“Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.”
Disclaimer: Although I have had experience working with and counseling high school and young adults for over 10 years, I am not a licensed counselor. If you need professional help or advice, please seek that out in addition to or instead of this post.
That being said, I think it is important to address the issue of depression from my standpoint. The intended audience of this post is a young adult Christian who has recently changed environments and come out of experiencing regular emotional happiness and joy in their lives from the following:
- A community of good people who challenge them and relate to them.
- A history of generally getting what they want or what they think they want.
- Sustained positive feelings when associating with Christian activities such as successful events, worship meetings and good conversations.
Typically, when a person leaves this environment and the generally sustained positive feelings and emotions that came with it, they become “down” or in their mind, they are “depressed.” It is the same dilemma as when a great trip comes to an end or when one comes down off of a mountain top. The experience and elated views they once had are now gone, and the thought of reality has set in which is not as enjoyable.
First, what is depression?
“In a culture such as ours, where there is a high priority placed on performance and success as symbols of worthiness and where there is a diminishing opportunity to be successful, is bound to give rise to an increased gap between expectations and accomplishments.” – Dr. Archibald Hart (Coping with Depression)
It is actually hard to define exactly what depression is. It is the same as trying to describe what “feeling bad” is. What might make it easier is to evaluate the symptoms of it. Here is what Dr. Archibald Hart says in his book, Coping with Depression, are some of the main symptoms of depression:
- Confused thinking
- Slowed speech
- Loss of interest in work or hobbies
- Fear of losing one’s mind
- Flogging oneself with guilt and self reproach
- Thoughts of death and death wishes
- Feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of appetite or a marked increase in appetite
- Feelings of total futility
- Inability to sleep or oversleeping
- Stomach discomfort
You might look at that list and realize that it’s not that bad. Or you might look at that list and realize that it is that bad. Either way, if you are dealing with some or most of these and you have recently moved from a “mountain top” environment that I described earlier, here are some ways to help.
1. You are not alone.
According to healthline.com, 1 in 10 Americans report that they struggle with depression. The first thing you need to understand that you are not alone. This is actually quite common. Satan (our great enemy) wants you to feel like you are the only one that deals with this. It is also very easy to think that if you are a Christian, you are not allowed to be depressed. Where in scripture is this to be found? Literally nowhere. Be encouraged by that!
2. This is actually normal and quite healthy.
Just like the weather has seasons, your body has seasons. Most, if not all plants cannot bear fruit year round. That would destroy the plant. The world is full of mountaintops and valleys, which are both necessary and needed. Unfortunately, what happens in young Christians who are involved in churches, Para-church ministries and media start to equate high emotional feelings and excitement with being possible all year long. In America, we are a generally positive driven culture, especially in Christian circles. Our Christianity has blended with America’s success and humanistic values and created a monster. Go into a Christian bookstore and look at the titles.
- “You Can Overcome!”
- “Your Best Life Now!”
- “Sun Stand Still!”
- “5 Ways To Get Your Life Back.”
On and on the titles go. The reality is that while this is appealing for all of us, it is not reality, nor should it be reality. We live in a cursed world. Genesis 3 tells us that this world is cursed and we are all broken. Depression in many cases actually serves as a helper throughout this broken world and with the broken bodies we live in. Again, Dr. Archibald Hart reminds of this.
“Ideally, depression performs a very important function. It triggers a series of important responses in the body to deal with the chaos in life.”
Maybe what you are dealing with is a sign to get out, slow down and change perspective.
3. It’s biblical For Crying Out Loud
Watch this. Most Biblical heroes struggled with depression. This is a reminder that you are not alone. The verse that I started this post with is from Lamentations 5.
“Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.”
Read the Psalms. You will see very quickly that David and author Psalmists were incredibly depressed many times. In Matthew 5, Jesus says that blessed are the poor in spirit and blessed are those who mourn. What?! This is in stark contrast to what our excitement driven and self-help Christian culture is selling. Jesus didn’t start out his famous sermon with “Blessed are those that feel great!” or “Blessed are those that are successful!” And praise the Lord for that! Again, walking into a Christian bookstore is an alarming indication of the contrast.
4. What To Do.
Well here is the fun part. We all want OUT of depression. Here are a few things to do.
- Wait. Ouch. You didn’t want that. But here is the deal friends. Winter lasts for months in some places and weeks in other places. But it is always a part of the year. You cannot force winter to be over. You cannot force fruit to grow.
- Read. First, read your Bible. Actually listen to what it says. Learn from Biblical heroes about their depression. Then, gather some good resources and read. You can spend a few bucks right now on Amazing and have a kindle book delivered to your computer and start reading. Don’t just run to a counselor or doctor. See if you can help yourself first. I will recommend some books later.
- Do. Do something. Activity does the body and soul good. Sit down and evaluate some old loves or hobbies of yours and just take a day and go for it. Doing something that makes you sweat is good to. Also, making sure you are eating healthy and hydrated can make a huge difference in how your body feels.
- Talk to someone that is more than a friend. I know, you don’t relate well to someone who is older. But truthfully, find someone in your community or church that is older that will relate to you but also give you great perspective. Many people who ask me to meet are surprised that I deal with depression on and off like everybody else even though I am I serve in a vibrant ministry.
- Seek professional help. If you are still dealing with these things, seek professional help. But before you go to a “doctor” I recommend finding a good church and asking to meet with one of their counseling pastors. If you have been in your Bible and done some reading yourself, you will be far better prepared to spot someone who is giving you bad advice and move on to someone else.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Depression
Unmasking Male Depression
New Light on Depression
The Freedom from Depression Workbook