Warning: You may find what I am about to say uncomfortable.
I have battled depression on and off for a good portion of my adult life.
A few reasons you may find this statement uncomfortable or hard to believe are:
- You believe Christians are never to battle with depression.
- You think that someone with a title like “pastor” should never have such a struggle.
- You know me personally and see me as a generally positive person.
- You think it is bad for a Christian to admit their struggles because unbelievers will not believe our message of victory in Christ.
The truth of the matter is that depression does not play favorites. Pastors or clergymen/woman are not above this type of struggle. I’m sorry if this disappoints you, but we too are human!
Certainly, God gives his children the power to overcome all things including “the black dog” of depression. At the same time, we do not always see that victory realized overnight.
Since there can be so much shame associated with depression, even more for Christians and double that for clergy, many people who struggle with depression keep their problem to themselves which only makes things worse! Let’s remove the shame around depression so we can find greater freedom; there is incredible strength in Christian community.
I am thankful to God that over the years and all the more since my heart surgery last year, God has given me tremendous victory over depression! I want to share the things I have learned so they can help others in need.
[But first, a little disclaimer: I want to clearly state that the keys I am sharing here are strictly from my own experience and are not intended as medical or professional advice. This is simply what has worked for me. I am not suggesting these keys as a replacement to counseling or taking of anti-depressant medication. I personally found my freedom without either of these aids, but you may have different needs based on the severity of your situation. If you need professional help or medical assistance, then do not delay in getting it! Your life and emotional health are well worth it!]
1. Know that God is against depression, but He is for you!
God does not want you to be depressed, period. That may be a strong statement and some may argue that God would possibly give us depression to teach us a lesson, but let me tell you this: God is against depression. Depression is part of the fall of this world; it is not part of God’s original design.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
Now in saying that, let me also be clear to state that if you struggle with depression, it is NOT a sign that God has forgotten or forsaken you. That’s Satan’s lie. It is a sign that you are human and that you struggle with living in this world as much as the next person. There is no condemnation for you in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) God hates depression, but He totally loves depressed people! (John 3:16)#God #hates #depression, but He totally loves depressed #people! Click To Tweet
2. Call out to God for deliverance
The first step to finding freedom from depression (or anything else for that matter) is to call out to God in prayer. Once you know that God is your ally in the battle, it changes the way you communicate with Him. You can be honest, transparent and open with God about everything going on inside of your heart and mind because, surprise, surprise, He already knows!
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3)
3. Spend time every day giving thanks
Now as much as God wants us to be honest and open about where we are struggling, He does not just want us to come to him grumbling and complaining all the time. God wants us to start our conversation with him by giving thanks.
Being thankful may be the most important of all lessons I have ever learned in overcoming depression. I have to give credit where it is due. The book Thanks by Robert Emmons helped me understand the power of thanksgiving to overcome depression like no other book I have read.Being #thankful is most important lesson I have every learned in overcoming #depression. Click To Tweet
Thanksgiving helps us to overcome depression because it forces us to focus on that which is good in our lives and not that which is going wrong. No matter who you are and what your circumstances, you can find a reason to give thanks. When I started a gratitude journal, depression began to flee! I have been regularly writing down things I am thankful for ever since![WATCH: A powerful sermon I gave on the topic of thanksgiving.]
4. Work out, eat right and get enough sleep
Research backs up the fact that regular exercise and proper diet helps our emotional well being. Personally, I have found that finding an exercise plan that I enjoy, makes the practice of working out easier to stick with and feel less like work. When I work out, I naturally feel better about myself and about life. I also know that if I eat junk I feel like junk.When I #eat #junk I #feel like junk. #fitness #health #diet Click To Tweet
If I do not get enough rest, my mind becomes more vulnerable to low moods. As I stated in my blog, Refreshment for the Weary Christian Soul:
Weariness should not be taken lightly. The feelings of weariness can make us sick of living and even desirous of death, just ask Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Job (Job 3:16-17, 6:8,9, 10:1) or Jonah (Jonah 4:8).
5. Consider using a sun lamp
My own battle with depression has been in large part a struggle with Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). The winter months can be brutal for many people emotionally. I am one of those who needs to have the sun shining in my life all year round. And until God moves me to warmer climates, I am going to use my sunlamp which I have found to be of great help as a pick me up during the darker months.
6. Learn to have a Positive mindset
I’ll let the Bible speak for this point on its own:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)
7. Find Positive People to be Around
I have some good friends who are not necessarily good for me when I am depressed or down. Let me explain. The friends who are most inclinded to be empathetic and compassionate are surprisingly not the types of friends who help me escape my depressed thoughts. Instead, I find more benefit from being around positive people, natural leaders or coaches who love me enough to not let me feel sorry for myself. I have found that feeling sorry for myself is one of the worse things I can do if I truly want to find freedom from depression.#People who #feel #sorry for themselves have a hard time escaping #depression. Click To Tweet
8. Realize You are NOT Helpless
Depression is almost inevitable when we falsely believe we are helpless to change ourselves or our circumstances. Martin Seligman has studied the human phenomena of helplessness and explains in his book, Learned Optimism:
Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter…Your way of explaining events to yourself determines how helpless you can become, or how energized, when you encounter the everyday setbacks as well as momentous defeats.
God has not made us helpless beings. In fact, with God, we are more than able to overcome sin, Satan, depression and any other ailment of this life. Stop believing you are helpless and realize you have the power every day to make new and good choices for your life.
9. Help Someone Else in Need
Admittedly, when I am depressed, the person I am focused on the most is ME! Something miraculous happens when I use my God given talents and time to serve others. Almost immediately I sense a relief from depression as God’s Spirit flows through my life in service to others in need. If you feel down and in despair, volunteering to help others may be the best remedy!
10. Stop Comparing Your Life with Other People
One last true confession for this post! At times, the reason I am down in life is because I make the mistake of comparing myself to others. The Bible says that comparing ourselves with others is not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12) Instead, I need to focus on the fact that in Christ, I am already blessed beyond comparison with every spiritual blessing! (Ephesians 1:3)
Friend, do not be concerned with trying to take on every one of these tasks at once. Just ask God to show you the one that is most important to finding your victory at this time and work on that one. God will be with you. He will be for you.
Which of these keys is most helpful to you?