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Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

Should Christians Use Medication For Emotional Problems?

SOURCE:  Dr. Robert Kellemen

In the beginning, God designed us as body-soul beings. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Even before the fall, we were more than inner person—we were and are embodied beings.

Our bodies are works of art fashioned by our heavenly Father who fearfully and wonderfully handcrafted us (Psalm 139:13-16). We are works of God’s hand; made, shaped, molded, clothed with skin and flesh, and knit together with bones and sinews (Job 10:3-12). We are not to despise our physicality.

After the fall, the Bible teaches that we inhabit fallen bodies in a fallen world (Romans 8:18-25). Paul calls our fallen bodies “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). As one commentator has mused, we are cracked pots! Paul also describes our bodies as a mortal earthly tent—perishable, weak, flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:42-47).

Paul is not saying that the flesh is bad or evil. He is saying that our bodies are weak and natural, prone in our fallen state to disorder and dysfunction.

Some modern Christians seem to take a hyper-spiritual approach to the brain/mind issue. They act as if inner spirituality eliminates all the effects of outer bodily maladies. Some seem to imply that giving any credence to the fallen bodies influence on our emotional state is something of a Trojan Horse that sneaks secular, materialistic thought into Christian spirituality.

Not So the Puritans

The Puritans would have been shocked by such a naïve perspective on the mind-body issue. Puritan pastors and theologians like Robert Burton, William Ames, and Jonathan Edwards recognized that problems such as scrupulosity (what we might call OCD) and melancholy (what we might call depression) might, at least in part, be rooted in the fallen body. They warned that such maladies sometimes could not be cured simply by comforting words or biblical persuasion (see A History of Pastoral Care in America, pp. 60-72).

Edwards described his sense of pastoral helplessness in the face of the melancholy of his uncle, Joseph Hawley. He noted that Hawley was “in a great measure past a capacity of receiving advice, or being reasoned with” (see A History of Pastoral Care in America, p. 73). Eventually, Hawley took his own life one Sabbath morning. Shortly thereafter, Edwards advised clergy against the assumption that spiritual issues alone were at work in melancholy.

Emotions: Bridging Our Inner and Outer Worlds

Emotions truly are a bridge between our inner and outer world. Think of the word “feeling.” Feeling is a tactile word suggesting something that is tangible, physical, touchable, and palpable. “I feel the keyboard as I type. I feel the soft comfortable chair beneath me. I feel my sore back and stiff wrists as they cry out, “Give it a rest!”

We also use this physical word—feeling—to express emotions. “I feel sad. I feel happy. I feel joy. I feel anger.” It’s no surprise that we use this one word in these two ways—physical and emotional. We know what the Israelites understood—our body feels physically what our emotions feel metaphysically.

When I’m nervous, my stomach is upset. When I feel deep love, my chest tightens. When I’m anxious, my heart races. When I’m sad, my entire system slows.

We know much more about the brain than the Israelites knew. It is a physical organ of the body and all physical organs in a fallen world in unglorified bodies can malfunction. My heart, liver, and kidneys can all become diseased, sick. So can the physical organ we call the brain.

Embracing our Weakness/Embracing God’s Power

It is important to realize that every emotion involves a complex interaction between body and soul. Therefore, it is dangerous to assume that all emotional struggles can be changed by strictly “spiritual means.”

For some, spirituality includes embracing physical weakness. In fact, this is the exact message Paul communicates when he calls us “jars of clay.” Why does God allow us to experience physical weakness? “To show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). It’s the same message Paul personally experienced in his own situational suffering (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) and in his own bodily suffering (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

We can act as if we are more spiritual than the Apostle Paul. However, in actuality, pretending that our external suffering and our physical bodies do not impact us emotionally involves an arrogant refusal to depend upon and cling to Christ alone.

Certain emotions, especially anxiety and depression, involve physiological components that sometimes may need to be treated with medication. When we ignore the importance of the body, we misunderstand what it means to trust God. It is wrong to place extra burdens on those who suffer emotionally by suggesting that all they need to do is surrender to God to make their struggles go away.

On the other hand, it would be equally wrong to suggest that medication is all someone needs. That would be like a pastor entering the cancer ward to talk with a parishioner who was just told that she has cancer. “Well, take your medicine. Do chemo. You’ll be fine. See ya’ later.” No! That pastor would support, comfort, talk with, and pray for his parishioner.

Sickness and suffering are always a battleground between Satan and Christ. So, while medicine may sometimes be indicated for certain people with certain emotional battles, spiritual friendship is always indicated. Physicians of the body (and the brain is an organ of the physical body) prescribe medication. Physicians of the soul (and the mind is an inner capacity and reality of the soul) prescribe grace.

The Dark Night of the Soul (Sproul)

 

by R.C. Sproul

The dark night of the soul.  This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time.  It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears.  It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, “The Weeping Prophet.”  It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him.  This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him.

Spiritual depression is real and can be acute.  We ask how a person of faith could experience such spiritual lows, but whatever provokes it does not take away from its reality. Our faith is not a constant action. It is mobile. It vacillates.  We move from faith to faith, and in between we may have periods of doubt when we cry, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.”

We may also think that the dark night of the soul is something completely incompatible with the fruit of the Spirit, not only that of faith but also that of joy.  Once the Holy Spirit has flooded our hearts with a joy unspeakable, how can there be room in that chamber for such darkness?  It is important for us to make a distinction between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness.  A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head.  The joy that we have sustains us through these dark nights and is not quenched by spiritual depression.  The joy of the Christian is one that survives all downturns in life.

In writing to the Corinthians in his second letter, Paul commends to his readers the importance of preaching and of communicating the Gospel to people. But in the midst of that, he reminds the church that the treasure we have from God is a treasure that is contained not in vessels of gold and silver but in what the apostle calls “jars of clay.”  For this reason he says, “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  Immediately after this reminder, the apostle adds, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7­-10).

This passage indicates the limits of depression that we experience.  The depression may be profound, but it is not permanent, nor is it fatal.  Notice that the apostle Paul describes our condition in a variety of ways.  He says that we are “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.” These are powerful images that describe the conflict that Christians must endure, but in every place that he describes this phenomenon, he describes at the same time its limits.  Afflicted, but not crushed.  Perplexed, but not in despair.  Persecuted, but not forsaken.  Struck down, but not destroyed.

So we have this pressure to bear, but the pressure, though it is severe, does not crush us.  We may be confused and perplexed, but that low point to which perplexity brings us does not result in complete and total despair. Even in persecution, as serious as it may be, we are still not forsaken, and we may be overwhelmed and struck down as Jeremiah spoke of, yet we have room for joy. We think of the prophet Habakkuk, who in his misery remained confident that despite the setbacks he endured, God would give him feet like hind’s feet, feet that would enable him to walk in high places.

Elsewhere, the apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians gives them the admonition to be “anxious for nothing,” telling them that the cure for anxiety is found on one’s knees, that it is the peace of God that calms our spirit and dissipates anxiety.  Again, we can be anxious and nervous and worried without finally submitting to ultimate despair.

This coexistence of faith and spiritual depression is paralleled in other biblical statements of emotive conditions.  We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief.  Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness.  Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness.  In like manner, we see that it is a good thing to go to the house of mourning, but even in mourning, that low feeling must not give way to hatred.  The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God.

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa TerKeurst   Faithgateway

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
———————————————————————————————————————————
Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.

Depression: Take Steps In The Right Direction

SOURCE: AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN COUNSELORS (AACC)

PORTRAITS

● Angela is frightened. Each morning she struggles to find the energy to get out of bed.  She feels so listless and down. Her kids need her, but she can’t summon the energy to even interact with them—much less prepare meals or clean the house.
● George is having a hard time thinking clearly.  He lost his job and just can’t seem to crawl out of the hole he feels like he’s fallen into. He can’t interview because he’s so down, so he sits around at home and plays on the computer.  And he just keeps spiraling downward.

DEFINITIONS AND KEY THOUGHTS

● Depression differs from sadness.   When people are sad, they keep their self-respect, they feel better after crying, and they confide in others and it helps.
With depression, self-respect fades, crying does not help, and depressed persons often feel alienated because other people cannot seem to understand how they feel.
● Depression is a mood disorder and can be caused by difficult situations, unhealthy thought patterns, or can have a physiological cause.
● The most important symptoms are sadness and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
● Depression is often undiagnosed and untreated in older adults and can be viewed as a natural result of aging.
● Women are twice as likely to be depressed as men.
● One in eight individuals may require treatment for depression in their lifetime.
Despite the progress in detecting and treating depression, the majority of depressed people never get treatment.

Causes of Depression

–Inherited predisposition to depression
–Hormonal or chemical imbalance
–Feelings of failure or rejection
–Grief or loss
–Family problems—separation, divorce, abuse
–Thinking one has no control over any part of life; feelings of futility
–Negative thinking
–Isolation or loneliness
–Substance abuse
–Side effects of prescribed medications

Depression is not something you can just “snap out of.”  It’s caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other factors.  Like any serious medical condition, depression needs to be treated.

 

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

—PROVERBS 12:25 (NKJV)

WISE COUNSEL

The most dangerous symptom of depression is suicidal ideation.  If you think you might hurt yourself, do not hesitate to get immediate help from family members or a mental health professional.

It is OK for you to take medications if needed to get depression under control.  It doesn’t mean you are weak or don’t have enough faith.  It is possible that the depression is biochemical and that medication can straighten out the chemicals in your body and help you get over the depression.

According to the 2003 National Comorbidity Study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health:
● 35 million Americans (more than 16 percent of the population) suffer from depression severe enough to warrant treatment at some time in their lives.
● In any given period, 13 to 14 million people experience the illness.

ACTION STEPS

1. Take care of yourself physically.
● Research shows that thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise is very helpful in elevating mood.  If there would be no health risks, assign yourself to moderate exercise such as a brisk walk.  Do this every day and get a partner to walk with—it makes it harder to skip a day if someone is waiting for you.
● Depression is best treated by a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Get a medical checkup, and work with a doctor on a diet and exercise program.  Medication may be needed to treat a chemical imbalance.   Better eating habits (for example, less sugar and more vitamins) can also be a big help.

2. Deal with whatever situation might be behind the depression.
● For example, if you have recently suffered a significant loss, acknowledge that loss and begin to let yourself grieve.  Give yourself permission to feel, but then bring yourself back to the light.  It’s OK to feel bad, but it’s not OK to feel bad forever.
● Encourage honest thinking about what might be deep down, behind the depression.
You may need to talk to someone who is adept at drawing out buried hurts that might be fueling the depression.
● Keep a journal in which you write down thoughts that occur over the next couple of weeks regarding what is behind the depression.

3. Reconsider your thoughts.
● For example, you may be thinking, “I’m totally worthless. I have nothing to give to anyone.”  These are common lies people tell themselves.  The fact is that every person has value.
● Prepare a list of ten things you like about yourself—and three of them have to be physical characteristics.

4. Assess your social support systems and consider joining a support group.
● Who are your friends?  Are they people who help you feel better about yourself?
● What groups are you currently involved in?
● What is your church involvement?  Who at church could be of help and support?

Depressed Christians certainly should continue praying, reading the Bible, confessing sin and pursuing holiness, but unless God or a professional Christian counselor says otherwise, don’t assume the depression is caused by a spiritual problem.  That type of thinking can keep a depressed Christian from seeking professional help.

BIBLICAL INSIGHTS

But [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree.  And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough!  Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” —1 Kings 19:4
● Life has highs and lows, and as in a mountain range, the lows often come right after the highs.  Like Elijah, we may scale the heights of spiritual victory only to soon find ourselves in the dark valley of depression.
● While certain forms of clinical depression should be professionally treated, many depressed feelings are part of life’s ups and downs.
● Like Elijah, we should listen for God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) to
comfort us.

Then as [Elijah] lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.”  Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water.  So he ate and drank, and lay down again. —1Kings 19:5, 6
● Depression drains energy, twists values, and assaults faith.
● Depression can affect anyone.
● God responded mercifully. He did not castigate or condemn Elijah for his condition—something that many depressed Christians expect from God.  Even in the depths of depression God shows loving concern and a way out.

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.— Psalm 42:5

● Depressed feelings sometimes cause some people to turn away from God.
● Others like David, however, allow those disquieted, depressed feelings to make them “hope in God,” remembering His goodness.
● During such times, living by faith takes on new meaning.  Depressed people must learn to trust what they cannot feel or see.

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
— Isaiah 61:3

● The Bible recognizes the heaviness of depression.  God’s love and understanding reach out to those who are depressed and discouraged.
● He promises to give consolation, beauty in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.

 

PRAYER STARTER

“Lord, I feel like I am in darkness with no way out. I pray that You will help me discern what is really going on deep in my heart. If there is a chemical problem, help the doctors to discover it and treat it. If there is deep pain or shame, help me to bring it into the light and deal with it by Your grace.”

RESOURCES:

WWW.DEPRESSION.COM

WWW.CELEBRATERECOVERY.COM

Hope for the Depressed

by Ed Welch

Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying—your world is dark, heavy, painful. Some days you think that physical pain might be easier to endure; at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression goes to your very soul, corrupting everything in its path. Dead but walking is one way to describe it. You feel numb, but you still remember when you actually felt something. Somehow that makes it harder to bear.

You aren’t alone, of course. Depression affects as much as 25% of the population. But statistics offer little comfort. In fact, a depressive spin on them can make you feel worse: You wonder why so many people are depressed, and you’re afraid that means there is no solution to the problem. Yet there is another perspective. God tells us that he cares about one wandering sheep in a hundred (Matthew 18:10–14) and counts the hairs on individual heads. If he has this much compassion for a solitary, lost individual, he certainly cares for you and such a large group of suffering people. You may not understand how he cares for you, but you can be certain that he is.

SUFFERING MAKES US AWARE OF GOD

You are suffering, and suffering brings God into view. That’s the way it always happens. The soldier who escapes from a treacherous battle will instinctively thank God. The stock broker who just lost a fortune might instinctively curse him. When hardships come we either cry out to God for help, shake our fist at him, or do both. There is actually a picture of this in the Bible: throughout history God has taken his people out into the wilderness, and you are certainly in the wilderness.

The journey in the wilderness is intended, in part, to reveal what is in our hearts, and to teach us to trust God in both good times and hard times. Why does he do this? To show us those things that are most important. Don’t forget that God takes his children into the wilderness. He even led his only Son into the wilderness. We shouldn’t be surprised if he takes us there as well.

While you are in the wilderness what are you seeing in your own heart? How are you relating to God? Do you avoid him? Ignore him? Get angry at him? Do you act as though he is very far away and too busy with everything else to attend to your suffering? Are you frustrated that God is powerful enough to end your suffering but he hasn’t? In your depression, let God reveal your heart. You might find spiritual issues that contribute to or even cause your depression.

WHICH PATH WILL YOU CHOOSE?

You are on one of two roads: faith or isolated independence. On the road of faith you are seeking and following God. You are calling out to him. You don’t understand what is happening, but you have not lost sight of how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ assure you that he is good. You feel like you are walking in the dark, but in your best moments you are putting one foot in front of the other as an expression of your trust in God. Whether you know it or not you are being heroic. On this path, although you are suffering, you are still able to notice and marvel that God’s Spirit is empowering you to trust him through darkness and pain.

The other path is the more common one, even among Christians. Even if you believe that God has revealed himself to you in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t seem to make much difference. You don’t feel as though you are consciously avoiding God. You are just trying to survive. But if you look closely you will notice that you are pushing God away. Look at the tell-tale signs:

  • You have no hope, even though Scripture, God’s words to you, offers hope on almost every page. Here’s just one example, “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 3:21–23).
  • You think life is meaningless, even though you are a servant of the King and every small step of obedience resonates throughout eternity. This is God’s purpose for you today, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
  • You think God doesn’t care, even though Scripture makes it clear that we run from God, not vice versa. Listen to what God says to you, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).
  • In other words, in many areas of life, you simply do not believe what God says.

Practical Strategies for Change

Depression tries to tell us what is true and what isn’t. For example, it says that you will never feel any different, and you can’t continue to live in such a condition. It says that God doesn’t care, and no one loves you. It tries to persuade you that nothing matters. Know, however, that depression lies! You have to tell it the truth, rather than listen to its interpretation of life.

Do you remember times when you were grouchy and everything in the world looked horrible? Or you had PMS and it colored your interpretation of other people? Our emotions are loud, but they do not tell the whole story.

TURN TO GOD AND LISTEN

Turn toward God, and instead of listening to your depression, listen to what he says about himself. The center of his message to you is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, became the Son of Man. He obeyed the Father perfectly, emptied himself, and became your servant. He died to give you life. Now he is the King, and through his death he brings you into his kingdom. Here on earth the kingdom of heaven is riddled with suffering, but we know the King is with us and our suffering is only for a short while. We also know that the King takes our suffering, which seems senseless, and makes it profitable in his kingdom. Read all of Romans 8 and pay special attention to these words, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28–29).

This is God’s message to you. Beg for grace and mercy so you can hear it over the din of your depression.

The Spirit of God speaks most clearly to you in the Bible, so take the small step of opening it and reading it. If you can’t, ask someone else to read it to you. Ask God to speak to you through his words in the Bible. Ask a friend to talk to you about the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Any friend who knows that good news would love to talk about it.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
  • Use the Psalms to help you talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 86 and Psalm 88 your personal prayers to God.
  • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies (Romans 5:6–8; 1 John 4:9–10).
  • Don’t think your case in unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you, and God did not fail them.
  • Remember your purpose for living (Matthew 22:37–39; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 5:6).
  • Learn about persevering and enduring (Romans 5:3; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:2-4).

Gradually a new goal will come into view. Without doubt you will still want depression to be gone, but you will also develop a vision of walking humbly with your God even in the midst of pain. When you read Scripture, you will find that many people have walked the same path.

CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL CAUSES OF YOUR DEPRESSION

Next, consider some of the spiritual issues that might play a part in your depression. There is no one cause of depression, but there are some common paths that provoke a depressive spiral. Identifying these in your life may help you move out of depression and avoid it in the future.

Depression rarely appears overnight. When you look closely, you usually find that it crept up on you gradually. Take a closer look at its progression. Personal problems that are left spiritually unattended can, in susceptible people, lead to depression. Do you see any of these things in your life?

  • If you made someone besides God the center of your life, and you lose him or her, you will feel isolated and without purpose. Can you see how this can give way to depression? You made another person your reason for living and now, without him or her, you feel hopeless and unable to go on. You may not realize it, but the Bible tell us that this is idol worship—you are worshipping what God created instead of him.
  • If you feel like you failed in the eyes of other people, and your success and the opinions of others is of critical importance, you can slip into depression. Can you see the spiritual roots? Your success and the opinions of others have become your gods, they are more important to you than serving Christ.
  • If you feel like you did something very wrong, and you want to manage your sin apart from the cross of Jesus, depression is inevitable. We always want to believe that we can do something—like feeling really bad for our sins—but that is just pride. We actually think that we can pay God back, but this attitude minimizes the beauty of the cross and Jesus’ full payment for sin.
  • If you are angry and don’t practice forgiveness, you can easily slide into depression. The simple formula is sadness + anger = depression. What makes us angry shows us what we love and what rights we hold dear. Unforgiveness shows us that we are not willing to trust God to bind up our broken hearts and to judge justly. Deal with your sadness and anger by pouring your heart out to God. Use the psalms as your prayers. Ask for faith so that you can trust God to be your defender and your helper.

Even students of depression who reject the Bible acknowledge that anger, resentment, and jealousy can contribute to the beginnings of depression. So take a hard look. Look for sin patterns you can confess. This is hard, but it is not depressing. If punishment was on the other side of confession, it would be foolish to follow such a path. But get to the gospel of Jesus and on the other side you will find full forgiveness, love, hope, and joy. They are yours for the asking. “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).

TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME

Now, take one small step at a time. Granted, it seems impossible. How can you live without feelings? Without them you have no drive, no motivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible. Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical but it could be done.

People have learned to take one step at a time in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As you walk, you will find that you must tap into every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: take one minute at a time, read one short Bible passage, ask for help, try to care about someone else, move outside yourself, ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

When in doubt, confess your unbelief, trust in Jesus, and look for someone to love. A wise depressed person once said, “The reason I get up—after years of depression—is that I want to love one other person.”

GUIDELINES FOR MEDICATION

The severe pain of depression makes you welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

  • How long will it take before it is effective?
  • What are some of the common side effects?
  • And, if your physician is prescribing two medications, will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, “What is best and wise?” Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits.

Medication can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures. If you choose to take medication, please consider letting a wise and trusted person from your church walk come along side of you. They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and, yes, that joy is possible, even during depression.

DEALING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

Before you were depressed, you could not imagine dreaming of suicide. But when depression descends, you notice a passing thought about death, then another, and another until death acts like a stalker.

Remember, depression doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says you are all alone, no one loves you, God doesn’t care, you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, “Everyone will be better off without me.” But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all the facts, keep it simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as he gives you life, he has purposes for you. One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor. Depression says you are alone and you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you and he calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.

PERSEVERE IN HOPE

Will your depression go away? Perhaps. If you follow these suggestions, your depression will, at least, be changed. But to guarantee that you will be depression-free is like guaranteeing that you will never have suffering in your life. The cross of Christ is a sign to us that we will share in the sufferings of Jesus rather than be free of all hardships.

Your hope rests on something much deeper than the alleviation of pain. Depression can’t rob you of hope because your hope is in a person, and that person, Jesus, is alive and with you. The apostle Paul put his suffering on a scale and found that it was out-weighed by all the benefits he had in Christ. Of course, that kind of hope and vision doesn’t come overnight, but it does come. Set your sights high. You can set a course where you say “Amen” with Paul.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at CCEF. He has counseled for over twenty-five years and has written many articles, booklets, and books including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; and Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest.

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Think About What You Think About

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Faithgateway

In her short thirteen years Rebecca Taylor has endured more than fifty-five surgeries and medical procedures and approximately one thousand days in the hospital.

Christyn, Rebecca’s mom, talks about her daughter’s health complications with the ease of a surgeon. The vocabulary of most moms includes phrases such as “cafeteria food,” “slumber party,” and “too much time on the phone.” Christyn knows this language, but she’s equally fluent in the vernacular of blood cells, stents, and, most recently, a hemorrhagic stroke.

In her blog she wrote:

This past week’s new land mine was the phrase “possible hemorrhagic stroke,” a phrase I heard dozens of times used by numerous physicians. Over and over and over that phrase filled my mind and consumed my thoughts. It was emotionally crippling.

This past Sunday our preacher, Max Lucado, started a very fitting series on anxiety. We reviewed the familiar Philippians 4:6 verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I presented my requests to the Lord as I had so many times before, but this time, THIS time, I needed more. And so, using Philippians 4:8-9 as a guide, I found my answer:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true…” What was true in my life at this particular moment? The blessing of all family members eating dinner together.

“Whatever is noble.” The blessing of enjoying each other’s presence outside of a hospital room.

“Whatever is right.” The blessing of experiencing my two sons’ daily lives.

“Whatever is pure.” The blessing of all three children laughing and playing with each other.

“Whatever is lovely.” The blessing of watching Rebecca sleep peacefully in her bed at night.

“Whatever is admirable.” The blessing of an honorable team working tirelessly on Rebecca’s care.

“If anything is excellent.” The blessing of watching a miracle unfold.

“Or praiseworthy.” The blessing of worshiping a Lord who is worthy to be praised.

“Think about such things.”

I did. As I meditated on these things, I stopped the dreaded phrase “hemorrhagic stroke” from sucking any joy out of my life. Its power to produce anxiety was now rendered impotent. And when I dwelt on the bountiful blessings in my life happening AT THAT VERY MOMENT, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” DID guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. A true, unexpected miracle. Thank You, Lord.1

Did you note what Christyn did? The words hemorrhagic stroke hovered over her life like a thundercloud. Yet she stopped the dreaded phrase from sucking joy out of her life.

She did so by practicing thought management. You probably know this, but in case you don’t, I am so thrilled to give you the good news: you can pick what you ponder.

You didn’t select your birthplace or birth date. You didn’t choose your parents or siblings. You don’t determine the weather or the amount of salt in the ocean. There are many things in life over which you have no choice. But the greatest activity of life is well within your dominion.

You can choose what you think about.

For that reason the wise man urges,

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. — Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.

Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.

Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.

He comes as a thief

with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying. — John10:10 Phillips

He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.

He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.

No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.

Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.

So, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philippians 4:8 NLT

The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, islogizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.

Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says…

“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”

“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”

If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.

Anxiety weighs down the human heart. — Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

But there is a better way.

Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite Him to speak to the problem.

Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV

Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?

Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.

Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist. — Ephesians 6:14 NRSV

Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more. The fact is, the doctor has called. The fact is, his news will be good or bad. For all you know, he may want you to be a poster child of good health. All you can do is pray and trust.

So you do. You enter the doctor’s office, not heavied by worry, but buoyed by faith.

Which do you prefer?

Christyn Taylor discovered calmness. Recently she and her family went back to Rebecca’s doctors in Minnesota. Seven months earlier Rebecca was barely surviving. Now, one day before her thirteenth birthday, Rebecca was vibrant and full of life. She had gained a remarkable thirty pounds. Her health was improving. She was named the hospital’s “walking miracle.”

Christyn wrote: “I watched these interactions with a silent sense of awe. It is easy to praise God during seasons of wellness. But it was during my greatest distress when I felt the Lord’s presence poured upon me. And it was in those heartbreaking moments I learned to trust this God who provided unimaginable strength during unimaginable pain.”2

He will help you as well, my friend. Guard your thoughts and trust your Father.
——————————————————————————
1. Used with permission.
2. Used with permission.

Excerpted from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

Anxious for Nothing

8 Things People with High-Functioning Depression Want You to Know

SOURCE:  Meagan Drillinger/healthline.com

Even though it might not be obvious, getting through the day is exhausting.

It can be difficult to spot the signs of someone with high-functioning depression. That’s because, on the outside, they often appear completely fine. They go to work, accomplish their tasks, and keep up relationships. And as they’re going through the motions to maintain their day-to-day life, inside they’re screaming.

“Everyone talks about depression and anxiety, and it means different things to different people,” says Dr. Carol A. Bernstein, professor of psychiatry and neurology at NYU Langone Health.

“High-functioning depression isn’t a diagnostic category from a medical standpoint. People can feel depressed, but the question with depression is for how long, and how much does it interfere with our capacity to go on with [our] life?”

There’s no difference between depression and high-functioning depression. Depression ranges from mild to moderate to severe. In 2016, about 16.2 million Americans had at least one episode of major depression.

“Some people with depression can’t go to work or school, or their performance suffers significantly because of it,” says Ashley C. Smith, a licensed clinical social worker. “That’s not the case for people with high-functioning depression. They can still function in life, for the most part.”

But being able to get through the day doesn’t mean it’s easy. Here are what seven people had to say about what it’s like to live and work with high-functioning depression.

1. You feel like you’re constantly “faking it”

“We hear a lot now about imposter syndrome, where people feel that they are just ‘faking it’ and aren’t as together as people think. There’s a form of this for those who deal with major depression and other forms of mental illness. You become quite adept at ‘playing yourself,’ acting the role of the self that people around you expect to see and experience.”

— Daniel, publicist, Maryland

2. You have to prove that you’re struggling and need help

“Living with high-functioning depression is very hard. Even though you can go through work and life and mostly get things done, you’re not getting them done to your full potential.

“Beyond that, no one really believes you’re struggling because your life isn’t falling apart yet. I was suicidal and close to ending it all in university and no one would believe me because I wasn’t failing out of school or dressing like a complete mess. At work, it’s the same. We need to believe people when they ask for support.

“Lastly, a lot of mental health services have needs-based requirements, where you have to appear a certain amount of depressed to get support. Even if my mood is really low and I am constantly considering suicide, I have to lie about my functioning to be able to access services.”

— Alicia, mental health speaker/writer, Toronto

3. The good days are relatively “normal”

“A good day is me being able to get up before or right at my alarm, shower, and put on my face. I can push through being around people, as my job as a software trainer calls me to. I’m not crabby or anxiety-ridden. I can push through the evening and have conversations with co-workers without feeling total despair. On a good day, I have focus and mental clarity. I feel like a capable, productive person.”

— Christian, software trainer, Dallas

4. But the bad days are unbearable

“Now for a bad day… I fight with myself to wake up and have to truly shame myself into showering and getting myself together. I put on makeup [so I don’t] alert people about my internal issues. I don’t want to talk or be bothered by anyone. I fake being personable, as I have rent to pay and don’t want to complicate my life any more than it is.

“After work, I just want to go to my hotel room and mindlessly scroll on Instagram or YouTube. I’ll eat junk food, and feel like a loser and demean myself.

“I have more bad days than good, but I’ve gotten good at faking it so my clients think I’m a great employee. I’m often sent kudos for my performance. But inside, I know that I didn’t deliver at the level I know I could.”

— Christian

5. Getting through the bad days requires an enormous amount of energy

“It’s extremely exhausting to get through a bad day. I do get work done, but it’s not my best. It takes much longer to accomplish tasks. There’s a lot of staring off into space, trying to regain control of my mind.

“I find myself getting easily frustrated with my co-workers, even though I know there’s no way they know I’m having a hard day. On bad days, I’m extremely self-critical and tend to not want to show my boss any of my work because I fear that he’ll think that I’m incompetent.

“One of the most helpful things I do on bad days is to prioritize my tasks. I know the harder I push myself, the more likely I am to crumble, so I make sure I do the harder things when I have the most energy.”

— Courtney, marketing specialist, North Carolina

6. You can struggle to focus, and feel like you’re not performing to the best of your ability

“Sometimes, nothing gets done. I can be in a long drawn out daze all day, or it takes all day to complete a few things. Since I’m in public relations and I work with individuals and companies that champion a great cause, which often pull at people’s heartstrings, my work can take me into an even deeper depression.

“I can be working on a story, and while I’m typing I have tears streaming down my face. That may actually work to the advantage of my client because I have so much heart and passion around meaningful stories, but it’s pretty scary because the emotions run so deep.

— Tonya, publicist, California

7. Living with high-functioning depression is exhausting

“In my experience, living with high-functioning depression is absolutely exhausting. It’s spending the day smiling and forcing laughter when you are plagued by the feeling that the people you interact with only just tolerate you and your existence in the world.

“It’s knowing that you’re useless and a waste of oxygen… and doing everything in your power to prove that wrong by being the best student, best daughter, best employee you can be. It’s going above and beyond all day every day in the hopes that you can actually make someone feel that you’re worth their time, because you don’t feel like you are.”

— Meaghan, law student, New York

8. Asking for help is the strongest thing you can do

“Asking for help does not make you a weak person. In fact, it makes you the exact opposite. My depression manifested itself through a serious uptake in drinking. So serious, in fact, I spent six weeks in rehab in 2017. I’m just shy of 17 months of sobriety.

“Everyone can have their own opinion, but all three sides of the triangle of my mental health — stopping drinking, talk therapy, and medication — have been crucial. Most specifically, the medication helps me maintain a level state on a daily basis and has been an intricate part of my getting better.”

— Kate, travel agent, New York

“If the depression is greatly impacting your quality of life, if you think that you should be feeling better, then seek out help. See your primary care doctor about it — many are trained in dealing with depression — and seek a referral for a therapist.

“While there’s still considerable stigma attached to having mental illness, I would say that we are starting, slowly, to see that stigma abate. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you have an issue and could use some help.”

— Daniel

Depression: Trapped in My Own Mind

SOURCE:  Sarah Walton/Desiring God

Three Lies Depression Loves

“I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ. If we feel unlovable, we must be unloved. If we feel sadness and hopelessness, we must be hopeless. If we feel lonely, we must be alone. And if we feel shame, we must be unforgiven.

For a time, Job believed that God targeted him out of anger. “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past” (Job 14:13). But in the midst of these bouts with despair, God planted Job’s feet firmly on the truth of salvation. “Though he slay me,” Job confessed, “I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Like Job, we must keep the hope of the gospel in front of us in order to fight back against all that bombards us from within. Though we may struggle to digest much Scripture, and though the words of a hopeful person may bounce right off our hardened shell of depression, we anchor our feet firmly in the truth that we are forgiven and loved by God in Christ, not in our ability to feel his love.

2. Depression does not mean God is absent.

Similarly, depression can cause us to feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Not only do we feel as if the world is going on without us, but we can even feel estranged from ourselves — as if we have lost our former identity. This loneliness can also cause us to feel, as Job did, that God has abandoned us. “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him” (Job 23:8). But as Eswine writes,

Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace. It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that he is so. Though our bodily gloom allows us no feeling of his tender touch, he holds on to us still. Our feelings of him do not save us. He does. (Spurgeon’s Sorrows, 38–39)

3. Depression does not make you useless.

Though we may feel useless under the cloud of despair and depression, nothing could be further from the truth. When despondency strips from us our natural ability to see and feel hope, joy, and purpose in our sorrow, we realize that Someone greater is holding us up. And when others witness our dependence on Christ for the endurance to press on in darkness — especially when we have no earthly reason to — we become a picture of Christ’s sustaining grace, flowing from the Father to his children.

Once again, consider Spurgeon. He battled deep depression through the majority of his life, and yet God used his suffering for the good of multitudes that he never met. And then there was Job, whose life became a cosmic display of God’s power and worth for our comfort. If we are God’s children, then even our depression will display his glory and purposes as he holds us secure in his unfailing love.

Suffering brother or sister, lift your heavy heart. As Spurgeon once said, “We need patience under pain and hope under depression of spirit. . . . Our God . . . will either make the burden lighter or the back stronger; he will diminish the need or increase the supply” (“Sword and Trowel,” 15).

Depression: Fighting Dragons

SOURCE:  /Faithgateway

Being the Hunted

What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:

In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33

Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.

If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.

Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.

Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.

I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.

Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.

When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”

The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”

David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6

How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3

King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:

Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39

If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.

In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:

Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44

There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.

Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.

Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5

Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.

Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.

Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4Psalm 71:18Psalm 22:14–15Psalm 40:12).

The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).

Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.

Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.

Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.

Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.

Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.

Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9

Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15

Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.

In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.

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No More Dragons

Too Overwhelmed To Pray

SOURCE:  Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

Your Helper in Prayer: Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit

When I think of Charles Spurgeon, my mind goes to one story before anything else. I once heard that when Spurgeon’s depression flared, his wife Susanna propped him up and pushed him back into his chair so he could continue working. I was so taken aback by my imagining of this scene — it made me think about all of the times me and the other women in my family had been that low in depression. Spurgeon’s weakness ran much deeper than work-related stress, and was not just a symptom of physical exhaustion.

This kind of weakness is hard to overcome. Spurgeon touches on this deep weakness in his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer. The reason the Father gives us his Spirit to help us pray is because we are weak; we don’t know how to pray properly, we often don’t feel like praying, and we struggle to put our worst life pains into words.

Spurgeon brings out the beauty of this doctrine by explaining that God is not angry because of our failures in prayer, but has compassion on us as his children. Instead of acting the disinterested King who says, “if you do not have grace enough even to ask properly, I will shut the gates of mercy against you,” God says, “I will write out your petition for you, I will put it into proper words and use fitting phrases so that your petition shall be framed acceptable.”

“If you cannot put two words together in common speech to men, yet [the Holy Spirit] will help you to speak with God; ah! and if at the mercy seat you fail in words, you shall not fail in reality, for your heart shall conquer. God…never reads our petitions according to the outward utterance, but according to the inward groaning. He notices the longing, the desiring, the sighing, the crying…

God knows our needs without hearing words, like a mother knows the needs of her baby when it “makes very odd and objectionable noises, combined with signs and movements, which are almost meaningless to stranger” but are understood by the mother who “comprehends incomprehensible noises.” If that were not intimate enough, the Spirit even claims our groanings “as his own particular creation.”

Prayer is for your own benefit and comfort—it’s an “outlet for grief” and a “lotion” to “bathe our wound in.” Rely on the Spirit to help you know what to say in prayer, and in the worst times, when you do not have the words or the strength to say anything, know that the Spirit is propping you back up into your chair so you can press on.

What To Do When You Want to Quit Marriage

SOURCE:  Barbara Rainey/Family Life

Though most every spouse marries with stars in their eyes and expectations that scrape the Milky Way galaxy, there isn’t a spouse on earth, on any continent, in any country, who hasn’t experienced harsh unexpected disappointments.

Like piles of heavy wet snow on power lines and branches, accumulated hurts and disillusionment threaten to snap personal resolve as easily as limbs surrender to the overwhelming weight of winter’s crystals.

Have you too entertained the thought of quitting at some level?

My husband’s and my overarching marriage narrative is a wonderful one because it is a tale of redemption. But in those hard places, before the redemption came, before it was spring again, we both experienced the pain of disappointment and loss. I wondered if we’d ever see beauty once more, or if we’d have to settle for a long winter.

I wanted to quit my marriage, not end it entirely as in get a divorce, but I have wanted to stop trying so hard in the cold heavy parts of our relationship.

I have felt, This is too hard, we aren’t getting anywhere. I have been tempted, and it is a real temptation from the enemy of our souls, to

  • quit sex,
  • quit working so hard to understand and be understood
  • quit serving and giving myself
  • quit biting my tongue and watching my words
  • quit trying and settle into détente.

Quitting any area of marriage is slamming a door shut on intimacy. Like a thermometer, intimacy is the rising or falling temperature of your marital oneness and depth.

Intimacy is not just sex. It’s communication, sacrificial love, self-control, courage…and sex.

Why did we all expect marriage to be so happily ever after?

Ponder this question in reply: why do you think Jesus spent so much time with tax-gatherers and sinners as the Pharisees so sharply accused?

Quite simply because He knew that they knew their inadequacies and failures. Jesus saw hope for new life, new light in those men and women and children who understood they were broken needy sinners.

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Simply stated, we can’t receive the gifts of the kingdom unless we know we cannot attain them or buy them or earn them on our own.

We struggle and want to quit in our marriages because we underestimate the sinful natures of our spouse and ourselves. Marriage is hard because it’s the union of two sinners.

In my Bible study this year, our class is going through Romans which has reminded me afresh “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). My wanting to quit has so often been because I expect too much of my spouse and myself and underestimate our depravity.

I still remember some of those crisis points in our marriage. I felt frightened a few times, fearing we’d never find common ground again. I felt lonely, knowing we weren’t operating out of oneness and because I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. I felt unappreciated that my efforts to love, serve and help weren’t met with the gratitude I had expected. To quit trying appeared like the relief of a desert mirage.

At the core, I wanted to quit because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Life wasn’t working the way I thought it shouldI wasn’t able to make it all work. Paul said basically the same thing when he wrote“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

Though I felt emotions that scared me, God wasn’t bothered by my wanting to surrender and quit trying. In fact, He kinda liked me in that barren winter place…discovering that my expectations weren’t working…finding I wasn’t sufficient in myself to make everything work in my marriage. He knew I was disappointed with Him, too, and that too didn’t bother Him a bit.

True marriage is the union of three, not two.

In those alone moments when I had nothing else to try, no book with ten tips waiting on my nightstand, I prayed one of many desperate prayers over the years. I told God, I have no idea what to do next, no idea what to say or try. Will You show me? Will you guide me?

Never was there an immediate reply. I always wished for one, but learned to rest in His mysterious ways…to trust He could somehow break the ice…make a way…open our eyes to His beauty.

And that is what He wanted. “Come to Me,” Jesus said.

I was inadequate…my own attempts a failure…I needed Jesus and only Jesus.

So what do you do when you feel hope is lost and you want to quit?

Come to Jesus.

  • His strength will help you resist the darkness that threatens; the darkness of unbelief & resignation…the darkness of lost hopeIF you will ask and IF you really want to follow Him.
  • His light will shine on your heart to illumine false thinking, small and large steps of new understanding. IF you are willing to see your sin, If you are willing to change. (Is there that much sin in me? Oh yes there is.)

When you come to Jesus, the third Person in your marriage, remember:

  • He is always praying for you to choose His way. “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
  • He is your husband when yours fails, “For your Maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5).
  • He is your dearest Friend when you have no one, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
  • He is your Comforter when you feel all alone; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
  • He waits to guide you by His Spirit; “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Your challenge and mine is to believe all this is true and walk by faith when our feelings tell us the opposite. It’s what Jesus did all His life, but especially on the cross. And because He did, He can help us follow His steps.

God’s greatest joy is to rescue, resurrect and restore. It’s His specialty. He LOVES to take broken hearts, fractured relationships, shattered hope, and restore it to better than it was before.

I pray you will make your marriage health your highest goal, seeking to grow your relationship with your husband and your Savior this year.

May you too be counted among those who didn’t quit and because you didn’t discovered the wonder of the resurrection!

Spurgeon Can Help Your Depression

SOURCE:   Brian Albert/The Spurgeon Center

The fact that you are reading this article indicates with a high degree of certainty that you have been depressed. If this is the case, you should be encouraged to know that you are not alone. The one we dub the “Prince of Preachers” was just that because he was also the “Prince of Pain.” When articulating his own depression, Charles Spurgeon spoke with brazen clarity:

“The worst cloud of all is deep depression of spirit.”

“The worst ill in the world is a depressed spirit.”

“Of all things in the world to be, dreaded despair is the chief.”

“Depression is . . . the shadow of death.”

“Depression is . . . my horror of great darkness.”

These were not mere pithy, little sayings doled out to be quotable. Rather, they were forged in a lifetime of brute experience. From the age of fifteen to his death in 1892, Spurgeon was never fully liberated from “Giant Despair.”

Overcoming Extreme Heaviness

In his sermon “Our Leader Through the Darkness,” Spurgeon provided his understanding of depression, which is crucial in grasping his spirituality and our own despondencies. He asked his congregation, “Do you know what exceeding heaviness means?” (“Exceeding heaviness” was a Victorian label for depression). Spurgeon took his grasp of despondency one step further by linking the malady with spirituality. Spurgeon said, “depression of spirit” is “deep” when “accompanied with the loss of the light of God’s countenance.”

Depression was not merely “dullness, inertia, pessimism, and deep unhappiness,” as many of his Victorian counterparts believed. To be depressed, according to Spurgeon, was to feel God’s presence removed from life, which led to “extreme heaviness.”

For Spurgeon, Jesus was the “nearest, dearest, closest, most intense and most enduring relationship that can be imagined.” He consistently proclaimed that the “essence of spirituality is found in Jesus.” Little wonder, then, that Spurgeon declared, “To be forsaken of God is the worst ill that the most melancholy saint ever dreams of.” He chose the same superlative to describe depression. The worst ill is “to be depressed of spirit” and “to be forsaken of God.”

The “Whys” of Life and the “Prince of Peace”

In the heat of history’s darkest day, Jesus also understood what it felt like to be forsaken by God. On the cross, the “Prince of Peace” took our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and became the “Prince of Pain.” Jesus broke the afternoon silence with a scream that Spurgeon called “the bottomless cry.” Jesus asked, “Why . . . me?”

The “whys” of life stump us. They are often the core question in our depression.

“Why did my baby die?”

“Why did a maniac fire into a crowd of people?”

“Why does Planned Parenthood prosper?”

“Why did I get cancer?”

“Why does my ministry languish?”

Jesus and Spurgeon take the “whys” one step further and recall Christ’s dying words, “God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

When depression intrudes into our lives, we want to know why. We want to know why a particular circumstance has caused our malady. Spurgeon and Jesus both experienced depression because they believed God had forsaken them. And this, above all, was a “prelude to hell,” one that was completely “unendurable.”

Yet Jesus, our Prince, took hell for us. Spurgeon’s struggle with depression is more closely linked to Jesus’s depression than we initially conceived. Perhaps that’s why Spurgeon was called the “Prince of Preachers,” because he knew the “Prince of Pain.”

8 Things You Shouldn’t Say If Someone You Love Has Depression

SOURCE:   Kelsey Borresen/Huffington Post

And what you can say instead.

When your partner is dealing with depression, you want to be as supportive and loving as possible. But it’s hard to know what to say or how to help, especially if you’ve never experienced depression firsthand.

Starting a conversation with your significant other is critical, but sometimes offering the wrong words ― while well-intentioned ― can do more harm than good. We asked experts to tell us some of the most damaging phrases people with depression hear from their loved ones and what more compassionate things you can say instead.

Don’t say: “You need to get help.”

Instead say: “I’m worried about you and us. I love you and want to support you. How can I help?”

“Ask your partner, ‘Do you want me to look into a therapist for you, or a couples counselor for us together? Or I​ can make an appointment for you to talk to your doctor about medication?’ This way it’s a team approach, not blaming one person. And if he or she is depressed, you finding a therapist or making an appointment for them may make it seem less daunting or exhausting. Tell him or her, ‘We’ll get through this together. It will get better.’” ― Shannon Kolakowski, psychologist and author of When Depression Hurts Your Relationship

Don’t say: “Things can’t be THAT bad right now.”

Instead say: “How have you been feeling lately? Is it worse at some times than others?”

“Ask, don’t tell. Don’t try to reassure your partner by telling them it couldn’t be that bad. Don’t tell them that they will get over it soon or that tomorrow will be a better day. Don’t tell them how to fix the problem. Instead, ask questions. How have they been feeling? Ask if it seems to be worse at some times than others. Ask what they think might have been the trigger. Asking gives your partner permission to talk about feelings. Talking establishes connection, which is very helpful because depressed people tend to socially isolate.” ― Susan Heitler, psychologist and author

Don’t say: “How much longer until you’re better?”

Instead say: “How are you feeling?”

“One of my previous partners used to ask me this after every therapy appointment, as though there was a set timeline for depression and an end date for treatment that was the same for everyone. This would make me feel as though I was failing at therapy, and would actually work against any progress I had made, since I felt so far from being where I ‘should’ be or where he thought I needed to be.

Open-ended questions, like ‘how are you feeling?’ or ‘in what ways do you think therapy sessions are helping you?’ may be more beneficial and feel like less of an attack. Stay away from statements that may cause your partner to feel like what they are experiencing is their fault. Acknowledge that your partner is not feeling well, and that you support them and love them, even if it takes a while for them to start to feel like themselves again.” ― Lauren Hasha, counselor and writer

Don’t say: “Why don’t you just get out of bed and go for a walk, or watch a happy movie?”

Instead say: “Would you go for a short walk with me?”

“When our partner is depressed, we want to help and fix it immediately. As the caregiving partner without depression, we tend to start sentences like, ‘Why don’t you just ― fill in the blank: go for a walk, watch a happy movie, get out of bed.’ After all, we can see what would help! While depression does often make it difficult to get motivated and create action, we cannot presume that our partner is ignorant to a healthier way of doing things. It may just be that in that moment, they simply cannot do what seems healthy. Depression is a liar, and often keeps those experiencing it stuck in a negative vacuum of destructive thoughts, immobility and inaction.

A different way of suggesting action and movement in a depressed partner may be to ask, ‘Would you go for a short walk with me?’ Or, ‘I’d like to watch this funny movie, would you watch it with me?’ You are asking your partner to participate with you in something that you suspect will also help them. They feel needed and wanted, and you may be able to move them off their depressive center.” ― Angela Avery, counselor who specializes in depression and marital issues

Don’t say: “How could this happen to you?”

Instead say: “I am with you. You are not alone in this. This happens to others.”

“Any remarks which communicate judgment, disappointment or negativity are problematic. A depressed person is already feeling terrible. What is needed are statements of acceptance and care. It’s helpful to say stuff like, ‘I am with you. You are not alone in this. This happens to others.’ While a depressed person doesn’t necessarily need a cheerleader, it is important to communicate confidence that he or she will be well again, and that this is a dark and difficult period but not a permanent situation.” ― Irina Firstein, couples therapist

Don’t say: “You’re so negative.”

Instead say: “It won’t be like this forever.”

“It’s true that depression can transform even the most positive person into someone who may only be able to see negativity in the world around them. This has nothing to do with the person and everything to do with the depression. When making a statement that begins with the word ‘you,’ it can feel to the other person that you are pointing your finger at them, accusing them of something that may be entirely out of their control in that moment. This will lead to hurt, defensiveness, and isolation between your partner and yourself.

Depression is a lens through which they are currently seeing the world, one that is unwelcome and unpleasant. They don’t want to see the glass as half empty, but right now, depression has taken over and that’s all they might be able to see. Gently and kindly remind yourself and your partner that in those moments, it’s the depression doing the talking. Also remind yourself (and them) that after the depression lifts, they will be able to see the positive things in the world once again. When someone is depressed, it truly feels as though the symptoms may last forever, so it’s important to remind your partner that they will pass.” ― Lauren Hasha

Don’t say: “You shouldn’t feel that way.”

Instead say: “I’d like to remind you that you matter to me. I need you, I want you, I love you.”

“Clinical depression is not a choice, it is a mood disorder caused by any number of biopsychosocial factors. When our partner is down, it’s normal to try and negate their seemingly irrational thoughts and argue for the positive, more constructive side of things. However, when a depressed person hears ‘you shouldn’t’ before any further words, he or she often feels more guilt, shame and sensitivity about their thought patterns, as if they’ve done something wrong.

The better choice is to frame their thinking and validate it through their depressive lens. What that sounds like is, ‘Your depression is telling you that you don’t matter to anyone. I understand it has a strong hold on your mind. I’d also like to remind you that you matter to me, I need you, I want you, I love you.’ Whenever we can promote the distinction between what depression is saying, and what reality is presenting, we are not arguing with our partner. Rather, we are showing them that there are alternatives to a thought.” ― Angela Avery

Don’t say: “You’re not fun anymore. We never go out.”

Instead say: “Let’s get coffee together.”

“Take simple steps to get out of the house with your partner. Suggest a walk together, or coffee with friends ― one simple routine activity each day can help lift your partner’s mood. ​And take care of yourself, too. Plan outings with friends or family, or take a day of relaxation to get support for yourself. This is essential to buffer you from also becoming depressed, which can happen when your partner is down.” ― ​Shannon Kolakowski

Depression: How to Fight for Faith in the Dark

SOURCE:  Stephen Altrogge/Desiring God

Three Lessons for Depression

I’ve often said that depression is like wearing tinted glasses. Everywhere you look, things look dark. Bleak. Black. Hopeless. Helpless. The waiting room for depression says, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Depression is both a physical and spiritual affliction. Neurons and synapses fail to fire properly, leading to chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances cause the depressed person to feel awful, like their entire world is a raw catastrophe hovering over the depths of despair. When everything is a catastrophe, it’s easy for faith to falter and stumble.

“Depression causes a person to feel only gloom and despair, no matter what they’re thinking.”

Normally, the prescription for faith is somewhat straightforward. We read the promises of God, let them diffuse throughout our hearts, and then embrace them fully. As we embrace these promises, our faith rises. When we have more faith, there is often a physical feeling of encouragement and hope.

But with clinical depression (and most other forms of mental illness), things don’t work quite that way. Depression usually causes a person to feel only gloom and despair, no matter what they’re thinking. Filling your mind with God’s promises is necessary, but it doesn’t usually alter the way you feel. It’s like having a migraine. Believing God’s word is essential, but it won’t take away the migraine (usually).

From Gloom Toward Gladness

When all you feel is gloom, it becomes very hard to have hope, no matter what you read in Scripture. As someone who labored under a lot of depression and anxiety throughout my life, I know that it usually doesn’t help a depressed person to say, “Just believe God’s word more!”

So if you’re depressed, how can you fight for faith? How can you believe while also stumbling through the dark? Here are some things that have helped me.

1. Distinguish between fact and feeling.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that 90% of the time in the midst of my depression, my feelings have zero connection to reality. This is key when you’re in the morass of mental illness.

I feel bad because something is seriously wrong with my body. Because my brain is rebelling — not because everything is really going to pieces. Reality is outside of my broken brain. It is defined by God’s word. It’s solid. Objective. Unchangeable. If I try to process my life or circumstances through the dark lens of depression, I will be terrified.

“Depression turns our brain into a swirling mass of half-truths and distorted perceptions.”

If you’re depressed, it can be dangerous to evaluate anything in your life. Don’t scrutinize your circumstances or friendships or prospects for marriage. I can assure you that you will misinterpret reality.

Instead, simply say, “I’m leaving that to God for now. I’ll think about it later and trust him to handle it.” God is good. He is faithful. He loves you even though you don’t feel it. He can handle your life even when you can’t.

Remember, faith is not a feeling. Faith is simply believing that God will do what he said, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I can guarantee that when you’re depressed, it won’t feel like God is faithful. But that feeling simply is not true. Don’t believe it.

John Calvin, a pastor acutely sensitive to the imperfect feeling of our faith, says that true faith “clings so fast to the inmost parts that, however it seems to be shaken or to bend this way or that, its light is never so extinguished or snuffed out that it does not at least lurk as it were beneath the ashes” (Institutes). Like David prays in Psalm 139:11–12our faith may often slip away from our sight, but it does not slip away from God who gave it in the first place.

Separate your feelings from the truth.

2. Find a friend to remind you of the truth.

Depression gets you stuck inside your head. Your brain becomes a swirling mass of half-truths and distorted perceptions. Up seems down; truth seems stranger than fiction. It’s impossible to think straight. It’s like looking upside down in a hall of darkened mirrors.

During these times, I need someone to tell me the truth. Not in a corrective way or as an exhortation, but simply as an anchor. I need someone to say, “Listen, here’s what’s true. I know it doesn’t feel true, but it’s true. Right now, you feel like you are doomed. But God is with you. He loves you and won’t let you go.”

“Just twenty minutes in the sun can do wonders for the darkened brain and the sunken soul.”

If you’re depressed, one of your greatest temptations is to shut people out. And I get that. It’s really hard to let people into the cage of your life. But you need someone to gently remind you of what’s real; a faithful friend to walk through the valley of depression with you.

When your friend speaks the truth to you, it gives you something to grab onto. In the moments of darkness, don’t believe what your mind is telling you. Believe the words of your faithful friend.

3. Give sunshine to the soul.

There is an intimate connection between the body and soul. The body often charts the way forward and the soul follows in the wake. When your body is deeply sick, it pulls your soul downward, like a weight tied around the ankle.

I’ve found that one of the most effective methods for increasing my faith begins with my body. When I exercise or go for a walk or sit in the sunshine, my body feels better. Blood and oxygen pump through my body, refreshing and nurturing it. When I feel better, I think more clearly and see things more accurately.

When I think more clearly, I can more easily process and embrace God’s promises.

When I embrace God’s promises, my faith surges.

Charles Spurgeon, who often fought depression, said,

A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is the next best.

“God loves you even though you don’t feel it. He can handle your life even when you can’t.”

If you’re depressed, embrace the sunshine. Go for a walk or a jog. Sit on your porch and feel the warmth on your face. Drink your coffee and watch the sun rise.

You won’t feel like it. You’ll want to hole up in the darkness of your room or stay in bed. But just twenty minutes in the sun can do wonders for the darkened brain and the sunken soul.

A Grip Stronger Than Your Own

Ultimately, your hope in depression hinges on Jesus. He’s holding onto you even when it feels like you’re free falling. You may be in the dark, but your Shepherd is walking right beside you. He knows what it’s like to be overwhelmed by grief and swallowed by bleakness.

Your grip on life may falter, but his grip on you won’t.

How People With Depression Interact With The World Differently

SOURCE:  Lindsay Holmes

The condition has a huge impact on everyday life.

Nothing about depression is easy. But the way it affects a person’s daily life is arguably the most difficult part of the disorder.

Approximately 300 million people globally are affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization. Not only does it create emotional health issues, like excessive rumination and lack of motivation, but it also causes physical health problems, like headaches and trouble eating. It can also cause fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

The reality is that these symptoms all have a significant effect on routines, from running errands to social situations to even just going to sleep. As with any medical issue, the more knowledge you’re armed with, the better. That’s why we rounded up just some of the ways depression influences a person’s day-to-day life.

Below are a few ways people with the disorder interact differently with the world compared to their peers:

People with depression often ignore routine appointments.

For most, haircuts or dermatologist visits are expected blips on the calendar. However, depression can make these events feel like monumental tasks.

A case in point is a heartbreaking account from Kate Langman, a Wisconsin-based hairstylist. Her Facebook post  went viral after she shared the story of a client with depression who came into the salon.

She couldn’t get out of her bed for 6 months. Which meant she didn’t wash her hair or brush it,” Langman wrote.

Going to a simple, menial appointment is often one of the biggest victories.

They might snooze more than most.

Depression often leads to increased fatigue and irregular sleep patterns. This means that those living with the disorder may sleep more than usual or even experience insomnia.

This might not sound so bad in theory: Naps are awesome, right? But as writer Cory Steig put it in a Refinery29 post, napping when dealing with depression is more draining than anything:

[Y]ou know you’re probably not going to wake up refreshed and energized enough to take on the task you’re supposed to be doing instead of taking a nap.

They might leave work to-do lists unfinished.

The mental health disorder can take a toll on a person’s work performance. Symptoms like a lack of motivation or energy can prevent an individual with the condition from accomplishing tasks.

Or, the illness can keep people out of the office altogether: Employees with the condition miss approximately four workdays every three months due to its effects, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Serious mental illness costs the country more than $190 billion in lost earnings every year.

People living with depression may avoid fun activities.

Depression can cause a lack of interest in thing people once found pleasurable. That could mean going to parties, participating in sports or even engaging in sex is no longer the norm.

Depression makes your life dramatically different,” Dr. John Greden, executive director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, previously told HuffPost.

Depression makes them see things through a glass half empty.

The condition often makes the person living with it see everything from a pessimistic perspective.

Depression is a negative view of self, of the world and of the future,” Greden said. “Everything is sort of being seen through dark-colored glasses … It’s pretty common, when people are depressed, for them to think that no one understands them ― and that’s a really tough place to be.”

People with depression have brains that are more prone to stress.

While some cases of depression can be acute and circumstantial (i.e. getting laid off of a job or going through a trauma), others can be more biological in nature. Research suggests depression can be influenced by environmental and genetic factors. A 2014 study even found that depression might make that person’s brain more susceptible to psychological stress.

In other words, the condition isn’t just something they “made up” or can “get over” so quickly. It’s a physiological issue that requires care.

Depression makes them want to push others away.

A common side effect of depression is changes to relationships. People living with the disorder may start to withdraw from their friends and family, and the mood symptoms may cause them to become irritable or angry.

That being said, a little encouragement can go a long way. Reader Avarie Downs, who identifies as having high-functioning depression, points out that even just an affectionate gesture can make a huge difference:

I wish he knew how overwhelming being sad during a depressive state is … sometimes it would be really nice to get a hug, instead of just the cold shoulder and being ignored because it is difficult to understand. Support is worth more than words could ever say.

Experts also recommend letting people with depression know that they’re not alone. Offering to listen to them talk about their experience or accompanying them to therapy can also help.

People with depression may need to see doctors more regularly.

Depression not only needs to be treated by a professional, but it also could put the person at a greater risk for other illnesses. So seeing doctors, between primary care physicians or mental health workers, on a more regular basis is so key when it comes to managing the condition.

Depression is a common problem,” Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, previously told HuffPost. “There shouldn’t be shame in seeking help for that. People wouldn’t feel shamed if they got help for a broken arm. Depression is much like that. It’s treatable and you should tend to it.”

Ultimately, depression ― just like any other medical illness ― alters a person’s daily existence. And the more people keep that in mind, the less stigma and more understanding there will be about what it means to live with the disorder.

Tan: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

SOURCE:  Taken from Disciplines of the Holy Spirit by S.Y. Tan

Occasionally the Lord leads us into a time of isolation and solitude that can only be described, in the words of St. John of the Cross, as a “dark night of the soul.”  We may feel dry, in despair, or lost.  God may seem absent, His voice silent.  The prophet Isaiah declared, “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isa. 50:10).

Such dark times can be pregnant with God’s purpose; they can be times in which we are stripped of our overdependence on the emotional life, on things of this world, and on ourselves.  “The dark night” is one of the ways the Spirit slows our pace, even bringing us to a halt, so that He can work an inner transformation of the heart and soul.

Those who are hungry for God can expect to be drawn or driven into times of dryness or confusion, where faith and dependence on God are tested and deepened.

A. W. Tozer describes this process as the “ministry of the night.”  In these times, God seems to be at work to take away from our hearts everything we love most.  Everything we trust in seems lost to us.  Our most precious treasures turn to piles of ashes.

In times like these, says Tozer:

 

Slowly you will discover God’s love in your suffering.  Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing.  You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you – the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death, and what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life.  And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth’s trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven.

 

As we seek to draw near to God, we can expect to have times in our lives when we too experience the “ministry of the night.”  Our best response during these seasons is to wait upon God, trust Him, be still, and pray.

 

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Why do people cut themselves? And how to help them stop

[The Counseling Moment editor’s note:  Although this article is written to those who minister to others with this issue, the article contains insights useful to all.]

SOURCE:  

Self-harm behaviors can be a foreign concept to many of us adults, but they are on the rise among adolescents and young adults. The National Institutes of Health indicate rates anywhere from 7 to 24 percent in teenagers, but as high as 38 percent in college-age women.1 However, these self-harm behaviors are oftentimes misunderstood by those who seek to minister to them. Given such high incidence rates, though, pastors and ministers must not only understand the motivations behind self-harm but also know how to minister to those engaging in such activities.2

Understanding self-harm

Self-injurious behaviors most frequently present themselves in the form of cutting various parts of the body, like one’s arms or legs, but may also be seen in burning oneself, picking at scabs, punching or hitting oneself, pulling one’s hair, or a host of other behaviors that cause wounds or bruises. Most often, the effects of the self-harm are well concealed behind long-sleeved shirts or long pants, but other times the wounds cannot be covered and are visible to others.

Self-harm behaviors are almost always done to cope with difficult emotions such as sadness, worry, or fear.

But engaging in self-harm does not equal suicidal. One of the most common misconceptions about self-harm is that it is always linked to suicidal thoughts or intentions. However, this simply isn’t the case. While suicidal thoughts do often accompany self-injurious behaviors, the injury to oneself is not always intended to lead to suicide. In fact, some teenagers report engaging in self-harm to avoid getting to the point where they feel suicidal.

A word of warning here, though: sometimes self-harm behaviors either intentionally or unintentionally do become suicide attempts. While we cannot assume that self-harm is always connected with or intended to bring about one’s own death, we should understand the reality that either intentions change quickly or what is meant to bring only injury accidentally leads to even greater, perhaps unintended, harm or even death.

If you suspect that someone is suicidal, or that the person has means and has stated intent, take immediate action. That may mean calling law enforcement, engaging an experienced counselor, or taking the young person to the hospital.

So what are the motivations? Most often, self-harm behaviors are engaged in to cope with difficult, and many times overwhelming, emotional struggles. For instance, a teenager may be experiencing deep sadness, and for the first time in her life, this emotion seems overwhelming. Given her lack of life experience with such strong emotions, she engages in causing physical pain to cope with the emotional pain.

Alternatively, some young people express that they feel a lack of any emotion at all, so they engage in self-harm to be able to feel something, even if what they feel is negative. Paired with this, some report feelings of emptiness, guilt, or tension, and self-harm behaviors provide an outlet for those feelings.

Dealing with emotional struggles isn’t the only motivation for self-harm, though, so we cannot assume such. I have personally heard of teenagers being “bored” and having nothing else to do, who then engage in cutting themselves. I’ve also seen a trend of self-harm leading to attention from one’s peers, both positive and negative, but attention nonetheless. While we certainly cannot assume that self-harm is merely for attention, the social and cultural reality of young people also cannot be overlooked.

Ministering to those who engage in self-harm

So how can we best minister to those who engage in these behaviors? In particular, how can we love and care for these young people well when their struggle is one we have difficulty understanding?

Seek to understand. First and foremost, try to understand. The first time I sat with a counselee who engaged in cutting, I simply asked her to help me understand where she was coming from, as I had no personal frame of reference for her actions. I genuinely wanted to understand the emotions and thoughts driving her behaviors, and she was willing to share.

As ministers, we first must listen well to understand. Oftentimes, those who are struggling in this area are dealing with strong emotions that they have difficulty understanding, or they have experienced difficulties in life that we cannot imagine. We must be willing to enter their world and hear their struggles before we can speak truth into their lives.

Look for the root of the problem. Self-harm behaviors almost always point to something deeper. Most often, it is an emotional struggle. Ask questions, and ask good questions: What is the self-harm in response to, or what is it satisfying? Self-injury is a way of dealing with life problems, so we cannot simply try to change that behavior without dealing with the underlying issue. To do so would be like trying to scoop trash out of a stream when it is continually being dumped in upstream. The trash will just keep coming until we deal with the source of the problem.

What does this look like, though? Perhaps in listening to a young person sharing his story, you realize that his self-harm is in response to a world that he feels is in chaos, and hitting himself is the only way he has of controlling his own life. But without listening, you’d only be trying to get him to stop hurting himself rather than realizing that he is in harm’s way on a daily basis and that hurting himself gives him some sense of consistency and control.

Consider good questions versus better questions. So how do we know what to ask? I mentioned above that we need to get to what the source of the issue is, rather than simply the issue itself. While good questions may elicit facts like what their behaviors are or how frequently they engage in them, better questions get at motivations and desires. Here are some examples:

Good questions: Better questions:
Why are you hurting yourself? What situations do you find yourself in just prior to hurting yourself?
What’s going on in your life? What are you most struggling with? What are you most afraid of or anxious about?
How do you feel when you cut yourself? Does your cutting satisfy a need? What is that need?
Do you want to stop? What obstacles are present that make this difficult to stop?

Provide practical safeguards. Even though we should be listening well for the root of the problem, an immediate strategy we can take is to implement practical safeguards, for instance, removing razor blades or knives from the home or ensuring there is always someone else nearby. While we can’t feasibly remove every means of self-injury, we can remove many.

We can also instruct those around the self-injurious person to be aware of times when temptations may be at their highest. While parents can’t keep a constant eye on their teenagers, they can ensure that the teenagers are actively engaged, and they can be watching for changes in the teens’ emotions. Parents can find time as well to intentionally listen to their teenagers, asking good questions and providing encouragement for daily difficulties.

Share biblically based hope and promises. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a great high priest who can sympathize in our every weakness, and that includes the temptation to self-harm. People struggling in this area have a Savior who has walked where they walk, who has been tempted as they are, and who was without sin. And as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, they can confidently approach God to receive grace and mercy. Help those who self-harm grasp that Christ understands their struggle and that He is approachable in their moments of weakness, ready to dispense grace and mercy. This truth can be used to encourage them to pray when they’re tempted to cut themselves and to help them understand that Christ accepts them when they sin.

We are told as well in Scripture that we will never be forsaken by God, and because of that truth, we do not have to be afraid. While this promise shows up over and over in the Bible, in particular we are reminded in Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (ESV). Those fears that lead people to self-harm are not unknown to our God who goes before them, and He is constantly walking with them now.

Finally, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we are also no longer enslaved to our sinful flesh, but are slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:17–18). That means that followers of Christ can overcome the temptation to self-harm, by the power of God’s Spirit, who lives and works in them. That brings great hope to those who find themselves in the cycle of these behaviors.

The gospel message, then, has much to say to those who are struggling with difficult emotions, overwhelming guilt, or feelings of emptiness and to those who deal with those struggles through self-injury.

Pastors and ministers, we cannot forget the hope of the gospel when ministering to these young people. Like all of us, they need it desperately. They need people to listen to them well, get at the heart of the issue, help establish safeguards, and give hope through Christ. In doing so, we are able to walk with them, bear their burdens with them, and watch the Lord bring them out of these cycles of self-harm.

What Do I Do With My Regrets?

SOURCE:  Jon Gauger/Family Life Today

Rather than letting go of our regrets, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging them.

I should be dead by now. Really.

Thankfully, as a boy of 15, I underwent surgery for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Had my parents not opted for such a treatment, statistics say I wouldn’t be alive today because of the crushing my internal organs would have received from the twisting of my own spine. If not dead, my torso would resemble something like the fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The surgery was no minor deal. First, an incision was made from my waist to the top of my shoulders (about two feet long). After straightening the spine and fastening two metal rods (each rod about a foot long) into the vertebrae, the surgeon chipped tiny fragments off my hip and then carefully placed them along the vertebrae to create a bone fusion.

Recovery was slow. Every four hours I was rotated from my back to my stomach on a circular bed frame resembling equipment from a circus acrobatic act. After nearly two weeks of rotating bed confinement, I was informed that the next day would be “casting day,” when I would get a plaster cast covering most of my upper body, allowing for near normal mobility. I distinctly recall the nurse warning me the night before. “Your incision is healing, and you’ll likely feel an itching sensation tonight. Whatever you do, don’t scratch your scar.”

But what I felt that night was more than an itching sensation. It was an itching assault. An itching warfare. I scratched (bad decision). And the scars itched more. I scratched more. And the scars itched still more. At the height of this agony (I do not overstate the moment), it was all I could do to force myself to clench the tubular steel of the circular frame bed and quote every Bible verse I’d ever learned over and over. It remains the most awful night of my life.

Who knew a scar could cause so much pain?

Regrets are scars of the soul.

We carry them around with us, and every now and then they itch. So we scratch them. We replay that thoughtless deed, that hurtful conversation. But instead of relief, we sense only a greater discomfort. Rather than let these memories go, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging our regrets.

What should we do with our scars when they assault us at night or in moments of tired reflection?

Scars, medical experts tell us, require regular and proper care (mine still itch or get occasional scabs). But what kind of care is there for scars of the soul? It’s a question we put to our contributors. Just what should we do with our regrets?

Walter Wangerin

This is simple: Pray for forgiveness. Ask the Christ who fought the devil to come and speak to our regret. Invariably, the word the Lord brings us is, “Go and sin no more. I have forgiven you. Now go on. Get up. Go back to your life and be better than you were.”

George Verwer

I read a long time ago that regret is the most subtle form of self-love. The temptation to regret comes the same way as any other temptation. What we need to do is readily embrace the gift of God’s grace. A lot of people have had their lives filled with failure, yet they do really well at the end. We need to encourage one another with that. Regarding our specific regrets, God has forgiven us. He knows how to work things out for good, so we can’t dwell on regret. We have to somehow move forward because it’s a form of anxiety to dwell on our regrets, paying too much attention to ourselves. We need to claim God’s forgiveness and grace and press on.

Kay Arthur

What do we do with our regrets? Now that’s a question I can answer readily for two reasons. One, I messed up so much before I came to know genuine salvation at the age of 29, and it had great ramifications. Second, I am a perfectionist. I battle with, “I could have done it better, I should have, I wish I had, why didn’t I?” This is where I must run to the open arms of my Sovereign God and all His promises and bring them to bear on my regrets. Also, I would add that we need to remember Satan is the accuser of the children of God (Revelation 12:10-11), so I have to stay dressed in His armor, rejoicing that He will make me “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

The first thing we have to do is thank God for grace. Go back to the cross. Preach the gospel to ourselves and realize, “I am not the Christ. I am a sinner who needs a Savior—and thank God I have a Savior.” I thank God He has not dealt with me according to my sins or as I deserve. The sum total of my life will not be about how well I performed, how well I lived up to my goals, or how successfully I overcame my bad habits or sinful patterns. When it’s said and done, the sum total will be Christ my righteousness. He took my sin—He who had no sin—on Himself. He clothed me in His righteousness, and that is the only basis on which I will ever be able to stand before God and not be ashamed. Every day I have to preach that gospel back to myself and live in the constant conscious awareness that Christ is my life. He is my righteousness. He is my only hope in life and in death.

James MacDonald

Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I believe all of our sins—past, present, and future—are under the blood of Christ, that we’re forgiven. I think we need to live as forgiven people. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Genuine repentance is not thinking about what I should have done or what I could have done. It’s thinking about what Christ has done, and living in that. When your kids were little and they would act up, what you wanted was for them to forsake the bad behavior and go forward. That’s what I believe the Lord wants for us. Not to wallow in our failures, but to revel in His grace and to give it to others.

Joni Eareckson Tada

I love to read passages in Scripture that remind me that God has a poor memory when it comes to my sin. He remembers my sin no more (Isaiah 43:25). He separates me from my sin as far as the east is from the west, as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11-12). That is what makes the Good News so great! God will not remember our sins. You know what? We shouldn’t either.

Michael W. Smith

You use regrets for good. That’s one reason I started Rocketown, a club for kids in Nashville. I love speaking to youth. I’m able to say, “Hey, guys, let me tell you my story.” Based on my own experiences, I have a little bit of credibility talking to some kid who is smoking dope every day and getting high, struggling with drugs. I say, “I’ve been there.” He might respond, “Yeah, whatever.” Then I tell him my story, and all of a sudden he’s listening because I have been there. I get to say, “Guys, it’s a dead-end street. It’ll take you down. This is not what your destiny is.” Regret gives me an opportunity to speak into kids’ lives because of the fact that I’ve been there.

How a Heavy Heart Gives Thanks

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

We are, for the most part, troubled people.

We are troubled within, and troubled without. We are troubled in our bodies, and in our families. We are troubled in our workplaces, and in our churches. We are troubled in our neighborhoods, and across our nation.

We welcome trouble with our sin, but we are plagued by trouble even in our best efforts. Job’s friend, Eliphaz, while not the best counselor, got it right when he said, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).

“Jesus’s thankfulness to the Father as he went to the cross expressed like nothing else his trust in the Father.”

Therefore, we, for the most part, are burdened people, because troubled hearts carry heavy burdens with them.

And in the midst of all our nearly constant and complex trouble, Jesus says to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). And Paul, who knew more constant and complex trouble than most of us will know, says to us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

How are these commands possible? Most of what troubles us springs from moral, spiritual, or natural evil and corruption — and yet we’re to give thanks?

Heaviest Heart in History

No one in the history of the world was burdened in his soul like Jesus on Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

No one — no grieving spouse in a solitary house, no weeping parent beside a child’s grave, no heart shattered by a love betrayed, no wordless ache for a wandering prodigal, no desolate soul staring at a terminal test result, no felon in an isolated cell of relentless shame knows the burden that pressed upon Jesus as he walked up the stairs to share the final meal of his mortal life on this earth.

It was the Passover, and Jesus was the Lamb. Like the ancient Father Abraham leading his trusting son up the slope of Mount Moriah, the Ancient of Days was leading his trusting Son of Man to a sacrificial altar (Genesis 22; Daniel 7:13). But unlike Isaac, the Son of Man fully knew what lay in store and he went willingly. He knew no angel would stay his Father’s hand; no substitute lamb would be provided. He was the substitute Lamb. And his Father was leading him to slaughter where he would be crushed and put to grief (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

“If we trust God in the worst, darkest, most horrible troubles we face, he will make us more than conquerors.”

And oh, what grief and sorrow he bore (Isaiah 53:3)! Jesus fully knew the price he must pay to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). He knew the nature, scope, and weight of his Father’s righteous wrath. “Crushed” was not a metaphor; it was a spiritual reality. The Son of Man (John 3:14), God the Son (Hebrews 1:1–3), the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the great I Am (John 8:58), the Lord himself (Philippians 2:11), who came into the world for this very moment, would plead in bloody terror for the Father’s deliverance before the end (John 12:27; Matthew 26:39).

Broken and Thankful

His burdens in body and soul would exceed every humanly conceivable measure. He would be despised and rejected by those in heaven and earth and under the earth. Yet he took bread — bread representing the breakable body holding it — and gave thanks and he broke it (Luke 22:19). With an incomparably heavy heart, the anticipated horror relentlessly pressing in on all sides of his consciousness, Jesus gave thanks to his Father — the very Father leading him into the deepest valley ever experienced by a human — and then he broke the bread.

We should not quickly or lightly overlook Jesus’s gratitude because he’s Jesus, as if knowing it was going to be all right in the end made it any easier. He was thankful because he did believe it would be all right (Hebrews 12:2). But we know little of the agony he felt or the spiritual assault he endured. What we do know is that he “in every respect [was] tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So, in our difficulty to see past our troubles to the joy God promises us, we get an inkling of the infinitely greater difficulty he faced.

Learn from His Heavy Heart

When Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled, and to give thanks in all circumstances, we can know that we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15), and that he has left us an example, so that we might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).

“Every troubled tear we shed in this life is kept and counted by God, and one day he will wipe away every single one.”

What is this example? In the face of unquantifiable, inexpressible evil — the worst trouble that has ever tortured a human soul — Jesus believed in God the Father’s promise that his work on the cross would overcome the worst, hellish evil in the world (John 3:16–17). He believed that “out of the anguish of his soul” he would “see his offspring” and “prolong his days” (Isaiah 53:10–11). He believed that if he humbled himself under God’s mighty hand, his Father would exalt him at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6), and that every knee would bow and tongue confess that he was Lord to the glory of his Father (Philippians 2:11).

It was that future grace of joy set before Jesus that enabled him to endure the cross, and to give thanks as he was being brought there to be crucified. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith because he believed the Father’s promise was surer than the doom that lay before him (Hebrews 12:2). His giving thanks was a supreme form of worship, for it expressed like nothing else his trust in the Father.

We Can Give Thanks

Therefore, Jesus is able to say to us in our trouble, “Believe in God; believe also in me” and, “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 14:1; 16:33). We who believe in him have every reason to “be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). For an empty cross and empty tomb speak this to us:

  • In all our trouble, God makes known the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
  • He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
  • He will complete the good work he began in us despite how things look now (Philippians 1:6).
  • If we trust the Father in the worst, darkest, most horrible troubles we face, he will make us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37–39).
  • Every troubled tear we shed over the effects of the fall are kept in God’s bottle (Psalm 56:8) and will be wiped away forever (Revelation 21:4).

It is possible to give thanks with heavy hearts in the midst of trouble. Trusting the Father by looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), and remembering every promise is now “Yes” to us in him (2 Corinthians 1:20), will lighten our burden (Matthew 11:30). It will pour hope and joy into our hurting hearts, giving rise to faith-fueled, worshipful thanksgiving.

6 Little-Known Signs of Depression in Older Adults

SOURCE:  Kristen Sturt

Depression affects over two million people 65-plus; learn how to identify the signs, and how to get help.

Your husband might be depressed, and you might not know it. Or, maybe it’s your sister or your mother.

Maybe it’s even you.

Even though upwards of two million Americans age 65-plus experience depression, the majority of seniors—68 percent, according to a National Mental Health Association survey—know little about it. One big reason is that signs are easy to overlook, since they’re frequently confused with other ailments and changes that come naturally with aging.

“Often in older adults, when they’re depressed, you don’t see high levels of crying and sadness you might see in a younger adult,” says Dr. Sarah Yarry, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in gerontology. “You see it more often as withdrawal. It’s apathy, hopelessness, loss of appetite and interest.” Older adults regularly demonstrate physical symptoms, as well—particularly aches and pains—and when they’re not addressed along with the underlying neurological issues, depression is more likely to linger, and more likely to come back.

Depression comes with serious personal costs, too: It’s correlated with a higher risk of dying early from certain illnesses and is a major factor in suicides. That’s why it’s imperative to recognize the signs—even the lesser-known ones—before it’s too late. Here, then, are some common, but little-known indications of depression in older adults.

1. Joint and back pain

As we age, some pain is to be expected, and it doesn’t have to come with depression. That said, the connection between pain and depression can’t be ignored—especially if the pain is chronic, meaning it lasts more than a few months. Back aches and joint pain are commonly reported signs. One 2015 study in the journal Arthritis even found that about 12 percent of those with hip or knee osteoarthritis were depressed, versus about 6.6 percent of the general population. What’s more, “each additional symptomatic joint was associated with a 19 percent increase in the odds of self-reported depression.” Research shows that pain and depression is a chicken-egg scenario, too; the discomfort contributes to the depression, which can then intensify the agony. Physically painful illnesses, from stroke to multiple sclerosis, can exacerbate depression, too.

2. Cognitive impairment

While our mental abilities are expected to decline somewhat with age, depression can do a number on memory, focus, attentiveness, and even speech and movement. In fact, one small 2004 study found that more than half of participants suffering from late-life depression had significant problems with processing information and executive function (decision making, reason, etc.).

This mental cloudiness is frequently confused with dementia. As opposed to a degenerative condition like Alzheimer’s, however, “The confusion comes from lack of energy and apathy,” says Dr. Yarry. “It takes so much effort with them because they’re depressed.” This makes diagnosis crucial, since treating depression can improve sharpness.

3. Chest pain

Heart disease and depression often go hand in hand; depressed people show more signs of coronary illness, and people suffering from coronary illness are more likely to be depressed. Two recent studies support this:

  • A 2010 study in Heart Views found that chest pain patients demonstrated “more than triple” the rate of depression of the general population.
  • A 2015 study found that newly depressed angina patients “reported more angina and physical limitations” than those who were not depressed.

Depression apparently makes surviving coronary disease more difficult, too; depressed heart failure patients, for example, are four times as likely to die early. Part of this may be chemical, part if it is because depressed people may be less motivated to take good care of themselves. Either way, chest pain like angina can be an indicator of depression.

4. Irritability

In addition to melancholy, older adults suffering from depression may express grouchiness, increased anger, or even open hostility, all of which can be magnified by the use of alcohol (also tied to depression). Part of the reason for this is cultural. “It’s more appropriate to express depression as irritability rather than sadness, because that’s what’s acceptable in that generation,” says Dr. Yarry. “It’s the accepted way of expressing emotion.” Other feelings that might indicate depression: Increased fear, anxiety, guilt, and loss of hope.

5. Headaches

Though it’s not widely known, there’s a strong, long-established tie between senior depression and headaches. For example, in 1999, the journal Pain published a survey of 1,421 Chinese seniors that found those with frequent, severe, or migraine headaches were likelier to be depressed. Migraines are especially correlative; a 2008 study of migraine patients aged 50-plus discovered that nearly half showed “mild-to-moderate depressive symptoms.”  Like joint and chest pain, depression may exacerbate headaches, while headaches can contribute to depression.

6. Gastrointestinal issues

As we age, we internalize our psychological issues in more ways than one, and depression may have some pretty serious effects on our guts. Nausea, constipation, and digestive problems are common, as are appetite and weight changes. Depressed older adults may drop pounds and slow their eating overall, though some may go the other direction and gain weight, too.

If you suspect someone you know is suffering from depression—or you, yourself are experiencing symptoms—see a medical professional as soon as possible. “Bring them to a family doctor and get an evaluation,” says Dr. Yarry, who also suggests seeing a mental health expert whose focus is in treating older people. “Talk to a geriatric psychologist that specializes in depression issues.”

For more information about depression and older adults, consult one of these resources—and remember that there’s always help.

 

7 Truths to Remember in Troubled Times

SOURCE:  Family Life/Dennis – Barbara Rainey

Concerned about economic, political, racial, and moral instability in our culture?  Disheartened by struggles in your personal life?  Here’s what to focus on when the ground shakes beneath your feet.

Years ago our family of eight and some dear friends of ours with their two kids vacationed in a small condo on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. It was a beautiful setting and a wonderful time for our families, but one night we were introduced to an experience that Southern Californians face regularly.

At 2 a.m. we awoke to a boom that made us think a truck had hit the building. Then we noticed that everything was shaking. We jumped out of bed and hurried to the living room where all our children were sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags. The chandelier over the dining room table was swinging.

It was an earthquake—not very large, but very unsettling. We felt disoriented and confused. We wondered how long it would last and what we should do. The earth is supposed to be steady and solid, and now it wasn’t. When it finally stopped we couldn’t go back to sleep for hours because our fears had been awakened and our security threatened.

Unsettling times

Does our experience describe how you have felt recently? Many Americans have felt shaken by economic instability, racial conflict, mass shootings, and terrorist threats in recent years. Even the current political races have left us feeling anxious, troubled, disoriented. We wonder what to do. We feel afraid as the ground shakes beneath our feet.

Many followers of Christ feel just as unsettled over the unprecedented transformation in the moral climate of our culture. The world’s views on human sexuality, especially, have changed so quickly that Christians are now labeled as bigots for holding to biblical standards. We don’t know how to act, what to say or not say.

And inside our individual homes, many may be feeling disoriented and disheartened because of illness, hardships, failed relationships, or recent deaths of friends or family. Like a friend of ours who just received a cancer diagnosis—her world has just been shaken. Perhaps your world has been shaken, too.

Our stability

A couple of years ago I (Barbara) was reading through the book of Isaiah, and I came across a passage I had never noticed before. Isaiah 33:5-6 says, “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.”

I was struck by that phrase in the middle: “and he will be the stability of your times…” At the time our country was experiencing an economic downturn. Everyone in America was feeling the impact.

When life feels insecure and unstable—not just in the world outside but also inside your family—remember that God is ultimately in control. No matter what is happening around you or how unsteady the world feels, He is our sure and stable foundation.

In many ways, America has been a pretty stable country for the last few decades. But it may not continue to be. When you feel the ground shift beneath your feet, it’s good to remember that Jesus is your Rock and your Fortress. He will be the stability of your times.

Dealing with the hardships of life

Life will never be easy. We will always face problems and hardship. That would be true even if our culture felt more stable than it does today, for the Scriptures promise us, “In the world you shall have tribulation.”

So how will we deal with loss, with grief, with fear, with suffering? How do we respond when things don’t go our way? And how do we teach our children to face the hardships of life?

Christians today need to know more about God, more about ourselves, and more about the mission God has given us. Here are seven things to remember:

1. God is alive. He has not disappeared. He is eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing, just as He has been from the beginning of time. As Isaiah 40:28 tells us, “… The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

2. God never changes. Psalm 90 (KJV) begins, “Lord, Thou has been our dwelling place in all generations … even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” Inspired by these words, Isaac Watts wrote the following verses in the enduring hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.” They remind us that our fears, though circumstantially different than his in ages past, are still the same:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

We all fear the loss of life, health, freedom, and peace. We fear the unknown future. But do you know who will be with us? Jesus, the One who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

3. God offers eternal life. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins have been forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. You are a child of God, and as Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is encouraging.

4. God has won the battle. He has defeated death. History will culminate in Christ’s return. No matter what we experience in the world, we can find peace in Him. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

5. God is still in control. He is not surprised by anything going on in the world, or in your life. He is the sovereign, omnipotent King of kings. Even in times of uncertainty and chaos, Romans 8:28 (NASB) is still in force: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” So is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB), which tells us, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

6. God will provide for your needs. Especially in times of economic uncertainty it’s easy to grow anxious about the most basic things, like whether we will keep our jobs, or whether our families will have enough to eat. But in Matthew 6:26-33, Jesus tells us we should not be worried about what we eat, or what we will wear:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

7. God has given us good works to do. Jesus’ words also remind us that there is more to life than meeting our daily material needs. When we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, we operate according to His priorities—we’re concerned about building our family relationships, and connecting the hearts of our children to God’s heart, and impacting future generations by proclaiming Christ. We’re concerned about God using us to reach and influence others with the gospel. That’s what life is really about.

Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ. Have you considered that your best opportunities to fulfill this role—to represent Christ and His Kingdom—may come in times like these when so many need help and encouragement?

Consider this: If you are feeling troubled by the instability in our world, then many of the people you encounter each day are concerned and fearful as well. What makes you different is that you have a firm foundation in Christ. This is an opportunity for you to shine. If you have built your home on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27), you will remain unshaken. That in itself is a witness to the watching world that there is something different about Christians. And if you then reach out to help others who struggle without that foundation, that makes you rare indeed.

When life feels insecure and unstable, focus on these timeless truths. Read the never-changing Word of God with your spouse and to your children. No matter what troubles we are experiencing in our world and in our families, He is in control. He will not abandon us. He will provide for us. This may look different than you expect, but His promises have not expired in the 21st century.

The Progressive Downward Spiral of ABUSE in Marriage

SOURCE:   Jennifer Williams-Fields

You Can Get PTSD From Staying In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Stop.

Just stop asking why a woman is so stupid and so weak when she stays in an abusive relationship. There’s no answer you can possibly understand.

Your judgment only further shames abused women. It shames women like me.

There was no punch on the very first date with my ex-husband. That’s not normally how abusive marriages start. In fact, my first date was probably pretty similar to yours: he was charming, he paid attention to me, and he flattered me.

Of course, the red flags were there in the beginning of my relationship. But I was young and naïve, probably much like you were in the beginning of your relationship.

Except my marriage took a different turn than yours.

An abusive marriage takes time to build. It’s slow and methodical and incessant, much like a dripping kitchen faucet.

It begins like a little drip you don’t even notice — an off-hand remark that is “just a joke.” I’m told I’m too sensitive and the remark was no big deal. It seems so small and insignificant at the time. I probably am a little too sensitive.

I occasionally notice the drip but it’s no big deal. A public joke made at my expense is just my partner being the usual life of the party. When he asks if I’m wearing this dress out or whom I’m going with, it only means he loves me and cares about me.

When he tells me he doesn’t like my new friend, I agree. Yes, I can see where she can be bossy. My husband is more important than a friend, so I pull away and don’t continue the friendship.

The drip is getting annoying, but you don’t sell your house over a leaky faucet.

When a playful push was a little more than playful, I tell myself he didn’t really mean it.

He forgets he’s stronger than me. When I confront him in yet another lie he’s told, he tells me I’m crazy for not believing him. Maybe I’m crazy … I’m beginning to feel a little crazy.

I begin to compensate for the drips in my marriage. I’ll be better. I’ll be a better wife. I’ll make sure the house is clean and dinner is always prepared. And when he doesn’t even come home for dinner, I’ll keep it wrapped and warmed in the oven for him.

On a night I’m feeling feisty, I feed his dinner to the dog before he comes home. I’m not feeling quite as smug well after midnight when he does show up. I quickly get out of bed and go to the kitchen as he yells at me to make him dinner.

Waking me from sleep becomes a regular occurrence. I no longer allow myself deep, restful sleep. I’m always listening and waiting.

In the morning, I’ll shush the kids to keep them quiet so they don’t wake up daddy. We all begin to walk on eggshells around him.

The drip is flowing pretty strong now. I’m afraid to put a bucket under it and see how much water I’m really losing. Denial is setting in.

If I hadn’t said what I did, he wouldn’t have gotten so mad. It’s my fault; I need to just keep quiet. I should know better than to confront him when he’s been drinking.

He’s right — I really am an ungrateful b_ _ _ _. He goes to work every day so I can stay home with the kids. Of course he needs time to himself on the way home from work each day.

On the rare occasion I do meet with my friends, I rush to be home before him. I never ask him to babysit so I can do something in the evening. I mustn’t inconvenience him.

We attempt marriage counseling. Although neither of us is totally honest about why we are there, the counselors are open with us about their concerns.

We never spend more than one session with a counselor.

I’m working so hard to be the perfect wife and have the perfect family that I don’t take the time to notice there’s water spilling on to the floor.

I know what will make this better. I’ll get really active outside the home but of course, I’ll still take care of everything in the home and never burden him. And I’ll never dare ask for help.

I’m now the perfect fourth grade room mother. My church mentors tell me to read books and listen to lectures on praying for my husband and understanding his needs.

I work very hard to present the front of a perfectly happy family. My kids are involved in multiple activities that I, of course, solely organize and am responsible for.

I’ve begun to drop subtle hints to the other moms but when they confront me I adamantly deny it. No, everything is great, I insist. I point to all the happy family photos I post to Facebook as evidence.

I’m not sure which scares me more: the fear that others will find out my secret, or that my husband will find out I told the truth about our marriage. I realize I’m now afraid of him.

 And then one day, I wake up and realize the house is flooding. My head bobs under the water. I’m scared.

I also see the fear in my children’s eyes. Oh dear God, what have I done? How did we get here? Who have I become?

The night he throws his cell phone at me and narrowly misses my head, I want to pack the kids in the car and leave. The evening at the dinner table when he stands up and throws a fork at me in front of the kids, I want to leave.

Where would I possibly go? And if I do go somewhere, what will I do? How will I afford living on my own?

He’s right — I have no skills to survive on my own. I need his money.

“What, you want to leave and go wh_ _ _ around?” he yells to me. “I always knew you were a slut.”

He’s a master at deflection. His actions are no longer the focus; I’m the one on trial now.

I’m no longer the woman I was on our first date. I’ve become timid and weak in front of him. I feel defeated. I chose this man and I gave birth to these children. It’s my fault.

With every breath I take, it’s my duty to keep these kids safe and keep my life together. It’s the only life I’ve known for twenty years. At this point, I don’t know how to do anything else.

I stay.

The flood continues. My head bobs under a second time.

On a typical anger-filled evening, I say enough is enough and I decide to fight back. But even in his stumbling drunken stupor, he’s stronger than I am.

I see the look in his eye as he hovers over me. He has biologically been given the ability to kill. That look in his eye terrifies me.

“Go ahead and leave,” he sneers to me. “But the kids stay here.”

My retreat that night is all it takes to turn the faucet on all the way and force me to tread water, if not for my life, then at the very least for my sanity.

Despite my best attempts, my secret has been exposed. I can’t just up and leave like well-meaning friends tell me to. It’s not that easy.

I have no money. In fact, he found my secret stash I’d been working on for almost a year. I thought I was so careful that no bank records would come to the house. He must have broken in to my email.

I should’ve known better. He always kept close tabs on me. He hated when I accused him of spying on me, so I just let him snoop.

He made me feel so guilty and ashamed when I handed over my secret savings to him. I wonder what he did with the money? I know it didn’t get used for the kids needs. I assume he drank it or gambled it or used it to impress another woman.

I’m stuck. I stay.

Dear God, please don’t let me go under a third time. My family is beyond rescue, but please save me and save my kids.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m no longer in the marriage, yet my scars run deep.

Abuse doesn’t always manifest as a black eye or a bloody wound. The effects of psychological abuse are just as damaging.

I entered counseling and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The psychological abuse kept me fearful, the depression and anxiety left me incapable of taking the steps necessary to get out.

Although I initially thought PTSD was a bit extreme, it’s been almost three years and certain noises or situations still trigger difficult memories for me.

When my male boss was angry and yelling at the staff one day, I became physically sick. I felt like I was right back where I was years ago, sitting and cowering on the garage floor, trying to placate the anger of a man towering over me.

I worry that not only have my daughters witnessed a man mistreat a woman, but that my sons have had a poor example to follow of what it means to be a real man.

I stayed for the sake of my children. Now, I blame myself for the effects staying may possibly have on them.

Why did I stay? I stayed because I was isolated; I was financially dependent on him; I was sleep deprived; I was told and I believed I was worthless; I was worn down from constantly being on guard for the next attack.

I stayed because I was more afraid to leave.

PRAYERS TO HELP YOU SURVIVE A STRESSFUL WEEK

SOURCE:  Nicholas Hemming

Call out to God for peace and rest

After pulling into your driveway and gathering your belongings, you realize you lack the energy you need to stand up, walk to your front door and get on with your evening. So you drop your head on your steering wheel, hoping a 30-second nap will cure your ills. It doesn’t. Fifteen minutes later, you’re still in the car, wondering how your week spiraled out of control so quickly.

In the midst of your chaos—overwhelming work responsibilities, repairs to your house and car, logistics for your family—you’ve lost all sense of reason. That’s why you’re napping in the car. But what else can you do? You’re tired, frustrated, stressed and in desperate need of a vacation.

Does this sound familiar?

Maybe your family commitments recently ramped up and you’re struggling to stay afloat. Between keeping your house tidy, cooking at least two meals per day and driving your kids to and from soccer practice, you barely have enough energy to get to your office—let alone accomplish anything on your to-do list.

Or maybe you’ve endured a week when you haven’t seen eye to eye with anyone. You’ve argued with your boss, burned bridges with close friends and constantly fought with your spouse. You keep wondering if you’ve run into a stretch of bad luck or if you’ve simply felt more combative lately. Either way, you’re angry, exhausted and ready for the week to end.

In these moments, when you can’t seem to overcome your stress, you can turn to God’s Word for peace. And you can call out go God for rest. These four prayers will get you started:

Lord, I’m exhausted. Help me to find rest in you.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28 (GNTD)

Lord, I’m frustrated. I so badly want to take a break, but I feel trapped by all my responsibilities. Give me your joy today.

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (GNTD)

Lord, I know I’ve wronged my friends and family during this stressful week. Help me to approach them with humility.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.Ephesians 4:2 (GNTD)

Lord, I constantly feel unsettled. I need your peace today.

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”John 14:27 (GNTD)

15 Subtle Signs Of Depression That Everyone Ignores

SOURCE:  Silouan Green/Lifehack

Depression begins its terror in subtle ways that can go unnoticed to others. I spent years there myself recovering from a terrible jet crash and some other unfortunate events. The perceived isolation and hopelessness can be numbing, the inevitability of a horrible fate as real as the sun rising.

I have spoken hundreds of times on depression and PTSD and I’m always asked something like, “I want to help, but people don’t always tell you when they are suffering and need help.” That is true, but there are still signs, and you can use these signs as a signal to respond.

Reach out to those who seem depressed:

You should never be afraid to engage with someone who is depressed. Your hand might be just what they need to begin the process of coming out of the dark and healing. Remind them that they are not alone. Follow your gut, and to help with that, here are 15 things you can look for if you are concerned someone you know might be depressed.

Look for these signs of depression:

  1. Sadness – An overwhelming mood of sadness. You see it in their faces. Often it is unexplainable. Don’t be afraid to let them know how they look and that you are concerned.
  2. AnxietyMind numbing anxiety. They go to sleep and their head won’t stop spinning. Waking up, they look just as anxious as they did when they went to bed.Be patient with them, just sitting and listening can help to calm them.
  3. Poor Concentration and memory – “Where did I put that list, I forgot that appointment, what was their name?” Let them know you forget things sometimes too! Encourage them to write down and make lists. Writing itself is therapeutic.
  4. Guilt and Bad thoughtsLife seems to come in waves, all the bad things and disappointments in life feel immediate. Talk to them about your own guilt. Guilt is worse when we think we are alone with it.
  5. Emotions of lossThere is a hole in their heart, they are missing something that they don’t know how to fill. Remind them that the best way to make sense of loss is by how we live. Some things can’t be replaced, but we shouldn’t let loss stop us from living which only makes the hole deeper.
  6. InsomniaThey try everything – white noise, the couch, warm milk, – yet all they do is get deeper and deeper into the numbness of Insomnia. Encourage routines, no late night eating or drinking, turn off the TV, phone, etc.
  7. Hopelessness – “Hope, what hope! Life is what it is and will only get worse.”The best way to bring someone hope is to engage with them.
  8. Eating ExtremesFrom starving themselves to gorging, food can become a drug for the depressed. Keep a good eye on this, don’t let them keep this habit in the dark. Confront them.
  9. FatigueThey are tired all the time. Help them with a sleeping and waking routine. Encourage a healthy diet, and a curb in the TV watching and internet browsing.
  10. Pessimism – “You can’t help, I’ve tried everything, this is all I’ll ever be.”Encourage them to get it out, write it down, and see it for what it is.
  11. Suicidal ideations – “Death would be better than this, death would solve my problems, everyone would be better off if I was dead.” One of the best ways to lower the risk of suicide is to encourage someone to tell you when they are thinking of suicide. Don’t be afraid, talking about it lowers the chances it will happen.
  12. IrritabilityThe smallest things can set off a flood of emotion. Again, show patience. A willingness to just sit and listen while the storm passes.
  13. Aches and PainsBack hurts, legs hurt, headaches, and no amount of massages help. Go see a Doctor! Find out if the pain is coming from an acute condition or from the stress of the depression.
  14. RecklessnessDrugs, sex, speed, life without restraints because we don’t really want to be there. Put a mirror to their actions. Ask questions. Help them set limits.
  15. Isolation – “I’d rather be alone, leave me alone.” Find ways to interact with them – coffee, a walk, a movie together – whatever it takes to regularly engage with them so at least they can count on you.

Act Today!

The signs you see may be nothing, or they could be a clue to deeper problems. Regardless, life is better when we look out for each other and remind ourselves that all of us have experienced those moments of despair and hopelessness. Reach out to someone today.

Overcoming Thoughts of Spiritual Betrayal (by God)

SOURCE: Dr. Gregory Jantz/AACC

If you have faith in God, depression can be similar to a betrayal by him.

After all, you have trusted him to care for you, yet you are still depressed.  You may have heard from your childhood that, as a Christian, you were to experience and exhibit joy, peace, patience—all the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23.  This sense of betrayal may haunt your sleepless nights and invade your despairing thoughts.  Feeling forgotten by God, you may even be angry at him.

This anger at God can contribute to your depression by provoking feelings of guilt.  You don’t think you should be angry at God, or you don’t think you have the right to be angry at God, so you feel guilty when you pray, the more you are convinced that he could fix it, but he won’t .  You doubt his love.  But you’ve also memorized John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world…” so you’ve been told he does love you.  Looking at all of this, you conclude he’s got a lousy way of showing his live, at least to you.

Or you may think, Perhaps I don’t deserve his love.  Maybe he doesn’t change my situation because I don’t deserve joy and peace in my life.  Possibly the things I’ve done are so bad that he wants to love me but can’t because of who I am.  And if God can’t love me, then I’m not really worthy to be loved by anyone.  And if my life is to be empty of love, hope is impossible.  If you look at it this way, depression is completely understandable.

Or is it?

Have you picked up the stream of thoughts in this line of reasoning?

It takes snippets of truth—God loves you, and Christians are to live lives of joy—and twists those around into something meant to injure you, not give you comfort.  This line of reasoning is not from God; it is from the Deceiver.  Rage is a deceiver.  False guilt is a deceiver.  Abject despair is a deceiver.  Depression is a deceiver.  That is why when you are in the midst of depression, you must replace your own negative self-talk with God-talk, which is based upon truth.  This God-talk will support your positive self-talk by agreeing with affirming statements, such as these:

  • I deserve love. (“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” – John 3:16)
  • I deserve joy. (“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” –Isaiah 51:11)
  • I am strong enough to learn and grow each day. (“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” – 2 Samuel 22:33)
  • I can experience contentment in my life. (“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” – Philippians 4:12)
  • I am able to respond to my circumstances, instead of react. (“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” – Romans 12:2)
  • I can look forward to tomorrow. (“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 3:22-23)

How do you fill your life and your mind with God-talk?

The Bible is full of life-affirming messages.  It is, at its heart, a love story.  It is a story of a loving God, who created you to love you and to be loved by you.

Like every great story, there is a separation, which must be overcome by terrible sacrifice.  Through God’s sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, you are able to confidently say, “I can live happily ever after.”

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Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books.

5 Things to Do When God Seems Distant

SOURCE:  Rebecca Rene Jones/Relevant Magazine

A few ways to wait well.

That June, I stood at the podium draped in black cap and gown. I was 18, my tassel dancing as I lifted lips to the mic and delivered a valedictory address full of all the right bluster: Drive slow and enjoy the brave journey. Believe in your beauty. Live out loud.

Two months later, in August, I moved into my freshman dorm. Three days in, my dad died.

After his funeral, I unplugged my mini-fridge. I hiked across campus to the registrar’s office, surrendered my meal card, un-enrolled. I stripped my mattress clean of my new sheet set and hugged my roommates an awkward goodbye. On the ride home, I began what would flower into months of questioning all of it: my dreams, my design, my direction. I balled my fist, banged hard on heaven’s screen door, and here’s the hard part: For a while, God kept quiet.

If you, too, find yourself here, on this same front porch, famished for even the faintest nudge in the right direction—sit down. Here’s what I know about waiting when God feels distant.

Know That What You’re Experiencing Is Normal

It is so unshockingly normal that C.S. Lewis actually said our fluctuating feelings about God were perhaps the only constant of our faith. “The law of Undulation,” he nicknamed it. In a nutshell, “undulation” implies that the Christian walk is a back and forth rocking between sweet “communications of His presence” and then, later: wilderness and soul-numbing silence.

In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes that God “withdraws, if not in fact, (then) at least from … conscious experience … He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.” This may seem unpleasant, but it works in us something that’s critical to our spiritual maturity: a decoupling of our faith from our feelings about it.

Undulation forces us to go beyond our own gut—and beyond our circumstances—and agree that God is good and attentive even when life suggests otherwise.

Embrace Boring Things

Today’s temptation is to bide time by distracting ourselves. We are categorically bad at waiting, at welcoming quiet, at actively wanting from God. We are much better at filling in downtime and numbing our aches with Pinterest, Twitter and Netflix.

But God dares us to do something different: To stay expectant. To stay hungry. To practice hope, as Paul says, by patiently and confidently fixing our attention on the promises we don’t yet possess (Romans 8:24-25).

Carve out quiet places to remember what you’re hoping for. For me, after Dad died, that meant taking lots of lonesome bike rides and a tedious part-time job counting pills at a local pharmacy. It’d be a stretch to call these spiritual disciplines, but I’ll go to the mat for this: they helped me protect a precious hush that God eventually spoke into.

Tell God What You Think

It’s OK to be blunt. The great prophet Elijah even prayed to die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said (1 Kings: 19:4). His earnestness isn’t exactly an anomaly, either: so many psalms echo some version of this, peppering God with the same rolling questions: Why haven’t you moved sooner? Or in quite the way we’d hoped?

On the surface, they might seem presumptuous, but at their heartbeat, these questions are actually something different: They are appeals to God’s good character. They’re sincere questions that finger a perceived disconnect between who God says He is and why His action—or seeming lack of action—seems out of step with his nature.

Sometimes, we confuse waiting on God with plunking down until we’re handed crisp itineraries.

Don’t Demand Burning Bushes

God can use pyrotechnics, of course, but our brushes with Him aren’t always so theatrical. When we knock, ask and seek, sometimes He doesn’t match our decibel level.

God honors and often uplifts the quietly faithful, and what’s more: He often comes in the quiet. When God tells Elijah to wait before Him on the mountaintop, we witness something remarkable: God doesn’t show up where we think He’d appear. He’s not in the snapping windstorm, or the earthquake or the blaze. Elijah can’t find God’s voice in any of them. Then comes a gentle whisper, and it is so divinely flooded that Elijah covers his face with his cloak.

What if God intends to meet us precisely in the places we’d least imagine?

Marriage/Relationships: The Danger of Distorted Thinking

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Mitch Temple/Focus on the Family

If you are angry, afraid, resentful, jealous, or depressed – in other words, if you are struggling with negative emotions – the fault may lie in your thinking. Cognitive therapists operate on the theory that distorted thinking lies at the root of most of these negative emotions. These therapists help their clients identify the distorted thinking, understand what is distorted about it, and then correct it so that emotional healing can begin.

Here are some common distorted thoughts. Do any of them sound familiar?

  • I must be approved and loved by all people.
  • If things don’t go the way I expect them to, then it’s catastrophic.
  • It’s easier to avoid a problem than to deal with conflict.
  • What has happened in the past will determine the future.
  • If I make a mistake, it means that I am incompetent and that I am inferior to others.
  • Things always turn out this way.
  • You always act this way.
  • You never treat me the way I deserve to be treated.
  • You should always feel or act a certain way.

Research shows that these thoughts can lead to serious problems, among them addictions and depression.1 I know.

I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life, so I’m very familiar with distorted thinking. While growing up, I suspected I had a problem, but counseling was not smiled upon then, and I had no idea how to get help.

I bet you can guess what happened when I got married. You got it. I didn’t check my depression at the door. My moodiness, anger, and negativity moved into the Temple home.

After ten years of marriage, Rhonda and I were desperate.

I was extremely depressed and I worried about everything – even in my sleep. I often woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, but I couldn’t go back to sleep because the anxiety from my dreams kept me awake. Sleep deprivation caused me to be contentious and on edge. I lost forty pounds, became physically ill, and experienced constant nausea. When I thought I had cancer or another terminal illness, I visited numerous doctors without a diagnosis. Finally, an internal medicine specialist from India gave me an answer.

“Mr. Temple,” he said in accented English, “you don’t have a physical problem. You have an emotional problem. You have developed an anxiety disorder, and you are also very depressed. You must get help or you may die.”

After weeks of denial, I knew he was right, so I finally got the help I needed.

The counselor I visited convinced me to take depression medication, even though I was terrified of becoming addicted. I spoke with my good friend Jeff Mathis, MD, who alleviated my concerns. He said that most antidepressants are not addictive and should be a bridge, not a crutch, to help navigate through a dark emotional valley.

Because my marriage, family, faith, and job were on the line, I was willing to do whatever was necessary. The result? Over time, I became a better husband. And the way I saw myself, Rhonda, and others improved.

I was transformed.

Through my experience I learned that because I suffered from depression, I could not see myself or my wife realistically. I felt as if I were stumbling around in dark rooms – wearing sunglasses. I couldn’t see myself as God sees me. I felt that I could not be good enough, faithful enough, or spiritual enough – no matter what the Bible says.

These kinds of beliefs, based on myths and distorted thinking, led me to depression and hopelessness. They can also lead us to accept Satan’s lie that you are not worthy of grace and can cause us to act in ways that we’ll regret.

This is typical in a marriage where a spouse is depressed. Though a depressed husband is committed to marriage, he won’t feel good about his wife and, therefore, won’t treat her well. If the non-depressed wife does not understand what is happening, she will make the situation worse by assuming that her husband is mean or doesn’t care about the marriage or that he can easily change how he feels and acts.

In reality, change can be almost impossible for a depressed person. Until the depressed spouse receives proper treatment, he or she cannot interact with you in a healthy way.

Depression is a very serious illness, which if left untreated can destroy a marriage in a short period of time. Many marriages today are in trouble because one or both spouses struggle with severe depression. Until these couples address and treat depression, it will be difficult to learn new relational skills to strengthen their marriage.

(A caveat is in order here. Depression and other emotional problems can be caused by factors other than distorted thinking. Chemical and sugar imbalances, stress, lack of sleep, even thyroid disorders can also be precipitators of depression. When issues like these are involved, they must be assessed, diagnosed, and treated by a medical professional.)

You may not struggle with depression. But distorted thinking, because it is so subtle and rooted in the way you look at yourself and your spouse, has the potential to eat away at your marriage.

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  1. Lisa Dutton, “The Power of Positive Thinking: Easing Depression,” McGill University Health Centre, February 2003.

From The Marriage Turnaround: How Thinking Differently About Your Relationship Can Change Everything, published by Moody Publishers by Mitch Temple

Anger, Pain and Depression

SOURCE: Nando Pelusi, Ph.D./Psychology Today

Anger, pain and depression are sometimes perceived as one big emotion, but when you don’t distinguish between them, they could end up fueling each other.

Anger, pain and depression are three negative experiences so closely bound together it can sometimes be hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Pain is a complex phenomenon that has emotional and physical components. The emotions play a huge role in the experience of pain, and pain is intimately associated with depression. It’s long been known that the psychic pain of depression feeds anger. But just as often, anger fuels depression.

A powerful emotion physiologically and emotionally, anger often feels good—but only for the moment. It can be a motivating force that moves you to action. But there are good actions and bad ones; it’s vital to distinguish between the two.

Many people confuse anger and hostility. Anger is a response to a situation that presents some threat. Hostility is a more enduring characteristic, a predisposition, a personality trait reflecting a readiness to express anger.

Anger is usually anything but subtle. It has potent physiological effects. You feel it in your chest. You feel it in your head. You feel it coursing through your body.

Nevertheless, anger can be insidious. Anger confers an immediate sense of purpose; it’s a shortcut to motivation. And if there’s something depressed people need, it’s motivation. But anger creates a cycle of rage and defeatism.

When you feel anger, it provides the impulse to pass the pain along to others. The boss chews you out, you then snap at everyone in your path. Anger, however, can eventually lead you into self-pity, because you can’t slough off the self-hurt.

Anger is classically a way of passing psychic pain on to others. The two-step: You feel hurt, “poor me,” “I hate you.” It’s a way of making others pay for your emotional deficits. It is wise to change that tendency. Whether or not anger fuels depression, it isn’t good for the enjoyment of life.

Here are ways to keep anger from feeding your depression.

  • First, of course, is to identify anger and to acknowledge it. Anger is one of those emotions whose expression is sometimes subject to taboos so that people can grow up unable to recognize it; they feel its physical discomfort but can’t label it.
  • Build a lexicon for your internal states. If you have a word for your emotional state, then you can begin to deal with it. Feelings are fluid; you need to stop and capture them in a word, or else you lose them and don’t know you have them. A label improves your ability to understand your feelings.
  • View your anger as a signal. It is not something to be escaped. It is not something to be suppressed. It is something to be accepted as a sign that some deeper threat has occurred that needs your attention.
  • Make yourself aware of the purpose your anger serves. Be sure to distinguish purpose from passion. Things that have a positive purpose seek betterment, growth, love, enhancement, fulfillment. Things that have a negative purpose are motivated by a sense of deficiency. Your boss yells at you, you feel diminished; the anger you express at others is driven by the blow you’ve just received. Are you enraged about an inequity or unfairness?In order to identify your motivation, you need to look within. It’s a matter of becoming psychological-minded and engaging in introspection. Tune into the inner dialogue that you customarily have with yourself.
  • If your anger is deficiency-motivated, driven by a wish to rectify a wrong you believe done to you, work on acceptance. Give up your obsession about the wrong. See that the opposite of anger is not passivity but more functional assertiveness.
  • Uproot mistaken beliefs that underlie your response. Very often anger is the result of beliefs that lead you to place unreasonable demands on circumstances, such as, that life must be fair. Unfairness exists. The belief that you are entitled to fairness results from the mistaken idea that you are special. If you feel that you are special, you will certainly find lots to be angry about, because the universe is indifferent to us.Insisting that life must be fair is not only irrational, it will cause you to collect injustices done to your noble self. Even if you are experiencing nothing more than your fair share of unfairness, such a belief can still fuel rage and lead to depression.Those who hold the deep belief that life should always be fair cannot abide when it is unfair. That leads directly to rage that is totally inert, because they believe there is nothing that they can do about the unfairness. They feel helpless and hopeless—in other words, depressed. Self-pity is another description of the same phenomenon.
  • Notice your own complaining. Listen for both overt and covert complaining. Overt complaining hassles others. It’s really a manipulative strategy. Know when it’s becoming a downer and a barrier to a strategy of effectiveness—like complaining about a fly in your soup. Covert complaining hassles you; it drags you down into passivity and inertia. Once you notice it, determine to give it up.
  • Once you can accept that life sometimes is unfair, then you can pursue positive purpose. You can work constructively against injustices you find, transforming your anger into passion. Or you can pursue fulfillment in spite of the unfairness that exists.

23 Things to Remember If You Love Someone with Depression

SOURCE:  

You’re in love with this wonderful person–a man who truly gets you, or a woman who makes you laugh every day. There’s a kind of connection you feel in your solar plexus and you know this is someone you want to stay with, be loyal to, and love with your whole heart.

Your relationship grows and deepens.  But after a while, something seems not quite right with your beloved.  Maybe he snapped at a waiter over nothing, which he’s never done before.  Or maybe she has started to doubt that you love her, which makes no sense because you’re more in love with her than ever.

Eventually it becomes clear:  your loved one is suffering from depression.  And precisely because it is depression and not, say, gallstones, your beloved is having trouble reaching out and explaining the experience to you.

Below are 23 things your loved one wishes you understood about depression and how it’s affecting them.

1.  They’re suffering from a brain imbalance, not a character disorder

Research has shown that in some depressed people an important part of the brain (called the hippocampus) is 9-13% smaller than in people who do not suffer from depression. And the more bouts of depression the person has suffered, the smaller it is. To complicate things a little more, research also shows that a heavy load of stress over a long period of time can shrink this area of the brain.  So, depression can start from intense emotional strain and become biological over time.

2.  Their motivation is impaired

The brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) responsible for that the feeling we call “motivation” are dopamine and norepinephrine. If you’re lucky enough to have ample amounts of them surging through your brain, you get up every morning feeling ready to tackle your tasks and responsibilities for the day. But many who are suffering from depression have low levels, leaving them devoid of even enough motivation to get out of bed. Telling these folks they just need to start exercising or find a job is like telling someone with the flu they just need to stop throwing up. It’s not something they can instantly control.

3.  The worse the depression, the less they care…about anything

Motivation isn’t the only casualty that depressed people experience. As the brain becomes increasingly depressed, the person often experiences apathy—a lack of interest in life’s activities and relationships. Barrie Davenport gave the best description of it in her blog post on Live Bold and Bloom: “It’s white noise. Dead air. You feel like a chunk of flavorless tofu. Not happy. Not sad. Not angry. And certainly not passionate.” It is one of the most heartbreaking aspects of depression, because it creates so much interpersonal upset: loved ones fret more and more about the person’s wellbeing, but the person cares less and less about their fretting.

4.  They often feel “broken”

You may even hear them use this term about themselves. There is a sad finality to this word, so it’s important to disagree with this judgement. People with depression are not broken any more than people with diabetes or cancer are broken. It is a condition, an illness—something to address and manage. It might be a life-long challenge, but it does not mean the person is condemned to life-long pain.

5.  They don’t want to be a burden

Depression is not a ploy for attention. The last thing people with depression want is to inconvenience people they care about. They already feel bad about themselves; becoming a burden only deepens that. And yet, they need help. They need people to show up for them. So the trick is to convey your unwavering love and support for them, regardless of what it’s doing to your life. Not easy, but crucial.

6.  Their illness may show itself as deep sadness

Most people equate depression with sadness. In fact, most people will loosely describe anyone who is bereaved and crying a lot as “being depressed.”  If the person suffered through abuse, abandonment, or a significant loss as a child, it may have imprinted their sadness deep into their minds, which they basically relive every day. Without these experiences being processed in adulthood, they stay stuck in their childhood grief, manifesting as depression.

7.  Or it may show itself as anger

In my work with combat veterans, I found that many depressed soldiers experienced their depression as anger or even rage and not as much as sadness…at least not initially. (I also often found that when they felt safe enough to dig into it further, underneath that anger was profound, almost unbearable, grief and sadness from all the layers of loss they witnessed and experienced.) Uncharacteristic anger is another way depression can show itself–a sign that can be easily missed.

8.  Or it may show itself as anxiety

Research is showing more and more genetic and neurobiologic overlaps between depression and anxiety. This would explain why 90% of people with an anxiety disorder have many of the symptoms of depression and why 85% of people with depression also experience anxiety. Is this because the experience of depression makes us worried that we’ll lose our jobs or our families? Is it because anxiety disorders are so difficult to deal with that we get worn down emotionally and start to feel hopeless? Hard to tell. But increasingly, we’re understanding that there are many complex issues at play.

9.  They may be extremely sensitive to criticism

One of the least recognized symptoms of depression (specifically “atypical depression”) is an extreme sensitivity to criticism. What might have been meant as nothing more than an opinion, e.g., “Blue is a better color for you,” is perceived as a criticism that the person is wearing green. This is not a personality trait; once the depression is treated, this hypersensitivity resolves.

10.  It may have started with a specific incident

As I mentioned earlier, painful things that happen to us early in life can leave imprints on our brains that affect us our whole lives. The more powerful the experience, the more difficult it is for a child to understand and integrate it fully and therefore the bigger the impact it’s likely to have. But events in adulthood can be just as devastating, especially if it causes upheaval of one’s identity. Divorce is hard for almost everyone, but it’s hardest on those who feel that the meaning of their roles and lives have been altered because of it. A mastectomy is always painful and scary, but it can become a source of deep depression if it threatens the woman’s identity.

11. Or it may be cumulative from many incidents

Research shows that there can be a cumulative effect from a long string of “minor” events. For instance, being verbally criticized or ridiculed over many years almost always wears down the person’s sense of self-worth, which can become a depressive episode. Multiple job losses can create a new (but inaccurate) negative narrative that the person comes to believe, deepening into a depressive episode if it’s not robustly challenged.

12.  Or it may be chemical and not from any incident at all

Genetics play a role in pretty much everything, and those who have a long familial history of depression are more vulnerable to depressive episodes than those with no family history.  If the person was exposed to those family members directly while growing up, they may have also unwittingly learned negative patterns of thinking that contribute to depression.

13.  Their sleep patterns are usually way off

Some will sleep every minute they can, even to the point of sleeping through important events (like getting up in time for work!) And others have a terrible time sleeping, even when they’re exhausted. A change in sleep pattern is one of the classic signs of depression.

14.  Their eating patterns are usually way off, too

Like sleep, a change in their usual pattern of eating is almost a given. Again, some will eat compulsively trying to feel better and others have no energy or motivation to eat at all. It shows up as significant weight loss or weight gain.

15.  They may also have a lot of body pain

Sometimes people present in the doctor’s office with body pain that ends up having no medical cause.  Headaches, back pain and stomach pain are the most frequently reported kinds of body pain associated with depression, and are frequently misdiagnosed.  Most of these improve as the depression is treated and abates.

16.  They feel profoundly alone

Our culture values productivity and strength, so being crippled with exhaustion and paralyzing emotion (sad, mad, or scared) puts the depressed person at risk of being ridiculed, criticized, or in some other way degraded, all of which creates a sense of being “different” and somehow “less.” Often, the depressed person thinks the “solution” is to use all their energy to hide what’s happening from their co-workers, friends, even loved ones, which only intensifies their sense of alienation.

17.  They may frequently think about death or suicide

Alienation—that feeling of being utterly alone in the world with no one to talk to or lean on—is one of life’s most painful experiences. For some, it is unbearable and leads to thoughts of suicide as a way to end the pain. People who are severely depressed think about suicide far more often than anyone would imagine, and certainly more often than they let on.  In fact, research shows that most people who die by suicide have been “rehearsing” it in their minds for quite some time.  So it’s essential that you take this condition seriously and help your beloved get some kind of intervention.

18.  Exercise helps about 30% of those who suffer from depression

Motion improves emotion. It helps reduce anxiety, it helps dissipate anger, and it helps ease depression. Even a 10-minute walk (in an environment that feels nurturing, not stressful) can mobilize the body’s fluids and the brain’s blood flow in positive ways. Research has shown over and over again that there is a segment of the population who can completely erase their depressive symptoms through exercise, and that the more exercise these folks do, the better they feel. It’s not true, or even possible, for all of us (for instance those who are wheelchair bound or chronically ill with another disease), and it is no small task to start when you’re seriously depressed.   But it has completely changed the lives of many.

19.  Psychotherapy helps about 30% of those who suffer from depression

People who have suffered neglect, abuse, trauma, great loss, combat, or assault often need someone knowledgeable and grounded with whom to talk through their difficult experiences. Even without those major events, some people experience a significant improvement in their symptoms through psychotherapy. Those of us trained in providing psychotherapy have studied and practiced this art extensively under expert supervision. There is a long list of helpful techniques a therapist can employ that helps ease depression, but there is an equally long list of things not to do, and only someone trained will be adequately skilled to provide safe care.

20.  Medication helps about 30% of those who suffer from depression

I suffered a terrible bout of depression in my 30s that no amount of psychotherapy could fully treat. When I finally accepted my doctor’s urging to try an antidepressant, the effect was nothing short of miraculous: within 3 weeks, I had a kind of mental resilience I had never known before. The best way to describe it is that it gave me a new kind of mental shock absorbers. Instead of every pebble in life’s road feeling like a boulder, I glided over them with grace. Sometimes, medication is exactly what the person needs.

21.  It may take several weeks before an antidepressant starts to work

Don’t expect your beloved to “snap out of it” once he or she is on medication.  When prescribed, let’s say, fluoxetine (also known as Prozac), the capsule is not filled with serotonin. It’s a medication that rebuilds the serotonin receptors (among other things). That rebuilding process takes time; how much time is different for each person. For some, they start to feel better in a week or two. But lots of people take longer—up to 6 weeks—before they feel the effects.  So be patient.

22.  It may take several months to find the right medication

If the antidepressant the doctor has prescribed hasn’t improved the patient’s condition by 4-6 weeks, usually the doctor will prescribe another antidepressant. And then another, and so on, until the patient starts to feel significantly better. Unfortunately, there is no short-cut here—no blood work that will tell the doctor what to prescribe. There are some antidepressants that are better at certain things than others (for instance, escitalopram—“Lexapro”—treats both depression and anxiety, and bupropion—“Wellbutrin”—is used to treat atypical depression.) But there can be a significant period of trial and error.  They’ll need reassurance that you understand this and don’t blame them for not getting better.

23.  Friends and family who stick by them are treasured beyond words

Because of the alienation those with depression so often feel, the friends and family who stick with them and weather their storm of depression become their most trusted and appreciated allies. That kind of loyalty can be life-saving.

Depression is at nearly pandemic levels world-wide, so don’t hesitate to let others know these important points about depression.  The more we know and understand, the stronger we all are.

Depression: God Is Not Silent When We Suffer

SOURCE:  familylife.com/Edward T. Welch

If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.

Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. You feel numb. Perhaps the worst part is that you remember when you actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.

So many things about your life are difficult right now. Things you used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seem beyond your reach. Your relationships are also affected. The people who love you are looking for some emotional response from you, but you do not have one to give.

Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what Christians do know is that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Come to God with your suffering

You can start to experience the inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when you come to God with your suffering. God seems far away when we suffer. You believe that He exists, but it seems as if He is too busy with everything else, or He just doesn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end your suffering, but He hasn’t.

If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by his heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!

Here we see that love and suffering can co-exist. And when you start reading the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, you get a sense that suffering is actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. You aren’t alone. If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

God speaks to you in the Bible

Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life.

    • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
    • Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
    • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
    • Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
    • Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
    • Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4)

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Try one step at a time

Granted, it seems impossible. How can someone live without feelings? Without them you have no drive, no motivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible.

Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.

People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As you walk, you will find that it is necessary to remember to use every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

You will need to do this with your relationships, too. When you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.

Consider what accompanies your depression

As you put one foot in front of the other, don’t forget that depression doesn’t exempt you from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. Look carefully to see if your depression is associated with things like these:

Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Are you holding something against another person?

Do you want to stay in bed all day? Are there parts of your life you want to avoid?

Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What is at the root of your fear?

Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness?Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.

Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you. Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.

Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.

Will it ever be over?

Will you always struggle with depression? That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, depressed people can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.

FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS

Is it okay to get medication?

The severe pain of depression makes you welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

    • How long will it take before it is effective?
    • What are some of the common side effects?
    • Will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective (if your physician is prescribing two medications)?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, What is best and wise?

Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits. It can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures.

If you choose to take medication, please consider letting wise and trusted people from your church come alongside of you. They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and that joy is possible even during depression.

What do I do with thoughts about suicide?

Before you were depressed, you could not imagine thinking of suicide. But when depression descends, you may notice a passing thought about death, then another, and another, until death acts like a stalker.

Know this about depression: It doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says that you are all alone, that no one loves you, that God doesn’t care, that you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, Everyone will be better off without me. But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all the facts, keep it simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as He gives you life, He has purposes for you.

One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor.

Depression says that you are alone and that you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you, and He calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.

A PRAYER FOR BROKEN HEARTS, CRUSHED SPIRITS, AND WEARY FRIENDS

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Ps. 34:18

     Dear Lord Jesus, there’s no Savior like you—none so merciful and kind, present and loving. The brokenhearted don’t need to “buck up” and be brave when they see you coming. The crushed in spirit don’t need to pull themselves together, as though you would be greatly disappointed to find us less than conquerors.

     We praise you that the gospel frees us from posing and pretending, spinning and hyping. Jesus, you have no need for us to be anything other than we actually are. You are nearer than the next breath to those who are in need of fresh grace. That’s why we bring a wide array of weary friends, including ourselves, to you today.

     Jesus, we pray for friends struggling with dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings. Whether the dream was for a loving marriage, emotionally healthy kids, the “good-health gene,” or a longer career, you meet us right where we are, no matter what the disappointment is. Show us how to encourage our friends, without minimizing their pain. May your grace prove to be sufficient, and our friendship helpful, over the long haul.

     Jesus, we pray for weary friends serving on church staffs or in vocational ministry. Many of them wake up today disillusioned, depleted, and despondent. Though all of us are targets of spiritual warfare, those who labor in the gospel bear unique challenges. Show us how to wrestle in prayer for our friends, and to encourage them in practical ways.

     Jesus, keep our betrayed friends from bitterness, our wayward friends from disaster, and our depressed friends from harmful non-solutions.

     Jesus, for those of us who don’t feel crushed in spirit but rather feel disconnected in spirit, help us sort through the issues. Show us what is repent-able and what is repairable; and bring quiet to our noisy hearts so we can hear you speak. Convince us, yet again, that we need your presence much, much more than we need circumstances and people to change.

     Jesus, today and every day, we declare that our hope is built on nothing else, nothing less, and nothing more, than you and your finished work on our behalf. So very Amen we pray, in your near and compassionate name.

8 LESSONS LEARNED FROM A LONG BATTLE WITH SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION

SOURCE:  Derek J. Brown/The Gospel Coalition

When I came to Christ during college in the winter of 1998, the months following my conversion were a time of spiritual bliss. The glory of God was visible everywhere, Jesus Christ was precious, God’s people were a delight, and personal holiness was a new passion.

In his mysterious providence, however, God soon led me into a season of spiritual agony.

Although I was at a school known for its vibrant community and biblical fidelity, my tendency toward intense introspection and a growing concern over personal sin conspired to create the perfect storm. Only two years after I stepped on to campus, I opted for a semester off because I was convinced I had committed the unpardonable sin. I was in a spiritual tailspin that would last the next few years.

In his kindness, after approximately five years of intense struggle, God gradually drew me out of the mire. Often during this season I asked the Lord for immediate restoration, but that was not his plan. Instead, it became increasingly clear that God was teaching me a few vital lessons for the sake my stability in the faith. If you find yourself in a similar season, please receive these gentle yet earnest exhortations.

(1) Remain in the Bible

When the blackness of spiritual depression is heavy upon your soul, you may not sense a hearty appetite for Scripture, but you must sit yourself at the table anyway. While intentional Bible reading is not the only means God will use to lift the veil, it is indispensible, and it must be used together with other means. Remember that David, who more than once cried out to God in mind-numbing despair also confessed that God’s word “restores the soul” (Psalm 19:7). To pursue a way out of your spiritual woes apart from Scripture will either lead to greater trouble or set you on a trajectory of unstable experientialism. Remain in the Bible.

(2) Stay in the Church

While walking through the thick haze of spiritual depression I remember a brother who shared similar struggles informing me that he was planning a multi-week solo hike to get alone with God. Although it sounded good at the time, I can say with confidence today that this brother’s plan was wrongheaded and dangerous. Although time alone with Jesus is essential, our Savior does not intend to remedy our troubles by removing us from the community of believers. Rather, he has given our brothers and sisters and pastors for our joy and to help us persevere in the faith (Phil. 1:27; Heb. 3:12-15). Stay in the church.

(3) Immerse Yourself in the Gospel

When I say immerse yourself in the gospel, I mean primarily two things. First, do what you can to ground your mind and heart in the doctrine of justification. Dive into books like The Cross-Centered Life by CJ Mahaney or The God Who Justifies by James White. Read until you are convinced that your right standing with God is based on Christ’s righteousness alone and that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). Your spiritual troubles are likely to remain to the degree that you are not resting in this foundational truth.

Secondly, seek to understand the doctrine of indwelling sin. When I was first converted, the depth and pervasiveness of my sin often staggered me. Colossians 3:1-11 and some solid counsel from John Owen, however, brought lasting comfort to my soul. The truth I needed to hear was this: regeneration provides me with a new power to fight sin, not an instantaneous eradication of all my inward corruption. If you are unclear on this particular truth, you will be tossed to and fro by temptation and your many sinful inclinations.

(4) Seek Means, Not Just Breakthroughs

While I don’t think it is not wrong to ask God for immediate breakthroughs of light into our spiritual darkness, I am convinced it is far better to seek means of gradual restoration. This approach is preferred because the constant desire for existential breakthroughs can unseat us from sure rock of Scripture and draw us away from the disciplines that God typically uses to grow and sustain our faith. Most often God will use the unheralded means of adequate sleep, exercise, a reasonable diet, regular worship and fellowship, Bible reading, good books, time outdoors, faithfulness in our responsibilities, and profitable ministry to pull us out of the throes of spiritual depression.

(5) Pursue Obedience, Not Just Introspection

Those who tend toward spiritual depression are often those who ruminate incessantly over the condition of their hearts. Some self-examination is good and biblical (2 Corinthians 13:5), but if we are not careful, self-examination can turn into morbid introspection where we relentlessly appraise our motives and evaluate our affections. And, although our introspection may appear super-spiritual, it might become a substitute for obedience. Instead of deleting that troublesome iPhone app and confessing your sin to a trusted friend, you look inside and ask, “Am I really repentant over that recent indulgence in pornography?” But God grants assurance not through introspection, but through obedience. As you actively repent from known sin, you will find far more assurance and relief from depression than if you merely look inward for conclusive evidence that you really love Jesus.

(6) Keep Working

There were many times during my struggle when I was convinced that time alone reading Scripture, praying, and pouring over books was the sole answer to my misery. Because of this, I often approached work as a hindrance to my spiritual health instead of what it really was: a God-given means of renewal and stability. I would even ask my employer to grant me early leave from my workday so I could retreat to my home, close the door, and ponder over the Puritans. It wasn’t until I was forced into work situations that didn’t allow withdrawals into my theological fantasyland that I started to see some break in the clouds. That I found significant help in the simple means of a profitable workday is no coincidence, however. God made us to work, and he intends that we find much physical and spiritual refreshment in attending diligently to our responsibilities.

(7) Fulfill Your Ministry

The weight of spiritual depression will often tempt us to fold in on ourselves. The remedy to our plight, however, is not more turning inward, but turning outward: first with faith to Jesus and the gospel, then to others in good works. You might feel that you are unqualified to serve in ministry in light of your own spiritual troubles. But let your pastor make these decisions as you submit to his leadership, and commit to fulfill your ministry. God has given you a spiritual gift to use for the good of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7) and you might be surprised by how the consistent use of your gift will set you on the path toward renewed joy and steadiness in the faith (see Paul’s description of the faithful deacon in 1 Timothy 3:13).

(8) Don’t Stop Moving

Those of us who tend toward spiritual depression may begin look for a remedy that removes the need for further action on our part. We may also conclude that the slowness of our recovery is reason for more despair. But both of these tendencies obscure the truth that our Christian life is best likened to a marathon. Occasionally we may sense that we’ve hit our stride, but often we will enter stretches where the weight of our burden is enough to bring us to a crawl. But continue we must, for God has set along our course all the refreshment we need to remain in the race. Don’t stop moving.

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Derek J. Brown (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is adjunct professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastoral assistant at Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley. You can visit his blog at DerekJamesBrown.com.

Two Traps to Avoid: “If Only” and “What If?”

SOURCE:   Susan Yates/Family Life

In each season of my life, I’ve found myself falling into two mental traps which are not helpful.

One is the “If only” syndrome, and the other is the “What if?” syndrome.

Here’s how “If only” might express itself:

  • “If only I had a husband.”
  • “If only I had more money.”
  • “If only my husband would act like…”
  • “If only my husband (or I) had a good job.”
  • “If only we had a different house.”
  • “If only my parents (or his) understood.”
  • “If only my child would sleep through the night.”
  • “If only I had a really close friend.”
  • “If only I didn’t come from such a wounded past.”
  • “If only I wasn’t stuck in this place.”
  • “If only I was free of this disease.”
  • “If only I knew how to handle my teen.”
  • “If only I didn’t have to do this.”
  • “If only I didn’t struggle with this.”

Can you identify?

You can probably add to this list yourself. Over the years I’ve realized that these thoughts merely lead me into a real case of self-pity. At the core of what I’m expressing is: “Life is about me and my happiness.” I have a bucket that needs to be filled.

But the reality is that even if the desire for one “If only” is met, I’ll just have another one to add to the list. Too often I get myself into this mindset without even realizing it. And it sinks me into a bad mood or a feeling of being depressed. The focus is on me, and I need to confess this selfishness and ask God to forgive me and to enable me to focus on Him and on others. And I need to ask Him to give me a grateful heart.

The other trap is “What if?”:

  • “What if I can’t get pregnant?”
  • “What if my husband leaves me?”
  • “What if I don’t get this raise?”
  • “What if I can’t complete this project?”
  • “What if we lose the election?”
  • “What if the medical tests bring bad news?”
  • “What if my child doesn’t make the team?”
  • “What if I fail?”

This mindset leads to fear. I am afraid of what will happen if the “What if” comes true. And this can be a paralyzing fear.

The “What if” syndrome is especially hard for those of us with an overactive imagination—we are often visionaries; we are creative. We tend to have this weakness, however: We can create the worst-case scenario in our imagination in three seconds flat! It can be terrifying.

What’s at the core of this attitude? I fail to believe that God is in control. My “What if” has become bigger than my God. I have temporarily forgotten that He is loving, He is kind, He is present, He is good, and He will never, ever forsake me.

I can give Him my “What if”—He can handle it. He will sustain me.

Underlying the “If only” and “What if” syndromes is an expectation that our lives should be completely satisfying. We may recognize that’s not realistic, but too often we live with that expectation in our thought life without even realizing it.

We need to remember that, in this life, our bucket will always have holes. Life will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Eternal life in heaven will be a perfect bucket with no holes completely filled with the love of Christ and satisfaction—no wants or fears, just sweet fellowship with Jesus and those who have gone before us.

Today, what is your “If only…”?  What is your “What if”?

Recognize the subtle danger of these thoughts, which produce self-pity and fear. Make a conscious decision to dump them someplace (down the garbage disposal, in the trash, or fireplace).

Begin to say His traits out loud: “You are my Father, You go before me. You prepare a way for me. You protect me. You bless me. You understand me. You forgive me. You know me better than I know myself and you love me totally, completely, perfectly. No matter what happens You are still in charge. You will never forsake me.”

This puts your focus on God, where it belongs.

Q&A: Is It Depression?

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Question:  Over the last couple of years, I’ve had many days when I get down about life, but I don’t know why. God has truly blessed me, so I don’t understand why I feel this way. There’s a history of clinical depression in my family, but I don’t want to over-dramatize what might be the “blues.” What are the signs that this could be something serious, and what could a counselor do for me if I decided to go that route?

Answer:   It’s important to know when you have the “blues” and when you are truly depressed and need help. Let’s look at the dynamics of each.

If you have the “blues” about something specific, you can pinpoint why you feel the way you do and then take the appropriate action – talking the problem over with a friend, working through the relationship issues that are causing the feelings, moving on to a new relationship, developing spiritual disciplines, expressing your feelings more, starting an exercise routine, and so forth. There’s a reason, there’s an answer, and you implement it – with the support of people who care about you and God’s guidance, you will feel better with a little time and a great deal of effort.

Overcoming a breakup, for example, is something you can recognize and deal with. It takes time, support, effort, and some changes, but you move through it. Depression is much different. When it comes, it’s difficult, as you say, to figure out why you feel so low. In fact, often the feelings are contradictory to the circumstances of your life. You said you feel down even though you know you are blessed. That would be an example.

At other times, a person who is depressed can point to a precipitating event, like a breakup or loss of a job, but normal bounce-back techniques fail. The situation progresses beyond the normal “blues” and becomes something bigger than one’s ability to work through. Nothing helps lighten the heavy mood, and a feeling of powerlessness prevails. This sounds a little like you.

In addition, there’s a long list of symptoms associated with depression. A depressed mood, a loss of interest or pleasure in things that normally bring joy, weight gain or loss when not trying, sleep problems, restlessness or feeling slowed down, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and/or inappropriate guilt, and thoughts of death are just some of the symptoms. If someone has five or more of these in a two-week period, a qualified clinician will usually diagnose depression. The illness could be biological in nature, and the person might need medication to regain balance, especially if there’s a family history.

Counseling can also reveal personal dynamics that may be contributing to depression. In this case, even if no medication is needed, there are practical but highly effective steps a counselor can provide that you may not have thought of yourself.

Understand that with a family history of clinical depression, it’s likely that you would benefit from some counseling. There are possible relational dynamics you learned that might be contributing to your situation. A counselor with experience in this area can help you see these flawed patterns and replace them with healthy ones.

It does sound as if your situation has gotten a little past what you can do for yourself, so I encourage you to talk with someone qualified to give you the answers you seek. Ask your pastor or doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. The up side is many times when people enter counseling because of depression, they grow in many other ways as well.

Chemical Imbalances & Depression: A Theory Falls victim to New Research

SOURCE: Charles D. Hodges, Jr., M.D.

There is interesting news in the field of medical research for depression. [i]I am always grateful when medical researchers take another look at a significant problem in life when the current answers don’t seem to work well. This is so true of depression. People do struggle with real sadness today and the answers that medicine offers are just not working as well as hoped.

Research in the past decade has told us that the most popular medicines we have for depression do not work very well for up to 80% of the people who take them.[ii] There is a growing sense that the diagnosis of depression is made too often. It is also a concern that normal sadness over loss is being confused with the disease depression.[iii]

Today, most all of us know or have heard about chemical imbalances and how they are supposed to cause depression. Most of us have heard about serotonin and how a low level of it in our brains can cause us to be depressed. We have seen the commercials on television for medications that are supposed to correct the deficit. But, new research would indicate that the chemical serotonin may have little or nothing to do with depression at all.

Researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine noticed that 60 to 70 percent of patients who take the serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants will still feel depressed. And so they devised a research project that would look again at the role serotonin and chemical imbalances play in depression. What they found indicated that serotonin may not be a major factor in depression.[iv]

Keep mind that the study was done on mice. They were found to have a gene that resulted in them making very little serotonin in their brains.  And no you do not need to remind me that we are men and not mice. J But, these mice with little brain serotonin did not display a depression-like behavior pattern under normal circumstances. When they were subjected to the same kinds of situations that caused behavior that looked like depression in animals, these mice responded just like normal mice that had normal levels of serotonin. Most of the genetically serotonin deficient mice did not respond to the SSRI antidepressants in the same way normal mice did with changes in their “depression-like” behavior.  

The conclusions from the study were that it is likely that serotonin may not be a large factor in depression. In essence the chemical imbalance/ serotonin deficiency theory of depression is most likely wrong. While this is not great news for those who are invested heavily in the production and sale of the current crop of antidepressants, it is good news for patients.  

The reason it is great news is the last line in the article. “These results could dramatically alter how the search for new antidepressants moves forward in the future, the researchers conclude.” In other words, science is moving on to look for a better way to explain why some struggle with sadness. The outcome could be a better understanding of the cause at the brain cell level of the disordered sadness part of depression today.

This could result in laboratory testing and brain scanning that would allow us to make a better diagnosis. And, that could lead to more effective treatment. This study opens the door for researchers to resume looking for a real explanation for the disordered sadness of depression.

When we understand the change in the human brain or body that causes depression two things could happen. The diagnosis of depression will become far more accurate reducing the numbers of people over-diagnosed.  And, a better treatment could be found for those who suffer with severe, disordered sadness.  

For the 90% of patients today with normal sadness over loss, accurate testing could help them avoid from being treated with medicine intended for the treatment of disease. Having a test that says the patient does not have depression would help doctors encourage patients to seek care that fit their problem such as counseling. And that is where Biblical counseling can offer great hope.

 

[i] American Chemical Society. “Serotonin deficiency? Study throws into question long-held belief about depression.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2014. .

[ii]Charles Hodges M.D., Good Mood Bad Mood.  Shepherd Press, Wapwallopen, PA. p48-49.

 [iii]Ibid, p68-69.  

 [iv] Mariana Angoa-Pérez, Michael J. Kane, Denise I. Briggs, Nieves Herrera-Mundo, Catherine E. Sykes, Dina M. Francescutti, Donald M. Kuhn. Mice Genetically Depleted of Brain Serotonin Do Not Display a Depression-like Behavioral Phenotype. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 2014; 140812102725008 DOI: 10.1021/cn500096g

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Dr. Hodges is a family physician who practices medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine, board certified in Family Medicine and Geriatrics, and is a licensed marital family therapist.

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