Book review · Inspiring Reads · Nonfiction · psychology · Uncategorized

And I ran out of that cave…

Thanks to Netgalley, I received a free review copy of Chris Hodges’ new book “Out of the Cave: Stepping into the Light When Depression Darkens What You See” . Hodges is a pastor who struggled with anxiety and depression and understands the stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially among Christians. He says no one is immune to depression, even those who have the hope of heaven while living in the light of God’s grace. He writes to believers in this book, but also shares the gospel and how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hodges provides raw, emotional testimony based on his own battles, and carves out a path for others to follow using biblical illustrations as well as inspirational stories that will stay with me. He wants those who feel trapped by depression to come out of the cave and walk into the light with new purpose and hope for the future.

The book opens with the reason Hodges decided to write: a well-known pastor had taken his life. Pastors care for their community and church family. They walk with people through trauma and pain. Burnout and self-sabotage, he said, can open the door to depression. He could no longer stay silent with this recent suicide; he had to do something to help those struggling with depression. His research into the scriptures led him to the prophet Elijah’s journey. He traced the path Elijah took from the highs of seeing God perform an amazing power display to the lows of feeling isolated in his ministry and running for his life. God met Elijah on every point of his journey away from danger and forward into healing. Hodges said God first met Elijah’s physical needs, and then worked on the spiritual aspects of his journey. 

When he talked about the causes of depression, Hodges doesn’t discount life’s circumstances, genetic predisposition, or chemical imbalance. But he said the good news is we have a measure of control over how we think, react, and move. Alongside the anchoring story of Elijah in 1Kings 19, he used a story in Daniel 5 where God wrote a message of warning in His own hand on a wall before the eyes of King Belshazzar and others. The king failed to heed that warning, and the prophecy was fulfilled. Hodges used this story to lay out depression’s warning signs. Depression can cause people to isolate themselves from others, so Hodges turned to a story to show how much we need the support of others. In Exodus 17, Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms so the Israelites’ could defeat the Amalekites in battle. We weren’t meant to do life alone. Twice, he referred to one of my favorite verses to illustrate the supporting role we all play as a community:

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT) 

Probably the best example of this verse was when Jesus took His closest friends with him to pray in the garden of Gethsemane. He didn’t isolate Himself during the agonizing hours before His betrayal and eventual death. Jesus had been alone during that 40-day desert time when Satan tried to tempt Him, Hodges said, so He knew Satan would try once more. Jesus prayed and leaned on other believers during this agonizing physical and spiritual battle.

Hodges gave some homework as he shared information. He wanted readers to flip the scripts we replay in our minds that set us up for defeat when facing great hardships and spiritual attacks. We need to take a written inventory of our daily life — our viewing habits, time management, sleep – or lack of it. He gave some of the answers from his own journaling on what our inventory lists might look. (I learned he does have a separate study guide readers can buy.)  Leaving the cave of depression does take time. While his focus was on the spiritual aspects of healing, Hodges repeated throughout the text that he supported the treatment plans provided by physicians. Doctors can work on the physical, he said, but when comes to the spirit, we need spiritual solutions. He provided those steps in the third part of the book.

I am reading Priscilla Shirer’s “Armor of God” as part of a women’s support group study right now. Hodges echoed some of the same ideas about the enemy and his playbook, our daily need for putting on the full armor of God, and a reminder that Christians have God’s attention. He reminded readers that we as believers are seated in the heavenly places even now. Jesus came that we might have life and have it in abundance.

I loved this book as a fellow veteran of the depression and anxiety wars. I’ve confronted both several times and often after coming off great heights of feelings and emotions. I read my story with every description Hodges gave about depression at the beginning of the book — what goes through your mind, how you feel powerless and hopeless. My road back was the same: read God’s word, pray God’s word, take care of my body through diet and exercise, seek treatment through therapy, and join a church support group. I found so many takeaways and answers that I know others walking the path now will find useful, so I can’t wait for this book to come out. It is very timely and I’m definitely sharing this with the people in my life.  

“Out of the Cave” is now available. I’m excited to see the finished copy. Hodges references other works that I am adding here to remember for future reading: “The Body Keeps Score,” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, “The Girl With No Name” by Marina Chapman, and “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Victor Frankl.

I’ll leave you with this song called “Glorious Day” that played often enough in my head while reading this book. Give it a listen. You’ll hear “grave,” of course; it’s not too far off from “cave” when you consider the similarities with the grave Jesus left when He rose again: Glorious Day by Passion, featuring Kristian Stanfill.


2 thoughts on “And I ran out of that cave…

    1. Aw — thank you, Beth! Love you! I didn’t add this into the main review – he overused the exclamation point. I guess he was just excited. That’s my inner editor’s pet peeve though. lol Plus, it’s a draft copy so it will probably change.


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