What’s the Role of God’s Word in the Fight Against Depression?

SPIRITUAL BROMIDE OR FUEL FOR THE SOUL?

Years ago, in a public venue, I extolled the value of wielding God’s Word as a weapon against depression. Before I finished my comments, a listener blurted out, “That’s oversimplification of a complex condition! You think you can cure depression by flinging a Bible verse at it? That’s totally unrealistic.”

If he had allowed me to finish, he would have heard my comment in its larger context.

When I tout God’s Word as a weapon against depression, I’m not saying that depression suddenly evaporates when I read the Bible or ponder a verse I’ve memorized. I’m not saying that having regular devotions in the Bible will forestall the onset of depressive episodes. I’m not advocating the neglect of medical or psychological treatment, nor other resources of the Spirit, such as fellowship and prayer. But I am saying that anchoring myself in God’s Word is nonetheless integral to my endurance. In particular, the promises of Scripture keep me from giving up and yielding to the despair.

In Future Grace, John Piper emphasizes that “wherever despondency comes from, Satan paints with a lie. The lie says, ‘You will never be happy again. You will never be strong again. You will never have vigor and determination again. Your life will never again be purposeful. There is no morning after this night. No joy after weeping. All is gathering gloom, darker and darker.’”

When I’m bombarded with a similar message of hopelessness, I buttress my faith with verses that combat Satan’s lies, such as these words from Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Another buoyant promise that keeps me from drowning in discouragement is Nahum 1:7: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

No matter how I’m feeling, I strive to cling to a right view of God, as depicted in these words from Isaiah 30:18: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.”

I can’t prevent an onset of despondency by memorizing Scripture, but I can shorten its stay and minimize its effects by focusing on God: Who He is, what He has done for me, and what He has pledged Himself to do.

The author of Psalm 73:26 also fought despair by riveting his attention on truth about God. He acknowledged weakness and despondency with these words: “My flesh and my heart may fail.” But he refused to yield to discouragement. He battled back by telling himself, “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

An occasional effect of depression in relation to my work is the inability to feel God’s presence as I prepare for and teach classes at Columbia International University. That’s when I lock my mental lens on Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Like the Psalmist, I “preach to myself,” or engage in biblical self-talk. I remind myself that He is with me whether or not I feel His presence. I tell myself that God’s Word, which promises His presence, is far more reliable than my fickle feelings that question His presence.

When I go to Scripture, does the depression magically evaporate? No, yet I work with renewed confidence and vigor, and take the next step rather than yielding to despair.

I don’t give in to the urge to cancel classes or quit because I don’t feel God’s presence. I wield God’s Word because no matter what causes my depression, I still have a spiritual battle to fight. Will I believe the hopeless message that permeates my mind when I’m depressed or will I believe what God says that puts my current despair in the context of eternity and His character?

When has the Lord sustained you through His written Word?

your brother,

Terry

Terry teaches in the areas of Church Ministry and Ministry Leadership at Columbia International University in South Carolina. He has served as a Christian Education staff member for three  churches, and he’s a licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church of America.  His current books in print are Serve Strong:  Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants, and  Now That’s Good A Question!  How To Lead Quality Bible Discussions. Terry has been married for 46 years, and has two sons, a daughter-in-law, one grandson, and a dachshund.  His constant prayer is, “Lord, make me half the man my dog thinks I am!”

Check out his blog at https://penetratingthedarkness.com/. His ministry is focused on Christians experiencing clinical  depression and other mental issues.

 

 

Pure Depression [Diagnosis]

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I am not a psychiatrist or a licensed therapist. I am just a ordinary pastor serving God’s flock. Yet if I were to speak I would speak on the subject of clinical depression. The stats are pretty grim. Depression affects 16.1 million people, or 6.7% of the population every year, age 18 or older. The median age is 32.5 years old. (These are just U.S. stats only.)

I’ve come to understand this much through my own struggles. It seems that there are three types of depression to consider.

These ‘big three’ seldom stand alone; they mix or overlap each other to make diagnosis difficult. Only a doctor can make that, but we can at least know that these three are most likely behind our issues. You can have these three working against you at once.

  1. Guilty depression- when our behavior hasn’t been what it should be (sin), this is the source of condemnation. Jesus forgives us, so we should forgive ourselves. Guilty depression is very hurtful and damaging to our spirits. Often our healing will come when we draw close to the Lord Jesus.
  2. Organic depression- when it’s built into our DNA and part of our very being; it becomes fundamental to your personality. You can compare it to  someone who has diabetes or MS. We live in a fallen world and genetics affects us at this core level.
  3. Reactionary depression when we react to some bad news or injury, or working too much with no time off. We react to difficulties in this way when outside forces infringe upon our inner heart. Often God sends us an elder or a mature believer to come and help us out.  This is fortuitous indeed to have someone to speak through our confusion.

Each of these are different, but identifying them could help you move through them more gracefully. The three can overlap. Perhaps it’s helpful to see reactionary depression as the most common, while guilty depression can be the most hurtful to the believer’s heart.

Satan is involved in the intensification of each– he creeps in and slowly strangles all hope. Worship and the Word is critical and necessary weapons for us out us to walk-out clean and clear. We must defend ourselves (and others) with these weapons that the Father has given us.

Knowing the type of depression will give you understanding and perhaps this will help you defuse the situation. These things have helped me personally to work through my own issues.

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

Proverbs 12:25

 

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Statistics in opening paragraph from Anxiety and Depression Assn of America. These numbers are just for the U.S. Here is their website: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Real Prayer for “Real” People

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“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

I don’t want to pretend anymore. It’s been a little more than six months ago since I prayed this simple prayer: “Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.”

‘Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.’

Psalm 25:5

I have never had a prayer answered so quickly. I moved from delusion and darkness into truth and light in just a brief moment. Thirty years of “christian living” had left me a little befuddled, and I was no longer possessed a vibrant faith. I was worn and tired, and perhaps even disillusioned. I guess I had absorbed a lot of lies. I started to walk carelessly, as if my faith didn’t really matter anymore. Perhaps I was poisoned.

“Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.” This prayer– (more like a heart’s “scream”)– came out of nowhere. As I started to pray I felt a tearing of something inside me, like when the veil was rent in the temple, just like when Jesus died. A desperate cry for truth wrapped itself around my heart. I furiously began to reach for God. I knew I hit something. He had my attention.

I wanted his truth, and no more theology about him. I sought his doctrine well, but not his face. I wanted the real Bryan to come in fellowship with God, and no more masquerades. No more silly pretense. Just the real me, meeting the real God. In a short time things were broken and dislodged within me; years of complacency and cynicism were uprooted. It was kind of like a flash flood in a desert ravine.

Thomas Merton carried this prayer inside his jacket. It should bless:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am  going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

–Thomas Merton

You must find your own prayer; locate your heart’s cry. Vocalize that with the Holy Spirit’s direction. Merton’s own prayer can become an example of an almost brutal honesty, but it has to become from your own heart. A lot of David’s prayers in Psalms can fuel your search. Find out the truth, and then grab it and don’t let go.

“Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.”

Psalm 86:11

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