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Our hope stems from the way God can intervene in a depressed person's life and bring back the sparkle of life. Let's look at how God did this. We will first note God's wisdom here on this page and the, compassion, and promises.
First mentioned in the text is the way God saw through to the problems of their heart. God always knows the answers to our situations no matter how confused we might be.
Just because we are confused, we should not think that God or others are the same. They indeed have a better and more accurate perspective. When David was guilty in sin, He sent Nathan to target the problem area. So we need to train ourselves to welcome the advice of others. We judge what they said not according to what we feel about it but whether this is what is said in God's Word. The words of healing bring light to a soul held in darkness.
"Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? (Haggai 2:3).
He started with insight into the key problem area. Rebuke is not suggested with depressed people. They usually already feel bad enough about their ways. Rebuke for self-pity or other wrong thoughts might later be needed, but we need to keep our general goal in mind. God wants to share His Word of light into their souls. The question is not whether God knows what the problem is but (1) how to know this and then (2) how to share it in such a way that they can grasp it for themselves.
We realize that God had what we often don't have. We often do not know what that insight is. We also do not have access to people like God did through Haggai the prophet. But still, we can still gain a lot of insight from how God spoke to this depressed group that fell back into despair about building the temple.
(1) How does one gain God's wisdom and insight needed for a person in despair?
Close to God.
We should realize that if we want to know what God thinks about a certain matter, we need to be close to Him. We need to seek the profit of others rather than in pride or self-confidence show how much better we are than them. We need to actively seek and ask for wisdom. If we want to be a vessel for God, we need to be cleansed and obedient.
Faith in God.
Secondly, we should have faith that God has a word to say to the depressed person. It might not be us who speaks to this person. It might be at a time different than you have planned or hoped for. We do not know why God waited until the 21rst day of the 7th month to address them. We can plead with God, but we must patiently wait for His plan.
Ask of God.
Thirdly, we should ask God for wisdom to understand what we need to say to the person. If we sense God is leading us to talk to someone, and He still hasn't given the word to say, don't worry. Just keep on go praying and meditating in His Word with this purpose in mind, He will help you. However, if He gives you a caring word like in verse 2:3, then one can be pretty sure that he should seek an opportunity to speak with that person.
Pray for them.
Fourthly, pray about their person and situation. Usually, one knows enough about that person to understand some things that are going on in their lives. We see God's message had to do with the area they were deficient in. They were suppose to be building the temple. They stopped building the temple. If the cycle of despair and depression is encountered early on, then the problems will seem quite evident.
"I see you have stopped building the temple?"
"Did you run out of materials? Did you have problems with plans?"
"I see you haven't come to church lately?"
"Has someone hurt you?"
"I see you have lost interest in your job?"
"You used to be so eager. When did things change?"
If someone has been in despair for quite awhile, other problems come in that are not directly related to the first. For example, they might sneak drugs, steal, be tardy to work, etc. Further guilt piles up. Complete healing will come from solving the original problem, though each additional sin and its consequences must be also confessed and worked through. One can start prying off each problem at a time (start easy to hard), or if God gives grace and insight, go for the root problem.
The Lord knows the heart so He can't miss their root problem. We can miss, and if we have pride, then we will be hard on the other person.
God knew that word had got around about how dismal this building was in comparison to the former. A few old timers shared what the old temple looked like and couldn't believe how poor this one looked like in contrast.
"Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy;" (Ezra 3:12).
No exquisite woodwork. No ark of the covenant. No covenant tablets inside the ark. No beautiful gold and other precious metals and metal work. The Lord asks them, "Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?" The Lord didn't give them time to answer. He touched on the root problem from which the discouragement came and caused them to give up. There probably were other problems, no doubt, as there always is. But He knew the real motivational problem.
This attack on worth or value of something that they were working on is often used to discourage faithful hard workers. If the people lose sight of the value of their work, then they start slacking off on the job. This is the reason companies' mission statements have become so valuable. They keep reminding their workers of the importance of their work and faithfulness even if they can't see it. God values their faithfulness. So Satan tempts people saying, "It's not worth it." "How silly it looks." "You will never finish." Satan designs His temptation by targeting a person's characteristic weakness. The goal is all the same -> give up.
Value material things. "It's not worth it."They see that they could be involved in things (like their own house) that would bring more profit and comfort.
Value people's opinion. "How silly it looks." They see how they might be embarrassed if people link them up with something of insignificant value and make fun of them.
Value completeness. "You will never finish." If they see that a possibility of not finishing, then why waste the time and effort.
There are many other character weaknesses which can be exploited. When it comes down to obedience, however, we must obey with our whole heart. We dare not give up. The tendency to give up is temptation. Giving up is disobedience when God has set us to a given task.
Their thinking probably went like this, "What is the sense building a temple like this?! It is ridiculous. There is not even an ark in it. Will God really live here in a place like this? It is impossible to build a temple that will please the Lord. We may as well give up." If their thinking went along these lines, they would have some serious misunderstandings of God. This is unfortunately far too common.
The very thing they doubted - that God would be pleased, was not true. They drew the conclusion that God would not live in the temple like before. They perhaps thought about when Solomon made the offerings and fire came down from heaven. They didn't think that God would fill the temple. We find support for this conclusion from the following verses each emphasizing the true glory of the temple was the Lord Himself. Notice how God identifies their point of discouragement and then states a thorough and truthful perspective of the situation tailored to their needs.
The promise: "For I am with you." (2:4)
"As for the promise .... My Spirit is abiding in your midst," do not fear." (2:5)
"I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts." (2:6-7)
"The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former." (2:8-9)
As a result, two months later we see that they have worked on the temple with such integrity that the Lord saw it as good as finished (2:18). God takes away the judgments that kept prodding them along and brought them His blessing.
We see the Lord accurately pinpointed the problem. The wall of excuses came down so that the truth could be implanted. Trust in God and the prophet was able to support the truth that was shared. By pinpointing the problem, they felt as if God really understood their heart problems.
He went on to encourage and build them up. He did this with a number of statements which could bump the false lies out of place and build up God's own perspective.
We need God's Word to speak to the hearts of people. Times of meditation on God's Word and prayer is where God will speak most clearly to you, though He is not limited. We dare not only expose their wound, but we must provide a genuine solution. When the screen of falsehood is ripped through, the truth must be quickly and kindly interjected before those lies can again confuse the person in discussion.
The root problem is directly connected to the disobedience.
(2) How do we graciously, and yet assuredly, impart that insight into the person or groups mind?
Even though we might know what to say, it does not give us opportunity to say it. The Lord used Haggai to deliver the important message. However, someone might sense we have a message for someone like a president or head of the church, but do they actually have access to that person? If they have access, do they have the position to be acknowledged and listened to? Without access, the message cannot be delivered to the people.
I am humbled by the times I sensed I had something to say and yet people would not give me audience. Rightly or wrongly, they sense I would be challenging their own ways. Despair comes in a hundred packages, sometimes connected to marital problems, parental problems, failing grades, loss of jobs, or confusion about direction.
In the end, I realize this is primarily an issue of prayer and waiting. Sometimes I sense God wants me to go. After sincerely praying, I take what steps I can. I remember one person facing grave marital problems. He lost his job then separated from his wife. Others were counseling them. Even though I had things to say, I was not an elder in that church nor did I feel led of the Lord to intervene. I made one casual conversation just to sense how things were and make sure he understood he could come to me and talk if he wished. Later after a good number of months, however, I felt I did have a message from the Lord. I relayed that to him. We discussed a little, but he chose not to follow up on it. I continued to pray for that couple. God is mighty and can intervene even in the lives of the proud by His almighty grace and power.
There is another part of this problem. Even when we do have access to a person's presence, sometimes we do not have access to a person's ear. Depression has cut off their hope and this lack of hope has established its fortress of lies. It is so hard to get in. Again, prayer is the key. We need several people to pray or the whole church to pray. A pastor or parent might know what to say but the heart is not open.
God's timing is most important. Sometimes a person needs to hit a 'bottom' before they listen. How we must pray that they will listen before this time, but often they are hardened to God's Word. I remember one depressed person who was very closed. But as I fervently prayed, God opened his heart a little bit so I can speak some words of light which brought some hope for a bit.
When God did speak, He didn't rebuke or criticize, He told them to take courage and work for God is with them. We will discuss this more in the next two sections.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988