Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. -- Matthew 11:28-29
Author John Steinbeck once said, "A sad soul will kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ." Maybe that is why Solomon said, "A merry (joyful) heart doeth good, like a medicine." Sadly, many today suffer from a sad heart. Depression is one of the most common emotional diseases of our time. In the U.S. it hits 10 to 12 million people every year. Statistics indicate that about one out of every 10 American males and one out of every five females are likely to experience a bout of depression this year.
Christians are not immune from such. In fact, I suspect there are countless Christians who suffer in silence, thinking that depression is a sin, with which spiritual people are not suppose to struggle. For the believer, depression can be like a Florida sinkhole. The ground suddenly collapses with no warning and seemingly no reason. Likewise, depression, at times, seems to overwhelm with a vicious suddenness.
It may help us to know that many of God's choice servants struggled with depression. Moses, Elijah, Jonah and the Apostle Paul are just a few that found themselves in the valley of depression. In more recent centuries, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon and Martin Luther, one of the fathers of the Reformation, equally suffered with this malady.
Martin Luther wrote a great deal about depression. Because of his unhappy childhood, because of an overbearing, strict, religious upbringing, Martin Luther had a constant battle with low self-esteem and depression. He offered a lot of wonderful up-to-date suggestions for combating this problem. In his book Healing Meditations for Life, Dr. David Seamands shares some of Martin Luther's suggestions along with some of his own for dealing with depression. Let me pass on to you what Dr. Seamands shared, as well as some of my own thoughts on this matter. (Mine will be in italics)
Avoid Being alone. When you are depressed you don't want to be around people. But withdrawing means isolation and isolation during depression means alienation. Force yourself to be with people.
Seek help from others. Seek out people and situations which generate joy. This is where I think having an accountability friend or mentor can help immensely. Do not be afraid to share your deep struggle with someone who can fulfill that role. One great benefit of being a part of MVC is that we have many mature believers that can help...and will accept you where you are.
Sing! Make music. This was the only cure for King Saul's moods of depression. The harmony and beauty of David's music lifted King Saul's spirit of depression (I Samuel 16:14-23). When I am stressed I often put on my earphones and go to Pandora or YouTube and listen to Christian music, especially worship music. Of course, I play Christian music profusely in my automobile's cd player.
Praise and give thanks. All the saints of the centuries agree on this one. When we can't feel God's presence or really pray, we can thank God for the leaf on the tree or the beautiful wing of a bird.
Lean heavily on the power of God's Word. God can use any portion of Scripture to minister to you during times of depression, but throughout the centuries, His people have found the psalms to be the most beneficial. Speaking of the Psalms, I have found that reading a Psalm before you go to bed can be very helpful. Equally, I would encourage you to go back and review many of God's promises to His children that pertain to His love, presence, and how He sees you as His child.
Rest confidently in the presence of God's Spirit. The psalmist repeatedly affirmed the secret of deliverance from depression. Jesus used the same basic concept when comforting His deeply depressed disciples on the eve of His departure (John 14:16, 18-19).
Jesus' favorite word for His promised presence in the Holy Spirit is paraclete-"The One called alongside." Engrave Jesus' words on your mind until they are such a part of you that, during your lowest depression, regardless of how you feel, you will know that He is with you.
While depression can be biological, often depression comes as a result of believing the self-condemning lies that Satan and his minions often feed our minds. We must take to heart what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:1, "There is, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ." No one has the right to condemn us, not even ourselves. Christ's blood has covered not only our sins, but also our flaws, failures and deficiencies.