[Guest Post] Timothy Cummings: Christians and Depression

Ed. Note: Today we hear from Tim Cummings, evangelist with Reformed Evangelism Fellowship. Tim serves in New Jersey, often sharing the Gospel on college campuses. We met in January, when we were team members on an evangelism trip to Uganda. Tim shared this recently in an email update and I thought it was important to share. -AR

“Come hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16).

Mandisa is a Christian contemporary singer who, after a good friend died of cancer and left behind a small child, plunged into a deep depression, with thoughts of suicide and using food for comfort.  The Lord broke through to her through some friends, and used counseling to help her emerge victorious.

Beth Moore is a Christian speaker and author who was counseling someone when things were said that triggered personal trauma buried deep in her past, plunging her into a deep depression for a year or so, during which the love of her family kept her connected to reality in the midst of the maelstrom.

Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in Romania who, in the midst of imprisonment, torture, and interrogation, gave in to dark thoughts and stored pills in his mattress, purposing to “make away with himself” as Giant Despair tempted Christian and Hopeful to do in Doubting Castle.  Thankfully the mattress was providentially removed, and Wurmbrand found the “key of promise” restored to him. Though he remained in the physical prison, it became for him radiant with the beauty of Christ.

Charles Spurgeon, after a riot broke out during his preaching in which a number of people died, fell into black despair, during which, as he described it, “reason tottered on its throne.”  But the Lord broke through to him with the promises of the gospel, and though he struggled with dark depression throughout his life, the Light of Christ shone brightly through it.

Each of these accounts has proved to be very encouraging to me.  Since a good friend recently encouraged me to share a bit of my story over the last couple of years, I thought I would, in hopes that my testimony of God’s grace might “strengthen the weary one with a word” (Is. 50).

Two years ago I experienced what my wife described as a “perfect storm.”  I came down with another sinus infection, which lasted a couple of months.  There were difficult events that occurred, and there was trauma from the past that had not been effectively processed.  In the midst of all that, there came “infernal thoughts,” as Spurgeon described them–fiery darts that seemed to lodge and catch fire.

But all this really exposed spiritual and theological weaknesses.  My mind tended to be taken up with examining my performance–analyzing and dwelling on past mistakes, and over-analyzing what might be God’s will in a particular situation.  M’Cheyne said that for every one look at self we ought to take ten looks at Christ; recently I heard someone confirm that this is about the proportion we see in the book of Hebrews!  But when thoughts orbit around self, the spiral of despair is just around the corner, for no good thing dwells in my flesh. With a performance-oriented and guilt-inhibited mind, the devil had plenty of material to work with to weave webs of condemnation, and paralyze my will.  If hope is the mainspring of action, condemnation is the doorway of paralysis. And since I tended to be introspective about my emotional state, leaning far too heavily on my feelings as a barometer of my spiritual condition, feelings of depression made it seem as if the floor was caving in.

I spent about two months deep in the dungeon of Giant Despair.  The condemning, irrational, and infernal thoughts were overwhelming.  Assurance of salvation seemed quite out of reach, and salvation itself unlikely in either the present or the future.

The initial words of deliverance were from Psalm 131–given to me by a friend to read repeatedly.  The psalmist speaks of stilling and quieting his soul, instead of giving way to proud and fretful thoughts.  Thoughts of condemnation and uncertainty are really the counterparts of proud self-righteousness. Obsession over one’s performance must give way to trust.

After a good and peaceful night’s sleep, I woke to new temptations to condemnation.  But the Lord provided two passages ready-to-hand. One was Zechariah 3, which spoke of Satan the accuser being removed from the presence of the Lord since Joshua the priest’s new clean robes rendered his accusation an irrelevant lie.  The other was from Romans 8: “Who shall lay a charge against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies; who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died; yes, rather who was also raised; who is at the right hand of God; who also makes intercession for us.”

A little while later, after returning from a rest at my pastor’s cabin in the woods (which itself I found to be a crucial ingredient to good spiritual and emotional equilibrium), I happened upon a book my wife Renee was reading, C.J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross-Centered Life.  It seemed to effectively diagnose and provide a remedy for the center of my spiritual / theological problem.  It was like spiritual accupressure. Mahaney stated that the evangelical church tends to suffer from condemnation, legalism, and subjectivism.  This book launched me into a process of “marinating” in the “word of the cross.” I consistently reviewed Scriptures about the cross (from Isaiah 53; Hebrews 10; Romans 3, etc.).  I read books of grace (Jerry Bridges’ Transforming Grace and The Discipline of Grace).  I listened to sermons focusing on the cross (Spurgeon and Mahaney).  I listened to songs focusing on the cross and its present relevance for the believer (Fanny Crosby’s “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross” is now a favorite, as well as “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” contemporary songs on Youtube were also helpful, such as the Newsboys’ “Hallelujah for the Cross”).

But along with “marinating” in the word of the cross, it was also a great blessing for the gospel to be “kneaded” into my life in specific areas, and concerning specific issues.  A good friend of mine who is a counselor was willing to talk on the phone once a week to work through a book with me that accomplished just this. Other friends and counselors were able to consistently point me to the place where freedom and stability in the Christian life are maintained–the cross.

As I’ve learned to take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, my will has been more and more freed (He did say the truth would make us free).  The whole counsel of God as revealed in His Word is what provides logs for the steam engine of the will. And as I’ve learned to pay attention to Christ instead of my emotions (since, as Billy Graham said, substituting feeling for faith is a heresy), I find that Christ Himself satisfies my deepest affections, and in the midst of darkness He is my Light.

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There are various practical suggestions that could be made, and perhaps will be made, concerning personal evangelism.  At the very heart of it, though, is an awareness of the profound depths of divine love displayed at the cross, for me. Also at the very heart of personal evangelism is a love for the lost that can only be kindled at the place where love for the lost was indelibly demonstrated . . . at the cross.

The Holy Spirit has been given to the church–all flesh–all kinds of people–for the purpose of personal evangelism.  Before Peter spoke at Pentecost, 120 believers of various ages and genders were speaking of the mighty works of God, filled with the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit comes to focus our attention on Jesus Christ, and to engender His love for the lost in us.

Training and tools are necessary.  What is essential, though, is the awareness of the greatness of Jesus’s sacrifice, and a love for the lost that reflects His.  If you receive these from the Holy Spirit, and trust Him to lead you, He Himself will by His wisdom provide you with strategic ways and means for the situations you will encounter.


Again, I’m grateful for Tim’s permission to share this and his courage to share his story. If you’d like more information or to support his work, please visit Tim’s bio and support page here. -AR

An Ordinary Day in the Remarkable Life of William Carey

In today’s post we are given a rare glimpse into the ordinary daily routine of missionary William Carey.

William Carey

William Carey (1761-1834) was a British-born Baptist missionary to India and is often referred to as, “The Father of Modern Missions.” His most famous publication is the small book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. He lived in India just over 40 years, never once taking a furlough. While in India he translated the Bible into not one, not two, but six languages. That is mind-boggling to me.

What follows is from a letter from Carey to a friend, John Ryland, from Calcutta, June 12, 1806. In it, he describes his day. This is fascinating to me because I’m always interested in making the best use of my time. What is obvious is Carey’s mastery of time and also his sheer intellectual capacity. Carey surely was gifted with a mind for languages, and while you and I may not be, we can learn much in Carey’s own recollection of an ordinary work day in the life.

I rose this day at a quarter before six, read a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, and spent the time till seven in private addresses to God and then attended family prayer with the servants in Bengalee. While tea was pouring out, I read a little in Persian with a Moonshi who was waiting when I left my bed room, read also before breakfast a portion of the Scriptures in Hindoothsanee.

The Moment breakfast was over sat down to the translation of the Ramayuna from Sangskrit, with a Pundit … continued this translation til ten O Clock, at which time I went to [the] College [of Fort Williams], and attended the duties there [teaching Bengali, Sanskrit, and Marathi] till between one and two O Clock.

When I returned home I examined a proof sheet of the Bengali translation of Jeremiah, which took till dinner time … After dinner translated with the assistance of the chief Pundit of the College, greatest part of the 8th Cap. of Matthew, into Sangskrit–this employed me til six O Clock, after six sat down with a Tiling Pundit … to learn that Language.

Mr Thomas […] called in the evening; I began to collect a few previous thoughts into the form of a Sermon, at Seven O Clock, and preached in English at half past seven … the Congregation was gone by nine O Clock. I then sat down to write you, after this I conclude the Evening by reading a Chapter in the Greek testament, and commending myself to God. I have never more time in a day than this, though the exercises vary.*

This is a humbling read. It’s also oddly encouraging to us ordinary people. There’s no magic in the formula of productivity. We needn’t be a William Carey to be productive for the Lord in whatever good works he has prepared for you and for me. Productivity will always be the simple math of time management + discipline = goal achieved. The only question is whether we are willing to put in the effort.


*Published in The Banner of Truth, Issue 202, July 1980.

Christian: You Can Always Pray!

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

In writing about Paul’s comment in Ephesians 3:14-15, (“For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whole the whole family in heaven and earth is named”), Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones makes excellent points, as always. Below is one aspect he shared that all of us can benefit from, and my reflections on his wisdom.

First, he talks about the fact that Paul prayed. No matter what Rome did to him, no matter the deepest dungeon they cast him into, or the heaviest bonds they secure him with, nothing could stop Paul’s ability to access the throne of God in prayer. Then he makes an application for us:

“This is always applicable to us whatever our circumstances and conditions may happen to be. There are times when as Christians we seem to be in some kind of prison. We may be hemmed in and tied down, perhaps by illness or some physical weakness or by circumstances, or circumstances may prevent us from coming to the House of God or from having fellowship with others…[W]hatever circumstances or evil men do to us, there is always open to us this particular ministry and activity…[I]f you find yourself ill and confined to a sick bed, that does not mean you are useless for the time being, it does not mean that you can do nothing. You can still go on praying. You can pray for yourself; you can pray for others; you can be taking part in a great ministry of intercession.”

Dr. M.L. Jones, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ.” Banner of Truth Books

As I write this there is an army division advancing in unstoppable victory. It’s the division of God’s people assigned to the front lines of suffering and frailty. They march from their homes and their hospital bed, advancing in quiet prayer. They maybe haven’t been able to step foot in church for years but they are tirelessly interceding at home for challenged pastors, discouraged missionaries, unreached people groups, and hostile nations.

Some may only be assigned to this battalion for a month or two, temporarily on “light duty” because of a broken leg or surgery recovery. Still, they join the concerted effort and do their part.

Some are permanently reassigned to these ranks in the prime of their lives. They never expected to have their days filled with doctors appointments, pain, and pills. Not for many more decades, anyway. But here they are. They don’t understand God’s plan for them now, but they are faithful and obedient.

And some of these servant-soldiers have fought for a long time. They have served well. Their bodies are weary, even brittle. Their health is failing each day. Soon they’ll be eternally young again, reinvigorated and with their Lord forever. But for now, although they can do little or no work on the outside, they live out Paul’s exhortation to, “pray without ceasing” on the inside.

Whatever their situation, IV drips or oxygen, they pray. Waiting rooms or hospital rooms, they pray.

Maybe I pushed the wartime metaphor a bit too far (although I believe eternity will show I didn’t push it far enough!). The point is: All of us, every Christian, always has a job to do in the Kingdom of God: All of us can pray! No matter whether we are young or old, healthy or sick, working hard to nail down a new roof or passing the time receiving chemotherapy, let’s never forget we can avail ourselves of this great duty and privilege.

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Help, I’m Reading Numbers!

With its stories of rebellion in the ranks, attempted coups, early battles, and even international espionage, Numbers is quite the page turner…Still, Numbers is not without its challenges.

Ed. Note: I recently shared some ideas on how to read through Leviticus with more appreciation than we often tend to have, if we’re honest about it. Numbers being next in line, this post follows in what I guess is going to be a series. – AR

With its stories of rebellion in the ranks, attempted coups, early battles, and international espionage, Numbers is quite the page turner. For that reason, it’s less daunting reading than Leviticus. Still, Numbers is not without its challenges.

Contextually, the new nation of Israel is still learning to relate to and serve under the Lord. And so, reading through Numbers we come to passages where action is replaced by instruction and drama is replaced by historical record keeping.

With its stories of rebellion in the ranks, attempted coups, early battles, and even international espionage, Numbers is quite the page turner.

Like I said about reading Leviticus, it is all God’s Word, all holy, and all useful for our instruction, so we would be foolish to skip over any of it. Here are three reminders I wrote down as I reread Numbers. Hopefully they help you, too.

1. Numbers Reminds Me How Holy God Is

God is holy. Holiness (separate-ness, distinction) isn’t an add-on trait to God, like a crown on a king’s head. God is holy. Holiness is an essential attribute of His being.

The Lord is unapproachably holy. For sinful men to approach him they must be made pure or they will die. Nothing imperfect can be before him. Not imperfect men marred by physical deformities or internal sin. Not imperfect sacrifices. Animals scarified to the Lord had to be, “without blemish.” And even then, speaking of those sacrifices the writer of Hebrews would later say they could never, “make perfect those who draw near…for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:1,4).

Even some clans within the priestly Levites would die if they looked at the tools and instruments of the tabernacle they were charged with carrying after Aaron and his sons covered them (Num 4:15-19). (And He is so holy those instruments aren’t allowed to be carted but must be carried by hand with poles.)

God is holy, Holy, HOLY.

2. Numbers Reminds Me How Sinful I Am

I see me, my sin, in everything Israel does. Their constant grumblings remind me of my own. Their complaining against God’s wisdom reminds me of mine when I don’t like how God chooses to lead me. Time and again the Israelites thought they knew better, and that hits close to home.

Aaron’s and Miriam’s rebellion and later Korah’s rebellion gut me. Their rebellions were there attempts at overthrowing not just Moses, as God’s representative, but God himself. Thousands of people died in their sin as punishment. The ground literally opened up and ate them alive, or they died of plague or fire broke out from their incense censers. They suffered the wrath of God for their rebellion.

By the way, we might think that was the end of it, right? Surely no one would be stupid enough to complain after witnessing that terrible scene! Guess again. In that same chapter (16), look at 16:41, “But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron…” (emphasis added). The next day!

I’m honest when I read Numbers, every page exposes my heart’s attempts to overthrow God every single day.

And, if I’m honest when I read Numbers, every page exposes my heart’s attempts to overthrow God every single day. Don’t believe me? Who of us love our trials? Some days by his grace I persevere and other days fall so short in bearing up under them well. Those are the days I hate the difficult circumstances I have been in for months and the other circumstances that have lasted decades.

And if you’re honest when you read through Numbers, it exposes the same sins in your life. If Numbers was the end of it, we would have plenty of reason to despair over our sin. But being convicted about our sin is a mercy from God. Which brings us to our third and final reminder…

3. Numbers Reminds Me of Christ

He is on every page. He is in the holiness of God and the promised future atonement for sinful men. For over a thousand years animals would be sacrificed, butchered, and burned on the altar for the sins of individuals and for the nation.

The author of Hebrews would eventually sum up this epoch of blood and fire and ashes to us, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Heb 10:11). That is, until the Lamb the Lord himself would offer up. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” (Heb 10:12).

Jesus is the great future perfect fulfillment. The tabernacle (and later the Temple) and the sacrifices were awesome-but-imperfect shadows. Jesus is the reason you and I are not blotted out a hundred million times over for our sins, as theologian RC Sproul famously called sin against God, “cosmic treason.” Jesus bore my punishment (and yours if you are in Christ today).

I want you to know, brothers, that our others were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all dark the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

These three reminders changed how I read and understand the Book of Numbers. Now I read every story differently. What used to be black-and-white and fuzzy now has crystal clear 4K Ultra HD picture quality. What I struggled to see as applying to me personally makes perfect sense now. In the story of the rebellion of the sons of Korah, God punished the Korahite clan and they died. In the story of the rebellion of Anthony, God the Father punished Jesus and he died.

In the story of the rebellion of the sons of Korah, God punished the Korahite clan and they died. In the story of the rebellion of Anthony, God the Father punished Jesus and he died.

Don’t let someone tell you the Old Testament is irrelevant, even if that liar is standing behind a pulpit. The Holy Spirit can use Numbers to humble us, expose our sins, and, by grace, not destroy us, but lead us repentance and forgiveness that is now freely available through Christ.

[Reading Leviticus] The Drama of Aaron’s Sacrifice

Do you struggle to pay attention reading through Leviticus? Last week I posted about how we can do more than simply “get through” it. Today I want to share an Aha! moment I had reading through Leviticus again last week. For all the times I’ve read Leviticus over the years, I never noticed the drama in the story Aaron’s first official sacrifice as Israel’s high priest.

In my ESV Bible the heading for Leviticus chapter 9 says, “The LORD Accepts Aaron’s Offering.” Straight-forward enough, right? Not exactly. Two events occur, one before and one after the sacrifice, that make the events of chapter 9 so astonishing.

The Drama Before

In Exodus 24:9-11 we read,

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ent up, and they saw the God of Israel. There were under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness…they beheld God, and ate and drank.

Keep this mind as we go.

In Exodus 32, before Aaron and his sons are officially installed as Israel’s first priests, Moses was atop Mt Sinai with the Lord, leaving Aaron to mind the store, overseeing the Israelites. In a move that even Barney Fife, on his worst day while Andy was away, wouldn’t have the audacity to do, Aaron gives in to the whims of the Israelites and creates the golden calf. And with it declares, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

This is the man who saw the Lord, who ate with Him on the mountain, who was used by God as Moses’ right-hand man during the encounters with Pharaoh leading up to the Exodus. And then, turning his back and his conscience on all of that, sets up Israel’s first (and sadly, not its last) national idol.

It is a miracle itself that God did not wipe him out right there. Which brings us to…

The Drama After

We’re not given a timeframe from Leviticus 9 to Leviticus 10. It could’ve been days, weeks, or months. Regardless, not long after the Lord accepts their initial priestly sacrifices, God kills Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu.

The details of the incident are divinely sketchy in the text, but we know they offered profane incense before the Lord, unauthorized or “strange” fire. In irony and contrast, the Lord immediately consumed them in his holy and vengeful fire.

Here again, we have to go back and reread Exodus 24:9-11. Right there in the text we see these two men were also on the mountain seeing the Lord and eating there with their father Aaron, their uncle Moses, and seventy elders of Israel!

And still they would go on to profane the worship of the Lord and suffer the terrible consequences.

The Drama in the Middle

Knowing all of this makes the drama of what took place in Leviticus 9 even more amazing, doesn’t it?

It is a wonder and a mercy that God even condescends to acknowledge our sinful race, much less bid us draw near in reconciliation.

It is also stunning to think God didn’t disqualify Aaron from ministry (or just kill him) after the golden calf incident, which from our human perspective seems as-bad or worse than his sons’ sinful perversion of God’s instructions for worshipping him.

Instead God appoints him to the greatest honor, to become the first high priest to the Lord. And on that inauguration day the Lord was pleased to receive the sacrifices on behalf of the priests and the people.

Thirdly, it’s mind-boggling to think that God allowed Nadab and Abihu to serve in ministry knowing full well what would later do.

Reminds me of how the Lord called and welcomed Judas into the fold, giving no indication whatsoever of his future betrayal. Jesus was so kind to him that not only did he let him hold the money bag while knowing he was stealing from it. Which is why in the upper room at the last supper when he announced one of them would betray him, the other disciples had no clue who it might be.

The Drama of Redemption

Ultimately, what we have to marvel at is the drama of redemption itself. What happened in Leviticus 9 not only foreshadows a better, eternal Priest, Jesus, who would offer the greatest sacrifice for sin, himself.

Leviticus 9, as with all of Leviticus and the whole Old Testament for that matter, reminds us in pictures of the depths of our sin and idols of the heart, Christ’s future perfect atoning sacrifice where by God accepts and reconciles us to himself, through no merit of our own. Our sins atoned and forgiven, we are restored and commissioned into service for our God.

Astonishing. And to think–how often have we grumbled that Leviticus is boring. God forgive us!