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Posts tagged ‘depression’

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.

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.

Related Articles:

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).

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.

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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