31)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 35-36, Psalm 31, and Mark 3. Our devotional reading is from Psalm 31.

Where do you turn when circumstances seem hopeless (Psalm 31:1, 6, 14, 19)?  Where do you flee for comfort? How do you respond when enemies attack your character and friends betray you (31:8, 13, 15, 18, 20)?

I fear many believers turn to peers for counsel, rather than to the LORD and His Word.  Some vent their anxieties on social media platforms and a host of sympathies, sad faces, and praying hands follow.  Some turn to secular counselors who lack spiritual discernment and their counsel promotes the temptation to blame shift and magnify one’s “right” to be angry and bitter.

While we might find temporal relief with friends who commiserate with our struggles, often because they are themselves caught up in the same, we nevertheless miss a faith lesson opportunity to lean on the LORD and find Him a sure support.

Take a lesson from David and his example. The king writes,

Psalm 31:1 – “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust [confidence]; let me never be ashamed [confounded; confused]: deliver me in thy righteousness [justice; virtue].”

David did not reason that he merited the LORD coming to his defense; instead, he appealed to the LORD on the basis of the LORD’s “righteousness”—knowing He is holy, just, gracious and merciful. David continues,

Psalm 31:2 – “Bow down [incline; turn] thine ear to me; deliver [rescue; save] me speedily [with haste]: be thou my strong [fortress] rock [refuge], for an house of defence [fortress; castle] to save [deliver; rescue] me.”

David was confident the LORD hears and answers prayer. I sympathize with the king’s request for the LORD to not only hear his prayer, but also hasten to save him!  The LORD, however, answers prayer in His time and His answer to prayer is never too late!

Psalm 31:14-15a – “But I trusted [hoped] in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God [Elohim; Mighty God]. 15 My times [i.e. seasons and appointed times] are in thy hand [directed; i.e. in the power of]…”

All “my times” are directed by the hand of God who is sovereign, faithful and ever-present.  The good times and the bad times; times of joy and times of sorrow.  Times of strength and health and the times of sickness and death. “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15).

Do you believe God is at the helm and you can trust Him to direct all things according to His benevolent will? (Romans 8:28-29)

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook and garner a rush of sympathies, would it not glorify God more for you to simply pray, “I trust in thee, O LORD…My times are in thy hand”.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith