Probably of all the tools in the devil’s workshop, one of the most often used and most efficient is the tool of depression. Now depression does not mean having ups and downs because everybody has their own ups and downs. I am talking about when you get down and you stay down and you keep getting downer and you can’t get up anymore – that is depression. Don’t be embarrassed if you are at times very depressed. Some folks are good at hiding it. When you look through history, you’ll find some of the most talented, creative, brilliant minded people struggle with depression.
Depression is a serious thing. And I myself have some of my own versions of depressions too every once in a while. Even pastors suffer from depression. As a matter of fact what I’ll be sharing in this article is about the sermon I heard from a pastor who also suffered from depression just like you and me.
He found out that most people are alike and stated that probably what he struggled with, other people have the same struggles one way or another. And maybe people can gather strength (including myself- I was part of the listening audience remember? 🙂) in some of the answers he found.
Pastor Doug Batchelor started his sermon with the definition of depression. An area that is sunk below its surroundings – this is called depression. A person who is lowered than his or her surroundings is depressed. Now he said, when you go to a funeral and you are crying but everyone around you is crying too, that does not mean you are depressed. But when you are unnaturally feeling lower than those around you – that is depression. It is a condition of feeling sad and despondent. A psychotic or neurotic condition characterized by inability to concentrate. Insomnia, feelings of extreme sadness, dejection and hopelessness – these things are what we call depression.
When people lose hope and they get seriously depressed, they cannot fight and they cannot flee. If thrown in the water they do not even swim for the surface. They are at the point of despair – depression. It is strange he said that some people can become depressed when they are surrounded with very positive circumstances. The reason is – depression is not always controlled by circumstances.
Now there are 4 main reasons that the person becomes depressed according to Pastor Doug. These are mental, social, physical and material. Sometimes the combination of them can bring great discouragement and depression.
He talked about attitude. He said that what happens in our head has a lot to do with depression. What we look at and what we listen to can affect how we feel. Some people are depressed because of their mental diet. If we are surrounded with negative people we can start feeling pretty depressed. Same thing happens when we listen and watch negative things. What we listen to, what we look at, who we associate with and even the food we are taking in can depress us. And the opposite can be true as well.
Pastor Doug continued by giving an example in the BiBle in 1 Samuel, the story of King Saul having bouts of depression. Whenever he is suffering from depression David, the shepherd boy is being called to sing and play the harp for him. David would sing songs with optimistic lyrics and King Saul’s mood will be lifted up. If listening to the wrong thing can bring depression and invite evil spirits then it is good to know that listening to the right thing can dispel evil spirits.
Some people would say they did not go to church because they were depressed. Then what was the solution? Sometimes one needs to be placed in an environment where they will hear and see the right things, and through the positive mental input, one can start feeling more positive. Depression happens because of what is happening in our minds. As per the Bible, if we would avoid this kind of depression we need to focus on the right things.
Some depression are the result of material things. Take the story of King Ahab in 1 King 21:4. King Ahab was so depressed that he could not get what he wanted. He was depressed because things went wrong materially.
If you have treasures on earth there is a good chance that you will get depressed because of things. For example, when you buy a new car. You parked it in your driveway and you looked at it for a while and wait till the sun goes out. And then you look at it again because it looks good in the lingering light. The next day you take it to the market to try it out. And you come out just in time to see a shopping cart careened down the slope of the parking lot and smashing in to the side of your car. How do you feel after that? Depressed! Things can make us depressed. But this is such a very selfish petty kind of depression. But we all suffer with this kind. We get discouraged when we experience financial reverse. When you do not have enough money to pay your bills. Well, that can really be depressing. Or when everyone around you has nice things and you do not even have the essentials of life. We can be depressed because of things that are not in us, it is not physiological but the things which are around us that we lose – material.
Another story in the Bible was that of a rich man who asked Jesus on how he can have everlasting life. And Jesus said for him to give what he has to the poor and store up treasures in heaven. After he got the answer, he left Christ rich and depressed because he wanted to keep his riches and still have Jesus. One cannot have his/her heart in two different places. One cannot serve two masters at the same time. And that rich man chose to serve money. And so the rich man went away sad and still materially rich plus very much depressed.
Another cause of depression is physical. 2 Kings 20:1 King Hezekiah’s depression due to his physical sickness. He was a Godlyman but he too went depressed. The same happened with Job but worst for his was a combination of physical, material, emotional and social.
Some people go to unnecessary depression because of bad health. If you have a bad diet you can find that you are in a state of depression and you might not even know what the problem really is. The doctor’s got you on some buckets of medication to deal with depression . But a lot of it is simply because you are spending all your time eating a lot of high sugar diet. It is true that if you are going through a lot of ups and downs physiologically, it is because of that sugar level imbalance in your body. You can get cranky when your sugar level is low. But people can get depressed due to different factors. Not getting enough sleep can get some people depressed including me. Other factors like chemical reactions in our body or hormonal imbalance can cause depression too. But most of the time we can fight depression by taking care of our body by getting enough good nutrition and getting enough good rest.
Not only can it be material, mental and physical – depression can also be social. Have you ever been depressed because of the way someone treats you or mistreats you? Have you ever been persecuted? Have you ever have an enemy out there plot against you? It is very disconcerting when you know there is someone who is an ill-wisher. The Bible tells us about Hannah. Her enemy Peninnah kept on taunting her because she was barren ( 1 Samuel 1:6-10 ). Hannah is a good example for us. What did she do when she was persecuted, taunted, provoked? She went to the house of the Lord and prayed. And then eventually because of her persistent prayers she bore a son. When we are depressed, discouraged , persecuted, let us not retaliate but let’s take it to the Lord in prayer.
What about King David? Was he attacked? Was someone hunting him, wanting to kill him? Yes! King Saul was trying to kill him. Of course David was depressed and Jonathan his best friend cried with him. But do you know what he did? He went from that experience with Jonathan to the temple of the Lord. So where do we go when we are depressed? Hannah, David and many others in the Bible went to God.
And why is it we always say that when we are not in church is because we are discouraged? That makes things worse if we do not feel worthy. One reason that people get depressed is because of their sins. They feel guilty whether it is imagined or whether it is genuine. They stay away from God because they feel like they are not worthy. The very best place to go when you are really depressed or guilty is to God. Because God is in the business of taking our guilt away.
Guilt is not the enemy. Guilt is real. Sometimes we deserve it because we bring it on ourselves by letting the devil put it on us. But guilt is not the issue. The issue is what are we going to do about it? This guilt. Jesus came to take our guilt away. Sometimes we need to repent and acknowledge when we are truly guilty and ask Him to forgive us and that is when the relief comes. Sometimes we are not guilty but the devil wants us to feel guilty. In other words, God forgives us but we do not forgive ourselves. Some people are depressed because they think that they are better judge than God is. God says “I forgive you.” and they say “ Nah, You do not know what you are doing.” What right do we have to spend all our time dwelling on sins that God has forgotten? God wants to take our guilt away. We can look at the cross as a reminder of this.
Sometimes we are socially depressed because we are spurned or rejected by people that we care about. Talking about unrequited affections. Whatever the situation might be, Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “ Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” It is very important that we think of the right things. If we are hoping for the wrong things, we are setting up ourselves for depression.
Now how do we heal depression? Well, if it is mental depression, we should focus on the right thing. If there is an event in our circumstance that is bothering us, let us not spend time focusing on them. Pastor Doug talked about suicide. This is the saddest and most tragic outcome of untreated depression. He said that this is the cause of the person being in a hopeless and faithless situation. He went to add that when there is no faith there is no salvation because the just shall live by faith. If one dies in a hopeless, faithless condition what is your next conscious thought? Resurrection surrounded by sea of lost people. Talk about really depressing situation!
Prayer is the antidote for worry and despair. The more that we should pray when we are discouraged. Another thing that we can do is to have a sense of humour. Not taking ourselves too seriously but learning to laugh at our own idiosyncrasies. We can diffuse a lot of discouraging things by laughing. Staying busy is another way of overcoming depression. Not doing anything productive is really depressing. We can focus on helping other people instead of focusing on ourselves and feeling sorry for ourselves. Counting our day to day blessings can also help a lot in lifting the clouds of depression in our minds. And prayer is the antidote for worry and despair. The more that we should pray when we are discouraged.
The Bible tells us that sometimes we can deal with depression by using it as an opportunity to witness. When you are being depressed, probably the last thing that you can think about is on how you can witness on a state like this. But when are we the best witness for Christ? When we got everything we want and the sun is shining? Or when we are going through life’s trial and still have a positive attitude? Let us always remember that we should rejoice in the Lord always, in every circumstance.
God’s people throughout the ages has always been the greatest witness through trial, not when God saves them from trial. The story of Noah through the flood. The story of Daniel through the lion’s den and the fiery furnace. The story of Joseph is a good example too. He was not a spoiled boy who got everything he wanted. He was a slave and a prisoner whom God delivered and made Prime Minister of Egypt.
Let us not be discouraged. Let us keep our hopes up. Let us keep the faith and carry on. The apostle Paul had experienced persecution, sickness, social rejection but he understood all these conditions of depression. And he learned how to conquer them through Christ. That is why he said through Christ He can do all things.
For Christians, the example of course is Jesus. When he was hung on the cross, all four categories of depression were dump on Him in immeasurable amounts. He had social depression because He was rejected by His own people. He had mental depression. The weight of the sins of the world was upon Him. When Jesus was up on the cross, He experienced not only physical and mental but all the demons of hell were trying to discourage Him for depression is demonic harassment. And He also had material depression. You know when you only had a few things, they are precious to you and when you lose them that is depressing. All that Jesus had when He was here on earth was His clothes and the soldiers took it away on the cross. The devil did everything he could to break Jesus.
What were the last words from the lips of Christ? “ Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” and having said this He breathe His last breath. When we do not know why some things are happening in our lives and we are going through those dark valleys, we only have to remember and say to ourselves, “ Lord I am going to trust You. Into Your hand I commit my life, my spirit. I do not know why this is happening. It probably won’t always be this way. I do not understand but I am going to trust You.” And Pastor Doug’s ending sentence was – “That I think is the lesson for each of us.”
Every cloud has a silver lining, I know this is cliche but true. There is the dark side and the bright side of things. And so there is an upside to depression too – our faith and trust in Jesus are being harnessed whenever we go through our soul’s dark hours. We only need to keep on trusting and believing and this depression, this too shall pass. Trust in the Lord always.