We are concluding our series “Victory in Jesus” this week, I am actually cutting the series short because Mother’s Day is next week. I didn’t think we would want to be studying depression on Mother’s Day. Our series has focused on God’s promise that through Jesus we have victory over sin and the power of evil. We are truly given freedom through Jesus Christ. However the Bible also recognizes the reality that even though we have already been given victory we still struggle with temptation and desires of the flesh, and evil still creeps into our life. We began our series by exploring the cause for this is the battle going on in our mind, our thoughts, we need to change our programming to reflect the truth of God’s Word. In order to achieve victory over sin and evil we must allow God to help us gain control over what we think. As Paul tells us, we should “set our minds on things above”. We set our minds on God, and his truth. The more we focus on our relationship with God and accept the truth of his promises, our minds get filled with more of Him and we find that we gain victory over temptation and sin because those attacks don’t even make it into our thoughts.
This week we are looking at the last and probably the toughest of the areas to achieve victory over because it is such a complex problem, and that is depression. I am going to preface this sermon by stating that I am not a psychologist, therefore I am not an expert in depression but I do believe God’s Word can help us address ways to achieve victory in this area.
The reason we are addressing depression is because it has become such a major issues in our country, right now about 10 million people are suffering with depression. “Approximately 19 million people in America (about 10 percent of all adults) will suffer from depression in any given year. Only one-third of those people will seek treatment for their depression.” In other words 2/3 of all people with depression either don’t know they have it, are in denial about having it, or know they have it and choose to deal with it on their own. Even Christians struggle with depression, but we try to put on a good face at church because we are afraid people will judge us as being less than Christian. The truth is just about every person will go through a period of depression (however long or short) at some point in their life, whether you are Christian or not.
To define depression is as difficult as describing love. It’s difficult to explain, but you know it when you see it. Since many of us may not understand depression, let me begin by sharing some of the most common symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of depression:
1. Loss of energy, you just don’t feel like doing anything, you feel excessively fatigued.
2. Trouble sleeping – even though you are tired you just can’t seem to fall asleep at night. This typically compounds the problem with depression because without sleep you become even more tired.
3. Decreased activity level – because of a loss of energy and sleep you don’t get involved in the activities you used to, even the ones you enjoyed.
4. Physical aches and pains – headaches which feel like a band around your head with pain radiated down the neck, stomach aches, lower-back pain.
5. Loss of appetite – can be combined with indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea.
6. Lack of sex drive – included with this is a need for isolation, feelings of worthlessness, criticism of one’s appearance, loss of spontaneity, and apathy.
1. Sadness – you constantly have the blue, frequently accompanied by crying
2. Despair – suffer from a lack of hope. Can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Worry about tomorrow.
3. Irritability and low tolerance level
4. Isolation and withdrawal – tend to pull away from others and don’t want to be a wet blanket for others.
5. Negative thoughts – feel like a failure, have trouble concentrating and staying focused,
6. Thoughts of suicide – because they see themselves as helpless and their situation as hopeless depressed people start seeing suicide as a way of escape.
Sources of Depression
Where does depression come from? Many experts point to the biological reasons, without getting into brain chemistry basically what is happening is that the electrical signals aren’t all getting through. Others add that genetics plays a factor. If you have a family member who deals with depression, particularly manic depression or bipolar, you are more likely to inherit it. However researchers are also discovering that along with biological reasons there are increasingly aware that depression is also connected to our cognitive functions (which is what we think). So what we think actually affects our body. For example, if you get a stomach ulcer what is likely the cause? It is either all those hot peppers you keep eating, or it is more likely worry. It is what we are thinking. But last week we looked at what causes the worry or anxiety, is largely what we believe about God. Do we trust God to have this situation under control? When we worry it reveals something about what we believe, or fail to believe about God. Our belief affects what we think, and what we think, affects our body. Depression involves not just our body, but our mind (thoughts) and our soul (beliefs).
Let’s use a Biblical example. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane on the night of his arrest he was praying fervently, he was struggling with his decision on whether to go to the cross? While he was praying it says “sweat like drops of blood fell to the ground” because of the intensity of his prayer. This only happens when people are under great distress. His body was reacting to his internal struggle. But fortunately his beliefs and trust in God won out. He believed going to the cross to take up the sins of the world was what he was meant to do. He believed he was doing God’s will. What you think and believe can control the health of your body, what you believe controls what you think, even including depression. When we are look at depression it is a combination of body, mind, and soul.
Since I’m not a clinical psychologist we are not looking at the physical side but at the emotional and spiritual causes of depression
There are basically two causes for the mind and soul side of depression, they are lifestyle and situational depression.
1. Lifestyle Depression
Lifestyle depression is something which is ingrained into our memory throughout our life beginning at an early age. We learn from a young age to believe that everything is hopeless, and we are helpless to do anything to change our situation. We become pessimistic, the glass is half-empty type people, and perhaps even fatalistic which means we believe we are powerless to change anything around us or even ourselves.
Perhaps as long as you can remember, you feel like your life is a product of events which are out of your control. You feel as though there is nothing you can do so why bother trying. Perhaps you had a parent who was very controlling and manipulated every area of your life, and you learned that there was nothing you could do. Or perhaps you grew up without God in your life or family, and the only messages you received were from the world, “you can’t do that, you’re not good enough, you’re not big enough or smart enough.” These messages over a long enough time train you or program you to despair and even sink you into depression.
It’s like the circus elephant which was tied to a stake but never even tried to pull the stake out of the ground because it was taught at a young age that pulling on the stake couldn’t give them freedom so after growing up they never even tried to do it anymore even though the elephant could pull it up without any problem.
2. Situational Depression (Crisis)
Situational depression is usually caused by some incident, some situation, something triggers it. For example after having a child, some women experience post-partum depression. However the most common cause for situational depression is usually some form of loss; the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of health, the loss of a dream or failed expectation. These losses can be real or perceived, like the person who worked for a company which was laying off employees, and the boss wanted to meet with him at the end of the week. Rumor was that he was going to lose his job. For the whole week he fretted and by the end he started experiencing anxiety and even the beginning stages of depression because he had a son in college and didn’t know how he was going to pay for everything. Since he was so sure he would lose his job, he decided he might as well quit his job rather than be fired. As it turned out the boss was going to give him a promotion.
The normal response to any loss is grief. It is completely healthy and necessary for us. It is our God given coping mechanism to help us deal with the loss of someone. But lets say a couple of years go by and that person has still not accepted that loss and learned to move on with their life, and there remains no hope for a new life without whatever was lost then depression can sink in, and feel like a bottomless pit.
In Lamentations, Jeremiah was suffering from situational depression which was caused by the loss. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of his people had been killed by the invading Babylonian army. Those who weren’t killed were shipped away to Babylon. In the verses we read this morning, it is evident Jeremiah is not only facing grief, but depression. He speaks of God driving him into darkness, walling him in, a feeling of isolation and aloneness, God shuts out his prayer, he has dragged him from the path, and mangled him. All hope seemed gone for Jeremiah, he has lost friends, family, his home. How do we get out of this pit of lifestyle or situational depression?
Steps Out of Depression
1. Give your life to Christ. Otherwise you are preventing yourself from receiving the healing power and presence of God’s Spirit in your life. You cannot receive complete healing apart from Jesus Christ.
2. Go through Steps to Freedom in Christ. This workbook is a spiritual inventory which will help you work through any personal or spiritual conflicts in your life which may be contributing to your bondage. We have copies available for free in the foyer, please grab one for yourself or for anyone you know who is in bondage in any area and is not free in Christ please take one.
3. Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind
Persons going through depression tend to focus on the hopelessness of everything or they feel they are helpless to change their situation. But the Scriptures tell us we need to renew our minds, and focus our mind on what God can do, not on what we cannot do. That way we get the focus off of ourselves and onto God.
Jesus said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." NIV Matthew 19:26b
NRS Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
In the midst of Jeremiah’s depression, he felt as though he was walking in darkness, alone with walls all around him, God had shut out his prayers. That is the way many people going through depression feel like, but notice what Jeremiah writes in the midst of this: He says,
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
While Jeremiah could have gotten stuck in his depression, he found the way out by choosing not to accept the hopelessness of his situation but rather he choose to believe and reflect on, or think about, the truth of what he knew about the Lord. I have hope because of the Lord’s love and compassion never fail, great is His faithfulness.
When people are in depression their situation seems hopeless as though it will never end, that walking through the darkness, the fog will last forever, but Jeremiah reminds us to focus instead on God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. God does love me. God is merciful and faithful therefore this time of darkness is only temporary. God’s mercies are new every morning. God is good to those who hope in him and seek him. For those going through depression it may not feel like this is true, but like Jeremiah you can bring it to your mind and you can choose to believe it.
Does this mean your depression will lift right now or tomorrow morning? It might, but that isn’t the point. The point is that we will trust in the Lord, believe that be cares about us and wait for him to bring us out, because he will not leave us or forsake us. We walk by faith and not by sight.
NIV Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
God never promises he will prevent times of suffering such as these dark nights of the soul. What God wants us to do is walk by faith through the darkness. Our instinct is to stop and wait for the light to return but God wants us to keep walking in the light of what we know to be true about him and his promises. He wants us to walk by faith.
While it feels like your darkness will continue on forever, the reality is this is only for a season, and God will restore the joy. Story of Neil Anderson’s wife, Joann, and her depression and how she suddenly found relief one day without explanation.
4. Commit Yourself to Good Behavior
Because depression tends to make one feel tired, the tendency is to cut back on our activities. And perhaps depression is a signal that you do need rest, however in order to get out of depression you need act like a healthy person. You may not feel like being with other people, isolating yourself, but this will feed the depression. Force yourself to be around others. “You do not feel your way into good behavior, you behave your way into good feelings.” In other words you can’t wait until you “feel” like doing it, you need to do it, and the feeling will follow.
a. Commit Your Body to God as a Living Sacrifice
We need to realize that depression affects our whole self; mind, body, and soul. Therefore we need to approach depression holistically, which means we need to give our body as well as our mind and soul to the Lord. We do this by partly by caring for our body. Are you eating balanced diets? Are you exercising? Research shows that exercise is one of the best anti-depressants available. Are you keeping your life in balance? Depression is usually made worse by trying to do too much. We need times of rest. God gave us a Sabbath day for a reason.
This is probably a good place to talk about medication. We live in a fallen corrupted world and our bodies have been corrupted along with it. Will we need medication sometimes to help us? Yes. If the hard drive on your computer starts to die, is running a different program going to help? No, the hard drive needs to be fixed. Medication is sometimes necessary to break you out of your depression because your brain chemistry may need some adjustments. People with manic or bipolar depression particularly need medication to stabilize their swings because it is a physical problem. I would not recommend going off medication without your doctor’s counsel. However while medication may help many to cope with depression but it is not a complete fix. It doesn’t solve the whole problem.
b. Seek Meaningful Relationships
For those going through depression, it feels as though they are going through it alone. No one else knows what they feel. But the reality is there are people who do know what it feels like.
5. Overcome Your Losses
In order to overcome our losses whether it is real or perceived we need to face the reality of the loss and accept life without them, and move forward
6. Let It Go
You need to put your past in the past. Coulda, woulda, shoulda’s don’t help and neither do resentments over what other people have done to you. You are not a sum total of your past experiences, through Christ you have been set free to forge a new future with him.
7. Let God Heal You in His Timing
Our tendency is to want the problem fixed right away, we want to get over it. However you may go through all these steps and still experience darkness for a time. You may not like this, but God does allow us to experience times of darkness to test our faith and to refine us so that we will become more dependent upon him.
Twice Jeremiah says it is good to wait for the Lord. If you’ve gone through the steps and it feels as though this has been going on too long, ask God why he may be allowing you to experience this darkness, does he want you to depend more on him. Are you doing things on your own strength rather than God’s?
NIV Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Close with "I’m Trading My Sorrows" by Darrell Evans