Dr. John Woodward
DEALING WITH DEPRESSION
“I am trapped in my own thoughts. I am a prisoner of my own brain. Today has been very emotional for me. Very bittersweet today. I can’t seem to breathe. I have been sighing all day to get a little relief. My chest feels like its gonna explode. My feelings are holding me hostage and I don’t know how much more I can take. Does anyone out there ever have these days? HELP!!!! I feel so confused.”
This plea for relief from depression was posted on the internet. The medical community would interpret this as an illness needing medication; the psychotherapeutic community would interpret this mental/emotional problem as a need for self-help and improved coping skills.
Whereas some cases of depression may have a biological component, and life skills could be beneficial, the key issue is an accurate diagnosis. What is the root cause?
Life isn’t intended to be successful and joyful apart from a vital relationship with our Redeemer. The symptoms of sadness and despondency should prompt the believer to turn his/her attention to God. Most of us have times when we echo the sadness of this psalm,
“Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?” (Psalm 42:5a)
For the person who is lost, this is a cry to be found. Saul of Tarsus was found by the risen Christ:
“…I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection…” (Phil. 3:8-10).
For the discouraged disciple, depressive symptoms are a summons to wholehearted surrender (Rom. 12:1,2) and personal identification with Christ:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
If you have appropriated your co-death and co-resurrection with Jesus, recognize the need for daily abiding (John 15:1-8).
Beware of these joy drainers:
· the old patterns of your flesh,
· the stress of circumstances,
· the distractions of the hectic pace of life
· unresolved guilt
These rob us of contentment, but the "life hid with Christ in God" provides peace.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death [defeat and confusion], but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace [victory and clarity]” Rom 8:5,6 (ESV).
What gets your attention gets you! Where have you placed your affections? What "channel" have you been tuned in to? The law channel or the grace channel? (Rom. 6:14).
Have you been stuck in sadness lately? Take a "heart exam:" After checking on health issues (such as nutrition and rest), let the trial of depression finish its work (James 1:4) by leading you back to the Cross and the flow of Resurrection Life. The Psalmist concluded,
“Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 45:11).
"Depression" is probably one of the hardest flesh-life challenges in Christendom. We must remember, Jesus too has felt those overwhelming feelings of despair - minimally tempted by such hopelessness. His answer came with a choice - fixing His eyes upon the Father, believing in a Father who is in charge of all circumstances. On those difficult days, call a friend and ask them to pray for you. If you don't have a friend, reach inward to the Life of Jesus, while knowing you are perfectly safe in Christ.
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Dr. Stephen Phinney
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