Christian Biblical Counsel: DEPRESSION

Background

Depression is possibly responsible for more pain and distress than any other affliction of mankind. It is difficult to define depression, describe its symptoms, or treat it. The dictionary defines depression as an emotional condition, either neurotic or psychotic, characterized by feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, gloominess, dejection, sadness, difficulty in thinking and concentration, and inactivity. Both Christians and non- Christians can suffer depression.

Depressed people have a negative self-image, often accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and self-criticism. Neurotic depression can be linked to wrong conduct or behavior and wrong reactions to such conduct. After a series of improper acts and subsequent faulty reactions, guilt and depression set in. If sin is at the heart of the problem, it should never be minimized. Neither should support be given to the idea that other things and other people are responsible for behavioral problems. Either agreeing with the depressed person in this, or not taking seriously his or her expression of sin and guilt, could prevent any real and lasting solutions.

The depressed person will often be concerned only with feeling better. But this is not the first priority. Rather, he or she must seek the causes which may have contributed to the depression. Putting his or her life in order spiritually will eventually eradicate the depression.

This is the point at which the Bible can be used very effectively. The release of the Holy Spirit’s power will inevitably result in positive steps on a road to recovery and wholeness. The Christian witness must seek to be an encourager. Even if no spiritual decision is reached, try to leave your inquirer with a sense of hope and well-being. Be patient. Complex problems for which there are no quick and easy solutions are often involved in depression. The depressed person will not “snap out of it” on command. Often months of professional help are needed.

Be a good listener. Don’t probe too deeply, but do ask questions and then wait for something to emerge in the conversation which will provide the “handle” for offering spiritual solutions. Do not try to offer solutions before you are well informed of the problem.

 

Helping Strategy

 

For the Non-Christian:

1. Your inquirer may reveal symptoms of depression as a result of such things as unresolved anger, resentment, real or imagined wrongs, self-pity, guilt, or immorality. Give assurance of your interest and your desire to help find solutions.

2. Ask if he or she has ever trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If appropriate, present Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD. Remember that it would be a disservice to the inquirer to minimize in any way the seriousness of sin. In order for him or her to experience forgiveness, there must be recognition and confession of sin.

3. Share Christian Biblical Counsel: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION. Emphasize that this experience with Christ offers real hope. It should bring new awareness and understanding to the battle against depression.

4. Encourage reading and studying the Bible. This will teach the will and ways of God. It will bring the person’s thinking in line with God and will result in inner peace (Isaiah 26:3).

5. Recommend that the depressed person learn to pray and to do so daily. Through prayer we confess our sins and are renewed. We learn to experience God’s constant presence and approval. We worship as we praise and thank Him. And we express our own needs and those of others.

6. Suggest that he or she cultivate friendships with people who will provide support and encouragement. Such friends may be found in a Bible teaching church, a Bible class, or a Christian singles’ group. This fellowship may also provide opportunities for Christian service, in which concerns are focused on the needs of others.

7. Encourage seeking out a qualified pastor or Christian psychologist for continued counseling in order that all the facets of the depression may be dealt with in the light of Scripture.

 

For the Christian:

1. A Christian may suffer from depression in reaction to adverse situations, defeats, and setbacks such as a death in the family, a rebellious son or daughter, or loss of employment:

A. In such cases you should always offer a loving word of encouragement, such as: “You are not alone in your suffering.” “God cares and will not leave you alone.” “The Lord Jesus not only bore our sins but also our sorrows and heartaches.”

B. Suggest that the present depression might be due to an inability to trust God fully in all circumstances of life. Rededication to Christ may be needed, along with a commitment to be responsive and obedient to God’s will (Romans 12:1–2).

C. Suggest a recommitment to the disciplines of Bible study and prayer (Proverbs 3:5–6; Isaiah 26:3).

D. Encourage faithfulness in worship and service through the church.

2. A Christian may also be depressed because of spiritual disobedience and unresolved sin in such areas as anger and bitterness, jealousy, grudges, a divorce, or immorality:

A. As the problem is revealed, assure the inquirer that he or she is right to seek a solution—that the first step back to wholeness is spiritual renewal.

B.  Share Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION., emphasizing Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9.

C. As the person responds to the Scriptures in “Restoration,” point out that other steps may be necessary beyond recommitment. For example, he or she may need to mend fences broken down as a result of such things as gossip, criticism, envy, or immorality. In cases where things such as theft or fraud were involved, restitution should be considered.

D. Encourage a serious commitment to Bible study. Learning to think God’s thoughts is a valuable aid to spiritual recovery (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8).

E. Suggest becoming involved in a Bible-teaching church where worship, fellowship, and opportunities for service are available.

F. Suggest a serious commitment to professional counseling with a qualified pastor or Christian psychologist until all issues involved in the depression are resolved in the light of Scripture.

3. A Christian may also be depressed because of setting standards and goals beyond his or her ability to attain. This may be true both for economic or spiritual goals; failure brings on depression:

A. Patiently point out that goals which others may set for themselves and seem to attain may not be right for the inquirer. The fact that he or she is depressed may indicate the unattainability of such goals.

B. Point out that success or failure cannot be measured by any human standard. Suggest, instead, the following criteria:

• Does what I desire conform with God’s will? Can it be supported by Scripture?

• Is what I desire for the glory of God, or to satisfy some personal whim or selfish ambition?

• Have I been motivated by spiritual pride?

• Is what I desire in line with the guidance given by the apostle Paul:

* Be what I am—what God has made me: Learn to live with my strengths and limitations: “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

* Trying to emulate someone else (“keeping up with the Joneses”) is spiritually undesirable and counterproductive (2 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).

4. Suggest that the inquirer renew his or her spiritual commitment: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

5. Encourage learning the disciplines of Bible study and prayer.

6. Suggest rearranging priorities so that they are more in line with his or her abilities.

7. If you sense that follow-up is needed, recommend a serious commitment to professional counseling. A qualified pastor or Christian psychologist should be sought.

 

Scripture

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

 

“Aman’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14, NIV).

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5, NIV).

“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

 

Other suggested Scriptures:

Psalm 38:1–4, 21–22, NIV

The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996

Depression

1.   Cain’s depression was due to guilt.

Gen. 4:6–7. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

2.   David was very depressed until he confessed his sin of adultery.

Ps. 32:3–4. When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

3.   The way out of depression caused by guilt is confession and seeking God’s forgiveness.

Ps. 32:1–2, 5.

4.   Put your hope in God when you are downcast.

Ps. 42.

Ps. 42:5–6. 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. 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, From the Hill Mizar.

5.   Words of comfort were given to the faithful of Israel as they became depressed while in Babylon. They were called to put their faith into action in their dark hour.

Isa. 40.

6.   We may experience some tough situations, but we can avoid deep depression.

2 Cor. 4:8–9. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Cor. 4:16–18. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

7.   Think of what Paul went through, without getting depressed, sustained by God’s grace.

2 Cor. 11:23–28. Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.[1]

Depression

Walking from Darkness into the Dawn

by June Hunt

Have the dark clouds of depression poured their tears upon your soul? Are you emotionally stuck … muddled in your mind … mired in your emotions? Do you feel isolated and alone … afraid that no one understands? If so, you are not alone. People from all walks of life have languished under the black clouds of depression.

Can anything bring back the white clouds of contentment? King David—no stranger to depression—discovered the answer. He learned how to exchange the darkness of despair for the light of hope. Again and again, when his soul was downcast, he intentionally changed his focus—he continually riveted his focus on the faithfulness of his Savior … his Redeemer … his God. Three times, in three different verses, David asked himself the same question and three times he followed with the same answer.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

(Psalm 42:5–6, 11; 43:5)

I.     Definitions of Depression

On June 20, 2001, the entire city … nation … world was stunned when Andrea Yates systematically drowned her children in the bathtub—all five children, ranging from six months to seven years of age. In rapid-fire response, the shocked world asked, “How could a mother do the unthinkable: Kill her own children! What could drive a mother to commit such a heinous crime … five times in a row?” In a word, the answer is Depression—not just Normal Depression, but Psychotic Depression—a major depression that caused Andrea to break with reality.

Couldn’t someone have rescued this mother and these innocent children from their ultimate doom? The simple answer is yes. And that is why we need to gain an in-depth understanding of depression. The Lord admonishes us all to …

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

(Proverbs 24:11–12)

A. What Is Depression?

If you place a heavy iron on a heart-shaped pillow filled with foam rubber, the buoyant pillow will become pressed down—“depressed.” But the next day, if you remove the iron, the pillow will pop back up to its original form. However, if you wait six months to remove the iron, the pillow will not return to its original shape. Instead, the pillow will remain flat and depressed. A pillow, which can sustain temporary pressure, is not designed to hold its shape for a long time under heavy pressure.

The same is true for the human heart. When “pressed down” due to normal pressure from normal situations (situational depression), your heart is designed by God to rebound once the pressure is removed. However, if you live under the weight of heavy pressure for long periods of time, your heart can enter into a “state” of depression. Realize, Jesus cares about your heart and knows that you are especially vulnerable when you are heavy-hearted. That is why He gives this word of caution …

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”

(Luke 21:34)

•     Depression literally means a condition of being “pressed down” to a lower position (as in a footprint).

•     Depression can refer to a state of decline and reduced activity (as in an “economic depression”).

•     Depression can describe an emotional heaviness that weighs down the heart. The apostle Paul used the Greek word bareo, which means “pressed or weighed down,” to describe the immense emotional pressure and severe hardships that he and Timothy suffered at the hands of those who opposed Christ.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.”

(2 Corinthians 1:8–9)

B. What Is Depression in the World of Psychology?

In ancient writings, the earliest reference to what is meant by our word depression was the word melancholia (literally “black bile”). The assumption was that the melancholy person had an excess of black bile, which resulted in depression. In the second century AD, the physician Aretaeus referred to his melancholy patients as “sad, dismayed, sleepless.… They become thin by their agitation and loss of refreshing sleep.… At a more advanced state, they complain of a thousand futilities and desire death.”

Even today melancholia is defined as “a mental condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions.” For those suffering during this dark night of the soul, it could be said …

“For all of them, deep darkness is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness.”

(Job 24:17)

•     Depression is the psychological term pertaining to the mental, emotional, and behavioral characteristics of a depressed person. (Psychology is the study of the mind as it relates to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, focusing on why people think, feel, and act as they do.) For example, those engulfed in the dark waves of depression feel desperately alone and often blame God for their plight.

“You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.” (Psalm 88:18)

•     Depression is a psychological state in which the heart is pressed down and unable to experience joy. Those suffering with depression feel trapped underneath a dark, pervasive canopy of sadness, grief, guilt, and hopelessness.

“Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night.” (Job 5:14)

•     Depression is a psychological condition that impacts the whole person: body (the physical), soul (the mind, will, and emotions), and spirit (the source of our deepest inner needs). Many who are depressed feel as though this verse describes them …

“All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.” (Ecclesiastes 5:17)

•     Depression is an umbrella term that covers feelings ranging from discouragement to despair. No matter the degree of darkness, the Lord wants us to rely on Him to provide light.

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” (Psalm 18:28)

C. What Are Four Different Degrees of Depression?

Although independent of one another, these four categories show an escalating intensity of depression. In general, we could divide depression into two categories: situational and chemical. Situational Depression exists when a painful situation presses the heart down for a period of time. Chemical Depression can occur when your body chemistry does not function properly. A person can have both types of depression at the same time. During these heavy-hearted times when hope seems elusive, emotions feel flat and the heart feels sick. Solomon, the wise author of the Book of Proverbs, explains that …

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

(Proverbs 13:12)

(The four types described below are not listed in this order in a diagnostic manual. They are intended to show the increasing negative impact of depression.)

#1  Normal Depression

•     Is sometimes called Situational Depression or Reactive Depression

•     Is an involuntary sadness based on a reaction to painful life situations

—  Normal problems of life press down the heart for a short period of time (for example, rejection, failure, illness).

—  Transitional stages of life often press down the heart (for example, adolescence, empty nest, midlife crises, major moves, menopause, retirement).

When severe troubles fell upon God’s servant Job (the death of all his children, the destruction of all his possessions), one of his friends observed Job’s understandable depression.

“Now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed.”

(Job 4:5)

#2  Masked Depression

•     Is hidden depression (for example, repressed memories of physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse)

•     Is a state of enduring sadness based on unresolved, buried conflict

—  Painful feelings are denied or covered up; therefore, recovery takes longer because of failure to work through the pain.

—  Relief from emotional pain is unconsciously found in excessive busyness, activities, addictions, or other alternatives.

The Bible describes how hidden hurts still result in heartache.…

“Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.”

(Proverbs 14:13)

#3  Neurotic Depression

•     Is a minor mental and emotional Depressive Disorder classified as Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, meaning that the depression results from failure to adjust to a distressing situation

—  A person with neurosis has a disorder, meaning that normal activities of daily living are impaired.

—  A person with any Depressive Disorder has “clinical depression”—the need for diagnosis and treatment based on direct, ongoing observation.

•     Is a prolonged state of sadness lasting longer than the normal time frame expected for emotional recovery—based on “stressors” (for example, loss of an endeared relationship, a financial or work crisis, retirement)

—  Symptoms interfere with normal work and social functioning.

—  The cause can usually be traced to an identifiable, precipitating event.

The Psalms reflect the pain of prolonged sorrow.…

“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

(Psalm 13:2)

#4  Psychotic Depression

•     Is the most severe type of depression under the classification Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

•     Is based on dissociation or a loss of contact with reality

—  A psychosis is an extreme state of depression.

—  A psychosis is usually accompanied by hallucinations and/or delusions, making those who are psychotic a potential danger to themselves and/or others.

Those afflicted with a psychotic depression can identify with the terror, despair, and skewed perspective described in this Psalm. …

“My days vanish like smoke.… My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.… I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.… I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears.… I wither away like grass.”

(Psalm 102:3–4, 7, 9, 11)

D. What Are the Three Divisions of Mood Disorders?

Every year, new maladies, as well as new medicines, come on the scene. So, how “new” is depression? As far back as the fourth century BC, the famous physician Hippocrates gave the first clinical description of “melancholia,” including the erratic mood swings of what is called Bipolar Disorder today. Yet over 500 years earlier, the psalmist King David gave this vivid description of his emotions during one of the most severe storms in his life …

“My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.… My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.’ ”

(Psalm 55:2, 4–8)

#1  Depressive Disorders, also called Unipolar Depression

•     Unipolar is primarily characterized by one extreme, emotionally-low state of depression.

•     Unipolar (uni = one, polar = pole) refers to “one extreme end.”

•     Unipolar Depression is the most common type of Mood Disorder.

•     Unipolar in the psychological community is subdivided into three types:  Major Depression Disorder (MDD), Dysthymic Disorder, and Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

When there is continual depression, those with distressed hearts could understandably pray …

“Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.”

(Psalm 31:9)

#2  Bipolar Disorders, formerly called Manic-Depression

•     Bipolar Disorders are characterized by alternating patterns of extreme emotional highs and lows—mania and depression.

•     Bipolar (bi = two, polar = pole) refers to “two opposite ends.”

•     Bipolar episodes of mania (an excessively elevated mood) can appear positive and productive to outsiders; however, true mania is negative because it usually leads to destructive decision-making, such as buying sprees, impulsive decisions, reckless driving, foolish investments, and immoral behavior.

•     Bipolar is subdivided into four types: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Cyclothymia, and Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

When the heart is distressed because of a bipolar disorder, it can be natural to cry out to God for help as the psalmist did.…

“I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.”

(Psalm 77:1–4)

#3  Mood Disorders Based on Etiology

•     The word etiology means “cause” or “origin.”

•     The first type of etiological depression is:

—  Mood Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition

This means that the unhealthy changes in the body due to illness cause psychological depression. For example, 20–40 % of those with a neurological condition (Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, Multiple Sclerosis, and/or stroke) develop a marked depression during illness.

•     The second type of etiological depression is:

—  Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

This means that something entering the body causes depression. The substance could be medication, drugs, or exposure to a toxin (for example, alcohol, sedatives, birth control pills, medications to treat various diseases such as Parkinson’s).

No matter the cause, the depressed person feels …

“I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.”

(Psalm 38:8)

E. Is Depression the Result of Sin?

This question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Although some people believe the answer is always yes, the accurate answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no.

•     Depression is not a result of sin when

—  Your heart grieves over normal losses. The Bible says,

“[There is] a time to weep … a time to mourn.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

—  Your body experiences natural deterioration due to the passing of years. Your body chemistry can change and become compromised. The Bible says,

“Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

•     Depression can be a result of sin when

—  You are depressed over the consequences of your sinful actions, and you don’t attempt to change.

—  You don’t take the necessary steps for healing (seeking biblical counseling, memorizing Scriptures, reading Christian materials, getting medical help when appropriate).

—  You hold on to self-pity, anger, and bitterness when you have been wronged, instead of choosing to forgive.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

—  You use your depression to manipulate others.

—  You continually choose to blame God and others for your unhappiness.

—  You are depressed because you choose to let others control you instead of choosing to obey Christ and allow Him to be in control of you.

When we take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, the Bible says, “That is why many of you are weak and sick” (1 Corinthians 11:30).

Depiction of Jonah’s Depression

Book of Jonah

Jonah’s bout with depression is an example of situational depression that occurs as a direct result of sin. Jonah is a man called by God. Yet he ends up angry, pouting, and in the depths of depression. How does Jonah become so deeply depressed?

•     Chapter 1: Disobedience

Jonah is called by the Lord to preach God’s truth to the godless people of Nineveh. But Jonah rebels and boards a ship going in a different direction. When Jonah’s disobedience brings repercussions on the ship’s crew, he is rejected and literally thrown overboard.

•     Chapter 2: Dread

Recognizing that the judgment of God is upon him to the point of losing his life (inside the belly of a great fish), Jonah cries out for mercy: “He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry’ ” (Jonah 2:2). The Lord extends mercy and spares his life.

•     Chapter 3: Declaration

Jonah resigns himself to obey God’s call. He declares God’s truth, and all the godless people of Nineveh repent.

•     Chapter 4: Depression

Jonah becomes angry with God for extending mercy to those whom Jonah doesn’t deem worthy of mercy. Ultimately, he plunges into a severe depression in which he is consumed with bitterness and despair to the extent of wanting to die. Jonah moans, “O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3).

Then, filled with seething anger and self-pity, he makes this brief, poignant statement: “I am angry enough to die” (Jonah 4:9).

II.    Characteristics Of Depression

Were there any clues to the seriousness of Andrea Yates’ mental depression? After she drowned her five little children, the media quickly learned that this rigidly religious family had been dealing with Andrea’s severe depression for several years. Twice in 1999 she had attempted suicide. And because of her severe postpartum depression following the birth of their fourth son, the couple was also advised to have no more children … yet a fifth child was born.

The Yates’ tragedy is certainly not the norm, and although many people become seriously despondent, the majority of those who experience major depression will never commit acts that result in death. Yet Andrea continued to spiral down to even lower depths with frequent thoughts of self-destruction. At this point in her paralyzing depression, she could not accept the truth that …

“Anyone who is among the living has hope!”

(Ecclesiastes 9:4)

A. What Is the Dialogue of the Depressed?

Those who struggle in the darkness of depression have difficulty seeing good in their lives … especially in themselves. They often look at life through a “black filter.” The photographer who uses a black lens takes a picture during the daytime, but the final photograph appears to be a night scene. When the depressed see life through their black filter, they feel helpless about their situations, hatred toward themselves, and hopeless over their future. If you are walking in the darkness of depression, you need to focus on the light of the Lord and know that He intimately cares. In this Psalm, you can see how David chose to change his focus.…

“Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ ”

(Psalm 142:4–5)

•     What do you say about yourself?

—  “I can’t do anything right!”

—  “Why should I even try?”

—  “My usefulness is over!”

—  “I hate myself!”

—  “Look at so-and-so (by comparison).”

—  “I must have done something wrong!”

—  “Nobody loves me!”

What is the light of truth?

God’s Word says, “ ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).

•     What do you say about your situation?

—  “I don’t see any way out!”

—  “It didn’t matter anyway!”

—  “This is intolerable!”

—  “It’s not fair!”

—  “I’m helpless to change it!”

—  “I can’t do anything about it!”

—  “I can’t bear it!”

What is the light of truth?

I can say with Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

•     What do you say about your future?

—  “So what!”

—  “Nothing will change.…”

—  “No one will ever love me!”

—  “I’ll be too old.…”

—  “That was my last chance for happiness!”

—  “I have nothing to live for.”

—  “It’s hopeless!”

What is the light of truth?

God’s Word says, “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

If you are walking in darkness, then cherish these words from the Lord.…

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

(Isaiah 42:16)

B. What Are Depressive and Manic Symptoms?

•     Depressed persons display sad, discouraged, joyless dispositions. Major Depressive Episodes involve five or more of the following classic symptoms nearly every day for at least two weeks:

—  Pervasive depressed mood

—  Diminished pleasure in usual activities

—  Significant change in appetite or weight

—  Fatigue or loss of energy

—  Diminished ability to think clearly, evaluate, or concentrate

—  Slower or more agitated movements

—  Too little or too much sleep

—  Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt

—  suicidal thoughts/attempts

•     Manic persons display unfounded, euphoric dispositions coupled with various acts of abnormally poor judgment. Manic Episodes occur when three or more of the following classic symptoms, not normal for the person, last for at least one week:

—  Inflated ego

—  Racing thoughts

—  Easily distracted

—  Excessive talk

—  Sudden distraction

—  Decreased need for sleep

—  Increased obsession on a goal

—  Excessive involvement in pleasures that risk negative consequences

•     Bipolar persons display occurrences of both Manic and Depressive Episodes.

Characteristics of King Saul

The extreme emotional and behavioral swings of King Saul are similar to many symptoms of those with a Bipolar Disorder. At times, Saul appeared to have alternating episodes of mania and depression.

His is a tragic tale of a man with immense power and potential, but without wisdom and self-control. At his best, Saul was confident, commanding, and charismatic. At his worst, Saul was vain, vile, and vindictive. He earned the respect of the entire nation of Israel for his triumph over three enemy nations. But he also earned the rejection of God as His appointed king because of his failure to obey the Lord. The prophet Samuel spoke this sobering truth to Saul,

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

(1 Samuel 15:22–23)

Characteristics   of Mania  King Saul’s   Manic Behavior 
•     Irritability  Disobeyed God   because of impatience 
Being   irritated that the prophet Samuel had not arrived to offer the designated   sacrifice before battle, Saul became impatient and offered the sacrifice   himself. After Samuel arrived, Saul voiced his excuse, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come   at the set time … I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against   me’.… So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering”(1 Samuel   13:11–12). Saul’s decision disobeyed the clear command of God. 
•     Poor   judgment  Forbade his   army to eat in battle 
Saul’s   army was in distress because Saul had bound his troops to “an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be any man who   eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!’   So none of the troops tasted food”(1 Samuel 14:24). And the men became   weak. 
•     Excessive   pleasures  Kept excessive   battle spoils 
God   told Saul to completely destroy the enemy as well as their possessions;   however, Saul kept the forbidden battle spoils: “The best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and   lambs—everything that was good.… Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: ‘I am grieved that I have made Saul   king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my   instructions’ ”(1 Samuel 15:7–11). 
•     Inflated   self-esteem  Erected a   statue of himself 
Although   he went early to meet with Saul, Samuel was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own   honor”(1 Samuel 15:12), clearly an act of grandiosity. 
•     Easily   distracted  Became   distracted by Israeli women’s song 
When   his men were returning from battle, rather than focusing on the victory, Saul   was easily distracted by what the women were singing. Although the refrain   was meant to honor the troops, “Saul   was very angry; this refrain galled him. ‘They have credited David with tens   of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get   but the kingdom?’ ” Saul’s frequent irritability was obvious, as “from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye   on David”(1 Samuel 18:8–9). 
•     Excessive   focus on a goal  Became   obsessed with the goal to kill David 
When   David first began serving the king, “Saul   liked him [David] very much.” However, “When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his   daughter Michal loved David, Saul … remained his enemy the rest of his days.”   Jonathan appealed to his father, “He   [David] … has benefited you greatly.” Saul took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.” Yet   later, “Saul sent men to David’s house   … to kill him.”Saul made many more attempts to take David’s life (1   Samuel 16:21; 18:28–29; 19:4, 6, 11). 
•     Racing   thoughts  Entertained   thoughts to kill the son he loved 
To   determine whether his father was planning to kill David, Jonathan excused   David from the king’s presence, which made Saul furious. He demanded, “Bring him [David] to me, for he must   die!” Jonathan asked, “ ‘What   has he done?’ … But Saul hurled his spear at him [Jonathan, the son he loved]   to kill him”(1 Samuel 20:31–33). 
•     Unfounded,   euphoric mood  Presumed he   had the Lord’s favor 
In   the midst of Saul’s elevated mood, he said, “ ‘God has handed him [David] over to me’.… Saul called up all   his forces for battle … to besiege David and his men”(1 Samuel 23:7–8).   But Saul’s presumption was dead wrong. 
Characteristics   of Depression  King Saul’s   Depressed Behaviors 
•     Discouragement,   dismay, hopelessness  Lost hope in   the face of fear 
Although   God had delivered Saul in many battles, when his army was challenged by the   Philistine giant Goliath, “Saul and all   the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” Clearly God had anointed   Saul as king, yet he continued to battle debilitating fear and hopelessness.   Later, when Saul was again challenged by the Philistines, “He was afraid; terror filled his heart”  (1 Samuel 17:11; 28:5). 
•     Diminished   pleasure in usual activities  No longer   enjoyed David’s harp 
Often   David soothed Saul’s troubled spirit by playing the harp. Later, “while David was playing the harp, Saul   tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul   drove the spear into the wall”(1 Samuel 16:23; 19:9–10). 
•     Increased   irritability  Flew into   angry outbursts 
“He [Saul] was   prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually   did.”   With no provocation whatsoever, “Saul   had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, ‘I’ll pin David   to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice”(1 Samuel 18:10–11). 
•     Unrealistic   negative evaluations  Accused his   men of treason 
In   his attempt to find and kill David, Saul made unjust accusations toward his   son and innocent countrymen, “Will the   son of Jesse [David] give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all   of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you   have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant   with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my   son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today”(1   Samuel 22:7–8). 
•     Exaggerated   frustration  Put his   confronter to death 
When   Saul falsely accused a priest who innocently helped David, the priest sought   to reason with Saul, “Who of all your   servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your   bodyguard and highly respected in your household?” But in denial, Saul   said to the priest, “You will surely   die … you and your father’s whole family”(1 Samuel 22:14, 16). 
•     Sad,   discouraged, pessimistic  Bemoaned his   fate and feared David 
Saul   learned that David had spared his life. With periodic, overwhelming sadness,   Saul expressed his dread of the future, saying, “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel   will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my   descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family”(1 Samuel   24:20–21). 
•     Loss   of appetite  Refused to eat 
Saul   was in such a depressed state that “He   refused and said, ‘I will not eat’ ”(1 Samuel 28:23). 
•     Suicidal   thoughts or attempts  Took his own   life 
Upon   receiving a critical wound in battle and being unable to persuade his   armor-bearer to kill him, “Saul took   his own sword and fell on it”(1 Samuel 31:4). 

“Does taking medicine for depression show a lack of faith in God?”

No. Various physical conditions can contribute to depression. For example, in bipolar and postpartum depression, a biochemical imbalance exists that can basically be treated successfully with medication. Unfortunately, many Christians fear being labeled unspiritual if they seek medical help for their depression, yet by doing nothing, they can suffer needlessly.

Sometimes medication is needed for a period of time to “level out” mountainous swings so that those in the throes of depression can see truth and walk on level ground. Ezekiel 47:12 explains that God made “leaves for healing.” Therefore, medicine is biblical. However, medicine should be used, not to numb the pain or to escape it, but to help a person process the pain. Additionally, medication should be the last avenue—tried only after all other steps have been taken—and always in conjunction with counseling.

C. What Are Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Typically, every mother of a newborn baby expects to feel joy and excitement over the new birth. But when she doesn’t, she initially feels immense guilt and confusion. Soon she can develop many unwanted symptoms.

•     The “Baby Blues”—From three to five days after birth up to two weeks, approximately 70 % of new mothers experience the following symptoms:

—  Sudden mood changes

—  Frequent unexplained crying

—  A sense of loss

—  Guilt over not bonding with her baby

—  Irritability, anger

—  Changes in sleeping and eating

—  Lack of concentration

—  Lethargy

•     Postpartum Depression—Experienced by up to 20 % of birth mothers, Postpartum Depression is distinguished from the “baby blues” both by its long duration and the debilitating indifference of the mother toward herself and her children.

—  Excessive concern for the baby because she senses something is wrong with her own feelings about being a mother

—  A lack of interest in her baby, a feeling of being trapped

—  Emotional numbness, sadness, fatigue

—  Withdrawal from family and friends

—  Little or no feeling of love for the baby or for the rest of her family

—  Change in appetite

—  Significant weight loss or gain

—  Anxiety or panic attacks

•     Postpartum Psychosis—A life-threatening depression affecting one or two of every 1,000 birth mothers.

—  Having strange thoughts/making strange statements

—  Feeling agitated or angry toward her baby and family

—  Overly critical of her ability to be a good mother

—  Thoughts of harming herself or the baby

—  Paranoia, confusion, disorientation

—  Voices and/or visions of satan/demons attacking her ability to be a good mother

—  Delusions that the baby is demon possessed

—  Hallucinations commanding her to kill the baby (infanticide)

The mother struggling with postpartum psychosis could feel that these words are hers …

“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.”

(Psalm 116:3)

III.   Causes of Depression

Andrea Yates became spiritually unbalanced as a result of her having a greater focus on Satan and her sin than on God and His grace. Ultimately, she heard voices claiming that she was evil … Satan was inside her … and the only way to be rid of him was for her to be executed! A Time magazine writer concluded, “She had to kill the children, as Satan demanded, in order to get the death penalty.” Andrea said about her children, “They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them they could never be saved.… They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell.” Ultimately, after all five deaths, she hoped that her children would be in heaven. No Scripture could represent her skewed thinking more accurately than this Proverb.…

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

(Proverbs 14:12)

A. What Are Physical Contributors to Depression?

Andrea Yates had been suicidal, hospitalized, and recently taken off the very medications that had been helpful to her. Because of the wide hormonal changes in her body after delivery, that deficit contributed to her plunging head first into postpartum psychosis (a break with reality).

Tragically, many mothers with postpartum psychosis are consumed with thoughts of death to their babies and destruction of themselves. They could have written these words …

“The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.”

(Psalm 18:4–5)

Six Physical Contributors to Depression

#1  Hormonal imbalance

“Can depression be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain?” This frequently asked question is answered with an unquestionable yes! For example, hormonal changes during puberty, postpartum (after childbirth), and perimenopause (around menopause) can lead to depression.

#2  Medications and drugs

Certain legal and illegal drugs can cause depression, such as analgesics, antidepressants, steroids, contraceptives, and cardiac medications.

#3  Chronic illnesses

Medical problems such as a thyroid deficiency and even a bout with the flu can cause chemical imbalances in the brain, which, in turn, can cause depression.

#4  Melancholy temperament

Orderly, gifted, and creative, the person with a melancholy temperament can, at the same time, be moody, overly sensitive, and self-deprecating. Because those with this temperament are analytical, critical, and hard to please, they can take everything too seriously or too personally, quickly becoming depressed over circumstances or the slightest imperfection in themselves or others.

#5  Improper food, rest, exercise

A deficiency in the physical basics of life can contribute to a chronic sense of fatigue, lack of energy, and social withdrawal.

#6  Genetic vulnerability

Based on statistical data, those with depressed family members are two times more vulnerable to depression than those with no family history of depression. Likewise, “50% of those with bipolar have at least one parent with the disorder.”28

If you are concerned about depression, then learn what you can about your family history and your treatment options. Learning as much as possible about your health issues is essential.

“A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.”

(Proverbs 14:15)

“Why do twice as many women have depression as men?”

Women produce only one-half the amount of serotonin as men; however, estrogen in women multiplies the amount of serotonin to equal the level in men. The challenge occurs at three specific times—prior to a woman’s menstrual cycle, after childbirth, and around menopause—when estrogen levels drop, sometimes severely. If a woman’s estrogen level is not sufficient to multiply serotonin, she experiences a depletion of serotonin, which can cause depression. This is one reason why many women receive Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) and why other women consult their physicians in order to feel “whole” again. Jesus said,

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12)

B. What Role Does Medication Play in Alleviating Depression?

Every person on earth has billions of brain cells. These neurons (or nerve cells) both send and receive “chemical messengers” called neurotransmitters, and without them we could neither think nor feel! These neurotransmitters are powerful chemicals that have a major impact on our happiness, sadness, worry, anger, logic, sleep, memory, anxiety, thinking, and even facial expression. In depression, many times a deficiency of vital neurotransmitters exists—for example, the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, or GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are low.

“The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.”

(Psalm 25:17)

How Do Antidepressants Work to Relieve Depression?

•     When an electrical impulse reaches the part of a neuron where neurotransmitters are stored (called the pre-receptor site), these chemicals are released from the nerve cell and enter the gap between neurons (called the synapse). These neurotransmitters then travel across the synapse and attach to a post-receptor site in another neuron.

•     Antidepressants are nonaddicting drugs that block the reuptake (returning to the same neutron from which it left) and lessening (degradation) of the depression-related neurotransmitters between synapses. Thus they increase the amount of neurotransmitters and ultimately alter other chemicals within the nerve cell and nervous system. The result is a cascade of chemical reactions in the brain, which, in turn, lifts the depressed mood and alters behavior.

Synapse

“Does any objective, medical proof exist to substantiate the need for medication in some cases of depression?”

Yes. With the aid of PET scans (Positron Emission Tomography), physicians can see the difference between the function of a normal brain and a depressed brain. Because PET scans map how the brain functions, they also display changes in the brain after antidepressant medication has been taken. Antidepressant medication helps in producing normal chemical absorption, thus increasing brain functioning and decreasing depression. How wonderful that the God of creation made the brain with the capacity to respond to appropriate medication in order to alleviate debilitating depression.

The Bible says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)

C. What Are Emotional Contributors of Depression?

Some people say, “Depression is anger turned inward.” That statement is not always true, but it is true when anger is repressed. Repression occurs when unacceptable desires and emotions are blocked from a person’s awareness and left to operate in the unconscious mind. This stuffed anger or swallowed anger causes masked depression and keeps underlying bitterness from being exposed. Bitterness is a major cause of depression because we feel totally alone in our bitterness.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”

(Proverbs 14:10)

•     Do you have repressed anger over …?

—  Loss of a loved one

—  Loss of self-esteem

—  Loss of control

—  Loss of possessions

—  Loss of expectations

—  Loss of respect for others

—  Loss of health or abilities

—  Loss of personal goals

If so, the Bible says,

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

(Ephesians 4:31)

•     Do you have suppressed fear of …?

—  Losing a job

—  Dying

—  Empty nest

—  Failure

—  Abandonment

—  Growing old

—  Being alone

—  Rejection

If so, the Bible says,

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

(Isaiah 41:10)

•     Do you have internalized stress over …?

—  Work difficulties

—  Relocation

—  Marital problems

—  Workload

—  Financial obligations

—  Family responsibilities

—  Troubled child

—  Alcoholic spouse

If so, the Bible says,

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

(1 Peter 5:7)

Even our deep disappointments must be resolved or else our bitterness will cause trouble, and unresolved anger and bitterness will hurt those close to us.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

(Hebrews 12:15)

D. What Are Spiritual Sources of Depression?

Just as there are physical, emotional, and mental reasons for depression, there are also spiritual reasons for a despairing heart. Disobedience and guilt provide enough fertile seed to turn any white cloud into a dark storm. You can’t harbor the guilt of displeasing God and still experience the full joy of His salvation, nor can you withstand the schemes and attacks of the enemy against your mind without knowing and appropriating the Word of Life into your life. Disobedience and guilt are inseparable. And unless you apply the remedy of confession and repentance (a change of mind and a change of direction), you may find depression sweeping over your soul and spirit, and, like the disobedient Israelites …

“You will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.”

(Deuteronomy 28:65)

What If You’ve Never Confessed and Repented?

When you ask God to forgive your sins through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He becomes your forever Savior. You can’t lose your relationship with Him, no matter what you do, think, or feel. God secures your salvation, and no one (not even you) can destroy what He protects. At times, you will still be disobedient, and you will need to confess and repent. This is not a renewing of your salvation, but a maintaining of your relationship with the Lord. On the other hand, if you’ve never confessed your sins and asked Jesus to become your Savior, you can’t know that you will spend eternity in heaven … and you can’t know true joy in this life.

True joy, joy from God, is greater than a life without struggle. It’s a peace that remains when life falls apart. It’s an assurance deep within you, enabling you to find satisfaction in Him, to trust in His sovereignty through the most harrowing storm. This is possible because God, and no one and nothing else, becomes your greatest delight. And right now, He wants to share this joy with you.

How to Have Joy That Lasts Forever

A relationship with Jesus is the first step on the long path to overcoming depression. When you trust in Him, He gives you His strength to endure whatever comes your way. With Him, you will never again face a dark day alone. Today, you can confess your heart to God … and experience your first taste of true, unending joy.

#1  God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.

—  What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To condemn you? No … to express His love for you by saving you!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)

—  What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin? No … to forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life!

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

#2  Your Problem … is Sin.

—  What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

—  What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual death, spiritual separation from God.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

#3  God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.

—  Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

—  What is the solution to being separated from God? Belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)

#4  Your Part … is Surrender.

—  Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of gaining God’s approval.

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)

—  Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)

The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you. Then the Spirit of Christ gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:

Prayer of Salvation“God,   I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to   go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Jesus,   thank you for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my   life to be my Lord and my Savior. Through Your power, begin healing my heart.   Teach me to find my joy in You alone. Make me the person You created me to   be. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”

 

What Can You Expect Now?

If you sincerely prayed this prayer, you can know this truth that David wrote in the Psalms!

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

(Psalm 94:18–19)

Elijah’s Descent into Depression

One or more basic needs are threatened.

• Love • Significance • Secuity

Elijah’s security was threatened.

“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there.”

(1 Kings 19:3)

• Self-pity • Self-condemnation • Fear • Hopelessness

Elijah thought to himself, I have had enough, and asked God to take his life.

“He himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ ”

(1 Kings 19:4)

• Buried resentment over circumstances

Elijah was frustrated that all his efforts seemed in vain.

“He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

(1 Kings 19:10)

Adaptation of portions of this graphic used by permission from Larry Crabb, New Way Ministries.

E. Root Cause of Staying Stuck in Depression

Wrong Belief:

“I am depressed over the deep disappointments in my life. They have robbed me of all joy. There’s no hope for my future, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Right Belief:

I admit I am depressed over the circumstances in my life, but Christ lives in me, and He is my hope. I will rely on Him to renew my mind with His truth and renew my heart with His hope.

“In our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.… On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:9–10)

IV.  Steps To Solution

Were the family and friends of Andrea Yates aware of the seriousness of her depression? Many people questioned, “Did Andrea’s husband do enough to ensure his wife’s safety and the safety of their children?” The court trial revealed that Andrea had been hospitalized for severe depression several times, and twice she was released prematurely. Rusty (her husband) appealed to her last doctor, stating that Andrea needed the medication that had proved successful in the past—but his plea was to no avail. At home, a schedule was arranged where Rusty left for work every morning at 9:00. Then his mother came at 10:00 to help Andrea with the children, their homeschooling, and the housework. Andrea was left alone at home with the children for only one hour of each day. But during that one hour on June 20, 2001, Andrea carried out the drowning of each child.

How could this tragedy have been avoided? What steps could loved ones have taken to help Andrea move from the darkness of despair into the light of hope? If they had been more keenly aware of the danger, they could have learned much more about her malady and been discerning about what to do.

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”

(Proverbs 1:5)

A. Key Verse to Memorize

When you are walking through the valley of the shadow of depression, recall God’s heart and repeat this truth to yourself each day.…

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

(Psalm 27:13)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

While we can’t choose what we inherit genetically, we can choose what we dwell on cognitively. In the medical world, brain scans of those suffering with depression often show marked improvement when words of hope, affirmation, and purpose are continually reinforced. In this respect, life is a series of choices. You can choose today to put the Word of God into action.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–24

•     “Be joyful always.”

—  Choose to write down and continue to focus on the positives in your life.   v. 16

•     “Pray continually.”

—  Choose to talk to God about everything.       v. 17

•     “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

—  Choose to thank God for what you are learning right now.   v. 18

•     “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”

—  Choose to change when God’s Spirit convicts you to change.          v. 19

•     “Do not treat prophecies with contempt.”

—  Choose to take God’s Word seriously.           v. 20

•     “Test everything.”

—  Choose to ask, “Is this right in God’s sight?”            v. 21

•     “Hold on to the good.”

—  Choose to do right, even when you are tempted to do wrong.          v. 21

•     “Avoid every kind of evil.”

—  Choose to turn immediately from temptation.            v. 22

•     “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.”

—  Choose to see how God has “set you apart” (sanctified you) to be what He intended you to be.    v. 23

•     “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless.”

—  Choose to commit your whole being to doing what God created you to do.            v. 23

•     “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

—  Choose to rely on God’s power to do what you are called to do.      v. 24

C. Take Off the Masks

As we go through painful events in our lives, we can “sweep them under the rug” and ignore them. However, in doing so, we fail to grieve over our hurts and losses. By “masking” our depression, we try to protect our hearts and hide who we really are and what we don’t want to face. But this kind of masquerade blocks our maturity and our ability to have intimacy with God and others. Don’t ever fear admitting the truth about your life directly to God. Allow Him to help you see the reality of your pain. He will reveal how He has been working through your pain to give you wisdom about life and true depths of understanding. As David said to God,

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

(Psalm 51:6)

My Time Line

•     Draw a long, horizontal line representing your life.

•     Divide the time line into three sections—childhood, youth, adult.

•     Denote the major changes in your life. Draw short lines extending from the time line and write short phrases by each line that describe all significant events, such as:

•     Determine whether there are any sad experiences or significant losses and hurts that you have not faced, such as:

—  Abandonment

—  Divorce of parents

—  Rejection

—  Failures

—  False accusations

—  Unjust criticism

—  Thwarted goals

—  Unrealized dreams

•     Discover the source of your masked pain through earnest prayer.

Prayer for Discovery“Oh,   Father, I come to you as your child for help. Calm my heart. Enable me to see   what I need to see. Make me aware of my need for healing, and show me your   truth. Bring to my mind any hidden hurt in my heart and the exact   circumstances that caused it. In your holy name I pray. Amen.”

 

•     Define the emotional impact each event had on you with specific statements, such as:

—  “This made me feel like.…”

—  “I am grieving over.…”

—  “I was so embarrassed when.…”

—  “I felt abandoned by.…”

—  “I was really hurt when.…”

—  “I’ve been determined to never let (_______) happen again.”

•     Decide now to allow deep, genuine grieving over your losses.

“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14)

•     Defuse the power that the event has over your emotions by sharing it with a trusted person and with God.

“There is a time for everything … a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)

•     Deepen your dependence on the Lord to set you emotionally free.

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” (Psalm 118:5)

Prayer for Healing 
“Dear   Lord Jesus, Help me to allow you to minister to my wounded heart. I know that   you understand my pain. And I know you have the power to make me whole. Thank   you for loving me. Thank you that I can have confidence that you will set me   free. In your holy name I pary. Amen.” 

D. Depression and the Whole Person

Every person on earth has a tangible body, an intangible soul, and an intangible spirit, which makes us all “trichotomous” beings. As a tri-part (three-part) person, the following is true:

•     Your body is your physical makeup (your flesh, bones, and blood).

•     Your soul is your personality (your mind, will, and emotions).

•     Your spirit is your innermost part that needs salvation, craves gratification of your deepest needs (for love, significance, and security), and, in the believer, houses the Holy Spirit.

Medical doctors have historically stated that how you respond to life’s disappointments has a direct impact on your body. Likewise, depression can have a profound effect on both your soul and spirit. God encourages us to seek Him for healing and health in all three areas of life … body, soul, and spirit.

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Self-Directed   Soul  Spirit-Directed   Soul 
   

See also W. Ian Thomas, The Mystery of Godliness (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964), 54–69.

The Body

If you are suffering with prolonged depression …

•     First, obtain a thorough medical checkup. (Tell the doctor you feel unusually depressed. Be specific.)

•     Ask the doctor to evaluate all medications you are taking and eliminate what is unnecessary. (Ask your doctor if any of your medications could contribute to depression.)

•     Develop regular sleeping habits—sleep is therapeutic. (Only during deep sleep does the brain produce serotonin, which alleviates depression. Set a regular time to go to sleep and to rise.)

•     Maintain a regular schedule of activity. (Be actively involved in outside functions, such as church and ministry, which impact brain function. Accept invitations to be with others—even if you don’t feel like it.)

•     Eliminate stress—avoid being overly fatigued. (Set aside some quiet time of relaxation.)

•     Eat balanced, nutritious meals regularly. (Avoid caffeine, alcohol, salt, and junk food. Stay away from sugar to avoid “the sugar blues.”)

•     Get regular exercise—walk, jog, or swim at least four days a week. (Twenty minutes of brisk walking releases endorphins—a natural mood elevator.)

•     Spend time in the sun enjoying God’s beautiful creation. (Research reveals that 30 minutes of sunshine can help alleviate depression. Too little sun produces melatonin, which can cause lethargy.)

This biblical prayer should encourage each of us to care for and take responsibility for our physical health.

“I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

(3 John 2)

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

“Recently I moved to a town that has gloomy weather, and now I’m feeling gloomy. Everything else in my life is positive. What do I do? It’s as if the fog outside my window has invaded my mind and muddled my thinking.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression associated with deprivation of sunlight. SAD, also called the “winter blues,” typically begins in the fall with shorter days and less sunlight and subsides in the spring as the days get longer. Too little sunlight entering the eye produces in the brain a hormone called melatonin, which is released with the onset of darkness. Too much melatonin creates a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus region of the brain. In animals, melatonin controls hibernation and causes a decrease in activity. In humans, SAD causes symptoms such as excessive sleep, lethargy, overeating, and depression.

The best treatment for SAD is light—light is therapeutic.

•     First, avail yourself of any and every opportunity to get into the natural sunlight (outdoor reading or exercise, morning or afternoon walks).

•     Second, you could purchase a specially designed light box that produces artificial light and then expose your eyes to the light for 30 minutes to two hours daily.

•     Take vacations in places where you can soak in the sun.

“Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7)

The Soul

When you have lost a significant relationship, whether by rejection, divorce, or death, it is normal for your heart to be depressed. However, after a period of time, normal healing should have occurred. If your heart has not “resumed its natural shape,” your heart could be in a state of depression. Since the entire soul (mind, will, and emotions) is affected by depression, recovery involves taking steps to treat depression in all three areas of the soul. Each part that has been touched by depression needs to be reached with healing.

#1  The Mind

What your mind dwells on can be a key ingredient to overcoming chronic depression. Research verifies that what a person chooses to think about literally changes the chemistry of the brain! You need to fill your thinking with God’s thinking—fill your mind with God’s perspective and promises. Romans 12:2 says that you are “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

•     Write several Scriptures on index cards and read them several times a day.

•     Make a list—“My Thanksgiving List”—of seven good aspects in your life and spend time every day thanking God for those specifically.

—  During the next week, list seven more specifics for which you can thank God.

—  Keep adding to the list each week.

By looking at God’s Word, you can discover God’s purpose for allowing the painful losses in your life. Since God is your Redeemer, He has a purpose for allowing everything … even the storms in your life.

“He sent forth his word and healed them.”

(Psalm 107:20)

Bring Light into the Darkness

In order to combat depression, first write out your dark thoughts. Then, as your rebuttal, write out what God says. Ask the Lord and a friend for help with wording. And then, when dark thoughts come, use cognitive therapy on yourself, which simply means replacing your dark thoughts of despair with the light of truth.

“You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”

(2 Samuel 22:29)

•     Darkness: “I cannot escape this darkness.”

Light: “The Lord will bring light into my darkness.”

“My God turns my darkness into light.” (Psalm 18:28)

•     Darkness: “I feel like I have no refuge … no safe haven.”

Light: “The Lord will be my refuge.”

“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Psalm 16:1)

•     Darkness: “I feel like I’m in much too much trouble.”

Light: “The Lord is my help in trouble.”

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

•     Darkness: “I can’t help feeling so restless.”

Light: “My God gives my soul rest.”

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” (Psalm 62:1)

•     Darkness: “I can’t see the path I should take.”

Light: “The Lord will direct my path.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

•     Darkness: “My burden is too heavy to bear.”

Light: “The Lord is my burden bearer.”

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)

•     Darkness: “I’m afraid to be around people.”

Light: “The Lord will give me strength to be around people.”

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

•     Darkness: “My confidence is completely shaken.”

Light: “The Lord will keep my life from being shaken.”

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

#2  The Will

People who have prolonged depression have a paralysis of the will and feel that life has stripped them of their choices. They feel stranded in the middle of the storm with no real options. But that is far from the truth. While it is true that life is sprinkled with unavoidable discouragement, you can avoid letting your mind become drenched with discouragement. That is your choice; it’s an act of the will.

After an initial downpour, you can choose to stay in bed, procrastinate, and rely on yourself for relief, or you can choose to get underneath God’s umbrella of protection and rely on Him. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). You can choose to trust the Lord with your life; He is worthy of your trust.

Even if you don’t feel like it …

•     Listen to uplifting and inspirational music.

•     Keep your living environment bright and cheerful.

•     Maintain a clean, uncluttered environment.

•     Clear your home of objects associated with activities related to the demonic or the occult.

•     Resist long periods of time on the telephone, which keep you from accomplishing what is needed.

•     Avoid spending too much time watching television.

•     Write thank you and encouragement notes to others.

•     Set small, attainable goals every day.

•     Look for something you can do for someone each day, and you will experience God’s truth that, indeed, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.”

(Proverbs 3:21–22)

Biblical Example:

When King Saul needed soothing for his troubled soul, David played music on the lyre.

“Whenever the [evil] spirit … came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.”

(1 Samuel 16:23)

#3  The Emotions

Often people who are depressed have difficulty expressing their feelings in a healthy way. A common cause of depression is buried feelings as a result of loss or past hurts. Ignored or denied feelings won’t go away. They are buried alive, deep inside your soul, where they fester and create an infection that produces poison in your body. That is why it is vital to face your feelings. Bring your heartache and hurts, your anxiety and anger, your fear and frustration to Jesus. Pour out your heart to Him and receive His comfort. He alone understands the depth of your pain. The Bible assures us that …

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

(Hebrews 4:15–16)

“What Is Anniversary Depression?”

Anniversary depression is a yearly, recurring depression related to the anniversary date of a traumatic event. Triggered by painful memories, this involuntary, emotional reaction lasts only for a limited period of time.

•     Examples:

—  Many women dive into a depression each year around the anniversary of the abortion of their child or the anniversary of placing their child into another home for adoption.

—  Widowed men and women can have anniversary depression around the date of their mate’s death.

The Bible speaks of being mired in the pain from the past, but also offers the hope of how to get unstuck! We have the choice to change our focus.

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:19–23)

Ways to Deal with Anniversary Depression

•     Understand that your depression is rooted in a real loss from your past and that what you are experiencing is not uncommon.

•     Acknowledge your emotions. Write out all painful memories and process them with a helpful person you can trust.

•     Release your pain to the Lord and receive His comfort and healing.

“Lord, You know the pain I’ve felt over (List each hurt, each failure, and each person associated with the pain—be specific.). I now release all this pain into Your hands. Set me free in my soul and spirit. Thank You for wanting to heal me and make me whole. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.”

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

(Psalm 34:18)

•     Anticipate any upcoming anniversary and plan ahead for ways to counter possible depression. For instance, plan a trip with someone or arrange a social event so you will not be alone and so your mind will be focused on something other than the past event.

•     Turn your anniversary date into an occasion that will produce new, positive memories by serving others in a meaningful way.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

(Acts 20:35)

The Spirit

The security and strength of every Christian is the day-by-day indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:6 reveals that God plans for you to be an overcomer.… “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Since He is literally God living within you, you are to live dependently on Him for everything.

Even in the depths of your despair and the darkness of your depression, God is with you, for His Spirit is within you. When you cry in the night, He sees every teardrop and holds your soul as a mother holds her crying infant to her heart. Though you do not see Him with your physical eyes, nor feel Him with your physical touch, you can see Him with your spiritual eyes and you can experience His joy and His “peace that passes all understanding.” He promises to give you hope for your heart. To overcome depression, look inward, not to yourself, but to Him, who is the God of hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(Romans 15:13)

E. Learn to Conquer Depression

When darkness falls into our lives, we can too easily become consumed with the situation that causes our darkness. At those times, we have difficulty seeing all that God wants for us to see. During those days when we are shrouded with darkness, we must not trust in our own perspective. Instead we need to see life from God’s perspective. And the only way to have that view is to confront our losses, offer our hearts to God, and allow Him to shed His light on our lives.

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”

(Isaiah 50:10)

Confront any loss in your life, allowing yourself to grieve and be healed.

The Bible says,

“[There is] a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Offer your heart to God for cleansing and confess your sins.

The Bible says,

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8–9)

Nurture thoughts that focus on God’s great love for you.

The Lord says,

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Quit negative thinking and negative self-talk.

The Bible says,

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Understand God’s eternal purpose for allowing personal loss and heartache.

The Bible says,

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Exchange your hurt and anger for thanksgiving. (Choose to give thanks, even when you don’t feel thankful.)

The Bible says,

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Remember that God is sovereign over your life, and He promises hope for your future.

The Bible says,

“For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)

“Is forgiveness always right? I was severely hurt by someone I completely trusted. Now I find myself staying in a ‘bad mood’ because of how much he hurt me. I can’t just ‘let him off the hook!’ ”

Since our thinking impacts our feelings, if you are harboring unforgiveness in your heart toward someone, you may be experiencing symptoms of depression as a result of failing to extend forgiveness and not letting go of negative thoughts and feelings. Forgiving someone who has grievously wronged you is not easy, but it is right and it is “doable.” It is the doorway that God has made through which you must walk in order to gain emotional and spiritual freedom. The Bible says,

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Imagine a hook attached to your collarbone. Now, imagine all the pain you are harboring attached to that hook. Imagine your offender being attached to that hook as well. Ask yourself, Do I really want to carry this person and all this pain with me for the rest of my life?

The Lord wants you to take all the pain, along with the person, and release them into His hands. He wants you to take them off your emotional hook and place them onto His hook. The Lord knows how to deal with people who wrong you. He says,

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” (Romans 12:19)

Prayer to Forgive Your Offender“Lord   Jesus, thank you for caring about how much my heart has been hurt. You know   the pain I have felt because of (list every offense). Right now I release all   that pain into your hands. Thank you, Lord, for dying on the cross for me and   extending your forgiveness to me. As an act of my will, I choose to forgive   (name). Right now, I take him off my emotional hook, and I place him on your   hook. I refuse all thoughts of revenge. I trust that in your time and in your   way you will deal with him as you see fit. And Lord, thank you for giving me   your power to forgive so that I can be set free. In your precious name I   pray. Amen.”

 

F.  Discover God’s Purpose for Permitted Depression

God has a purpose for everything that touches your life. Even the times of painful pruning are useful in the hands of God. Depression can heighten your awareness of God and increase your dependency on God. It can open your eyes to His unique design for you before, during, and after your bouts with despondency. Remember, just as storms replenish dry and parched ground and give birth to flowers and new life in the spring, so the storms in your life can revitalize your relationship with God and give birth to greater fruit of the Spirit in your life.

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.… This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

(John 15:2, 8)

•     Permitted by God to warn you that something is wrong

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” (Psalm 119:67)

•     Permitted by God to slow you down and cause you to reflect inwardly

“We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

•     Permitted by God to reveal your weakness

“He [the Lord] said … ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

•     Permitted by God to bring you to Himself

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

•     Permitted by God to develop your trust in Him

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)

•     Permitted by God to be a healing process for damaged emotions

“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14)

•     Permitted by God to develop perseverance and maturity

“Consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4)

•     Permitted by God to develop worth and value in your life

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)

•     Permitted by God to cause you to rely on His resources

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)

•     Permitted by God to increase your compassion and understanding for others

“The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort … comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)

G. Do’s and Don’ts for Family and Friends

Be aware of the power of your words. If you express kindness in what you say, you can be God’s instrument of hope to help change the disposition of one who is depressed.

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

(Proverbs 12:25)

     •       Don’t   say “You   shouldn’t feel that way.” 
      Say “I   care about what you are feeling.”—Ask,   “Would you like to share your feelings with me?”

—Say,   “If ever you want to talk, I’m here for you.”

“The purposes   of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”   (Proverbs 20:5)

 

     •       Don’t   say “You   must eat! Think of all the starving children in Africa.” 
      Say “Even   if we’re not hungry, we both need to eat. A car needs gas for energy—we both   need food for energy.”—Bring   nutritious food to their home.

—Take   them out to eat or perhaps on a picnic.

—Encourage   healthy eating habits. (No junk food, no sugar—sugar gives a temporary high,   then the blood sugar drops, creating the “sugar blues.”) The Bible says we   need to have …

“Food for the   stomach.” (1 Corinthians 6:13)

 

     •       Don’t   say “You   need to quit taking that medicine.” 
      Say “Not   all medicines work the same for everyone. I’ll go with you to get a thorough   medical evaluation so that the doctor can make sure the medicine is working   for you.”—Talk   specifically to a competent doctor who specializes in depression.

—Don’t   be afraid to get a second opinion

“Plans fail   for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

 

     •       Don’t   say “You   just need to pray more.” 
      Say “I’m   praying for you, and I’m going to keep praying.”—Pray   with them, and tell them you are   praying for them.

—Ask   specifically, “How can I pray for you today?”

“Far be it   from me that I should sin against the Lord   by failing to pray for you.” (1 Samuel 12:23)

 

     •       Don’t   say “You   just need to read the Bible more!” 
      Say “There   are several passages in the Bible that have given me much hope, and I’ve   written them out for you. May I share them with you?”—Give   them hope-filled Scriptures to read three times a day: after awakening,   midday, and bedtime. (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 130:5)

—Help   them memorize Scripture. (Philippians 4:6–8; 4:13, 19)

“They cried to   the Lord in their trouble, and   he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he   rescued them from the grave.” (Psalm 107:19–20)

 

     •       Don’t   say “You   need to get involved in a church.” 
      Say “I’m   involved in a church where I’ve been learning how meaningful life can be. I   would love for you to come with me next Sunday, and afterward we can have   lunch together.”—Invite   them to come to church with you.

—Involve   them in a small group Bible study.

“Let us not   give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage   one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

 

     •       Don’t   say “Snap   out of it! Get over it!” 
      Say “I’m   going to stick with you, and we’ll get through this together.”—Admit,   “I don’t know everything I wish I knew, but I’m willing to help.”

—State,   “If you can’t hold on to God, hold on to me because I’m holding on to God.”

“There is a   friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

 

H. How You Can Help

When you have depressed loved ones in your life, you want to do something that will make a difference, but the question is what? Most important of all, do not avoid them. Find ways to show you care, such as, plan a fun activity with them, read to them, exercise with them (walk, jog, swim). Invite them to outside events or even to run errands with you. Because of their tendency to withdraw and isolate, help them get involved in activities—not just as a spectator.… Perhaps, help them find a hobby. Just realize, you may be their only lifeline of hope—and they need to stay “connected.” Do what you wish someone else would do for you if you were the one struggling with depression.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

(Luke 6:31)

•     Learn all you can about depression—read books, watch videos, attend seminars.

“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12)

•     If suicide is a concern, ask, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself/taking your life?”—they may get mad, but it’s better to have a mad friend than a dead friend.

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)

•     Take all threats of suicide and self-injury seriously—15 % of those who are depressed ultimately kill themselves.

“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters.” (Proverbs 18:4)

•     Be an accountability partner—“I’m with you in this, and I won’t abandon you.”

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

•     Initiate dialogue regularly—frequent phone calls, intentional contact.

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)

•     Listen and hear their pain—listening affirms their value.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

•     Talk about depression—talking helps remove the stigma of depression.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

•     Verbally encourage them—sincerely and often.

“Encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

•     Realize the power of touch—a hand on the shoulder and appropriate hugs and kisses.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (1 Peter 5:14)

•     Play inspirational praise music to lift their spirits—music is therapeutic.

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

•     Bring laughter into their lives—fun cards, videos, movies, and people.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)

•     Provide “nutritional therapy”—for example, vitamins B-6 and E, calcium, magnesium, and folic acid are helpful for combating depression. Ask your doctor.

“[God made] leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:12)

•     Help them set small, daily goals that require minimum effort—check on their progress regularly.

“The desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” (Proverbs 13:4)

•     Enlist help from other family and friends—be specific about your concerns.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

You may ask, “How could a good and loving God allow tragedy like that which came to the five young Yates children?” We may never understand it all, but we can know …

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”

(Lamentations 3:32–33)

I.  How to Find Hope When Hope Seems Elusive

When you are weary … when life isn’t worth living … when hope seems elusive, what do you need to know? You need to know your Burden-Bearer—you need to know Jesus. He wants to be the Shepherd of your soul. His compassionate comfort extends to all those who have lost all hope. He says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11:28)

When you are weary, how do you receive this rest within your soul? Allow these four truths to set you free.

Hope #1

God offers real solutions for your problems.

When you don’t know how to solve a problem, you can feel helpless because you have no direction. For example, if your wristwatch stops, you may feel helpless because you don’t know how to fix it. But a skilled watchmaker will. The One who created the universe with all its intricate parts—the One who created you with all your intricate parts—knows how to fix whatever is not working, even when you don’t. He will direct you in the way you should go.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

(Proverbs 3:5–6)

Hope #2

God loves you with an unconditional love.

God loves you with agape love. Agape is a Greek word that means God has “a commitment to seek your highest good no matter what you do or don’t do.” The Lord says,

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

(Jeremiah 31:3)

Hope #3

God offers the solution for your sins.

The Bible says sin separates us from God. But Jesus doesn’t want you to be separated from Him. He desires to have a meaningful relationship with you. Jesus, who is God, took on human form, came to earth, lived a sinless life, and chose to pay the penalty for your sins. When He was crucified on the cross, His blood was the purchase price to pay for the full forgiveness of your sins. Today, you can receive forgiveness when you humble your heart, confess your sins, and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Hope #4

God offers you permanent peace through a life-changing relationship with Jesus.

The word Lord means “master, ruler, owner.” Are you willing to entrust your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that He is trustworthy to always do whatever is best for you? Jesus demonstrated unconditional love toward you. He died on the cross, paying the penalty that you should have paid. That’s real love … sacrificial love!

You can trust and rely on Jesus to make sense of your life, to teach you truth, and to show you the way. Jesus said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

You can enter into a personal relationship with Christ right now by praying a prayer like this:

“God, I need peace in my life. I need You in my life. I admit that I have sinned. Please forgive me for my sins. Thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my personal sins. Please come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior. I give You control of my life. Make me the person You want me to be. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.”

A Positive Perspective on Depression

The famous English pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon (often referred to as the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century) openly reflected on his own depression, and with his very description, we gain much insight.

The times most favorable to fits of depression, so far as I have experienced, may be summed up in a brief catalogue. First among them I must mention the hour of a great success. When at last a long-cherished desire is fulfilled, when God has been glorified greatly by our means, and a great triumph achieved, then we are apt to faint.…

Before any great achievement, some measure of the same depression is very usual. Surveying the difficulties before us, our hearts sink within us.… This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry.…

In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labor, the same affliction may be looked for. The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body.…

This evil will also come upon us, we know not why, and then it is all the more difficult to drive it away. Causeless depression is not to be reasoned with.… If those who laugh at such melancholy did but feel the grief of it for one hour, their laughter would be sobered into compassion.…

If it be enquired why the Valley of the Shadow of Death must so often be traversed by the servants of King Jesus, the answer is not far to find. All this is promotive of the Lord’s mode of working, which is summed up in these words: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” … Heaven shall be all the fuller of bliss because we have been filled with anguish here below, and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.

When your heart is pressed down to the ground and living life makes you feel depressed, allow your depression to press you closer to the Lord.… Let Him lead you into the light.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

(2 Corinthians 4:8–9)

Selected Bibliography

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed., text revision. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

The Andrea Yates Story. Videocassette. n.p.: A & E Television Networks, 2003.

Carlson, Dwight L. Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994.

CNN.com. “Texas mother charged with killing her 5 children.” CNN.com, June 21 2001. http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/06/20/children. killed/index.html.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Fairchild, Roy W. “Sadness and Depression.” Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Edited by Rodney J. Hunter, et al., 1103–6. Nashville: Abingdon, 1990.

Greeson, Charlotte A., Mary Hollingsworth, and Michael Washburn. The Grief Adjustment Guide: A Pathway Through Pain. Faire & Hale Planner. Sisters, OR: Questar, 1990.

Grunlan, Stephen A., and Daniel H. Lambrides. Healing Relationships: A Christian’s Manual for Lay Counseling. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1984.

Hart, Archibald D. “The Psychopathology of Postpartum Disorders.” Christian Counseling Today 10, no. 4 (2002): 16–17.

Hart, Archibald D. Coping with Depression in the Ministry and Other Helping Professions. Dallas: Word, 1984.

Hart, Archibald D. Counseling the Depressed. Resources for Christian Counseling. Edited by Gary R. Collins. Vol. 5. Dallas: Word, 1987. Hart, Archibald D. Dark Clouds, Silver Linings. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family, 1993.

Hart, Archibald, and Catherine Hart Weber. Unveiling Depression in Women: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Depression. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 2002.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Jefferson, James W. “My Hippocampus Is Bigger than Yours!” Geriatric Times 1, no. 4 (2000), http://www.geriatrictimes.com/g001220.html.

Lyles, Michael R. “Psychiatric Aspects of Postpartum Mood Disorders.” Christian Counseling Today 10, no. 4 (2002): 18–20.

Lyles, Michael R. Women and Depression, Extraordinary Women, EW 301. Videocassette. Forest, VA: American Association of Christian Counselors, n.d.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

Minirth, Frank B., and Paul D. Meier. Happiness Is a Choice: The Symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

Minirth, Frank B. In Pursuit of Happiness. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 2004.

Oglesby, Christy. “Postpartum depression: More than ‘baby blues.’ ” CNN.com, June 27, 2001. http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/parenting/06/26/postpartum.depression/index.html.

Roche, Timothy. “Andrea Yates: More to the Story.” Time, March 18 2002. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,218445,00.html.

SADAssociation. “Symptoms.” SADA.org, 2005. http://www.sada.org.uk/symptoms.htm.

Spotts, Steven W. Depression. A Rapha Recovery Booklet. Dallas: Word, 1991.

Spurgeon, Charles H. Lectures to My Students. New ed. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Thomas, W. Ian. The Mystery of Godliness. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964.

Thomas, W. Ian. The Saving Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961.

Wright, H. Norman. Beating the Blues: Overcoming Depression and Stress. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1988.[2]


[1] Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Depression: Walking from Darkness into the Dawn (1–44). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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