I first read the Eerdmans edition of this book (pretty surely) in the 1980s, and I read out of personal interest. That is, I was depressed. As I have shared, I have battled depression now and again all my life. So the title caught my eye on the shelf of the local Christian bookstore, and I looked to Lloyd-Jones hoping for help.
reissued by Granted Ministries Press (and provided me for review) in an enhanced edition. That is, the book has the original text, plus a foreword by Geoffrey Thomas, and the terrific bonus of an MP3 audio disk of actual sermons on the topic by the beloved physician himself.
Let's begin with this edition's value-added features. In his Foreword, Thomas begins with the assertion, "There was no one in the twentieth century more suited to preach, counsel and write on this subject of spiritual depression than Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones." (I take it that the chronological qualification is meant to exclude Charles Spurgeon, who in the 19th century wrote and preached vividly, evocatively, frequently, and very helpfully on the subject.)
Thomas goes on to substantiate his assertion with eight specific points qualifying Lloyd-Jones for writing this book. A number of these points reflect Thomas' own personal acquaintance with the late Doctor. These specifics form a terrific little study in themselves.
In addition, the disk provides some of the sermons preached by Lloyd-Jones himself, which formed the basis for this book. If you've never heard Lloyd-Jones, he takes some getting used to; plus, the recordings are at times rough, not having been made with modern equipment. But it is worth every bit of the effort. Lloyd-Jones' preaching is searching, rich, and profitable. I'd say the Foreword and sermons alone warrant the price of purchase.
But then we come to the book itself, which has already been used, recommended, and reviewed by many over the past near half-century. What are some of the highlights?
Lloyd-Jones, himself a medical doctor, well brings out the truth (also reflected in the Bible) that physical issues can produce depression. In such cases, depression is not primarily a spiritual issue but one of health or diet or rest. Memorizing a Bible verse, while always a good idea, won't substitute for needed refreshment, nutrition, or other medical intervention.
Lloyd-Jones was driven by a conviction of the sufficiency of Scripture, and this sends him to the Word for the truth that depressed folks need. Accordingly, he dives at length into Psalms 42-43, finding in them both an analysis of and a cure for much spiritual depression. I found particularly helpful Lloyd-Jones' development of the idea of preaching to oneself. Here's a snippet:
But that is only a taste. Lloyd-Jones writes with a pastoral heart born of long experience. He shows from the Bible that it is not a brand-new phenomenon, and he shows in the Bible that God has given guidance and resources to encourage the downhearted. He speaks from the conviction that there is in the Gospel and in the Word of God as ministered by the Holy Spirit both help and hope and counsel for the spiritually depressed.
Pastors should of course avail themselves of this edition, as should anyone who either helps the depressed, or suffers himself.