"It’s ok to not be ok." We hear that phrase often, and while it might make us feel relief for a moment, it does not remove the burden of depression. Mindset struggles are not easy to treat. A band-aid cannot heal a broken heart. We can feel trapped in broken mindsets, but depression colors all we see.
Depression can leave us feeling stigmatized and ashamed that we are struggling with depression. We feel like we should get our act together or like we are weak. It is comforting to know that the Bible is not silent on depression, and we are not in sin if we go through bouts of depression. We just need to know how to walk through depression. Several biblical characters have lived through depression and provided tips to help lead those who follow in their footsteps out of depression and into authentic joy.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Daniel Reche
Tip 1: Overcoming Depression from Affliction and Fear
Paul, the most iconic New Testament missionary, has a couple of tips to share with us about depression. He was honest about this struggle and did not hide them from the early churches. His circumstances were hard. He faced real fear and constant struggles. Can’t we identify with him when we see that he struggled to get sufficient rest? He felt under constant affliction. And this word “fighting” that is used with fear inside (in his mind) and outside (from others) that he was experiencing indicates that his struggle with fear in the mind was not small. But God.
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7 NASB95).
Sometimes a cure for depression is to surround ourselves with encouragers who point us to God. Sounds simple, I know. And it is not the complete solution, but oh how much we need fellowship with others. Isolation just puts us in a position to be picked off by the enemy.
Take some time today to reach out to a trustworthy believer and plan a coffee date, dinner, a crafting afternoon, anything to place yourself around uplifting friends.
Tip 2: Overcoming Depression from the Pressures in This Life
Paul knew what it was to be talked about and to endure immense pressure. Jesus said He would show Paul how much He must suffer for Jesus. I think we don’t like those words and don’t know how to process them. Why would God allow suffering? How could this be good? One of my daughters went through depression, and at the height of it, I wept with her when she asked why God would allow her to go through depression. But I also told her that nothing that God allows into our lives is ever for evil. He would use this for good in her life and she would minister to many when God helped her to overcome. And overcome she did. She saturated her mind in God's word and learned how to choose her feelings. It was hard, slow work, but she learned that she was not a victim of depression. She was a victor. And so was I in the hardest season of my life when this passage below ministered to me:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many" (2 Corinthians 1:8-11 NIV).
If God can raise the dead, He is well able to handle our depression or any mindset battle we struggle with.
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Tip 3: Overcoming Depression from Persecution
We don’t like to be told to just be happy, do we? Especially when the other person is not walking through the mess we are. The disciples knew up close and personal what it was like to undergo severe, traumatic situations, including intense persecution. The threat of death, dying for their Lord, was always looming, but there is a secret to being thankful and considering something to be joyful that has no appearance of delight to our souls.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV).
The hardships and trials we go through in this life cannot compare with the glorious riches we will have one day in Christ. Sometimes, that is hard for us to grasp, but perhaps by taking James’ advice, we can shift the focus off of the trial and onto the joys we have coming our way. And more than that, seeing with spiritual eyes what God is doing behind the seasons of suffering. Hard-earned character and contentment can be found amidst the ashes, and God turns them into joy.
Consider beginning your day with a prayer strictly of thankfulness. No wants, no needs, no requests. Just a simple prayer thanking God for everything good in your life: family, friends, church community, clothing, shelter, food, freedom. Audibly confirming God's blessings in your life, even in the middle of hard times, will allow you to see His hand moving in this tough season.
Tip 4: Overcoming Depression from Grief
"It’s ok to not be ok." There’s that phrase again. But honestly, we need to let ourselves grieve when we encounter traumatic or sad events in our lives. God didn't create us to be stoic, feeling-less people. However, knowing how to grieve can help us to not stay there.
“Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God" (Psalm 43:4, Holman CSB).
The Psalmist knew how to worship through the deepest sorrows. He would cry out to God. He was not bashful about proclaiming his struggle. Then he would choose to trust in God and take his eyes off of his circumstances. And then write a song about it and just worship. Worship has a way of shifting our gaze off of the temporary onto the eternal.
With the Psalmist's example, how can you practice worship amid your grief? Do you love writing? Perhaps you could write poetry or essays, even a book, of worship to honor God in this grieving season. Do you have a passion for music? Compose a song, write the lyrics, pray over them and consider sharing them with others. Maybe you don't relate to the more "typical" ways of worship, speaking, teaching, singing, and writing, but where do you feel God most? On your morning walks? Serving at the local soup kitchen? Don't neglect these daily spaces where you feel God's presence loudest. These moments are pivotal in your grieving process.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Riccardo Mion
Tip 5: Overcoming Depression from Circumstances
When the unexpected or dreaded happens, what then? We’ve learned from Paul, David, and James that we need to let ourselves feel the grief and pain but go through that pain with God. By worshiping, gathering with believers, and focusing on the eternal rather than the temporary, we can see past our circumstances through the lens of faith. Peter chimes in for the final tip with a response of humility and prayer:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7).
We can get mad about the struggle with depression, or we can, in humility, come before God and ask for help. Ask others for help if you need it, too. There is no shame in encountering depression. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, most of us have or will have fought some form of depression in our lifetimes. It's an unfortunate, sad piece of the fallen world's puzzle.
However, depression can be a mission to encounter Christ in the midst of hard seasons and trust that God is enough for every sorrow or burden we experience on this earth. Even when we walk through depression, we know that God cares for us always.
As you apply these tips to your struggles with depression, anxiety, or other mental health diagnoses, remember that you can also be that friend, that encourager, who helps another while they stumble through times of persecution, grief, and hardship. Just as you might ask to get coffee with a friend because you need encouragement, don't be afraid to invite the struggling friend over for dinner. Be there for others in the same way you want them there for you as you fight depression.
Originally published Tuesday, 05 April 2022.