Depression may arguably be the most common malady of the human body. Doctors are prescribing more anti-depressants and mood stabilizers now than any time in history. Self-help books crowd our book shelves and TV talk show hosts bring in ‘experts’ on a weekly basis to advise their listeners on how to overcome their feelings of depression. Even a well-known television preacher says that one of the reasons he makes no apology for his “feel good sermons” is because people are depressed by what is happening in the world and need a positive word when they come to church.
What is a Christian to do when depressed? Is depression even ‘allowed’ in the life of a Spirit-led disciple of Jesus Christ?
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
Psalm 137:1 (NIV)
I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. Psalm 6:6 (NIV)
Three times I pleaded with Lord to take it away from me.
2 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV, emphasis mine)
I can see many in the Bible that went through difficult ‘seasons’ in their lives. I imagine that Adam was a bit down when he had one son that murdered the other! I imagine that John had his cloudy moments on the island of Patmos before and after his visions. In these passages, I see the writer of the two psalms crying out to God, even using the word ‘flood’ to describe the amount of tears he has cried. Paul verbalizes his feelings with saying that he has ‘pleaded’ with God to release him from his pain and torment. These people saw their cups – half empty!
What can I do when I am down in the pit? How do I take a step when all I seem to be able to do is sleep or stare into space? How did the ‘greats of faith’ pull themselves up? They didn’t.
God did. That isn’t cheesy. It isn’t just a good answer from Sunday School. It’s the truth. Just as I took that first tentative, I-have-no-idea-if-this-is-going-to-work step to accept that I was a sinner and I couldn’t fix that and so I stepped toward Jesus, I take that tiny, tiny step that says I am choosing God to fix my depression. God does the rest. Mine was a tiny, tentative step toward Him, admitting that I was too weak to do anything. In my depression, I reach for my Bible Promise Book that sits on my bedside table. I look at the index under ‘Belief’ or ‘Guilt’ or ‘Hope’ and read what is on the page. It’s a tiny step. It’s an admission that I choose God. He does the rest.
A tiny candle, a tiny light is lit to push back the darkness of my pit. I read on. Maybe now I have the courage to call my friend or email my friend and say, “Pray for me”. Nothing else. No explanation. That’s all right because a friend doesn’t need details. Prayer begins. I find that helped and so I do it again the next day. And the next.
Depression can be an illness like any other. God can use anti-depressant medication in the same way He uses antibiotics. Medication can be a part of God’s treatment plan. I don’t believe medication is the only answer.
God wants us to turn to Him and seek His truth. In depression, my eyes are too often turned toward myself and what is wrong in MY life. I focus on the ‘I’ of my life and not the ‘Faith’ in my Creator. It is in God that I find balance and peace and more reality than any TV show can invent!
Trust in the LORD with all that I am, choosing not to lean on my limited understanding. I acknowledge God in everything and He will point out the best path. Proverbs 3:5-6 (my paraphrase)