In Psalm 42:5 the psalmist writes, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” In this active introspection the psalmist is rebuking himself for feeling so despondent.
No one is immune from depression. We all go through periods of life when we feel depressed and downhearted. Yet, those who trust in God continue to live lives filled with trust, hope and joy. They know that the difficult times will pass and peace will again return.
No one was more despondent than Jesus when faced with taking the sins of the entire world upon Himself from the cross. In Matthew 26:38 he said to three of His disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Jesus’ anguish had nothing to do with fear of men or the physical torments of the cross. He was sorrowful because within hours the full cup of divine fury against sin would be his to drink. In the Old Testament, a cup is often the symbol of divine wrath against sin.
None of us will ever experience what Jesus did from the cross. However, our souls’ condition is such that we experience conviction, courage and hope; moral purposes and a sense of justice and mercy. Yet there are times when our souls experience hostility, holding grudges, deceitfulness, ingratitude, immorality and anxiety.
Discouragement and depression are normal parts of being human. They can be triggered by the death of a loved one, illness, loss of a job or status, divorce, leaving home or many other traumatic events. The bible does not show God punishing His people for their sadness. Rather, He acts as a loving Father. One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is our hope when we are in trouble, including depression. The message is clear. When depression hits, fix your eyes on God, His power and His love for you.
Here are seven things to remember when facing depression.
1. Everyone goes through periods in their lives when they feel downcast, sad, alone and depressed. Everyone everywhere experiences fluctuations in their moods. You are not alone. Troublesome moods are universal. We all face the frustrations of good fortune, failures and success that life presents us. The Bible says,
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NIV)
These biblical words of assurance have always been the staying sufficiency for those who follow Christ when battling depression.
2. Keep in mind that bad or negative moods don’t last forever. Moods come and go. When experiencing a bad mood it feels like it will last forever. But so did all the previous bad moods. Your current depression will soon pass. Learn to expect changes in your mood; then, when it comes, it will be less disturbing to you. Abraham Lincoln had serious bouts of depression. One of the ways he chose to handle his depression was to expect them to arrive before they came. He also expected them to leave soon after they arrived. “In Lincoln’s depressions, we see the illness in its full destructive horror, one that nearly succeeded in cutting short the life of a promising young man and made the rest of his existence miserable. This is the side of depression with which we can all unfortunately indentify. But we also see an aspect to his depressions that equally resonates with us – how our suffering can strengthen us, embolden us, often to achieve the impossible.” www.mcmanweb.com/lincoln_depression.html
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, NIV)
So often we wish we could escape troubles; the pain of grief, loss, sorrow and failure; even the small daily frustrations that constantly wear us down. Yet, for believers, God promises to be our source of power, courage and wisdom to help us through our problems. Sometimes He chooses to deliver us from our problems. When we get depressed, we should not get frustrated with God. Instead, we need to humbly admit that we need His help and thank Him for always being by our side.
3. Do something worthwhile until the bad mood passes. Perform a fundamental task and put your competence to work. Take a walk, go the gym, visit a friend, garden, read a good book, cook a new recipe, volunteer, comfort another person. Focus on the positive. Of course, reading the Word of God, trusting in His Son, Jesus and prayer definitely help to fight off depression.
The Bible shows that depression can strike anyone. Poor people like Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, and very rich people like King Solomon, suffered from depression. Young people like David and older people like Job, were also afflicted. Depression strikes both women, like Hannah, who was barren and men, like Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.” The Bible also gives examples of depression coming after a great defeat as well as following a great victory.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)
Christians do not need to fear sadness or depression because God’s presence is always with us (I am with you), God has established a relationship with us (I am your God), and God’s assurance of strength, help and victory over sin and death is certain (I will strengthen you and help you).
4. Refuse to give more importance to your negative mood than it deserves. There are far more important things in life than whether we feel sad or happy, irritable or patient, upset or calm. The happiness of those around us that we love and care about is of far more importance than our mood. Don’t vent your irritability on innocent children, or make your spouse or friends miserable because of your inner distress. Don’t be inconsiderate towards others by spreading your suffering, quarrelsomeness, criticism or sullenness. Emotions that go unchecked cause only anguish. No matter how badly your feel, the happiness and well being of others still count. Demonstrate it! By treating your moods as important, they become far too important. Attach very little importance to how you feel at any particular moment.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (Jeremiah 29:11-12, NIV)
Christians have boundless hope knowing that God is with them. However this does not mean that we will be spared pain, suffering or hardship. What it does mean is that God will see us through to a glorious conclusion. In times of deep trouble and dismay, it may seem that God has forgotten you. But He may be preparing you for a brand new beginning with Him at the center.
5. Moods are not to be trusted as an indicator of reality or conduct. We see the world through who we are. When we are happy the world seems more trouble-free than it actually is; it takes on the glow of our wonderful mood. However, when we feel lonesome, depressed or sad, the world looks hard-hearted and uncaring. Our moods color our view of the world.
Bad moods misguide us into wrong conduct. Think about it. If everyone acted based on how they felt the entire world would be in utter chaos. High ideals and godly principles are what should determine our conduct. The Psalmist knew that he could trust his convictions concerning God’s goodness, but not his erratic feelings.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; “(John 14:16, KJV)
The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God within us and all believers, helping us to live as God wants. By faith we can appropriate His power each day. Comforter combines the ideas of comfort and counsel. The Holy Spirit is a powerful person on our side, working for and with us.
6. Turn excess emotion into good works. People who have poise get just as angry and upset as others. However, they do not retaliate against those nearest them with negative behavior or harsh words. Instead, they choose to get involved in some constructive activity like ministry, hospital visitation, counseling, volunteerism, and nursing home visitation or mentoring. Good works; helping others helps to dispel a bad mood. Tell your negative emotions where to go…..into good deeds!
(Jesus said) "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20, NIV)
As Christians we are called to good works, whether next door or to another country. As we obey we have the comfort of knowing that Jesus is always with us.
7. Do something with your good feelings which are aroused through your relationship with Christ, drama, poetry, music, or art. Known today as “random acts of kindness,” give the waiter or waitress an extra large tip. Buy your spouse that special something they have been desiring. Say kind words to others and smile at strangers. Hate what is hateful; diseases, poverty, wars that cause excessive loss of young lives and all of the evil that destroys men’s souls. Love what is lovely; God and all that He has created in nature, the fine arts, newborns and everything that is good in man and placed there by God.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV)
We need to love God with all of our heart, soul and strength. Then we can put our emotions into appropriate actions. Destroy the destructive and give support to all that is good. Help the helpless. Work in such a way that God reigns in all human affairs. Emotions and motions go hand in hand.