This topic is a matter that none of us are immune to – depression. I’m not sure if this is 100% accurate but I have always thought of the mulligrubs as the way a person expresses depression or simply the “blues” to those he or she comes in contact with.
According to the most comprehensive U.S. mental health survey, almost half of all Americans experience mental illness at some time in their lives, and almost a third are afflicted in any one year. (Survey: who do you know in this room who might be experiencing mental illness right now?)
The study also found that the most common disorder was the major depressive episode – the exhibition of at least two weeks of symptoms such as low mood and loss of pleasure.
All of us either have struggled or will struggle with depressive episodes or The Mulligrubs. This is because of all the bad things that happen in our world; there are so many problems, so many difficulties, and our world is so complex that almost all of us are touched by sin, hurt, violence, rejection, and other things that are beyond our control. The next time you buy gas listen to your fellow customers.
Often we find ourselves in situations where we try to do the right thing, yet we always seem to end up with the short end of the stick. Jeremiah was someone like this, a man who had a very clear sense of purpose, but couldn’t seem to catch a break. It caused him to be depressed.
Today we’re going to discuss three ways to escape the mulligrubs—but first let’s look at the . . .
Three Causes Of The Mulligrubs
– Frustration – The first cause of Jeremiah’s depression was frustration because he felt that God had deceived him. God gave him something to say, and he assumed that if he followed God’s will, the outcome would be positive. It is very common to be right in the center of God’s will and be surrounded by trouble. Now, a little bit of frustration is part of life, but when we continually beat our heads against the wall, it eventually starts to hurt. This is frustrating, and frustration can develop and lead to depression.
– Hurt – Later, Jeremiah says, “I am ridiculed all day long, everyone mocks me.” When we are rejected by the people who are important to us, it can hurt so deeply that it can lead to depression which gets expressed as, you guessed it: MULLIGRUBS.
– Fear – We see in verse 10 that Jeremiah’s heart was gripped with fear because he was surrounded by people waiting for him to make a mistake; even his friends were waiting to rejoice in his failures.
In that mode of fear, our minds can play tricks and begin to create anxieties and fears that don’t exist – this kind of fear can bring on depressive feelings. We wonder why we are so lethargic, have no energy, and have lost interest in things we previously enjoyed. That kind of depression makes it difficult to feel motivated to do anything at all.
These causes of depression finally led Jeremiah to ask God, “Why did you even let me be born?”
I want to share an important truth with you: Life is difficult. There are not always answers to our problems, and we can’t fix everything. When life is bad, we feel down, grieve our losses, and experience the gloom of depression.
You may think that Christians are not supposed to be depressed, but you are wrong – depression and grief are normal human reactions. Christians should not remain depressed, but they can certainly be depressed. Jeremiah responded to his depression with the words: “I would rather not have lived if I have to live this way.”
Still today, some people respond to depression with suicidal thoughts. Others respond with a spending spree, or an eating binge, or getting drunk or high on drugs. Of course, after the binge or the spree is over, the depression is deepened because there are now consequences which must be dealt with. Responding to depression these ways never help, but only make things worse.
There are many separate issues involved in depression, but the reality is this: If we respond to depressive feelings in a negative way, we create an environment which only causes more depression. The question, then, is how do we defeat depression? How do we escape the MULLIGRUBS?
1. Examine your Season Of Life
The first thing Jeremiah did to help him deal with depression was determine what season he was in. God has seasons of life for us as people just like there are seasons in nature.
There is Winter, when it seems there is no growth and everything is barren; there is Spring, a season of planting; there is Summer, a season of great activity; and there is Fall when we are able to bring in a harvest.
I wish we could all live in harvest season all the time, but we can’t always live in a time of harvest, because in order to harvest we must first plant. And we must remember that without Winter, there won’t be a good harvest the following year. It is natural to have depressive feelings when we experience loss. If we lose a loved one, a job, anything precious to us, we should feel grief. Where would B.B. King be without the blues!
God told Jeremiah that, “Before you were ever born, I picked you to be a spokesman for me.” That’s a pretty impressive way to begin your life! Jeremiah prophesied for God, but his words didn’t come true and everyone ridiculed and laughed at him.
He prophesied this way for years, until finally his Fall came and things began to happen. Everything he had prophesied came true, so he was able to realize that things had been working out the way they were supposed to all along, but he had to pass through the seasons first.
We need to develop discernment so we can see where we are in our lives. We can’t always be in harvest time, but the good news is that Winter does not last forever – Spring follows with new life, new opportunities, and new hopes. Then Summer….Then Fall.
2. Understand God Is Always At Work
In order to make it through the mulligrubs, we also must understand that God is at work even when He seems silent. Even when God does not seem to be doing anything, He is examining, probing, or looking around our world; He cares even when we accuse Him of neglect.
We can even express our feelings to God – it won’t bother Him or hurt His feelings if we tell Him how lousy our lives are and why we think it is all His fault. In fact, the best thing we can do is pour our hearts out to God, just as the best thing to do for a depressed person is allow them to unpack their feelings.
We also see in the Scripture that Jeremiah challenged God’s character, saying, “O Lord you deceived me.” But he also realized that in the end God will bring justice, even if it is not on our timeline.
We need everything NOW, but God does not work that way. We may think God is silent, but then all of a sudden we realize that He has been working in us, changing us, all along.
Our perspective on a situation has changed, or we have grown a little more, proving that God has been at work.
3. Learn to Praise God Anyway
The third way to escape the mulligrubs is to praise God in spite of our situation and circumstances. What can we praise Him for in the midst of our rejections and frustrations?
We can always praise Him because we have hope in God’s faithfulness. As this is His very nature, it is impossible for Him to be unfaithful. I wrote a song a couple of years ago on this topic:
He will be there for you in the storms of life,
He will hold your hand, He will dry your eyes;
When this world holds out no hope for you,
He will be there, He will carry you through.
And whatever the pain you feel inside,
He’s been there, done that, made it out alive,
Jesus will be there, He will be there.
(© 2008 AsALarke Music Publishing, BMI)
Many years ago there was a lawyer in the Midwest who fell into such a terrible depression that his friends came into his home and removed all the knives and razors because they feared he might try to kill himself. In the midst of this depression he wrote, “I am the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell.” God helped him through his difficult time and this man went on to become one of the greatest presidents our country has ever known: Abraham Lincoln.
The next time you are tempted to get the mulligrubs do yourself (and us) a favor. Read Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Practice this three-point plan.