A Case Study In Spiritual Depression

In Jude, the author compares false teaching to several Old Testament examples, and three of these in verse 11 are Cain, Korah, and Balaam. In this lesson we’re going to examine Cain’s falling into sin and the lessons we can take from his spiritual depression.

Cain’s Downward Spiral

In Genesis 4, we find the record of the sacrifices by Cain and Abel. Here we see Cain struggling with spiritual issues after his sacrifice is rejected by God. Genesis 4:5 records Cain becoming very angry, and his countenance falls. When asking Cain about his anger, God reminds him that sin is crouching at Cain’s door, but He encourages Cain that he can rule over this sin. However, Cain gives in to the sin and murders his brother Abel.

Cain enters a downward spiral from the moment of his sacrifice. When his inferior sacrifice is rejected, he is not angry at himself for not offering his best. Rather, he seeks an outward target for his aggression. Proverbs 15:13 tells us that a glad heart is reflected on our outward conduct, but a sorrowful heart breaks the spirit. Here, Cain has a sorrowful heart, and it begins to eat away at his character.

God looks to console and redirect Cain, rhetorically asking him why he is angry. He is trying to get Cain to think. This is similar to II Corinthians 13:5 when Paul asks the Christians in Corinth to examine themselves, testing their adherence to the true faith. God is telling Cain to see if these troubles are coming from within himself. He is giving Cain a chance to self-examine and avoid the sin lurking in his heart, waiting to consume him.

Cain Victimizes Himself

I Peter 5:8 describes the devil as a lion stalking his victims, but James 4:7-8 reminds us that we can resist the devil, who will flee as a result. John 13:12-17 records Jesus washing His apostles’ feet as an example of humility and servitude, and He calls them blessed if they follow this pattern. God can see Cain’s spiritual depression, and he reminds Cain that he is blessed if he does what he should. Cain can resist this sin. He can make the devil flee.

Genesis 4:8 records Cain telling something to Abel, and we don’t know the contents of this conversation. Regardless, what it comes down to is a struggle within Cain between God’s way and man’s way, and Cain chooses man’s way. His downward spiral leads him to murder his own brother. Likewise, we can wallow in spiritual depression, letting our anger fester, avoiding doing what is right. He even lashes out at God in verse 9, asking God if he is responsible for his brother. When punished for his action, Cain still blames God for his problems. His heart has hardened.

Avoiding a Hardened Heart

Hebrews 3:12 warns us to be careful of bearing an evil heart. Time and again, the Hebrew author warns of the dangers of hardening our hearts. When we go down this path, Hebrews 6:6 tells us that repentance becomes near impossible, and we continue to crucify our Savior. None of us want to go down this path, but when we put our way before God’s, we start down that path. I Peter 5:6 calls on us to humble ourselves under God’s hand, and He will lift us up.

Cain may have been hurt and frustrated, but he could have still chosen God’s way. He could have humbled himself before God and examined himself rather than blamed others. The story would have turned out differently. We have the same choice every day between our way or God’s way. Our goal should be to soften our hearts to God’s word and submit to His will, allowing Him to cleanse us and grant us His promises.

lesson by Tim Smelser