I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
- Psalm 40:1-3
Depression is a horrifying beast if it takes you over. Before that, it is a normal part of life.
In life, we become despondent, dejected and disheartened about many matters. Being humans, we experience some of the saddest moments imaginable. We have to watch life partners pass away then figure out what we will do without them; some parents have buried their own children and had to deal with that inconceivable pain; we have all seen good friends and neighbours die or become disabled, knowing there is little we can do about it; we put pets down, lose jobs, and we read of devastation in the news and wonder why. This all adds weight and burden to our mental state.
Then we endure the spiritual reasons for downheartedness, where we think we will never be good enough for God or sufficiently worthy of our ministry, or we struggle to overcome stuff so we end up saying, ”what’s the point?”
All these predicaments impact our mental wellbeing and spiritual walk. God knew we would go through these and has often written about them. He put in place some simple but effective ways of getting through and not getting stuck in that quagmire of a downward look.
Firstly, he instructed us to mourn in times of another's death. There is a deep human need to grieve, and sometimes mourn loudly and bitterly such is the degree of internal anguish.
I attended a funeral recently of a Christian who committed suicide; something that should never happen. He was an excellent father and husband, well-liked at work, and well appreciated at church. I had met him numerous times and couldn't help liking him nor help admiring the way his children honoured him as their father.
Nobody seemed to know what he was wrestling with, but something wouldn't let him go. He suffered that black dog of depression. For the most part, he overcame it but had periods of despair from which he found difficult to rise, and the last bout took him out. His wife of 37 years and soulmate from primary school told me, “I’m angry. I just wish he had shared with me his current problem.”
In our key scripture, David describes his situation extremely well, calling what he was going through a horrible pit of miry clay. But he always finished these types of Psalms on a positive note.
We can imagine being stuck in miry clay, trying to get a foot free, just to put it in the next spot, stuck again. Depression can feel like that. We don't think we can escape, as we look and the clay extends too far. Each step seems the same as the last one, not getting us far ahead in real terms.
Depression is a relatively new term of just a few hundred years old, but it puts a permanent label on a temporary problem.
God used terms such as ‘dismayed.' One explanation for dismayed means to break into pieces. Sound familiar?
An interesting thing about depression is its reality. Often it is not real, but real to us only. Just because it is real to us does not make it real. Though our thoughts are focussed on the thing that either trigger or sustain depression, it does not turn a misrepresentation into a fact. It is hard to see that when we are down.
Unless depression is an identified chemical imbalance, we can relieve ourselves of it by following certain steps.
1. Praise the Lord through it all. Praise is phenomenally successful in times of despair. Even in our deepest despair, get the words out of your mouth and keep doing it. If at work or in a crowd, utter them silently, but utter them, along with the words ‘help me’. Keep repeating thanks and praise to a wonderful God who has given us so much despite our current circumstances. Eventually, we will come out the other side. Then make praising and thanksgiving a daily habit all through the day.
2. Plan your life. This is when our depression comes from a dissatisfaction with our current state of affairs, particularly a lack of achievement or purpose. Plan for three areas only:
1. Spiritual life
Put only one ongoing thing in place for each area, and do it for forty days, at which time it will be a habit and become automatic. If you fail, just get up and do it the next day. These areas can be changed after forty continual days.
3. Help someone else. In depression, our mind is focussed almost entirely on ourselves. This in itself is ungodly, except when our situation is real, at which time we can't see past our own suffering. Helping someone else places our focus on the needy, and a chemical change comes over us as our maternal/paternal instincts kick in. It is this inflow that washes the wastewater of depression out the door.
4. Reject the downward thoughts as they come in. This one is hard, as there is a part of us that likes to feel depressed if there is no genuine reason for it such as a chemical imbalance or an earnest debilitating situation. When “What’s the point” kicks in, kick it out!
These four tips will do much to turn your life around from despair to continual praise and rejoicing.
The Apostle Paul, who could have been depressed his entire Christian life due to what happened to him, but chose not to, said this: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4.
In this passage, Paul instructed his team to ‘stand fast in the Lord’ (V1), and that also meant against depression.
Please note: Chemical imbalance can also cause depression, and medication may correct that imbalance. In this case, I would recommend seeing your physician.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for designing my mind to overcome depressive thoughts. Thank you for sowing your secrets throughout your Word. Please help me to recognise depression in myself or anyone else I know, and to overcome it in me or be able to help them.