Taking a Clue From Nehemiah


There have been so many responses to my blogs about depression and suicidal ideation from Christians whose symptoms like mine are not treatable by medication and therapy. I have had 7 years of therapy and I have tried almost all drugs for the treatment of depression.  Some worked for me in the beginning, even for years, but then the symptoms worsened.

This has made me wonder what God is telling me with this illness that seems untreatable by the methods of man.

While reading the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah, I noticed that his response to the news that in Jerusalem the walls had been struck down and gates had been burned was that of grief, he wept and he mourned.

But Nehemiah didn’t stay broken.  He turned to God.  Specifically he fasted and he prayed.  Well, first Nehemiah fasted then from fasting came prayer.  The nature of the Nehemiah’s prayer is interesting.  First he recognises God’s reality, his awesome power and might.  Next he confesses mankind’s sinfulness towards God.  He also recognizes how far short of the glory of God man has come.  Then he calls on the mercy and love of God to remember the promises He made to gather those who he had scattered.  Finally God told him what to do and made it possible for him to do it.

I have often fasted in obedience to church rules and I can’t say I have gotten a lot out of it.  I have also wondered why fasting and prayer are often linked in the Bible.  After reading Nehemiah and doing some praying and reading I think I have found an answer that makes me yearn to fast.

What I learned is that when we fast our weakness are turned into strength by the Lord.  When we fast we are demonstrating our complete dependence on God.  The purpose of fasting is to take our eyes off the things of this world to focus only on God.  Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed understanding of our reliance upon God.  It makes me think of Paul who said “For when I am weak then I am strong.”

With this new perspective in mind I think that fasting must include a withdrawal from the things of the world.  Not just in praying but in not occupying oneself with distractions.

So I will fast and pray for everyone who has written to me about having depression and/or suicidal ideation.  I am not fasting and praying necessarily that this affliction be removed but that if it is not God’s will to remove it then we can better accept and live with it and be of more service to others.

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