Depression transcends sadness and removes our ability to think clearly. It makes us sleep more, eat less, or eat everything in sight. According to research, one in every eight women will experience clinical depression during their lifetime (mentalhealthamerica.net). Even more will experience symptoms that are not formally diagnosed. While depression is treatable, many suffer in silence due to the shame, stigma, and “un-Christian-like” labels placed on them. How could a “Christian” woman be depressed after all? Isn’t the “joy of the Lord” her strength?
When we are depressed we often suffer alone, cry ourselves to sleep, or remain hidden from others because we feel misunderstood, abandoned or ashamed. Jesus understands, and He came to set us free from bondage, including the labels and humiliation associated with depression.
Depression is not a moral issue, bad mood, or a reflection of our character. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It takes great courage and strength to fight this debilitating illness and those who fight depression are some of the strongest and most lovely people I know. While aware of their struggle, they refuse defeat. Doctors’ visits, counseling, and prayer are usually a part of their recovery, and for some, prescribed medication. They prayerfully consider the need for medication and refuse to live in shame if it’s needed. When depression raises its ugly head, they raise their gloves to fight.
Depression in the Bible
Elijah was acquainted with depression. In I Kings 19, Elijah goes from the hilltop of victory to a valley of despair when Jezebel threatens to kill him. In one day, this mighty man of God transitions from confident warrior to depressed recluse. It’s possible for spiritual people to be depressed too!
Elijah begs God to take his life before falling asleep under a juniper tree. An angel awakens Elijah and tells him to eat. Notice that the angel addresses Elijah’s physical needs first. We must be physically nurtured or we feel “off.” That’s why people who have physical imbalances in their brain as a result of depression may not need more prayer, they may need a doctor. When we’re hungry, we don’t need a Bible study, we need a bowl of dumplings! If someone is depressed, we must consider the possibility that there is a physical condition affecting their emotional state.
The second time the angel comes to Elijah, he receives enough food to last forty days and forty nights. THAT is supernatural, and THAT is how God works. When we pray an honest prayer of desperation for God, He shows up in supernatural ways. God sustains Elijah because He knows what he will need to face his future. He knows what you need, too.
Elijah is also instructed to go to the mountain of God because he isn’t doing well on his own. When Elijah talked to himself, he was suicidal. When he talked to God, he was transformed. God knew that Elijah needed the truth of His presence, not the lies he was hearing between his ears. When we feel depressed, we must get to God’s presence. He doesn’t ask us to come to Him when we “feel” like it. He commands it because He knows we can get what we need. We may go crying, screaming, or barely able to whisper, but when we lay before God in our most vulnerable state, powerful things happen.
When Elijah gets to the mountain, there is a great wind, earthquake and fire, but God was not in any of those. He was in the still, soft breeze. The presence of God and the help that we need may show up in unexpected ways. Too many times we’re looking for the “wow” or what we “think” God should do in our situation when He is doing the unexpected.
God also reminds Elijah that there are 7,000 others who believe as he does. One of the reasons we need to be active in the body of Christ is because we need the support of others. Fellow believers don’t allow us to be defeated by depression, but lift us out of depression with love and truth. There have been times in my life that I needed help fighting the lies in my head. I needed friends who would “speak the truth” in love and when they did, my perspective became clearer. Friends like that are invaluable.
Depression that is left untreated can lead to despair. When despair is untreated, it leads to hopelessness. When we apply God’s Word to conquer hopelessness, we find grace and guts to battle depression courageously.
Five Steps to take When Battling Depression
The next time you encounter hopelessness, consider the following:
- Apply Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.” When we face a situation that seems too much to bear, God already knows the next move. The hardest part? Being still. We become so used to “doing something,” it can feel impossible to sit still and wait on God when we need answers NOW! I have learned that God NEVER works on my timetable. He wants us to “know” that He is God. When we “know” something, we live with hope. When we “know” God, we develop confidence in the One who gives us hope.
- Allow God to heal you. When we feel hopeless, we can believe that even God Himself has given up on us. This is a lie. Each time your emotions scream the lies of hopelessness, recite Psalm 42:11: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Repeat this over and over. Say it out loud. The more your mind hears the truth, the sooner your perspective changes.
- Don’t put a time limit on yourself or God. Sometimes, we feel so hopeless for so long that we want to give up. I’ve found that God allows this in my own life when He’s ready to move supernaturally. There’s no way the situation will change unless He does something. When it does change, I never doubt who intervened. When we wait on God, He promises to renew our strength according to Isaiah 40:31. If waiting is not your strength, I get that, but He will bring strength in the waiting. Once you find that strength, begin to look for ways that God is working in your situation and write them down. Then, thank Him.
- Believe there is more beyond what you’ve experienced or seen. How many times have you started the day feeling hopeless about a situation, only to find that you have hope by nightfall? When we are actively waiting with hope for God to move, He does. He will never fail us. It may not look like we thought it would, but He will move. His will is the best place to be, so rest. The responsibility is on His shoulders and He knows how to put every piece in place.
- Squelch the urge to quit. Too many times we quit when we are right on the verge of a breakthrough. Refuse to allow anything to move you unless God says move. We all have something trying to move us out of the will of God. When we feel like quitting, we have to stand and let our obstacle know, “You will not move me!” Say it out loud! Even if you have to say it 100 times a day. This not only reminds the enemy that you are here for the long-haul, it reminds you, too. Everything coming against you is trying to move you. Fight and let that “thing” know that you will go all the way with God because He’s the One you’re trusting. Stay on the Potter’s Wheel and let Him finish the beautiful masterpiece that He is completing in you.
Order your copy of Grace and Guts: Strategies for Living a Knock-out Life.
Excerpt used with permission.
Shannon Perry is an award-winning author, speaker, TV host, and national recording artist. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and Counseling, and is a Certified Instructor in both Crisis Counseling and Parenting. Learn more at ShannonPerry.com
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