January can be such a sad time. Christmas is over. The bills march in. The weather is cold. The sky is gray. Sunlight is short. Darkness is long. And the darkness can enter our souls and feel as if we will never feel light, life and joy again.
At church this morning a pastor spoke on the topic of dealing with depression from Psalm 42 and it was very encouraging and helpful. Many Christians carry great guilt and shame when they experience varying degrees of depression and their fellow Christians can often sound like Job's friends. Advice of repentance, spiritual warfare, or a new book to read and also attitudes of condescension, pity (not compassion), or assumptions about our spiritual walks can hurt more deeply the believer that is deeply hurting.
I wanted to share some of the wonderful, hope-filled truth that was taught to me this morning and my prayer is that it will encourage you that you are not alone!
Here are some Biblical Precedents of those who dealt with depression:
- Moses (Numbers 11:11-5)
- David (Psalm 31:9-12)
- Elijah (I Kings 19:4)
- Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:1-20, GNB)
- John the Baptist (Matthew 11:1-6)
- Paul (2 Corinthians 7:5-6, NAS)
- Our Lord Himself (Mark 14:32-34, Phillips)
Read Psalm 42
I. Understand the CAUSE of your depression
A. DESIRE for God
(missing the times when you felt the Lord's nearness, everything was spiritual bliss, and now those feelings are not around and you don't sense Him near you)
Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
B. DEPTH of the human soul
(can strike ANY area...mentally, emotionally, spiritually, volitionally, financially, etc....we are very complex beings with complex emotions, etc)
verses 5,11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
C. DELAY in expectations
(where we would be spiritually right now, our health, our finances, our careers, relationships)
When shall I come and appear before God?
Prov. 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
D. DISDAIN from men
(can sit like a cloud swirling around our heads when we are rejected by familyand friends for our faith, etc)
v. 3, 9-10 My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, "where is your God?"...I will say to God my Rock, "why have You forgotten me? why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long "where is Your God?"
E. DISAPPOINTMENT with circumstances
(depression isolates and is a tool of the enemy to keep us trapped to it...we need the body of Christ)
v.4,6 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast...O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of HErmon, for the Hill Mizar (that location meant the "boondocks"!!)
F. DESPAIR over trials
(all hope is lost because trial after trial keeps coming like health and financial issues)
v.7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterspouts; all Your waves and breakers have gone over me
II. Understand the Cure for your Depression
**gave an example of sheep how they can get "cast"...sheep get cast when they get on their backs...they cannot move or flip themselves back over. They get terrified. Their extremities go numb, their digestive system even starts to shut down and if they are not rescued quickly, they die. When the shepherd finds a sheep like this, he begins to restore the sheep by calling its name. Then he gently massages the extremities to get the blood moving there again and to bring comfort. He then moves it to its side very gently and continues to massage. After time of tender care, he can move the sheep back up onto its feet and the sheep goes merrily on its way!
This is what the Great Shepherd does when he sees us, his frail sheep...we cannot save ourselves or break free of the situation....He comes calling our name, tends us, saves us, and sets us free.
A. EXPRESS your heart to God
v. 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me
We must cry out to Him and tell Him how we feel. Journaling is wonderful for this...He is not surprised or shocked by any of our emotions. He already knows and loves us.
(Lord, BAAA I'm cast like a sheep! Restore my soul!)
B. EXAMINE Yourself to Find the Reason
v. 5,11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
(is it physical? a new baby? world turned upside down? relational? trial after trial? rejection?
The Holy Spirit, our Wonderful Counselor, can show you!)
C. EXHORT yourself to hope in God v.5,11
(Not in people, circumstances...shift the expectation off of yourself and onto God...be lost in His immensity and all that He is.) I have heard it said that depression is the difference between our unrealistic expectations and reality.
D. EXPECT God to come through for you
v. 5,11 ...For I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance...For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
v. 8 The Lord WILL command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song SHALL be with me--a prayer to the God of my life...(these are PROMISES to cling to...this requires a FAITH response to stop trying and to start trusting. I put my hand of hope on Him and He gives me a hand of POWER. Faith is the trigger of the indwelling Christ. Tie a line to a doctrine in the Bible like your identity in Christ in Ephesians to help you cling. Remember the story of Pilgrim's Progress...he goes into the slough of despond, to the doubting castle, and yet finds the key of PROMISE)
E. EXPERIENCE God's power....get up and GO!
I Kings 19 is "Occupational therapy"...Elijah is in a dark place yet God calls him to go. It will help to get moving and do something. Stop sitting on the premises and stand on the promises :) Just take a baby step even if that just means getting out of bed.
He also suggested books from Dr. Peter Breggin, MD...a Jewish doctor who has much to say about not staying on anti-depressants for a lifetime.
I really hope something in here will encourage you as it has encouraged me. I had really seen in the past few weeks that because of my counseling background, I can tend to navel-gaze and unhealthily focus on myself. The only way to freedom is to lift up your eyes to the hills...from where does your help come from? The Lord is our Help! We cannot find the help we ultimately need from within ourselves...we are cast sheep. Look up and cry out to the tender Shepherd and He will tend your wounds gently and compassionately and allow you to rise once again to feel, embrace, and prance in the warm light of the Sun!