Depression is one of the major problems in society today. It is very distressing when it comes on, affecting our whole attitude. It appears in practically every action performed. Many describe it as being acutely painful and it is more distressing in many cases than the most severe of pains.
Millions upon millions of people are depressed. Some people are so depressed that they see suicide as the answer to their problems.
However, the real magnitude of the problem cannot be assessed by the number of people who choose suicide as the way out, as there are untold hours of misery occurring in the lives of hundreds of millions of people who never are extended to the point of suicide.
The cause of depression
It is generally agreed that practically all depression has its origin in something lost or something which is threatened to be lost —something to which a great deal of value is attached by the person. It may be a loved one who dies or moves away, the loss of one's health which threatens social status and future security, the loss of one's self-image by some disappointing experience, or the loss of one's self-esteem by falling short of ideals which have been set. It is natural after the death of a loved one to feel an acute form of depression called grief.
A remarkably uniform picture can be anticipated in one's body —feelings of distress come on in waves with a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscle strength and a generalised tension or mental pain. Accompanying this is that inner anguish, lack of interest in anything in a world which then appears dreary and dull, a feeling of isolation from other people and a loneliness and inner emptiness.
Examples of depression in the Bible
The word of God gives us many examples of men affected by depression or situations that could have potentially brought on depression. In some cases apparently there was no justifiable reason, whilst in others we marvel how they ever endured what they had to face.
It is important to realise that we all have a self-image, even if we don't like to call it that. Our self-image is the way we look at ourselves, the way we feel toward ourselves, and is closely linked with self-esteem. In fact, self-esteem is incorporated in our self-image. It is important to base that self-image upon Biblical standards. That is, if we are a baptised believer and realise that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people; if we realise that we may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light, then we should look at ourselves in that light. We should look at ourselves as a royal priesthood, as a holy nation, as God's own people with all the blessings and responsibilities implied in these lofty terms.
That self-image must be tempered by a recognition of our own sinfulness and hopelessness apart from the grace of God. This is the way we should feel toward ourselves. Now if we act in a way out of character with that calling, this should prick our conscience, should injure our self-image, cause a sense of loss of that self-image, which would in turn lead to depression. The depression may be mild as we may only feel "low" and unworthy, and this may hopefully lead to repentance and a renewed dedication. But it is clear from human experience that falling short of the self-image we have for ourselves will lead to some degree of melancholy.
We can see that this sequence of events may not necessarily be a bad thing since the very unpleasantness of the resulting depression may stimulate us to be more careful of future behaviour so that our image is not injured again. That is, we may be more careful of the gossip we utter, the anger we allow to escape or the unkind words we say because we realise afterward how out of place these things are in the light of our high calling in Christ.
This concept of self-image is an exceedingly important one, since oftentimes the source of recurrent and severe depression is based upon an imbalanced concept of what it should be. A depressed person tends to have a low opinion of himself, a continuing sense of worthlessness, unworthiness and self-incrimination. This is bad since, as we will see later, it has a completely negative effect.
All we who are baptised believers are different people, called by God to a single hope. We all find ourselves in different circumstances, with different resources, and having differing abilities. Yet all have been called to the same high and holy calling, and all have the assurance that the very hairs of our heads are numbered. These factors considered should help establish a balanced self-image based upon the facts that we are a privileged people, that God expects of each of us something different based upon our talents, that we will fall but we can be forgiven, and that the chief matter of importance is how hard we are trying to live up to that high calling.
Usage of our talents
If we set too high a goal for ourselves as to what we should do in the Master's service, a goal which we may not have been given the talents to achieve, then we will find ourselves constantly falling far short, with its resulting depression and debilitating effect. This may lead to a state of such frustration that we may feel ourselves incapable of living up to our calling, we may in turn reduce our efforts, and drift away altogether. In such a case the real problem was not that we were incapable of living up to our call, but that we were incapable of living up to a call which we had set and not God, which was beyond our endowments.
God requires of the five-talent believer five talents, of the three-talent believer three talents, and (let us emphasize) of the one-talent believer only one talent. Therefore, reducing to practicality what we should as individuals be expecting of ourselves, let us say this: we need to weigh the circumstances and conditions in which we find ourselves, and set reasonable goals based upon these circumstances. We should not be concerned how much others may be doing, provided we have totally committed ourselves to God within our own sphere.
It is equally important, however, to realise that we may need to root up many time-consuming, useless and unimportant pursuits and pastimes to put in the right kind of effort. Double mindedness is one of the greatest causes of ineffective service and unhappiness.
Examine our motives
We must be extremely careful of our motives in trying to achieve things. If the driving force is a sense of duty to God to try to live as closely to the example of His Son as possible, bringing all our natural endowments to bear upon achieving this, but at the same time recognising that we are very frail and have definite limitations, depression will be a relatively rare condition.
If, however, the driving force behind achievement is to validate a self-image and uphold a self-esteem we have set for ourselves based upon our own feeling of inherent worth, we can be quite sure that sooner or later this image will fall. As we all know, motives can be very subtly disguised, even to ourselves.
For example, when a young man coming along nicely in his ability to give a talk on the Bible to a crowd meets criticism after his latest effort, even if it be constructive, he may subsequently feel hurt and downcast. The root of the hurt feelings probably is a self-image based upon a view of himself as a good speaker, which has in turn been injured by the criticism. The reason the criticism has such an effect is because of the undoubted effect of pride in the matter. Even a little pride can turn a constructive criticism into a personal insult, and this has to be guarded against by us all.
The mercy of God
It is extremely important in our own lives that we do not underestimate God's mercy and forgiveness. If we sin and are truly repentant, we must be as merciful with ourselves as God is willing to be with us. Often it is a continuing sense of guilt for past sins that keeps us in the depths of depression, when in reality guilt and depression would have long since ceased had we felt forgiven by God.
A feeling of forgiveness is critical for our spiritual development since we are helpless and useless when depressed, whereas if we do feel forgiven we can move in a sphere of constructive efforts in character-building and useful activity in the Lord's service.
The other obvious point is that we must never underestimate how much the things of God mean to us. Perhaps we grumble because of restrictions placed upon us by being a believer. Perhaps the message of the Bible appears dull and uninteresting at times. However, even with such spiritual immaturity (which we all have in varying degrees), let us bear in mind that should the Bible and it’s message be taken away, we may be very distraught to find that an unfillable gap is left.
Let us therefore appreciate this fact and appropriately use our time, energy and resources to the fullest extent possible in the service of a loving, merciful and forgiving Creator.
Solution to depression #1 – get busy in the work of God
The way to get over our depression is to throw ourselves into work of God. Let’s get busy and then let God do the rest. This is what God told Elijah to do. Get up and get going, he had work to do. Jonah’s depression came after he had completed his preaching effort. It is only those who endure to the end that will be saved. Take a deep breath and get to work doing something positive for the Lord. He will be pleased with our efforts even if it doesn’t seem that we are making any progress.
Solution to depression #2 – meditating on God’s word
One way to overcome depression is to meditate on Gods kindness to his people. This way you are not thinking about your current problems and will be given hope that God will help you.
Yet I am standing here depressed and gloomy, but I will meditate upon your kindness to this lovely land where the Jordan river flows and where Mount Hermon and Mount Mizar stand.
Psalm 42:6 The Living Bible
By meditating on the kindness of God, it will focus your thoughts on God’s ability to help you rather than on your inability to help yourself.
Solution to depression #3 – prayer to God
The answer to our depression is also found in these words of the Psalmist:
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
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Last Updated: Sunday, 08 March 2015