Summary: Depression is common....where does it come from, what does it look like, and how do I get rid of it?
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Psalm 42:5a (NRSV)
If I were going to give this message a subtitle it would come from what one of my friends wrote to me about my question: How does depression feel? She wrote:
Depression feels pretty good when you are sunk in it. At least, that’s the way it was for me. I felt sorry for myself and hoped everyone else would, too. If I had been offered the chance to come out into the sunshine, I would have chosen the dark.
In some ways, at least, depression is all about choosing the dark! Sometimes it is our reaction to life’s circumstances and our core beliefs about the way life ought to be. A preacher wrote about the Biltmore House… “It’s a fantastic place. No other home like it in America. I’ve been there many times. Over the years we’ve taken several guests to tour. At first we noticed new things and really enjoyed it. Then we began to hear the same things from the tour guides. Now all we do is give our friends directions to Asheville. 
Life can go dim like that; once you were interested, excited – and now you can’t even muster-up an appearance of joy or civility. My friend, who wrote to me of choosing the dark, also shared some of her descent into the abyss that is depression:
The times were difficult. In the space of one or two years we had a series of things that were hard to deal with. My husband lost his good job and never got another in his field. I was the sole breadwinner. Oldest daughter married an Iranian Muslim in Germany, and we couldn’t afford to go to the wedding. Even after the marriage ended, she held this against us. Younger daughter got pregnant having a summer fling with an old boyfriend. The young man disappeared, never to be seen again. Our alcoholic son was also hooked on illicit drugs. My mother died. I continued to function, and many people didn’t know anything was wrong. I smiled and moved through the day with a black heaviness inside.
Where Does This Come From?
We all want to know where this kind of soul-foulness breeds; how do even vibrant, faith-filled believers come down with this awful “black heaviness inside”? I would like to share with you some of what I’ve learned about depression over the years. Admittedly, a sermon is not an exhaustive medical treatise or a psychological “Dear Abby” column; the information I’ll share with you makes no such claims.
What I will share with you comes from professional training as a minister, reading, casual observance of people over a lifetime, the counseling done in a pastor’s study, and my own personal struggles with the demon of depression.
In fact, it is a good place to start there! I’m a Christian, and a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That being said – yes, Virginia, Russell struggles with depression; Russell is in very good company. The Bible’s pages are filled with fellow-strugglers who were believers – Jeremiah, King Saul, Paul and more. King David poured-out his heart in Psalm after Psalm of the sometimes losing battle of his sanity sinking into the western sky.
In the history of the church depression has afflicted many a servant – it drove Martin Luther to distraction. It was during an epic bout with depression that this great Reformation hero stumbled across what would be the resounding cry of Protestant reform: salvation by grace alone! Calvin, John Bunyan, and even Methodism’s founder, John Wesley were all plagued by the beastly malaise of Blue-Monday-ism.
Christians get depressed. It is not a sign of spiritual maturity to walk around in public with a plastic smile glued to your ears if depression’s got you wrapped in chains as you’re going under for the last time. If anything, it proves you know very little of the authentic human behavior with which Jesus wants his disciples to live! A genuine walk in Christ does not begin or continue in a lie; we walk in truth, by faith…even when we’re depressed!
This morning we will look diagnostically at depression’s sources, symptoms and solutions. Of course the Bible will be our chief test and X-ray machine. The good news is, you don’t have to present your insurance card….this stuff is free!
There are three primary sources of depression
1. Situational Stress
Situational stress relates to just about any kind of loss a human can suffer. The long list includes: Economic loss (job, financial), Relationship loss (death, divorce, moving away from friends), and Physical loss (Aging, injury). If you go to a psychologist you will be given a long questionnaire to fill out. The therapist wants to know how many stressors (losses) you’ve had recently which might trigger depression. As my friend shared, she had most of them all at once.