by Jan Silvious
If you see yourself as too old, too young, too wounded, too sick, too broke, too unsuccessful for the Lord to use in His kingdom's work, then read these words: "For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men" (Lam. 3:31-33).
William Cowper, the hymn writer, also struggled with feelings of unworthiness:
Cowper was a well-educated, cultured, affluent gentleman who eagerly became involved in lay ministry. But his desire to serve God was marred by his bouts of despair. On one occasion John Newton was called to Cowper's home, only to find that he had made an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a knife. He was utterly convinced that God had rejected him .1
On another occasion, when Cowper was suicidal, Newton brought him to his own home and kept him under surveillance for several months.
During this period, when Cowper's mental health was at its worst, John Newton's burden was heavy. Cowper's condition demanded almost constant attention. In his fits of depression, Cowper insisted God had marked him for eternal damnation, that he had been cut off from mercy and was hopelessly undone. For months Cowper's obsession that God had cast him off persisted, despite all Newton's best efforts to convince him otherwise. His despair and woe were beyond words to describe.
Finally under John's leadership, prayer groups were formed to pray for Cowper's mental health. As these groups continued to pray, his condition began to slowly improve. After many months, the gloom finally began to lift from his spirit, and William Cowper became his normal self. It was during this time that he wrote "There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood."2
The words he penned reveal the depth of the man's spiritual victory:
"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins.
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains."
God never cast him away, nor did his friends. Their steadfast belief in him helped him weather the storm of serious depression. Though it seems so hopeless, God will not allow this or any other malady to rob His children of their usefulness.
If you are close to someone who is depressed today, I encourage you to persevere. Even if they resist all your efforts, reassure them that they are precious to you and to the Lord who loves them with an unfailing love.
If you are the victim of despair, believe this: The very condition which now cripples you can be the inspiration for the "song" you will one day sing to the world!
References 1 & 2: Ruth Tucker, Sacred Stories, Zondervan, 1989.