Depression; a biblical approach pt. 2

A Christian response when you’re in the thick of it

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:

1. Routine

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).

2. Multitask

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!).

3. Rejoice

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

3 comments:

  1. Kip, I have a question that I've been waiting a long time to ask someone - but often this topic doesn't come up. Thank you very much indeed for addressing it.

    For the past couple of years I've found myself feeling completely and utterly depressed when I'm surrounded by non-Christians.

    All of a sudden sitting in a lesson or lecture I'll be overwhelmed with a sense of complete hopelessness for the people that I'm with. This feeling also overcomes me when I'm at restuarants and coffee shops and other situations like shopping when I'm surrounded by people heading for Hell who are trying to have a good time and make sense of life. I find this feeling so debilitating and pushes me to the point of tears that I find myself trying to avoid building up close frienships with unbelievers.

    Not only do I feel terribly depressed but I feel myself just closing in and shutting down - then life feel pointless to me.

    Do you have any advice? my response can't be right but I don't know what to do. If your response (or anyone's response - I don't mind who) needs to be straight down the line, then please let it be straight down the line because I want real and truthful advice that is actually going to help not advice that will simple make me feel better.

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  2. Wow - what a great question... to be sorrowful and distressed when in the midst of those who despise and ignore our Saviour and Lord shows an intense love for the lost - a dose of which the Church in the West could do with.

    My advice regarding your sadness is two-fold. First remember that Jesus has promised that up until the day He comes again, He'll be building His Church and not even the gates of hades will prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). In other words, when you look around and it all seems hopeless and many appear uninterested in the Gospel, remember that Jesus' mission is still being accomplished one little step at a time (Matthew 13:31-33). Our Saviour is King and everything He intends to accomplish will be accomplished. With such knowledge can I encourage you to pray therefore for those around you who don't know Christ and beyond that to build friendships with them seek opportunities to speak to them about Christ. Perhaps invite them to Church, perhaps ask them to consider the Scriptures with you, perhaps do some open air! Try something, rather than despairing or retreating always confident that the Lord is building His Church and will use ordinary people like you and me in that work (Matthew 28:19-20)

    The second thing to say is that biblically, the vision of all the redeemed who will be in the New Creation is that of a great multitude which no on will be able to count (Revelation 7:9) In other words there will be soooooooooooooooooo many many many people in the New Heavens and New Earth that while in our particular contexts we may sometimes think things are looking bad, the truth is that when you take a long-term view - Christ is the one who wins the battle. Let me put it another way - you dear Christian are on the winning side and that side does not constitute a little huddle of inconsequential losers but rather an innumerable crowd of forgiven sinners. A simple way of saying all this is that we need to keep in mind constantly, how history ends: with the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea - that is our destiny. PRAISE THE LORD.

    K

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  3. Anonymous, I really sympathise with your position. My family doesn't really like shopping in the city because the throngs of people trying to find meaning in life by shopping and 'stuff' is so depressing. It does make you want to cry and doubt if there really is any point after all! I don't think that it is an altogether unhealthy position, if we deal with it appropriately and in the way God wants.

    The Bible records Jesus crying over the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and Him feeling compassion for the multitudes because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:35-36). So maybe when we feel the hopelessness of unbelievers, we feel a part of God's heart longing for His creation to turn to Him? As Kip says, we need to be know where we stand, that our response is that we belong to God and that His purposes are being accomplished. Personally, I believe that sometimes in these situations God won't let us be entirely peaceful because He is nudging us, waiting for us to see the challenge before us.

    2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing any to perish but all to come to repentance.” Do we really believe those words? If the Lord wants every person to repent and come into relationship with Him, who will share that news? I know it's so tempting – sometimes it seems the only option, if we want to remain faithful to Him – to stay out of the world and keep far from non-believers … but for the vast majority of us, to run away is to let God down and shirk our responsibility.

    Ezekiel 33:1-10 talks about the responsibility a watchman has to warn of the sword coming and the bloodshed being on his head if he fails to say anything: “When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man should die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand”.How can we be easy if we do not do everything possible to reach them with the news of salvation? We are not all called to be famous evangelists, give out tracts or preach on street corners – but I think the Bible makes it plain that we are all called to partner with God to reach the lost.

    Practically, we can all smile at the people we pass by, cheer cashiers and shop workers, be helpful to the elderly people we meet while we are out. When we feel sorrow and concern when we are around non-believers, we can pray for the people we meet, pray for the buildings to be used in a godly way, pray for the Christians who might work there. Make it into a conversation with God – ask Him what concerns Him about the places and events, what He would ask you to pray about, if there is some action He is going to ask you to take.

    More than that? I believe the church is going to be held corporately responsible for the numbers of souls that go to Hell – have we as the body of Messiah done enough? Are we really accomplishing God's work for Him? Matt 28:18-20 is both a promise and a command! However, God has all made us different and He is not going to expect the same from each of us. I think the main point is to engage with God, see what He is saying to you and then go for it!

    I hope that helps! :-)

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