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Spiritual First Aid
“Dealing With Depression”
I am not a medical doctor, nor am I a clinical physiatrist. This sermon series I’m doing is a treatise on various disorders and what the Bible says about them, from the reasons behind them to God’s prescription for them.
The reason I am even doing this is because I believe that while modern medicine has come a long way in helping to mend and cure what ails most people, it is limited in its ability. Even medical science has lauded the power of faith and prayer when it comes to healing.
What I have come to understand and know is that God is our ultimate healer, He is the Great Physician and has given us what we need, writing it down in His word.
Today I’d like to look at the medical condition of depression and how we are to deal with it, because if it’s left untreated it causes people to give up and fade out, or worse, enter into some really dark places.
When looking at the troubles we face, those words that begin with the letter “D” seem to be the most devastating (pun intended). These are what I refer to as the “Dreaded ‘Ds.’”
They begin with the physical “Ds” such as disaster, divorce, and death. And for those of you who are wondering, “Dennis” is just as disastrous, which is why my mother always said that if she had me first she’d have me last.
It is from these physical “Ds” that the emotional “Ds” spring. These include disappointments, discouragement, despair, distress, and discontent. These emotional “Ds” rob us of our joy, our future, and our hope. And it is these that bring upon us the biggest emotional disaster of them all, and that is, depression.
What is depression?
Depression has become sometimes referred to as the common cold of emotions, yet this is far from accurate. I see depression more as an emotional cancer than a cold.
Depression is a plague of epidemic proportions. It is one of the most prevalent disorders there is, and research suggests it’s caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, psychological, and spiritual factors.
Depression also ranges from mild, or temporary episodes of sadness, to severe clinical depression and can also co-exist and worsen other illnesses including cancer and heart disease.
Depression is also a disease of the soul and often flows from a lack of faith in God.
St. John of the Cross may have had this depressive mood in mind, or as it was more commonly referred to as “melancholy,” when he wrote about a soul’s journey to God in his treatise, “Dark Night.” Later it was ascribed as “the dark night of the soul.”
Depression literally is a spiritual darkness that blackens and blots out God’s love from a person’s heart and from their view. It gets us to the point where we feel like life itself has no meaning or purpose.
Signs and symptoms
Depression causes symptoms that affect how we feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.
Signs and symptoms of depression include persistent sadness and anxiety. There are also feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, and guilt. Those who are depressed also lose interest in everyday activities due to a decrease in energy or an increase in fatigue. Thoughts of death or suicide are often signs of depression.
Those who are depressed often display conflicting behavior, such as moving and talking slowly, yet at the same time feel restless and have trouble staying in one place. Their appetite and weight often changes, along with difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much.
Physical symptoms also manifest themselves in angry outbursts, irritability, along with aches and pains, headaches, cramps, and digestive problems.
Depression found in the Bible
One of the biggest misnomers and one of the most damaging is the belief that once someone becomes a Christian they should never be depressed. But believers can be just as depressed if not more so than the general population because we’ve got an enemy, Satan, whose really good at putting circumstances in our path to discourage and depress.
We see many stories within the Bible of some of the strongest men of faith going through bouts of depression.
One of the most obvious examples of depression was Job, whom the Bible calls blameless and upright, a person who feared God and avoided evil. (Job1: 1)
Job, however, faced a crisis of great magnitude caused by Satan where in one fell swoop he lost his children, possessions, and health. He became depressed and couldn’t endure any more of the suffering.
“Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant me the thing that I long for! That it would please God to crush me, that He would loose His hand and cut me off!” (Job 6:8-9 NKJV)
Job was in anguish, and what he faced in his own mind was unsolvable. He couldn’t see his way out, and as a result would toss and turn all night long.
“So I have been allotted months of futility, and wearisome nights have been appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, and the night be ended?’ For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn.” (Job 7:3-4 NKJV)
I think it is safe to say that Job was depressed, and he looked and felt like hell. He talked about how he felt like curdled milk (Job 10:10), and how his eyes were swollen shut and he looked like death warmed over.
“My face is flushed from weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death.” (Job 16:16 NKJV)
In the end fatigue was winning over and all he wanted to do is end it (Job 10:1), but instead He had a different take and something we can learn from. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. Praise be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 NKJV)
After one of the greatest victories over the forces of evil, Elijah had a bout of depression.
At Queen Jezebel’s threat he ran off to a deserted place and slept refusing to get up, and if it wasn’t for the Lord sending food his direction and prodding him out of bed, he’d most likely would have died, which is exactly what he wanted.
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree, and he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’” (1 Kings 19:4 NKJV)
King David was another person who seemed to have his fair share of discouragements and was depressed throughout his life. Early on David was running for his life from Saul, later his wife mocked him, and finally his kids and friends rebelled against him.
David therefore continually spoke of his depression, but also about his trust in the Lord to see him through.
“My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3 NKJV)
David ended this Psalm by saying that His hope was in the Lord to help him through it all.
In Psalm 6:6-7, David said, “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief.”
He ended, however, by saying the Lord heard the voice of his weeping and therefore his enemies should look out.
We’ll look more at David and what he learned as we continue in our study, and we’ll see what he did to get through his depressive states, and even some of the things that helped him before discouragement moved into full blown episodes of depression.
Reasons for Depression
God’s word talks about the causes of depression through four “Fs.” These are the major causes and reasons for depression and these emotional “Ds.”
Fatigue is a big factor. It’s when we’re tired and worn out, when we’re under a lot of stress, it’s then that everything looks and feels impossible. It’s when we are physically and emotionally exhausted that we become the most vulnerable and susceptible.
After David and his men returned to their homes in the city of Ziglag they found their city burned and their families taken captive. It says. “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.”(1 Samuel 30:4 NKJV)
To counter fatigue we need to get plugged into God’s power source, which is what David did as it says that he encouraged himself in the Lord. (1 Samuel 30:6)
We need to get plugged into God and get our spiritual batteries recharged. This is accomplished through spending time in God’s word, prayer, fellowship, and worship.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
And so the first reason for depression is when we get tired and fatigued.
Frustrations are the daily irritants of life. Frustrations come from the daily interruptions and inconveniences that happen in life. The best way to deal with these frustrations is to reduce them though placing them in the proper perspective.
When rebuilding the wall surrounding Jerusalem, the people became discouraged and depressed because in their eyes the pile of rubble they were pulling stones from didn’t seem to be getting any smaller.
“The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:10 NKJV)
But the truth, however, was quite different. It wasn’t getting bigger, nor was it remaining the same. It was actually getting smaller.
We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to them, and the way we do that is through gaining God’s perspective as to what we’re facing, which comes through time in God’s word and prayer.
Failure is a part of human existence. We all fail at one time or another.
The Psalmist said,
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 NKJV)
This is why Paul could say that he could do all things through Christ who not only gave him the strength, but also the grace to see him through. (Philippians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Failing at something doesn’t make a person a failure. No one would consider Thomas Edison a failure, yet he failed thousands of times in his attempt to create the light bulb.
Edison, however, viewed his failures as learning experiences, which is what we all should do. Edison wasn’t a failure; instead he just found ten thousand different ways the electric bulb didn’t work.
Failure isn’t falling down; rather it’s staying down once we’ve fallen.
Solomon said that we should have no fear of the dreaded “Ds” because the Lord is our confidence.
“Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence.” (Proverbs 3:25-26a NKJV)
Fear overwhelms, especially the “what ifs.” What if this or that happens, what if the doctors say this or diagnosis that?
Fear also paralyzes and sabotages any chance we have of getting ourselves out of the dumps. It strangles the life right out of us and drains all of our desires.
But when Solomon said that the Lord will be our confidence, he was saying that we are not alone in this battle, but that God is right by our side. And when we understand this reality then we can be like King David who proclaimed,
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NKJV)
How To Handle Depression
Just as four “Fs” helped to understand the reasons and causes of depression, there are three “Rs” that will help us know how we are do deal with depression in our lives.
To combat depression we need to be strategic, because we are up against an enemy who already has his battle plans set out. Paul tells us to get ourselves armed so that we can combat Satan’s strategies.
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11 NLT)
Peter tells us that Satan is literally out for blood.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV)
So to combat depression we need to know where we’re the most vulnerable and susceptible to attacks.
Paul uses this lesson with Timothy.
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV)
It would seem Timothy had a problem with lust, and to combat his lust, Paul tells Timothy to get as far away from it as fast as he can, and then he is to stay strong and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with other believers who are of the household of faith.
This may be why the writer of Hebrews tells us to remain in fellowship, remain committed to church; because it’s there we will be encouraged and encourage others. (Hebrews 10:25)
Rely Upon God
This is exactly what David did that turned the tide and prevented depression from settling.
“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6 NKJV)
To rely upon God is to remember that it’s the Lord who helps us, and there isn’t anything that God doesn’t see or can’t do. Jesus is the only one we can depend upon.
“Of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NKJV)
Jesus is our rock, our refuge, and our strong tower of defense. Who other than Jesus, therefore, could we possibly rely upon?
Refuse To Quit
Paul was someone who could have easily been depressed. He was whipped, beaten, stoned, and left for dead. He was imprisoned, and shipwrecked, and constantly in peril from both the Jews and Gentiles.
He could have easily fallen into despair, but He knew God’s plan and purpose and it kept him from becoming depressed.
“For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:23-24 NKJV)
We need to know God’s plan and purpose and refuse to give in to the enemy’s strategy to get us depressed and unable to fulfill God’s calling upon our lives.
Sometimes it’s just about getting up in the morning.
More often than I’d like to admit I don’t want to get up. I wake up way before dawn and all the stuff that I have to do, along with what I haven’t done and the problems that wait, comes crashing down and all I want to do is to stay in bed and not face the world.
But God has a plan and a purpose and has given me a wonderful gift. And so I roll, sometimes crawl, out of bed and start my day in God’s word writing devotionals.
Getting into God’s word and prayer reshapes my thinking realizing I need to be about my heavenly Father’s business, and then He gives me strength to accomplish those things that I need to do.
And while I know there is so much more I didn’t accomplish, I have learned the hard way to leave that for tomorrow and accomplish what He has set for me today. (Matthew 6:34)
In this I am able to successfully battle my daily bouts of depression.
Rebuke the Devil
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 NKJV)
We need to realize that while these are physical symptoms to emotional problems, there is in reality a spiritual battle going on. What we do, however, is that we take medicine to deal with the physical problems not realizing we’re facing and battling spiritual forces.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)
In other words, Satan has his demons arrayed against us in and through these dreaded “Ds.”
We therefore need to know this reality and fight the good fight of faith so that we can be overcomers of depression.
Don’t Lose Heart
In the Greek language this phrase, “don’t lose heart,” means to unstring a bow. We often get depressed and lose heart because we aren’t seeing any hope, nor are we experiencing God’s fruitfulness.
Paul therefore tells us not to lose heart, even through the tough times when we feel like giving up and giving in.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
After losing everything at Ziglag, David encouraged himself in the Lord, that is, he renewed his spirit, his inward man.
We need to be careful not to lose heart when things go wrong or bad. Instead we need to encourage ourselves in the Lord like David.
We do so by remembering the promises of God.
• God will never leave us or forsake us, and that Jesus will not leave us as orphans (Deuteronomy 31:6; John 14:18)
• The Lord is our refuge and strength, our help in time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
• When we’re tired and worn out we can come to Jesus who will gives strength to the weary and empowers those who are weak. (Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 40:29)
• God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, and He will heal our broken hearts and bind up our wounds. (Philippians 4:7; Psalm 147:3)
• And when all seems lost, we need to lift up our heads, because God’s redemption is nearer than what we have imagined. (Luke 21:28)
And so we need to open the Bible and read it, because there we’ll find God’s words of instruction and comfort to see us through.
Cast Your Cares on God
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NKJV)
One of the things that zap our energy and leave us feeling tired and fatigued are those things that keep us up at night. It’s those things we worry about, or those burdens we carry in our soul.
But God’s remedy is to place them squarely upon Him.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22 NKJV)
The way we cast them, or give them over to the Lord, is through prayer.
In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We’re to cast all our anxieties, worries, and concerns on the Lord, because not only does He care for us, but He also watches over our souls.
David said in Psalm 42:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”
Find A New Rhythm
To help conquer depression we have to find a new rhythm.
Finding a new rhythm is something I’ve been advising those who have experienced a loss of a loved one, although in different terms. I tell them they have to find a new normal.
One of the things most people who’ve lost loved ones try to do is to get back to “normal.” But things will never be the same as they were when their loved ones were with them. Life with the person they lost will never be there again. The “normal” there was is no more.”
You may think of it like this. When you’ve lost an arm, life will never be the same as it was when you had two arms, but it doesn’t mean that life cannot be just as satisfying and life affirming. Instead a new normal, a normal with one arm must be found.
The same goes for those who are struggling with depression. They desperately try to get back to the way things were only to find things have changed. And so their depression deepens as their attempts to find the old normal fail.
So a new normal needs to be found, or better yet, a new rhythm. We need God to place a new song in our heart to replace the old.
David knew this is what he needed.
“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.” (Psalm 40:1-3a NIV)
God has a new way, a new thing, and a new rhythm to conquer depression.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)
It is only when we reinforce our weaknesses, rely upon God, refuse to quit, refuse to lose heart while casting all our cares upon Him, and finding that new rhythm of life, that we’ll find rest for our souls and rest from whatever is depressing our spirits.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study