Dealing with Depression

Dealing with Depression

Are you depressed? You may be if you have one or more of the following symptoms:- Persistent sad or anxious mood - Anger, restlessness, irritability - Sleeplessness, or not enough sleep - Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain - Loss of pleasure and interest in things once enjoyed - Persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders) - Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions - Fatigue or loss of energy - Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless - Thoughts of suicide or death.

Most of us have some of these symptoms, and most of us will be attacked with depression during our lives. Common causes of depression are: - Death or serious illness of a friend or family member - Loss of love or attention from a friend or family member - Breakup of a romantic relationship - Family problems, especially parents’ divorce - Isolation/loneliness (nursing homes are full of such people) - Rejection - Physical, verbal, and/or sexual abuse - Chemical imbalance - Hormonal changes, including PMS - Substance abuse – Hospitalization for a chronic illness.

Even vibrant, faith-filled believers come down with this awful “black heaviness inside”. The Bible’s pages are filled with fellow-strugglers who were believers – Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul and more. King David poured out his heart in Psalm after Psalm, describing his soul sinking into depression or despair. Psalm 42 is a good example. Notice the battle he is having.

Ps 42 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon--from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me-- a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Yes, Christians get depressed. It is not a sign of spiritual maturity to walk around in public with a plastic smile glued to your face. A genuine walk in Christ does not begin or continue in a lie; we walk in truth, by faith…even when we’re depressed!

Depression can be caused by stress, which relates to just about any kind of loss a human can suffer. Medications can induce depression. Certain types of blood pressure medication list “mood swings” as a possible side-effect. Substance abuse with legal drugs or illegal drugs create a “high” followed by a despondent “crash” as the drug wears off.

Whatever the sources of depression, its symptoms are commonly observed.

Expressionless voice: A person suffering from depression isn’t just bored – when you’ve lost interest in just about everything, it will show up in the way you interact with others.

Appetites disrupted: By the look of many of us, one could assume we have never suffered a moment’s depression. However, people in depression often eat despite the loss of appetite, because food becomes a “comfort”. Other appetites for normal activities such as sex, work, and recreation often suffer during times of depression.

Emptiness: This demon sucks the desire to engage with life right out of your soul! Emptiness can also lead to thoughts of suicide. Jeremiah was empty – he got to the point of feeling sorry he’d ever been born. Job also cursed the day of his birth. Another example is Elijah, the prophet, who sat under a juniper tree and didn’t want to participate in life; he didn’t want to eat, drink or move. His plan was to sit there and die. Many “couch potatoes” are depressed.

Worthless: It is a deep, dark feeling that you don't matter, and nobody cares. You don’t even like yourself and feel unworthy of love. In this pit, it seems God can’t love you either. In this place, you are an easy target for Satan’s lies, but you don’t care, your life doesn’t matter.

Hopeless: The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus felt hopeless – they thought it was all over. Jesus was dead, and they were part of His group, so they would probably be hunted-down and killed too.

We could describe many more symptoms, but let’s move on to solutions for depression. Usually, people try to deal with depression the wrong way. For example, many people immediately deny the reality of depression. “Me? Oh no…noooooo! I’m not depressed!” The very idea of depression is for “other people”.

Some people try “drowning” their depression. They drown their pain so they won’t notice it. This takes the form of substance abuse, binge eating, or seeking after material things--shopping.

Some folks try medication after medication. Please do not misunderstand; I am speaking of the first and foremost solution as always being medication. “I don’t feel good, so I need a pill.” Medication overload is not the solution for depression.

There are Biblical solutions for dealing with depression and they are often the last solutions that people try. Understanding depression as a spiritual problem is the key.

We are created in God’s image as 3-part beings—body, soul, and spirit. The body is not irrelevant, but too many doctors approach the healing of a person, created in the image of God, as if electrical impulses, guided by protoplasmic natural selection were the entire equation – body and mind, plus nothing! Wrong! We are SOULS who have a body and spirit – not simply bodies alone. It is in our soul (the mind, will, and emotions) that depression attacks.

Spiritual problems require scriptural answers. The primary need humans have in overcoming depression is confession. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit and generates guilt, which creates the feeling David expressed: Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?

David was an exceptional believer; as king of Israel he loved God and was a just and wise ruler. Then he sinned greatly. He allowed his fleshly appetites to take over. He committed adultery and murder. The once-loving, sensitive, and integrity-driven shepherd boy-crowned king – a man after God’s own heart – became estranged from God and as depressed as a human can be. When finally confronted about his sins, David crumbled in confession. That began his healing. Listen to part of his confession:

Psalms 51:1-3 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Not all depression is caused by sin. However, most faulty solutions are steeped in denial that we have sinned. Confession of that denial is the beginning point of healing. We must acknowledge our need before we can move towards health.

Once we have admitted we are depressed and acknowledged the cause, then we must trust in Jesus for forgiveness and healing. This is the reason Jesus came and read from the Scroll in the temple at Nazareth this passage:

IS 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

As we confess our sin, trust the Lord, and begin to praise Him, Jesus delivers us from the spirit of depression. When depressed, we don’t feel like praising God, so we must purposefully offer a sacrifice of praise. Worship is the most important thing we can do to deal with depression. In worship, our minds are taken off ourselves and our problems as we focus on Jesus, our Savior and Deliverer.

Phil 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

There are other things we can do to deal with depression, since it affects our whole being—body, soul, and spirit.

Diet, exercise, and rest are all routine and necessary parts of taking care of ourselves. While there are physical benefits from these activities even for unbelievers, they are also part of God’s plan for a believer’s spiritual health.

1Tim 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Everyone needs someone for their soul’s support (mind, will, emotions). A counselor can be a friend or a professional, depending on your need. They should be someone whom you trust, and who can be objective. There are Christian counselors who can help you with techniques and practices that do not compromise your Christian values.

1Thes 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Family life and church-family are God designed to help us deal with depression. Being part of a loving family group is essential to finding wholeness. Most of the pictures we see, which are representative of depressed people, are pictures of persons alone! Even God said, when He created Adam, that it was not good for the man to be alone.

Too many of God’s people are living like the old Hee Haw blues, "Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” We laughed at the actors on TV, but it is no laughing matter when you are living it. How do we get out of this pit of depression?

Ps 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

There are several lessons we can learn from these Scriptures to help us move from the pits of despair to the pinnacle of praise.

1. Patiently wait on the Lord every morning during your devotions for the Holy Spirit to deliver you from emotional, mental, or relational pits. Waiting on the Lord requires discipline, but also the confidence that God is greater than any problem, and He wants to use these down times to draw you closer to Himself through prayer, His Word, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

2. While you are waiting, praise God in advance for His power, His deliverance, and His plan to lift you. He always finds a way when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. Praise Him with a new song; quit singing the Hee Haw blues and sing, “Praise the Name of Jesus, Praise the Name of Jesus. He’s my Rock. He’s my Fortress. He’s my Deliverer. In Him will I trust. Praise the Name of Jesus.” Keep singing it and soon you will feel much better.

3. Thank God for the way He has delivered His people in the past and know He will do the same for you. Not only will the Lord deliver you, but He will bring others to Himself as a result of your experience of deliverance. Do not think that you have to be delivered instantly. God is using you to display His mighty power, grace, and glory. His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in your weakness.

4. We gain new understanding, wisdom, and maturity as a result of our pit experiences. We need to take our mind off our troubles and do something for others. Proclaim Jesus, spread the Gospel, do the work of an evangelist. Focus on Christ, not self, and lift up others who are depressed. We are able to comfort others with the same comfort we receive from the Lord.

Many people take for granted that things are going OK and then they are suddenly overwhelmed when trouble comes along. We need to realize that the world, the flesh, and the devil hate God’s children and their works of righteousness. Therefore, we need to prepare to do battle with the devil and his demons every day. This battle takes place in our minds, and victory or defeat is determined by the choices we make.

Gal 6:16-17 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

To prevent being overrun, overwhelmed, or overtaken by the onslaught of evil, we need to prepare for the next battle. Only Jesus is able to prepare, equip, and build us up to a point where we will be able to handle the hardships that are bound to befall us.

1Pet. 5:7-9 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

God will protect us and deliver us from depression if we will praise Him and thank Him in all circumstances. Trust the Lord to help your entire life be a testimony of a journey from the pits to higher levels of praise. Learn how to effectively please the Lord in all respects and bear fruit in every good work as you increase in your nearness, and knowledge of the Lord, and His will for your life.

But right now, you may be in a time of utter despair. You have hit rock bottom and you don’t know where to turn. You are in a place where you realize family, friends, and acquaintances cannot help you. You realize that you cannot fix your problem on your own. Whether you know it or not, you are in the best place you can be. You are in a place where you can to turn to Jesus, talk to Jesus, and trust in Jesus. He is your Savior and Deliverer. It is only through Jesus that we can properly “Deal with Depression.”