How to Deal with Christian Depression

By | bible, help, life | 2 Comments

“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:

  1. A community of good people who challenge them and relate to them.
  2. A history of generally getting what they want or what they think they want.
  3. 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
  • Inertia
  • 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Psalm 42:5

Resources.

Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Depression
http://www.amazon.com/Womans-Guide-Overcoming-Depression-Archibald-ebook/dp/B00B8587GU/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1409336354&sr=1-6&keywords=archibald+hart

Unmasking Male Depression
http://www.amazon.com/Unmasking-Male-Depression-Archibald-Hart-ebook/dp/B007V95C0G/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1409338758&sr=1-4&keywords=archibald+hart

New Light on Depression
http://www.amazon.com/New-Light-Depression-Answers-Depressed-ebook/dp/B003MVZOZU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1409339054&sr=1-1&keywords=new+light+on+depression

The Freedom from Depression Workbook
http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-Depression-Workbook-Minirth-Clinic/dp/0840762070/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1409339147&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=Freedom+from+Depression+les+carter

A Great Bible Reading Plan on Your iPhone/iPad

By | bible, tips | No Comments

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the “M’Cheyne” Bible Reading plan and I love it.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was born in Scotland and lived from 1813-1843.  He only lived to be 29.  But he made a huge impact as a minister. He came up with a reading plan through the Bible where one reads the Old Testament once, the New Testament twice and the Psalms twice. It is about 4 chapters a day and is very doable.

There is also a Bible reading app for the iPhone/iPad that makes reading this plan even easier.

I made a PDF of the instructions here.

Your “Obedience” Might be a Lie

By | bible, life | 5 Comments

“It’s my obedience to God.”

I hear this often in my ministry with young adults as a way to justify decisions and actions and feel it is time to address it. My desire is not to offend, but to enlighten from a Biblical standpoint. Here are 6 things to consider.

1. You are not the center of the cosmos. A lot of young and passionate Christians in their desire to serve God think that he is constantly wanting to use them for great things. Yes that is true but God’s definition of ‘great’ and ours differs quite a bit. People who struggle with this walk into a mall and think “who am I supposed to talk to or encourage?” Without realizing it, you have become the center. You have pressured yourself to thinking that everything depends on you. What if God has different plans for you? What if you play a minor and not a major role? We have taken Jeremiah 29:11 to an unhealthy and narcissistic level and think that we will all have incredible big and full lives on earth. That is simply not true. You can sure pursue that, but don’t expect it. Don’t forget great men like Uriah who in 2 Samuel 11 simply carried a letter to inform his commander to put him in the front lines to meet his death. And just like that, he was gone.

Action: Relax. You are not the center of God’s plan. You never will be. James 4:14 – You are a vapor. Quit stressing out about it.

2. Don’t think so highly of yourself. Most young adults tell me that if they just “knew God’s will” they would do it. I think we flatter ourselves a little to much here. Did the Israelites obey God when he said not to take up idols and they shaped a golden calf? Or did they obey when God said not too be like the Canaanites when they entered the promised land? Did Moses obey God when God asked him to not strike the rock? Did Jonah obey God when God asked him to go to Nineveh? These are HEROES of the Bible who struggled with practically obeying God in certain situations. I think we flatter ourselves a little too much here. Are you REALLY wanting to obey God or just wanting to feel good about yourself and think that you would if he told you what to do?

Action: Don’t flatter yourself. Live with humility. God might ask you to do something and you might say no. Gasp.

3. Be honest. You just want to feel good about yourself. Don’t take this the wrong way and get mad. Let’s be honest with each other. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves? Saying that you are being obedient to God is your spiritual way of justifying actions that you really wanted to take anyhow.  Be very careful about slapping the I’m being ‘obedient’ onto decisions just so you can sleep at night.

Action: Ask yourself, am I just trying to feel better about this decision or is this genuine obedience? If it is not obedience, then don’t say that it is!

4. When did it become wrong to pursue what you want to do? Young christians act as though they are not allowed to have a say, a desire or responsibility in life, yet the Bible constantly speaks otherwise. This reminds me of my children. Think about this. Do I want my daughters to sit around all day and night and wait for me to tell them what to do? No. I want them to live and make decisions! I want them to stumble and remember that they need me. I want them to learn and to grow. I want them to ask me for things! We need to be connected with God and we can because of the Holy Spirit, but where did it become wrong to pursue things you want to pursue?! God is our good father! Jesus tells a parable of talents in Matthew 25. Basically, the ones who do something with what he gave him he praised. But who does the man get mad at? The one who did nothing! Why are you so afraid of doing something? Do you not think that God is bigger than your agenda? Consider Paul in Acts 16 where he wants to go into Bithynia. In verse 7 it says the spirit of Jesus would not let them go. Paul clearly wanted to go and God clearly didn’t let him. Do you not think God will allow something that he has not ordained? Trust me. He will stop you if he needs to.

Action: Accept that God is your Father, not your puppet master. He could be that but He is to good and to powerful not to be. Why do you think it is wrong to pursue what you want in life if it is good and moral? Do you really trust God to be at work in your life through your ambitions and desires?

5. Quit pushing responsibility onto God. Let’s face it. You are scared to death that this decision is going to wreck your life or be less than “God’s best.” Let me encourage you here. You don’t know what God’s best is. And if you did, you wouldn’t like it. God’s best is sending his one and only son to die for you. God’s best is allowing the world to live in agony and under a curse while he redeems humanity. Be very careful when claiming “God’s best”. As far as decisions go, chances are you are not deciding between a good teaching job and being a meth cooker like Walter White. If that was the case, the decision in the matter is pretty clear. Don’t cook and deal drugs. But if you have two really good and moral options, what is so wrong with you choosing one of them? Stop thinking that one road leads to life and one to death. Either road will lead to blessings and curses. If you have salvation, you are already on the right road! The truth is you are scared to death of making the ‘wrong’ decision. Why is that? Well you don’t want things to go less than perfect. But the truth is that no matter what you do, it will be less than perfect. But God can and will use it to grow you up and work it out according to his plan.

Action: Live your life. Quit saying false things to “seem” more Christian. Accept responsibility. Realize that there is nothing wrong with you wanting certain things. Just remember to hold them loosely if God changes them or takes them away.

6. It is less about where you go than how you go. You need faith! Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith. Why would faith be so necessary if God was going to give you every practical detail. God was silent with his people for 400 years! Make a decision. Step out in faith. And if you want details, the Bible is very clear about how to live your life in the general ways. I can’t tell you how many young adults I hear say that they are being obedient to go serve in Africa but don’t love their roommate unconditionally. This is completely backwards. God is concerned with your heart. If you can’t obey the life rules of God laid out in the Bible (loving, honesty, giving, patience, etc.) there is no way you are obeying God’s calling somewhere to work, live or with who to marry. What God is most conceded with is how will you work, how you will live, and how you will treat the person you choose to marry. Those are the areas of obedience that need to be proclaimed!

Action: From now on, be careful when you say you are being obedient to things not listed in the Bible. In claiming to be obedient, you may in fact be rebelling more than you realize.

Take comfort in the fact that God has allowed you so much freedom to make choices and to pursue your life in him.