Hoping for Something More than Depression

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 (This article is part of the book: “HOPE: God’s Shelter in the Storm’s of Life.” )

Is There Any Hope for Depression?

Yes, absolutely! There is hope for depression. Here is a simple, Biblical plan from the book of Philippians that will help you to live a happy, hope-filled life.

1. Let Go Of The Past

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14)

A good deal of depression is caused by worry. We worry about the past, and about potential things that can go wrong in the future. The Apostle Paul certainly had plenty in his past he could have worried about. He had persecuted Christians and blasphemed Jesus Christ. He was a wicked man before he was saved on the road to Damascus. Yet, Paul said, “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind…” Paul chose to forget the past. He saw Jesus Christ as his goal and He looked forward to Him. Did you fail at something yesterday? Why live your life today dwelling on it? Look forward to Jesus Christ and follow Him. Did you confess a sin to the Lord yesterday and receive forgiveness for it? Why bring it back up today? Every day, have a fresh start, forgetting the past and reaching forward to the future. The future for the Christian couldn’t be better. Our future is Jesus Christ!

    2. Pray About The Future

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7)

God’s peace passes all understanding. The Bible says that if we pray about everything, that “…the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The phrase, “Be careful for nothing…” means, “Don’t worry about anything.” The way to keep from worrying and to have peace in your life is to pray about the situation. The peace of God will then keep, which means to “guard,” your heart. Just as a squadron of soldiers guards a military base from enemy attack, the peace of God will guard your heart from the attacks of worry and doubt. The words heart and mind in this verse are talking about your thoughts and emotions. The peace of God guards our thoughts and emotions in a way that passes all understanding. No one can understand why a Christian can have peace in the midst of the storms of life, but we can though Jesus Christ!

The reason the peace of God that passes understanding “…SHALL KEEP your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” is because, most of the time, our worry is about things that might happen in the future. “Shall” is a future word. So the peace of God looks into the future and guards our hearts and minds when we pray.

Incidentally, pray for what you want to happen. If you are facing bad circumstances in the future, pray for God to change things.  (Luke 11:9) If God doesn’t want to give you what you are asking for, He will change your mind and change your prayers. But, it is not wrong at all to pray for God to answer specific needs in your life. N othing will give you more hope than praying for the things that you want God to do for you, and seeing God respond to your prayers by doing exactly what you asked Him to do! “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2)

    3. Change Your Way Of Thinking About The Present

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians (4:8, 9)

Is the way you think causing you to be depressed? Change your thinking to BIBLICAL THINKING and it will cause you to have peace and contentment in your life. God outlines eight things here that we should think about. Let’s study them.

The Word of God teaches that we should think about things that are:

(1) TRUE:  The Devil wants to fill your mind with lies. “God doesn’t love you. The Bible isn’t true. God won’t answer your prayer.” Don’t fill your mind with things that aren’t true. The best way to fill up your mind with truth is by reading and memorizing the Word of God. The Bible is truth. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) In order for us to properly reason and think through a situation, we have to think Biblically. Knowing the Bible means knowing what God thinks about the situations of life. That will help us to think right, and to make the right decisions.

(2) HONEST: This has to do with the way we live our lives. We ought to live honorably. If you are doing things that you shouldn’t do, stop. If you are not doing something that you should be doing, start. For instance, if you are a Christian, you know that you should be attending church. If you are not doing that, it may lead you to feel guilty. Guilt, then leads to depression. The easiest way to get rid of such depression is to start going to church. Solomon said, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…”  If it needs to be done, do it, and put everything that you’ve got into it! On the other hand, if you are committing some sort of sin, that can also lead to depression. Stop doing what you know you shouldn’t do. Do what you know you should. This will help you to feel better about life, and to not live in depression.

(3) JUST: Just things are righteous. They are the things that  are right. If we dwell on everything that is wrong with the world, and all of the wrongs that people have done to us, it will rob us of our peace. Think about things that are just, that are right with the world and with people, rather than those that are wrong. It will make you into a happier person!

It is good to note here that justice has never been better exemplified than by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. When Christ died for our sins, He was fulfilling the just demands of a holy God that sin be punished. Also, because He had no sin, Jesus was able to die for our sins, in our place, as our substitute. When a sinner believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, God declares him to be just, or righteous, not because of his own works, but because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when we think about things that are just, we should meditate on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and about the righteousness that God has given to us by grace, through our faith, in Him.

Sometimes, when the Devil is beating you up, or you are beating yourself up thinking about what a sorry person you are, think of this. You are righteous in the sight of God. You have been declared, by the Lord Jesus Christ, to be just. God loves you so much, that He gave His Son to die and absorb the just punishment for your sins, the punishment that you deserve. That is true love!

(4) PURE: Pure things are clean. Christians ought to fill their minds with purity, not with filth. What we read, watch and listen to reflects on how we think. We should fill our ears with clean music. We ought to fill our minds with clean literature. If you watch television, look at things that are clean. Many Christians spend their time wasting their brains with entertainment that isn’t fit for the hogs in the barnyard! Bad music and bad images lead to bad thinking. As my pastor often says, “Garbage in, garbage out. Righteousness in, righteousness out.”

(5) LOVELY: Forgiveness is lovely. If you are holding a grudge, it will hold you, and you will destroy yourself with bitterness. If you are bitter towards someone, let it go for your own health and well-being. God commands us to forgive others, and to pray for our enemies. This is not only the right thing to do, but praying for your enemies will take a lot of tension out of your life and help you to be mentally healthy.

Jesus Christ is lovely. Nothing is more lovely. Think on Christ, and it will lift you out of depression. I went to a restaurant to eat one time, and I was kind of depressed. The hymn, “Rock of Ages” started playing over the speaker system. I started thinking about Jesus Christ, and those thoughts brought me out of my depression. When Job went through all of his suffering, God did something very interesting. God got Job to look up, away from all that was going on around him. God started asking Job questions that led him to realize how powerful  and wise God is. At the end of this time of questioning, Job was a changed man, and God turned things around for him. When you are depressed, get your mind off of circumstances and onto the Lord Jesus Christ. He will lift you out of your depression!

The Word of God is lovely. Meditating on the Bible is the single best way to change your thinking. The Word of God says,  “ And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) A lot of junk builds up in our minds during the day. We need these negative thoughts and attitudes emptied out. The Word of God transforms us by renewing our minds. As you read the Bible each day, it will cleans and renew your thoughts. The word, “renew” means to “renovate.” Have you ever seen an old house that has been renovated? That is what the Bible does to our minds. It sweeps away the sin and filthiness of the day and rebuilds our thought processes.

(6) GOOD REPORT: We ought not to fill our minds with negativity and gossip. Choose to meditate on those things that have a good report, a good reputation. You can think about every negative aspect of a person until you grow to despise them. Pick out good things to think about. A critical, cynical attitude will help to make you into a grouch that no one wants to associate with! Think about good reports, not bad. “Good report” thinking will change your whole outlook on people and life.

(7) ANY VIRTUE: These are things that are morally excellent. Any time that you find this characteristic in a person or a thing, think on it. The Apostle Paul certainly demonstrated this kind of moral excellency when he was on board a ship that was doomed to sink. He said,  “ Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25) Do you ever feel like your life is sinking? Believe God! God will take care of you. He promises in His Word to do so. There is great virtue in believing God when things go wrong. Ultimately, most depression is caused by living a life of not believing God. God is in control and He will work things out for good. The Lord Jesus Christ loves you! He will do what He has promised in His Word. Live a life of unbelief, and you will be miserable. Live in faith, and you will be happy.  “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

(8) ANY PRAISE: We can spend our lives dwelling on every negative thing, or we can find things for which we can praise God. One of the easiest ways to be lifted out of depression is to think about all of the ways that God has blessed you. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food to eat? Do you have clothes to wear? Is God blessing you in other areas of your life?

John Gill, one of England’s eminent Bible commentators wrote: “…think on these things: meditate upon them, revolve them in your minds, seriously consider them, and reason with yourselves about them, in order to put them into practice.” You don’t have to live a life of depression and emptiness. Change your thinking, and God will change your life.

 

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Like Well-Watered Gardens: Isaiah 58

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Feed the hungry,
    and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
    and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
    giving you water when you are dry
    and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like an ever-flowing spring.”

Isaiah 58:10-11, NLT

This is the precise key many need for this moment. It just could be as vital as your next breath.

You see our faith was never intended to be a personal ‘spiritual make-over.’ Discipleship was not meant to be about becoming a ‘new-and-improved’ person. That simply is not the message. There can be an emphasis placed on a selfish preoccupation with becoming better (and nicer) and we miss out on God’s real intent for His redeemed people. The difference is subtle but significant. We cannot sanctify our selfishness— no matter how hard we might try. 

For years I travelled under a misconception that God wanted from me ‘a better Bryan.’ I felt like a juggler trying to keep the balls moving. But by making this my focus, and not on others, I only exacerbated my mental illness. For me, my depression is only intensified when I look inside. Often I can’t see the needs around me. All I can see are my own issues (which are formidable.)

Isaiah prophesies a spiritual ’cause-and-effect.” If a person will only reach out to others will there be a spiritual blessing. Often we struggle because we don’t realize the implications of being spent for others. We become ‘a well-watered garden’ if we will only reach out to others. If we would only learn that it is when we give out— we receive. The kingdom is reciprocal in the way blessings come.

“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:35

The entire chapter of Isaiah 58 makes it a vital point to the people of God. Our own healing is contingent on becoming a blessing to others. If we will pour out we will be poured on. We become ‘a well-watered garden’ when we begin to serve others. Our own ‘healing’ will come when we reach out to the desperate needs around us. After all, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be about?

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Jamison and Steel: Interviews on Suicide

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NAMI’s Interviews With Danielle Steel & Kay Jamison

 

Last year, Steel published His Bright Light, a memoir of her son, Nick Traina, who committed suicide at age 19 after a life-long battle with bipolar disorder (manic depression). More recently, Jamison has published Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, combining research, clinical expertise and personal experience to explore one of the world’s leading causes of death.On February 8, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Resources, Education & Related Agencies will hold a hearing on suicide prevention that will include testimony from best-selling author Danielle Steel and Professor Kay Redfield Jamison, author of several academic and popular books on mental illness.

Interviews with Steel and Jamison have appeared in “Spotlight,” a special supplement to The Advocate, the quarterly publication of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). Conducted by NAMI executive director Laurie Flynn, they offer a possible preview of Steel and Jamison’s testimony on Tuesday. Excerpts follow below.

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Dr. Kay Jamison

NAMI’s Interview with Kay Jamison
Spotlight (Winter 1999/2000)

NAMI: What do we know about the linkage between suicide and mental illness?

Jamison: The most important thing to know is that 90 to 95 percent of suicides are associated with one of several major psychiatric illnesses: depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia, drug and alcohol abuse, and personality disorders. These are obviously treatable illnesses. Another thing people don’t think about enough or emphasize enough is that because cancer and heart disease hit older people, they are seen as lethal illnesses. Because the age of onset for mental illnesses is very, very young, people don’t tend to think of mental illnesses as the potentially lethal illnesses they are. It’s important for people to understand that they have an illness to begin with and then that they get good treatment for it.

NAMI: You have spoken specifically of suicide and college students.

Jamison: Yes. Suicide is the second major killer of college aged kids. It’s the second leading killer of young people generally.

NAMI: You also have pointed out that, worldwide, suicide is the second leading killer of women between ages 15 and 45. These statistics are staggering, yet most people don’t seem to be aware of it.

Jamison: Absolutely. Across the world. There are almost two million suicides a year worldwide. I think people just don’t have any sense of the enormity of it. Suicide unfortunately has been so individualized and, because of the early suicide movement in this country, so separated from mental illness. People working in the field of suicide concentrated on existential factors and vague sorts of things, when in fact the underlying science is very clear that they’re associated with a few mental illnesses.

NAMI: Knowing what we do about illness and its treatability allows us to be able to discuss preventing suicide.

Jamison: Right. [U.S. Surgeon General] Dr. David Satcher’s emphasis has been very strong on three fronts. One is public awareness. Secondly, intervention and all that’s involved in making doctors and others more able to ask the kinds of questions needed to uncover mental illness. And then, thirdly, to support the science that’s necessary to study suicide.

NAMI: What else can policy makers and public officials do?

Jamison: I think we have to have public officials talking about it. When you have someone like Jesse Ventura out there saying these outrageous things-I think it’s really beyond the pale-we’ve got to have the president of the United States saying look we’ve got a real epidemic here, and there’s something we can do about it. People are dying from not gaining access to treatment-or from having three days in the hospital, and then going out and dying.

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DANIELLE STEEL

NAMI’s Interview with Danielle Steel
Spotlight (Winter 1999)

NAMI: “His Bright Light” is a very personal story about a very painful subject, the mental illness and death of a child. What did you hope people would learn by sharing your story?

Steel: I hoped first of all that people would come to know my son, and learn what an extraordinary person he was. I wrote the book to honor him, and to share with people what a remarkable person he was, in spite of his illness. I also wrote it to share with people the challenges we faced, so that they feel less alone and less isolated with their pain, in similar situations. I wrote it to give people hope and strength as they follow a similar path to ours.

NAMI: What did you learn from this painful tragedy?

Steel: I’m not sure yet what I learned from the tragedy, except that one can and must survive. But from his life, I learned a great deal about courage and perseverance, and love.

NAMI: Lots of people in America might be facing signs of a mental illness in one of their children. What about Nick’s behavior made you realize that it was more severe than just the normal growing pains of a child?

Steel: Nick was different. Always. His moods were more extreme. I sensed from early on, that despite his many wonderful qualities, there was something very wrong. I knew it in my gut, as I think many parents do.

NAMI: How long did it take for Nick to be diagnosed as manic-depressive and receive treatment for that condition?

Steel: Nick was not clearly diagnosed as manic depressive until he was 16, a good 12 years after we began the pursuit of the causes for his ‘differences’. He received no medication until he was 15, and did not receive the most effective medications until he was 16. A long and very painful wait for all concerned!

NAMI: Prior to knowing of Nick’s manic depression, what did mental illness mean to you? Did you associate stigma with mental illness?

Steel: I don’t think I realized, before Nick, that one could still be functional, or seemingly functional, if mentally ill. I thought of it as something totally incapacitating, and of people who were shut away. I don’t think I realized how intelligent and capable mentally ill people can still be. I’m not sure I did associate a stigma with mental illness. It just seemed like a sickness, and not necessarily a shameful one. I just thought of Nick as sick, whatever it was called, and wanted him to be cured.

NAMI: How did Nick deal with the knowledge that he had a mental illness?

Steel: For a long time, Nick himself was in denial about his illness. And eventually, he accepted it. In the last year, he told people he was manic-depressive. Before that, when he felt ‘normal’ on medications, he believed he was cured. He had a hard time accepting at first that he would be manic-depressive all his life.

NAMI: Are schools able to cope with the mental illness of a child?

Steel: In most cases, I don’t believe they are. It is a huge challenge for all to meet, and certainly hard on the other kids to have one child acting out. We were very lucky, in Nick’s high school years we finally found a wonderful school that understood the problem, accepted him as he was, and was willing to work with him in a framework he could cope with. They were remarkably flexible and creative. But for most schools, it’s asking a lot to expect them to adapt to a mentally ill child.

NAMI: If you could tell a family member who is caring for someone who is mentally ill one thing, what would that be?

Steel: Never give up. Get the best help you can. Keep trying, keep loving, keep giving, keep looking for the right answers, and love, love, love, love. Don’t listen to the words, just listen to your heart.

NAMI: What do you think support groups like NAMI can do for families coping with the mental illness of a loved one?

Steel: I think groups like NAMI can provide support, both emotional and practical—the knowledge that you are not alone. And resources, where to go, who to talk to, what works. You need all the information you can get, and it is just about impossible to do it alone.

NAMI: Stereotyping the mentally ill as violent and dangerous is pervasive in America. How do we change this perception?

Danielle: Information. Obviously there must be some mentally ill people who are violent and/or dangerous. But I suspect that most are not. Nick certainly wasn’t either of those, he was gentle, loving, smart, funny, compassionate, extremely perceptive about people, and very wise. I cannot conceive of Nick as ‘dangerous,’ although ultimately he was a danger to himself. But for the most part, I think the turmoils of the mentally ill are directed within and not without.

NAMI: What do you think the average American should know about mental illness?

Steel: I think most people should know how common it is…I also think people should know how serious it is when it goes untreated. And how potentially lethal it can be. It is vitally important to get good treatment, the right medication, and good support. If you let a bad cold turn into bronchitis and then pneumonia, without medication, it can kill you. If you do not treat serious diabetes, it can kill you. If mental illness goes untreated, it can kill you.

NAMI: We know that having “hope” is important to battling any disease. What hope do you see for people with mental illness?

Steel: I see a huge amount of hope. The medications today can give people whole, happy, productive lives. There are lots and lots of people with mental illness holding down good jobs, even with important careers, happy family lives, and doing great things. It is possible to lead a good and happy life if you are mentally ill. If those who are doing just that would speak up, it would give great hope to all those who are still groping their way along in the dark.

NAMI: What is Nick’s legacy?

Steel: Nick’s legacy is the love we had and have for him, the word we have spread of what a terrific person he was. In his lifetime, he touched countless lives, with his warmth, with his mind, with his music, with his words. Through his experiences, others have and will learn. Through the Nick Traina Foundation, hopefully we can bring help to others, in his name.

 

For more information or assistance, please contact NAMI at: http://www.nami.org/

 

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Of Promises and Plans

Jeremiahverse

To understand this truth is to be set free.

We live in sort of toxic atmosphere that ‘leeches’ out of us God’s sure promises. But we do have significant resources that will keep us secure. What has been given is fortified promises and plans.

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

2 Peter 1:4

Every believer has been given these strong promises. It doesn’t matter if you have a physical or mental illness. God is for you in the midst of your pain and disability. You may be miraclously healed, or you may ‘carry the load’ on a daily basis; God is for you regardless.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

Romans 8:31

When a believer is in a storm, sometimes God will calm it, and other times He will calm the child. Either way we are remarkably protected in His hands. God is for us. We are given ‘promises and plans.’ We may traverse through much difficulty— that seems to be the normal state of things. It seems some will travel from crisis-to-crisis, yet God holds them secure. We will trust Him in the storm.

Think of all you have already been through— search your memories. You will undoubtly recall some hard times, yet you have survived the awful storms.

“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”    

John Henry Newman

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