Depression; a biblical approach pt. 2
Labels: Bible, Christian Living, Depression, Fruit of the Spirit, Trials · Posted by Walking Worthy at 11:40
As we recognized previously, Depression is too complicated to give a single pat answer to. Yet there are some things that we can do, which can play a part in ameliorating the low feelings often associated with depression. Some of these include:
One of the first things that can fall by the wayside when someone becomes depressed is routine. Partly because of the associated problems with depression e.g. lack of sleep and a poor appetite, the regular rhythms of a balanced lifestyle can be quickly abandoned. One positive step to counteract this is to endeavour to restore routine in your life. Start with the major things e.g. regular sleep, work and eating patterns which play a vital role in rebuilding a sense order and normality. Admittedly, there will be times when trying to eat feels like a battle or when attempting to sleep feels pointless. Nevertheless even in these tough times, we need to try and remember that our long term desire is to return to a balanced regular lifestyle. Hence, we should seek to cultivate and not lose those habits which will ensure the smoothest transition. Furthermore, having an ordered life is part of what it means to glorify God who Scripture describes as a person of order and not confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
One of the common struggles associated with depression is the lack of sleep. Apart from just laying in bed counting endless numbers of sheep, how can one make the good use of such ‘inactive’ times? I want to suggest praying or listening to sermons. This has the advantage of letting you keep resting (whilst still awake) but also helps your mind and soul be edified. Incidentally, such multitasking would be following the Scriptural examples of people who used their time in bed praying and meditating especially in times of great suffering (Psalm 4:4; 6:6; 63:6-8; 149:5). Psalm 4 is particularly instructive in its exhortation to desist from sinful anger. This is a temptation which often arises when people are depressed: persistent anger at God for the trials being endured. Psalm 4:4 however cautions against indulging in anger by suggesting instead that we meditate – in bed – on God. Similarly, Psalm 63 speaks of King David meditating on the Lord during ‘the watches of the night’ (verse 6). One very easy way to do this, is to get some sermons or a good Christian audio book (e.g. Pilgrim’s Progress) and listen to them when sleep is lacking. One year while struggling with depression I used my sleepless nights to listen to big chunks of the Bible and also managed to hear the whole of Milton’s Paradise Lost (not all in one evening!).
This seems like an impractical and unrealistic suggestion yet Scripture considers rejoicing, as one of the solutions for those who are low in Spirit. This is best seen in the Psalms, where those who are in dire straits not only acknowledge their suffering but also resolve to praise the LORD. One clear example of this is Psalm 42, where the Psalmist spends time outlining how cast down he feels (verse 3-11a). Yet as the Psalm concludes, the Psalmist exhorts himself to hope in God and expresses his determination to praise God (verse 11b). Another interesting example is that of King Saul who when he was downcast, had David play music to him which then lifted his spirits (1 Samuel 16:14-23). It ought also to be remembered that Scripture repeatedly exhorts us to be joyful (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; James 1:2). This is not an optional extra, applicable only to those who are doing well in the Christian life. Philippians 4:4 for example, commands us to rejoice in the Lord always. This does not mean that you should interminably be bubbly and never frown at anything but rather it denotes an attitude that is secure in the God’s goodness, despite the dark clouds all around. In sum, we should endeavour to rejoice (i.e. acknowledge God’s goodness) despite our depression. One easy way to do this is to play some of your favourite hymns, songs, psalms and join along.
4. Don’t give up on Church
This is a particular example of our first point (establishing good routines). However going to church has the added blessing of being able to fulfill the other points covered without the depressed person having to do too much. Thus for example going to church every week (and maybe also joining in a weekly bible study) not only means that you have one fixed thing every week with an established routine but it also means that there is at least one point every week where you will hear something from God’s word, get the chance to lift up your voice in praise and rejoice. Church also provides the opportunity to interact with others and to receive the support and encouragement of fellow Christians. It also provides the opportunity to repent and say sorry to God for any sins during the past week. It also accords the depressed person with the opportunity to serve and bless others as they share how God has sustained and maintained them through their suffering. Consider for example Job – by his faithful response to his immense suffering (Job 1:21) and by his testimony of God’s goodness despite his pain (Job 42:1-6) we the Church are strengthened to respond rightly when suffering comes. Continuing to go to church and faithfully meeting up with God’s people is one way that the depressed person can bless others while also honouring and praising God.
Guest article by Kip' Chelashaw