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I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
I really struggle with this verse both theologically and practically. Although I know the principle well and can even quote it from memory, I still wrestle with it. Sometimes I get disappointed with myself when I fail at some aspect of Christian living and the Lord reminds me: "Mike, there is no good thing that lives in you." I say: "But Lord, nothing? Isn't there some redeeming quality I possess? Some goodness in me? Am I really this bad?" I chastise myself, and the Lord says to me: "Mike why are you disappointed? Haven't I recorded it -- nothing good lives in your flesh -- why do you get so down on yourself?"
I believe those who suffer from hopelessness, despair and depression do so because they think there is some good in them they are failing to realize. They haven't lived up to their own ideals, goals or self-image. We say to our children: "Think highly of yourself!" We want them to have a high self-esteem, but the Bible tells us just the opposite. It says: "Sorry honey -- in you nothing good lives."
For some this message might seem a little depressing. After all, we have been taught our whole lives that we are good. But the reverse is true. This knowledge, rather than being a discouragement, should set us free. Why? Because we no longer need to be disappointed or disgusted with ourselves when we fail to do what is right or good -- we now know why. It is our sinful nature. Far from being an excuse it points us to the Lord -- our need for His grace, love, and gift of His Son Jesus Christ. We have been redeemed. It is the real reason for thanksgiving -- to rejoice and be glad.
What is the reason for your depression? Is it because things haven't worked out the way you wanted -- according to your life plan? Did circumstances kick you off the path you think you deserved or the way things should have been? Do you know what we've earned in this life? Answer: Death. Why? Because we're all sinners, pure and simple -- and we have no excuses. When we acknowledge this basic fact, then depression will lift because our eyes can be opened to sin and the opportunity God has provided for redemption through His Son Jesus. Our focus comes off the perception of what we've lost in this life to what we've gained in the next. If you are having a problem with depression, take your eyes off yourself and your circumstances to focus on the cross. If that doesn't lift your spirit, nothing will.
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Pocket Devotions are written by Mike Brooks. A retired businessman, he is Moderator of South Shores church, leads the Deacon Board, serves on the finance committee, and he teaches a Men's Bible study and the Men's Ministry. Mike has a passion for evangelical missions. He is the husband of Sherry; the father of Ryan, Natalie, Krissy, Rebecca, and Amanda; the father-in-law of Ariel; and the grandfather of Conner and Christian.