Dealing with Depression
Life is full of emotional ups and downs. But when the “down” times are long lasting and interfere with a person’s ability to function, we call it “depression.” In the
approximately 19 million people - or one in ten adults - experience depression
each year. And nearly two thirds of these people do not
receive any help. Statistics show that
women experience depression at about twice the rate as men do. United States
Depression can be caused by many different things. A person has a slightly greater risk for developing depression when there is a family history of the illness. Also brain chemistry or biochemical disturbances can be a factor in developing depression. Physical illness or exhaustion can cause depression as well as the loss of a loved one, low self esteem, lack of trust in our society and feeling cut off or alienated from others. It seems that more people today are alienated than people were in our parents or grandparents’ generation. King David was depressed because he had unconfessed sin in his life. (Psalm 51) One has to discover the cause of the depression and treat that cause.
Some of these low feelings are a part of the human experience. But we call these lows depression when these feelings last and overwhelm the person’s life. Depression is a very treatable illness. The most commonly used treatments are antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. The medications can relieve the physical symptoms quickly and the psychotherapy helps the patient learn more effective ways of handling their problems. Finding meaning and purpose in life and being surrounded by loved ones can go a long way to restoring a person to emotional health.
We have a friend I will call “Sue” who lives with depression. Every day Sue takes powerful medications that keep her from trying to commit suicide. Years ago Sue’s mother and brother committed suicide and over the years when Sue would forget to take her medications, strong feelings of desperation and hopelessness would wash over her and she would try to commit suicide. Each time this would happen someone would find Sue before it was too late and rush her to the emergency room where she would be saved..
Sue lives in fear of someday actually killing herself. Sue loves God and she visits the sick at her church and teaches Sunday school but some of her Christian friends tell her that if she had more faith in God she would not have these thoughts of suicide and depression. Sue wonders if her friends are right – that maybe her on going depression is her own fault.
Another friend I will call “Joe” also struggles with depression. Sometimes his hands shake and you can see the anguish written all over his face as he tries to cope with life. Joe’s father was a bishop in the Mormon Church and Joe idolized his father and tried all of his life to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Joe worked his way up and became an important leader in the Mormon Church and a successful businessman with an ambitious wife and three lovely children. He had it all – reputation, power, money, status, the big house, the impressive car. Everything was going so perfectly in Joe’s life – that is until his father messed up.
Joe’s father became attracted to a younger woman and divorced Joe’s mother. He then got into a fight with the husband of this new woman in his life and ended up murdering the woman’s husband. Joe watched in horror as the perfect father he had patterned his life after was convicted of murder and sent away to prison.
It was all too much for Joe and he fell apart. Joe’s beautiful wife was embarrassed with her husband for being upset and with all of the negative publicity and she divorced Joe taking the children and most of his money with her. Joe stopped eating and lost interest in living. Since he had been highly ambitions and had expected only success he now felt that his life was a failure and waves of hopelessness washed over him. He lost fifty pounds and had to be hospitalized for awhile and put on heavy medications.
By the time we met Joe years had passed since Joe had gone through his major depression. Today Joe has left the Mormon Church and re-married and is teaching in a university. A thoughtful intelligent man, trying to follow God and be a Christian in the
. But Joe still suffers from depression and is
tortured by fears and worries. He goes
from one medication to the other trying to find one that will take away his
pain. But none of them can take it all
Sue and Joe aren’t the only people we know who are dealing with depression. We know others who are tormented by depression and you know them too. People who are struggling with depression are all around us. And we ourselves may be touched by depression sometimes as well. What can we do about it?
We should put ourselves under our doctor’s care if we find ourselves struggling with depression. Medications and psychotherapy can help. And we should reach out to others and find work and purpose in our lives. Also God has given us His joy to fight depression. If we are a believer in Christ, the joy of the Lord is inside of us. Joy is one of the gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit when we believe in Christ . (Galatians 5:22-23) We can learn how to release this joy to help win over depression.
Often depression starts with disappointment. And disappointments are a part of living in this world so we can count on having them. The apostle Paul says “But one thing I do, I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13) Instead of brooding about past disappointments we need to let go and change our focus to a new vision for the future. Scripture says that God’s mercies are new every day. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Disappointment can grow into discouragement if we give it the chance. We need to fight these bad feelings The word “discourage’ means lack of courage. And when things go bad one needs courage to keep moving forward. God gives everyone who believes in Him courage. We can ask God to give us courage when we feel discouraged and resist having a pity party. And we can ask for joy when the disappointments come our way.
Throughout Scripture God tells his children to rejoice and be filled with joy. And joy is the opposite of depression. Here in Philippians 4:4 it says: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice!” And in Nehemiah 8:19 it says: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
You may be saying that it is hard for you to be joyful because you have so many troubles. Instead of concentrating on our troubles we can focus on the promises and blessings that God is giving us. God instructs us to give our troubles to Him. We can start learning to rejoice by just letting go of our troubles and letting God take care of them. This doesn’t mean that we don’t work to alleviate our problems. But we do our best and trust God with the results.
The Bible tells us that what we think about all the time becomes who we are. Our negative thoughts as well as the people who are negative influences on us can drag us down. We need to guard our thoughts and protect our minds so that we won’t become depressed. Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17) If we read the Word and fill our minds with God’s promises, our faith will be strengthened, and we will be too. Depression cannot hang on as tightly when we are focusing on God’s love and goodness.
Scripture says: “Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.” (Psalm 42:5) We need to keep our hope and our faith in God alive! Trusting in God is a strong medicine against depression.
Joy is the opposite of depression! Maybe that is why God instructs us to rejoice. Rejoice in Him that is! Even though we may feel depressed let’s not give in to it and sit around with a long face! We can start out learning how to rejoice by simply smiling. Joy is infectious so when we act happy soon we feel happier. And others around us are strengthened and uplifted by our smile and our warmth. Then we can try to lighten up more by laughing and enjoying ourselves. And we might even work up to singing and dancing. Let’s obey God when He calls us to rejoice. Depression can not take over when we are rejoicing in the Lord..
Scripture says: “Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Releasing the spirit of joy when we first wake up may set the tone for the whole day. And expressing joy can change our circumstances and drive away depression. One of the ways we can express joy is through singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. (Ephesians 5:19)
Sometimes depression is caused because we feel guilty about something we have done. Scripture says: “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) The Lord offers us forgiveness. He has forgiven our sins but we need to also forgive ourselves! Romans 8:1 reads: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,…” God does not want us to feel frustrated and condemned. He wants to give us “beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a heavy burdened spirit.” (Isaiah 6:1-3)
Scripture says: “God will guard and keep us in perfect peace if we will keep our minds stayed on Him.” (Isaiah 16:3) I would like that perfect peace in my life wouldn’t you? Our part of the bargain in this Scripture is to keep God in our minds and hearts and lean and trust in Him. I believe we need to keep our minds stayed on God because most of our problem with depression begins in our minds.
Some of these Scriptures and ideas were taken from Straight Talk by Joyce Meyer.