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As we enter into this Christmas season, I’d like to talk with you about one of the leading maladies affecting just about every one of us, and that is, depression.
I am not a medical doctor, nor am I a clinical physiatrist, but what I’d like to talk about is what the Bible says about depression, and God’s prescription.
Now, while modern medicine has come a long way in healing, it is limited in its ability.
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.
And so, the Bible is God’s prescription pad for our health.
What is Depression?
Depression if left untreated causes people to give up, or worse, enter into some really dark places.
Now some have referenced depression as the common cold of emotions. But, this is far from accurate. Depression more like an emotional cancer than it is a cold.
Depression has become a plague of epidemic proportions, especially in this current pandemic. It ranges from mild to severe.
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 in his day as “melancholy,” when he wrote about a soul’s journey to God in his treatise, “Dark Night,” or as it was later called, “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.
The 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 change, along with difficulty sleeping, where they either sleep too little or 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, who is 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.
Take for instance Job. He 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.
And so he cried out, “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)
And then there was Elijah, who after one of the greatest victories over the forces of evil, he had a severe bout of depression when Queen Jezebel threaten his life. And so he ran off to a deserted place wishing for nothing more than to die.
The Bible says, “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)
And then there was King David. He continually spoke of his depression, but also about his trust in the Lord to see him through.
Like in Psalm 42 where he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3)
David ended this Psalm, however, by saying that His hope was that the Lord would help him through it all. And we see this same thing in other Psalms he wrote.
And so, what are some of the reasons for depression?
Fatigue is a big factor. It’s when we’re tired and worn out and under a lot of stress, that’s when everything looks and feels impossible. It is when we are physically and emotionally exhausted that we become the most vulnerable and susceptible.
To counter fatigue 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.
The Bible says, “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)
Frustrations also lead to depression. These 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 by placing them in the proper perspective.
When rebuilding the wall surrounding Jerusalem, the people became discouraged and depressed because they saw the pile of rubble wasn’t decreasing in size.
“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).
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. We are able to do this through getting God’s perspective as to what we’re facing, which comes through taking time to read the Bible and prayer.
Fear overwhelms, especially when it comes to the “what ifs” of life. What if this or that happens, what if the doctors say this or diagnoses 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 away all of our desires.
Solomon said, “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)
Basically Solomon is letting us know that we’re not alone in this battle, and since God is with us, there is nothing to fear.
King David said, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
Don’t Lose Heart
“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)
In the Greek language the phrase, “don’t lose heart,” means to unstring a bow. Far too many people are strung way too tight, and often get depressed and lose heart because they aren’t seeing any hope, nor are they experiencing God’s blessings.
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)
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.
Find a New Normal
Something I’ve been telling those who have experienced a loss is to find a new normal, and that’s because the way things were before, will never be there again, that is, life will never be the same.
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 fails.
A new normal, therefore, needs to be found. We need God to place a new song in our heart to replace the old.
David said, “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)
God has a new way, a new thing, a new normal, and a new song 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)
In the end we have to rely upon God and refuse to quit. We have to refuse to lose heart while casting our cares upon the Lord, and then finding that new normal. Only then will we find rest for our souls, and rest from whatever is depressing our spirits.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study