by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
Many of us struggle with the issue of depression in our lives that causes serious hindrance to daily function; to the point for some that it is debilitating—even paralyzing. Feelings of depression tend to be the result of failed expectations that emanate from a mounting history of life experiences. Wounds and disappointments have a way of building up over time. These unmet expectations tend to be at the root core of a negative world view and damaged self-esteem. Depression can be a culmination of feelings of failure, resentment, shame, and fear.
Depressed people then tend to withdraw and isolate. This often occurs even in one’s relationship with God. Depression can equate to distance when it comes to fellowship with God. It’s as though God has disengaged and distanced Himself from us. We might feel that we have failed to meet His expectations as well, so why wouldn’t He pull back? It’s not that He is punishing us; it’s just that God need not bother with me, the failure.
The problem here is that when we feel depressed and become immobilized, we tend to doubt when we pray, as though it would take a miracle even for God to hear our prayer. Or worse, we can become tormented in our spirit, and give up praying altogether, too damaged for even God to help us. At this point, confidence is so absent in our relationship with God that we are utterly alone. Staying on the depression road to despair now takes us further and further away from the Lord, not because he distances Himself from us, but because we are on the wrong road.
So, how do we get back on the right road? We need to confess to Christ that we are dead in our tracks—that somehow we took a wrong turn. We need to tell Jesus exactly what we are feeling. He’s a big God. He can handle what we tell Him. He does not condemn us. We condemn ourselves. It is in self-condemnation that we lose confidence before Him.
“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.” I John 3:20-21 (NKJV)
God’s compassion and mercy overcomes and overwhelms our hearts when we prayerfully let go of our stuff and get hold of this truth. Jesus Christ is our Sympathetic Savior and His sacrificial act of compassion, leaving the comfort zone of Heaven to get to know us and understand our weakness—the areas where we hurt the most—is an amazing truth. Because Jesus did not give into the temptation to yield to disappointment, anger and resentment, fatigue, failure, doubt, fear, and yes, even depression and despair, He is uniquely qualified to listen to us in our need, and offer empowerment right where we need it.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly (confidently) to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV)
Confess to Christ your hurts, your fears, the adversity in your daily experiences and circumstances. Tell Him everything! Tell him about your anxiety and your stress, and all that is in your heart and mind adding to your stress. Tell Him about your depression. Tell Him if you’re in despair. If you have them, confess to Him those suicidal thoughts—not as something insane inside you that you feel guilty and shameful about, but as something horribly amiss inside that requires healing that only He can do for you. And of course, even where sin is a part of our confession, there is the promise: “When we confess with our mouths, He is faithful and just to forgive.” I John 1:9
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
Let go of your stuff and let the peace of God protect you from debilitating depression (I’m not talking about peace of mind that ebbs and flows according to our circumstances but peace that sustains) . There lies the road to freedom from depression. This is not an act of religion, but rather an experience of relationship between you and God by way of relationship with Christ Jesus. YOU WIN! All I can say is that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, even if you have stumbled onto this article and have never prayed before in your life. I have counseled so many that prayed faithless-while-hopeful prayers who experienced God for the first time in a way that was undeniably God.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. I Peter 5:7 (NLT)
I recently listened to a sermon about what seems to be our obsession with the matter of depression. It seems everyone is depressed. It also seems that anyone going to their family practitioner complaining of depressive symptoms is prescribed anti-depressant medication.
There is definitely an over-medicating of society, especially in America. We tend to take a pill for everything. Or if we’re feeling a little sluggish, instead of eating right and exercising, we’ll get our pick-me-up from real strong coffee concoctions or an energy drink. The focus of the sermon was about taking care of our body, mind, and spirit by means that promote physical health (diet and exercise), mental health (diet, exercise, and other activities that stimulate endorphins promoting productive neuro-chemical activity), and spiritual health (effectual prayer life, healthy church community). There was particular emphasis placed on these routes for countering depression other than medication.
In the sermon, a double-blind study was sited that indicated some 40 percent of participants claimed to be feeling better upon taking a placebo substitute (sugar pill) and not anti-depressant medication. This is important research that documents that people claiming depression may not have been depressed in the first place. You’ll get no argument from me. I would suggest, though, that we be careful not to instruct people to quit taking their anti-depressant medication simply as a matter of fact across the board.
There is a distinction between being depressed and feeling depressed. Depression as a clinical disorder has to do with depressed mood, meaning a drop in serotonin levels and declining frontal lobe activity in the brain. Whether frontal lobe inactivity causes depression or is caused by depression, the issue is still depressed frontal lobe activity. A person simply feeling depressed, meaning dealing with disappointment and sadness, may not have the same severity of frontal lobe depression. “The role of specific brain regions in the pathophysiology of clinical depression is poorly understood. However, one brain area, the prefrontal cortex, is emerging as likely being directly involved in clinical depression. The authors review accepted clinical diagnostic criteria for depression and show how these relate to the behavioral changes seen after prefrontal cortex damage in man and other animals. Information from structural (MRI, CT) and functional imaging (SPECT, PET) is then examined for direct evidence of prefrontal cortex abnormalities in clinically depressed subjects. Functional imaging studies, with few exceptions, demonstrate prefrontal lobe hypometabolism in primary and secondary depression, with severity of depression often correlating with the degree of frontal inactivity. These studies imply that dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex, particularly with respect to its role in modulating limbic activity, could conceivably produce many of the symptoms seen in clinical depression.
Viewing clinical depression as a disease involving dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex and connected brain regions may prove helpful in both the clinical management of depression and in clarifying future avenues for research.” (1994, Mark S. George, M.D., Terence A. Ketter, M.D., Dr. Robert M. Post, M.D. *Biological Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD) Mental illness is not imagined but a profoundly real condition either caused by or causing brain chemistry malfunction.
Severe mental illness can usually be managed effectively with the right medication prescribed by a well-intentioned physician in combination with proactive therapy. I even asked a Christian Psychiatrist a few years back if it’s possible that Mary Magdalene may have been able to defend herself against demon possession had she received the kind of medication and therapy people with severe mental illness benefit from today. He agreed with me that it is certainly possible. Brain imagery clearly indicates that brain chemistry is a factor in depression, just like it is with addiction, allergies, severe mental illness, and so on.
I have sinus allergies. There often are times that even as I reach for my allergy medication that I begin to experience legitimate relief from my allergy symptoms. Studies for just about every medication for symptom relief include a percentage of participants that experienced relief from a placebo substitute. If you are someone currently using prescribed medication to combat depression it would be wise to have a discussion with your doctor. If you are seeing a psychiatrist, it would be to your advantage to reopen discussion to discern the difference between being depressed and feeling depressed. If you were prescribed medication by your family practitioner, perhaps you should reopen that discussion. Ask him or her, “Do you believe I need this medicine, or did you prescribe it because I wanted something to fix me fast?”Of course most importantly, pray about it. Ask God for guidance and wisdom.
We are as a society pretty obsessed with depression and wanting to take something for it. Actually, anti-depressant medication might mask a deeper problem if it’s being used like alcohol or drugs or food to self-medicate and also masking a deeper, more substantial problem.Bottom line, whether you are severely mentally ill or you feel a bit depressed now and then, tell God about it. Leave it all before His throne. Be confident that He will bless you in your moment of need.