Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Shona Murray shares an illustration for the way we sometimes approach God’s Word when we’re anxious.

Dr. Shona Murray: You come to a big lake, and maybe you haven’t drunk water for days. The temptation is to get bucketloads, and you end up more soaked than you do more thirst-quenched. Come to God’s Word with your small spoon and say, “Lord, this is all I have. Feed me from this spoon today.”

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, for July 21, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Did you know that the Scripture has quite a bit to say about our emotions, especially when it comes to feelings of anxiety and depression. I’m so grateful that God has given us what we need to face those kinds of issues.

For the past couple of days on Revive Our Hearts, we’ve focused on depression in teens. But you know, those same principles translate over to people of any age. Here’s Dannah with more.

Dannah: We enjoyed our conversation with Drs. David and Shona Murray so much that we’ve invited them back to talk about women, and how we can battle anxiety and depression in our own lives. Welcome back!

Dr. David Murray: Thank you!

Dr. Shona Murray: Thank you, Dannah, good to talk with you again! 

Dannah: So, David, here’s the plan: Shona and I are going to have our own little chat today, and then you can join us again on tomorrow’s program. Is that alright?

Dr. David: Yes, I’m looking forward to chatting more about this subject.

Dannah: Shona, today I’d like to talk to you about how we can help ourselves, because we as women are also in this battlefield of anxiety and depression, not just our children. Is that true? Am I alone?

Dr. Shona: No, Dannah, you’re not alone. It’s pretty common among women, and has been for all ages. But now it’s becoming more obvious. People are more open and more willing to talk about it. In my own life—probably as far back as age fifteen—experienced my first bout with depression and anxiety, although I didn’t recognize it then. It was probably simultaneous with puberty. Then again when I had my fourth child, so around the time in pregnancy. And I know that it’s also very common in women around menopause time. The hormonal part of it is really important, and maybe that’s what makes women unique in that regard.

But over twelve million women in the United States experience clinical depression every year. A big 1 in 8 in their lifetime can expect to suffer from depression.

Dannah: That’s a lot. 

Dr. Shona: The most common age group is probably between ages twenty-five and fifty.

Dannah: I remember when I had my first baby. I thought I was just losing my mind—or that I didn’t like being a mom—because especially at night I would feel lonely; I would feel panicky. After I fed the baby, I would go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet and just cry! I’d think, “My life is never going to be the same, and something is really wrong with me!” I just suffered through it for months! 

Well, then I started loving the baby, loving motherhood. I had the second baby . . . and I was in the bathroom again crying in the middle of the night! I went to the doctor, and the doctor was like, “You’re struggling with postpartum depression.”

I was like, “Thank you! That is the best news I’ve ever heard!” I needed to know, “This is real . . . and we can get you through.”

Dr. Shona: That’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? If you actually know this is real, it gives you hope that you aren’t losing your mind. 

Dannah: Yes, I wasn’t losing my mind. It came back. It just took a few months. What has your story been like, Shona?

Dr. Shona: I mentioned when I was fifteen. I had some time then when I thought my problem was struggling with assurance [of salvation]. I lost the sense of God’s presence and really struggled. But I got through it, and I didn’t really ever attribute that to depression. But looking back, I know that that was what it was.

But when I was pregnant with my fourth child, I had two boys who were about five and six, and a one-and-a-half-year-old toddler girl, and I was about two or three months pregnant. I was homeschooling; David was a pastor. We were in a new congregation. We had gone through our denominational church split. And I found myself emotionally “falling off the cliff.” 

It started with very dark thoughts, becoming very tearful. My sense of humor had gone. I started losing my appetite. I couldn’t concentrate in my daily devotions. And then one particular night, I was sitting just reading, trying to relax, when I felt this incredible sense of terror and fear. I knew that I had nothing physically wrong with me.

Over time this happened again and again. I realized that, “This must be what people describe as a panic attack!”—except, it wasn’t over in two or three minutes. It would be sustained sometimes for a whole day, my heart pounding, and just scared—scared for no reason.

I was working part-time as a family practitioner. When any patients I had began to describe their feelings of depression and anxiety, for the first time in my life I began to recognize these in myself, so that no longer was this an objective analysis of someone else, but it was a mirror image of my own inner thought, emotional world. It was terrifying!

Dannah: Yes, it’s ironic to me that you’re a physician, and still, you had a hard time identifying this in yourself. What does that tell us? When we’re feeling off, maybe we should tell someone who could be a little bit objective about what’s going on in our mind and in our bodies? 

Dr. Shona: Right. Yes. If you’re somebody who is a get-up-and-go person and you have a fairly positive outlook on life and you’re energetic, you tend to . . . One of the features of depression is you beat up on yourself.

So what I started doing was, I started blaming myself. That inner voice, that inner critic, was saying, “You’re lazy! You need to push yourself harder! You need to ‘this,’ you should ‘that.’” And that became such a big part of it.

But what really pushed me over the edge was a sudden feeling of total loss of connection with God—in the Bible, in sermons, in praying. God was far away. I felt that God no longer cared about me, maybe He was my enemy! I just had thoughts about God that I’d never had in my life before, a lot of questioning, which I hated!

It was disturbing; it was distressing. My solution was to read more of Scripture, to pray harder. It was exhausting my mind. I started reading more and more books, like Spiritual Depression by Martin Lloyd-Jones. I read a bit of John Bunyan’s life as well—and other books like that—trying to find help, but it was exhausting! So I was actually exhausting my mind even more!

Dannah: Yes, which brings us to the point that depression is sometimes very physical. We need to rest; we need to exercise; we need to fuel our bodies with the right kinds of food, instead of the carb diet that Americans, anyway, like so very much. We actually talked about some of those practical tools the last time that we had you on as guests.

But I want to talk today about, how do we use the Word of God? Because here you are saying, “I couldn’t think!” I remember a really hard marriage time in my life where opening the Bible was very confusing. It felt like fuzz in my brain when I tried to dissect the Word. But I knew I needed the Word. It sounds like you knew that, too.

So, Shona, what was your solution? How did you begin to open the Word and have it be an effective tool in this battle with depression?

Dr. Shona: Right, so I think what helped me a lot (and I would recommend, advise everybody to do this) is to ask for help from somebody who knows you well. I had the privilege of my father, who had been a pastor for many years. He knew me well growing up. We were very close, especially in the spiritual realm. And David, my husband, was a pastor, and obviously, we were very close spiritually, too.

They could both see that the problem in my situation was not spiritual, although I was attributing it primarily to being spiritual. They could see that the problem was exhaustion, because I was trying to do everything, trying to please everyone, trying to be everything.

And this sense that, “God wants me to be the best at everything that I can be, for His glory.” I remember literally saying this to myself, “I want to be spent in the service of God!” Well, when you get to rock-bottom, God shows you, “You can’t put two thoughts together spiritually without Me.”

And the reading of Scripture, or trying to read more and more and more, is like trying to pull the lifeboat towards you instead of letting go and letting the lifeboat crew throw the lifebelt at you and on you.

So what I would say is, start small every day reading one verse of maybe a psalm, or two verses of a comforting passage of Scripture, and pray very briefly. And go back to the same verse every day without that sense of, “If I don’t read ten verses, or if I don’t read a chapter, it’s not devotional.” 

Better to focus on one verse and be able to get help to grasp on to that, than get nothing out of trying to get way too much. It’s a bit like a thirsty soul. You come to a big lake, and maybe you haven’t drunk water for days. The temptation is to get bucketloads, and you end up more soaked than you do more thirst-quenched. 

Come to God’s Word with your small spoon and say, “Lord, this is all I have. Feed me from this spoon today.” Take one verse or two and make that your daily practice and ask God, “Help me! Pour Your Spirit in my heart and bless what I’ve read.” Maybe write it down on a card or a piece of paper and just focus on that verse for the day. Don’t try to climb Everest when you can’t climb out of your bed, hardly.

Dannah: This is probably not the time to inductively study the book of Revelation.

Dr. Shona: Absolutely not. Or Ezekiel, or Daniel, so . . .

Dannah: But it is the time to live out Scripture, and so much of Scripture tells us to care for our body with rest. We are even instructed to rest weekly, and God modeled that for us when He rested after He created the earth.

I’m thinking of Christ’s tender call in Matthew 11:28—30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).

Scripture is still saying, “Get in the yoke! I’ve got work for you to do. You’re part of the Great Commission team! You’re part of the Kingdom work that has to be done, so put that yoke on.” But, listen, if you’re doing it in such a way that you’re not functioning well, you can put the yoke on all you want, but you’re not going to be able to stand up and pull it!

Dr. Shona: That’s right, because our bodies are as much blood-bought as our souls are, and our soul lives in our body, so we have to take care of our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit in order to spiritually thrive, to physically, emotionally, and mentally thrive.

I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that Christ’s love is extended to our bodies as well as our souls. He’s given us from Creation, “God rested on the seventh day.” (see Gen. 2:2; Heb. 4:4) He’s given us the fourth commandment (see Ex. 20:8–11). 

He’s given us His own example while on the earth, where Christ would—from people, even. The Man who spent days healing people, ministering to people, teaching people, and yet He Himself withdrew from people. (see John 13:14). And if the Lord Jesus Himself had to do that, then how much more must we? And the greatest revelation we can have is a realization that we are totally dependent on the Lord Jesus.

Dannah: I always say that the reason I practice sabbath (and I always have to push “reset” on how I do it, because workaholic Dannah always creeps in) is in part to remind myself that I didn’t create this world, and it will go on spinning without me! 

And that mentality of work that women have—and perfectionism in our work, that women have—leads us to this weariness and this burden. I find that my testimony for Christ is really hampered when I’m not working out of a place of rest because it’s not authentic, it’s not joyful, it’s not energetic and creative. It’s weary and dutiful. When people see that, they don’t see the power of Christ in me. They see Dannah wearing Dannah out!

Dr. Shona: Right, and it’s a good litmus test. If you’re weary, if you’re beginning to feel joyless, it’s a warning sign. I’m not talking about people who just are not engaged in wanting to serve the Lord, but are more engaged in serving themselves.

I’m talking about women who are actively really wholeheartedly wanting to live for the Lord, who are doing what they can on a daily basis. These are warning signs, when you lose your joy and your enthusiasm.

And one of the key things we have to think about is, “Am I getting enough sleep?” Because so often as moms, or as women, we stay up late either catching up on housework or catching up on other types of stuff.

Sleep is God’s gift. He gives it; He commands us to rest. And when we say, “I don’t need that much sleep; I really want to spend more hours of the day working!” We are actually rebelling against the way that God has designed us to be. 

So going to bed early, having a good sleep routine, is in fact number one. Expressing trust that the Lord will take care of His world when I am sleeping. The things I don’t get done, He will take care of these as well. My mind and my body and my soul will be refreshed by good sleep, because exhaustion leads to soul exhaustion as well.

Dannah [to listeners]: Dr. Shona is writing you a permission slip to slow down and rest today! This a medical doctor, my friend, not just any woman who is sharing her testimony about how she’s battled depression. This is a doctor telling us, “We need to rest!”

You look embarrassed when I say that!

Dr. Shona: I will try and take my own medicine on a regular basis, because, I would emphasize, Dannah, this is a lifelong battle for all of us! As long as we are in this world, we will be engaged in warfare against our own thorns in the flesh. So recognition of what that is, asking God’s help and going after that and attacking it every day is what we need to do.

Dannah: Dr. Shona Murray has been sharing how we as women can confront anxiety and depression in our own lives. And really with any issue we face, we need to run to the Lord and His Word to counsel our hearts according to the truth, as Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says so frequently.

A key passage in our fight against depression are Psalms 42 and 43. The psalmist found himself in a desperate situation! He was depressed, distressed, and doubting. Have you ever felt that way? I know I can relate! Here’s Nancy encouraging us to counself our own souls.

Nancy: I want us to see today that, not only does the psalmist talk to God, but he talks to himself! He counsels his own heart according to what he knows is true, even in a time when his emotions are screaming out, “It can’t be true!”

There’s a chorus that is repeated three times in this passage, verse 5 of Psalm 42; verse 11, and then the last verse, verse 5 of Psalm 43, as well. Let me read that chorus, and you’ll see here that the psalmist actually talks to himself, he counsels his heart.

He says in verse 5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” (NKJV)

He’s saying, “Why are you depressed?” That’s the “cast down, bowed down.” “Why are you disquieted? Why are you fretting and frantic and doubting? Why?” He asks himself this question.

Then he tells himself, he counsels himself, he says: “Hope in God.” He’s not telling somebody else this (now the time will come when he can tell somebody else). But he’s telling himself, “Soul! Hope in God! Yes, I know it doesn’t seem like there’s any hope. yes, I know the circumstances are overwhelming. Yes, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for these problems. Yes, I know there’s no one around here to cheer you up and encourage you; you feel very alone! Nonetheless, hope in God!” That’s how he counsels himself.

Then he says, “. . .for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” 

Verse 11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

And then, a third time, verse 5 of Psalm 43: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” 

Now, perhaps you’re wondering (I have, as I’ve meditated on this passage), Why does he say virtually the same thing three times?! You know why? Because he needs it—again and again and again! And you know what, he’s not the only one who needs it again and again and again!

Don’t you find sometimes that you have to not only talk to yourself and counsel your heart, but you have to keep doing it? I have found numerous times in my life that I have to just keep going back and telling my heart what I know is true. 

Some of you have heard me share about the first year when we launched Revive Our Hearts. Prior to the year, when we had made the schedule for that year, we didn’t know we were going to be starting a daily radio program, so we already had multiple conferences booked. We had a full year’s schedule. I was writing books. The year was full!

And then we added radio, daily radio! We recorded in that first year, I think, 320 programs. I hardly knew how to turn my radio on—much less, how to do radio! And in the midst of that year, for about fifteen months, actually, I felt constantly overwhelmed!

I felt most of the time like I was in this huge ocean with a tsunami, this tidal wave, coming over me again and again and again! I just for months felt like I could hardly breathe! And yet, I knew that God had called us into this, I knew I was there by God’s appointing. I had no doubt—really not for a moment—that God is the One who had led me into this.

But I honestly had many moments when I did not think I would live to tell about it. I didn’t think I could survive this! I mean, it was just overwhelming! I found myself having repeatedly to counsel my heart according to the truth of God’s Word, to go back to the things that I know to be true about God, about His calling, about His grace. 

His grace is sufficient for you! His grace is sufficient for me! (see 2 Cor. 12:9 ESV]) I just had to keep counseling my heart. I would go back to the promises of God, to the Word of God, over and over and over again!

It was during this time that I finished writing the book Lies Women Believe, and if you’ve read that book, you know that the last chapter is just a list of truths that we need to remember, that counter the lies. We put those truths on a little bookmark, and I found myself needing to go back repeatedly and just read those truths out loud.

For example, “God will not lead me anywhere that He will not supply grace to enable me.” 

I would just read those truths, read them out loud, counseling my heart according to God’s Word, saying to my heart, “Heart! Why are you discouraged, why are you overwhelmed? Hope in God! Don’t look at the storm around you; don’t look at the circumstances.”

I’m telling you, I could counsel my heart that way first thing in the morning in my quiet time, and before ten o’clock in the morning, I was having to counsel my heart again. Again and again and again!

The Enemy uses deception; he uses storms; he uses distress to overwhelm us! And some of you are living with real-life circumstances and situations that are not going away. The most distressing part of mine was about fifteen months long, and then God started to lift the cloud. I started to see some of the hope and started to feel some of the hope.

Some of you are living in a troubled marriage or with a child with a physical disability or in a financial situation that is not going away in fifteen months. You’re going to be living with that situation maybe for a long time to come. You’ve got to keep counseling your heart according to the Word of God!

Talk to yourself. Tell yourself the truth. Tell yourself what you know to be true: 

  • God is sovereign. God is wise. 
  • He doesn’t make mistakes. 
  • God loves me. 
  • He’s not going to bring anything into my life except that which would be for my ultimate good.

Keep counseling your heart according to the Word of God. Tell your heart, “Hope in God!”

Now I want us to see in this passage something else that the psalmist does, which is really crucial to living the Christian life. Not only did he need it, but you and I need it every single day. He counters sight—that is, what he can see, what he feels to be true, what looks true—with faith. 

His senses tell him one thing, his sight tells him one thing, the apparent circumstances tell him one thing. If he believes what his sight and his senses tell him, he’s going to live an overwhelmed life! So he counters sight with faith.

You have this running dialogue, this running conversation, between sight and faith. Sight says . . . but faith says . . . But sight says . . . but faith says . . . And it always lands on faith! We’ll look at a few of these points through the chapter, as sight and faith alternate.

From the standpoint of sight, he sees complaints and visible circumstances, but then when faith answers, he sees the comforts of God. He sees the eternal realities that you can only see with eyes of faith.

Sometimes your senses and your sight and your immediate perception only tell you things that are really depressing and negative, because there are those seasons of life when the storm is just very rough! And if you look only at what you can see, you’re going to be depressed!

But if you lift your eyes up and look at unseen things, the eternal realities that are more true than the storm itself, then you’ll find comfort for your heart! That’s when we have to say, “Lord, though I can’t see You, though I can’t feel You, I believe that You are more real, You are more true, and You are bigger—infinitely bigger—than any circumstance or situation that I am facing this day!”

So, for example, in Psalm 42, verses 1 and 2, faith says, “There’s a God!” Now, he can’t see God. He feels abandoned by God. But faith says there is a God. And faith says, “My soul is longing for fellowship with Him!” So he talks to God, even when He doesn’t feel that God is there. 

He says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.” (NKJV) So faith says there is a God, and my soul is longing for Him. Sight responds in verses 3 and 4 by saying, “All I have to eat are my tears!” 

My tears have been my food day and night . . . [Those around me] continually say to me, "Where is your God?” 

That’s what sight tells him, “You’re distressed, you’re depressed, you’re miserable! Everybody has forsaken you, and the people who haven’t forsaken you are attacking you!” 

“They continually say to me . . .” That’s what sight says. I’m not saying that sight is not real. Sight is very real; your circumstances are very real. I’m just saying they’re not the ultimate reality. Faith counters sight.

And so, in verse 5, faith counters sight by saying, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of his countenance.” But then, verses 6 and 7, sight comes back and sight says, “My soul is cast down.” (“I’m drowning!”) 

And then faith speaks up again in verse 8 and says, “The Lord will command His lovingkindness [His hesed is the Hebrew word, His covenant love, His faithful love] in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me.” That’s what faith says!

He can’t see the lovingkindness of God. He doesn’t feel the lovingkindness of God. He can’t hear the song of God with his physical ears. But he says, “By faith, that’s what I know to be true!”

Dannah: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth teaching from a series called “Dealing with Depression and Doubt.”We heard an excerpt of that message, but you can find the entire series at ReviveOurHearts.com

And through that message, and then the first part of today’s program with Dr. Shona Murray, we’ve been learning ways to counter anxiety and depression when they surface in our own hearts. Here at Revive Our Hearts, we want you to have access to practical biblical teaching, to help you know Jesus better!

We hope through episodes like this one, you’ll find encouragement to seek Him in every circumstance of life! When you give to this ministry, you’re helping share the transforming truth of Christ with others.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts this month, our way of saying thank you to you is that we’d like to send you a booklet by Nancy called A Deeper Kind of Kindness. In it, Nancy explains how our kindness to others displays a picture of the gospel. 

You can get that resource online when you give at ReviveOurHearts.com, or just call us at 1–800–569–5959. Make sure to ask for Nancy’s booklet on Kindness.

Now, we still have much to learn about the topic of depression and anxiety, and we can’t cover it all. But Drs. David and Shona Murray will be back tomorrow to dig more into how we can counter the lies that are so easy to believe. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages you to run to God’s Word. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

About the Guest

David and Shona Murray

David and Shona Murray

David Murray (PhD, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also a counselor, a regular speaker at conferences, and the author of Exploring the Bible. David and his wife, Shona, attend Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church.

Shona Murray is a mother of five children and has homeschooled for fifteen years. She is a medical doctor and worked as a family practitioner in Scotland until she moved to the United States with her husband, David. She is the author of Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands.