Depression has been called the “common cold” of mental disorders, and one source estimates that it disrupts the lives of 30 to 40 million Americans.
But for many, a cold isn’t even close to describing their depression; it’s often challenging and destructive.
Here are nine things you must do right now:
Avoid being alone. Force yourself to be with people. (I know “force” is a strong word, but if that is what it takes!) You must find fellowship now.
Go to church. God’s people and wise elders can direct and guide you. The Church is God’s way of helping you walk through darkness and depression. They’re to be a source of authentic blessing to those who struggle.
Seek help from medical professionals. This will probably require some humility. Reach out to someone who will understand. (There are meds that might help you.)
Sing out loud. It sounds crazy, but music can uplift your spirit as it did for King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23). Get an iPod and fill it with good music. Praise and give thanks. This can really push back the darkness.
Lean heavily on the power of God’s Word. Write out verses; listen to the teachers Tear apart a book of the Bible and then put it back together!.
Read the Psalms, for these are God’s medicine for your spirit. Each one of them is divinely inspired; they have been tried over and over through many centuries by believers as a book of prayer. They’re for any need you might have.
Learn conversational prayer. Talk to your Father as you would talk to a friend. He’s waiting for you to come closer. Don’t get religious here, rather just talk to Him. Also, listen. He likes to talk too.
Rest confidently in the presence of God’s Spirit. “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance” Psalm 42:5.
Remember that God is not against you, He is definitely on your side. He’s very close to you right now. “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18.
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?”
Romans 8:31-32, Message
“God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns”
Please keep coming back to Brokenbelievers.
Use the search button on the site. You’ll find lots of good teaching which can help you sort things out. There are over 1,400 posts available here, and we can maybe help. And if you comment on any post, or via email we’ll read it, so much of this ministry comes when we connect with each other like this.
Linda and I aren’t medical professionals, however, I’m an evangelical pastor, and Linda is a wise believer who has lived through many storms. We both have been challenged with being disciples of Jesus, having had our times in the dark. We promise to help if we can.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
In April 2002, I was sitting in a cavernous waiting room at King’s Crossin London, England. I was waiting for a bus to Cambridge, UK. I sat all alone and stared at the tiled floor at my feet. The doctors had warned me not to travel alone, but I ignored their advice.
And now I was starting to unravel.
Depression had followed me all the way from Alaska to England. I had pushed my limits and was completely drained and becoming confused. I began to cry out to the Lord, very desperately. Sometimes madly. (Read Psalm 88.)
As I sat there staring intensely at the floor, several pigeons seemed to put on a show, just for me. They were fat little guys, apparently scratching out a good living. Several very large windows were open, and these pigeons seemed to have no fear as they took advantage of a meal from bored travelers.
All of a sudden, something very odd happened.
A pigeon came across the floor and “presented” himself, right square in front of me. I watched him intently and saw that he was crippled, one of his feet was nothing more than a twisted claw. He had been profoundly injured in such a way, that he would never be the same. He was damaged, and yet somehow he survived (and he was thriving)!
It was like experiencing a lightning bolt. God’s own light switch was being flipped.
I saw that pigeon, and I saw myself, and it was a moment of clarity, a shining grace. In the mega-hustle of 13,614,409 people in London, and in the midst of my own profound mental crisis, I knew God’s caring touch and it gave me real grace, love, and goodness–far greater than all my sin and confusion. He was just letting me know that He was very, very close. (See Psalm 34:18.)
I began to remember my damaged pigeon, completely oblivious to self-pity. I started to call out to the Father out of my confusion. Within a few minutes, I found myself sitting on the top level of a double-decker bus, with the driver aware of my problems and who specifically guided me to the place I was staying.
I was being cared for. Between a crippled pigeon and the dutiful ministrations of a bus driver, I’d finally found my hotel. (See Matthew 6:26.)
I have come to realize that this trip to England was not for me to see Big Ben, Parliament, or wander the academic schools of Cambridge University. Rather I was brought there to make contact with a certain pigeon, who was waiting to meet me and pass on vital instructions.
The Father shared things that I need to know. British castles and churches are beautiful and worth seeing but I must admit I’ve forgotten much. But all I really needed was somehow given.
I will take everything Jesus wants me to have.
P.S. Two things:
If you can avoid it, don’t travel alone.
Please never call pigeons, “rats, with wings.” :-)
Here are things I’ve heard over the years that we must take a second look at. Here are some possible answers.
“There must be something wrong with your spiritual life.”
Yes, depression CAN be a result of sin. BUT depression is NOT always a result of sin! If it is, God will tell you loud and clear what the problem is. This saying piles on the guilt for the depressed Christian. It’s unlikely that their depression has a spiritual cause, and this implies that they are not good enough spiritually.
“Repent and ask forgiveness for your sin!”
Depression is a result of sin, in that if there was no sin in the world depression wouldn’t exist. But then, neither would diabetes, cancer, or any other illness… Sin caused the world to be not-perfect, therefore illness exists. It’s a sin to be depressed, any more than it is to have any other illness. Depression can be used by God to encourage repentance, but in that case, it will be crystal clear exactly what sin you should repent of. If you don’t know or have just a vague sense of guilt, your depression is not the result of sin.
“You need to have more faith.” “Have faith in God.”
Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” How much faith does it take to hold onto the Christian faith when emotions scream at you daily to give up, get out and turn against God? Very often a depressed Christian will be hanging onto faith by their fingernails in something that requires a ton of faith.
“Taking antidepressants is playing God, He can heal you.”
Yes, God can heal. Sometimes he doesn’t just flick a switch to make the illness vanish, sometimes the healing comes through the conventional ways of doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists, and medication. By persuading someone not to take their medicines in preference for a quick, supernatural healing that God may not have in store for them, the sufferer is being denied something that will help them, right now.
“Scripture says everything that happens is for your own good!”
The actual verse found in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This verse in no way implies that the sufferer should sit back and accept the illness for the rest of their life. It also does not say that illnesses are not to be fought with the intention of a cure. While God may well have things to do with a depressed person, the illness is not a good thing itself, and it may take years before you see positive results from it.
“You’ve been prayed for, why has nothing changed?”
This can be expressed in several ways and spoken by one of two different groups of people: either the person who asked for prayer or those who prayed for them. We’ll break the underlying situation into two areas: something definite was experienced in the prayer time: chains were obviously broken and new freedom gained, or, nothing apparently happened at all. That is, “I know God set you free,” why aren’t you free yet?
“Depression is a self-discipline problem.”
Self-discipline is important to a Christian. We have to be disciplined enough not to break the laws of the land, and to obey our God. But no amount of discipline will get rid of a medical problem. This statement implies that the sufferer is lazy and could become better by sheer force of will. This is not possible and causes a lot of guilt.
“You’re depressed because you choose to be.”
Why would anyone choose depression? It is hell on earth. It destroys everything it touches. Families, marriages, jobs, churches, and ministries- faith, peace, hope, and love. Depression corrodes all that it touches.
Does a diabetic or cancer patient choose their disease? Does the blind or the deaf person wake up in the morning and decide they aren’t going to keep being handicapped? These are the questions I would ask.
“You just need to rebuke that spirit of depression and tell it to leave you. Don’t let Satan steal your joy.”
There are two problems with this statement. One problem is the assumption that depression is caused by demonic oppression. The other problem is the assumption that joy and happiness are the same things. Blaming a “spirit of depression” can be a wonderful cop-out. Just cast out the spirit and you’re cured! No need for long-term support, prayer, counseling, or anything at all! And with this statement comes the implicit assumption that once again it’s your fault you’re depressed, this time because you’re not “spiritual” enough to get rid of the troublesome spirit yourself.
Yes, it is possible that demonic oppression can cause depression. No, demons are not responsible for every case of depression. Imagine what would happen if this statement was directed at someone with cancer, hemophilia, or osteoporosis (“Just cast out that demon attacking your bones and be strong again! God wants to see you running marathons!”).
The second problem with this statement is that joy is equated with happiness. People with depression are not going to be the happiest souls in the church. I’ve heard it said that happiness depends on what happens, whereas joy can exist in very unhappy situations.
“There’s no such thing as mental illness, it’s all in your mind”
Saying this denies that there is anything actually wrong with the depressed person, and implies that they are just making it up. This piles on the guilt again! A mental illness can be defined as one that affects the mind; the brain is allowed to get ill, just as the liver and lungs are.
“It’s your own fault you’re depressed”
This is the kind of thing that Job’s “comforters” said, and it didn’t help then either. Bad things can happen to good people. Denying this hurts the sufferer.
“Pull yourself together”
If you’ve been trying, someone saying this to you comes across as “You haven’t been trying hard enough, do more, and more, and more until you get it right.” So back you go, pushing more and more, and still getting nowhere because you cannot pull yourself out of depression by your bootstraps, and you can’t fix a medical problem by force of will.
This poem was written for someone I love who struggles with bipolar disorder. Though I have suffered through depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, I can never truly understand her pain. I want to help but I am at a loss as to what to do. I wanted to share this here so those who suffer from mental illness might know how your suffering breaks the hearts of those who love you but don’t know what to do.
Broken Heart of Love
This searing pain in my heart I wish it would go away I pray for it to leave me But it is love I would be hollow without it
I watch you drowning in a sea of turmoil and fear I reach out my hand, the one connected to my broken heart “It’s okay, the sailing’s fine,” you say
I walk away, thinking perhaps my eyes deceive me and you are not drowning, or else why would you say otherwise? I know you would not lie
But still this pain deep down inside my aching heart reminds me that you are not fine, the sea is not calm
The storm rages but I cannot rescue you You cannot see my hand reaching through the darkness beckoning you to dry land