John Piper’s When the Darkness Will Not Lift

John Piper’s little book, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, is tellingly subtitled “Doing What We Can While We Wait for God – and Joy.”  That’s well said, for oftentimes in seasons of darkness we simply must (1) do what we can and (2) wait.  But that’s not all, as Piper shows masterfully, if too briefly, in this book.

I was particular moved by Piper’s argument that the first step towards emerging from depression is a renewed understanding of justification.  We must remember, in other words, who we are in Christ and where our certainties and strengths lie.  Justification, then, becomes an anchor on which the despairing soul can latch itself.  Whatever else might happen, the fact of our having been declared righteous by God through the shed blood of His Son keeps us from drifting into utter despair and ruin.

There are, to be sure, other issues, and Piper lays them out well.  I found his discussion of medication and the physical dimensions of depression most helpful.  In an admirably balanced way, Piper showed that there are undeniable physical components to depression, and that this has been recognized by the saints for ages.  I found his anecdote about Martyn Lloyd-Jones interest in the then-developing field of antidepressants to be interesting.

Piper does not believe it is wrong, in some cases, to take medicine.  Even so, he warns against seeing medicine as the cure for depression and he rightly sounds an alarm against the grotesque over-medicating of our society.  He bemoans the quick and arrogant medicating of children when new research is showing that placebos have been shown to be just as effective, if not more so, as traditional medication.

But, again, Piper does not use this caution to write off all medication.  Sometimes it is necessary, and I am glad to see him say this, even as I agree with his criticisms of our pill-happy society.

There is practical advice here, to be sure.  Piper wisely talks about the need to serve and work and get out of ourselves.  He points out that joy, too, is a duty in Scripture.  He warns against the deceptive “certainties” of despair and asks us not to believe its siren call.  He writes of the need to help one another and minister to one another during times of darkness, and shows how this can happen.

In all, a tremendous little work.  It’s too brief, coming in at 79 pages, but the themes are developed further inWhen I Don’t Desire God.

I’m glad I read this book.

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