D. Martyn Lloyd Jones on “The Reaction” (or, “The Dangerous Aftermath of Intense Spiritual Experiences”)

I’ve been a pastor now for almost fifteen years.  In that time, a few things have really caught me off guard.  One of those is the amount of depression that God’s people deal with.  Depression is, of course, something that most people deal with to varying degrees.  By God’s grace I don’t think I have ever suffered severe depression, though I do know what depression is.

To that end, I was delighted to discover D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’s book, Spiritual Depression. The book is a classic in the field and consists of a series of sermons that Lloyd Jones (originally a medical doctor) preached from his famous pulpit at Westminster Chapel in London.  I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Lloyd Jones’ book is one of the more profound books I’ve ever read in terms of diagnosing the causes and treatment of spiritual depression.

One of the more intriguing insights he offers is the fact that Christians are especially susceptible to spiritual depression after mountain-top spiritual experiences.  Lloyd Jones refers to this as “a reaction.”  Here’s how he puts it:

“Another frequent cause of spiritual depression is what we may describe as a reaction-a reaction after a great blessing, a reaction after some unusual and exceptional experience. I hope to call attention sometime to the case of Elijah under the juniper tree.  There is no doubt in my mind that his main trouble was that he was suffering from a reaction, a reaction after what had happened on Mount Carmel…Abraham had the same experience  (Genesis 15). For that reason when people come to me and  describe some remarkable experience which they have had, while I rejoice with them and thank God, I always watch them carefully afterwards and am always on the look out and apprehensive on their behalf lest a reaction set in. That need not happen, but unless we are aware of the danger it may do so. If we but realized that when God is pleased to give us some unusual blessing we must be unusually watchful afterwards, we would avoid this reaction that so often tends to set in.”

I think that’s right on, and I’ve experienced the same reality.

It’s an interesting idea, and it begs the question:  why are God’s people so susceptible to spiritual depression after great spiritual experiences?

Is it because of heightened attacks from the devil at such times?  Is it because we simply cannot maintain such spiritual intensity this side of Heaven?  Is it because spiritual mountain tops give us glimpses of a reality that we will not posses completely until we stand in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

As I say, he makes an interesting and, I think, valid point.

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