Luke 24:17 “He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.”
Depression seems to be at an epidemic proportion today. According to the ADAA (anxiety & depression association of America), 40 million people are affected by anxiety disorders each year, 17.3 million have had one major depressive episode, 1 in 20 children have been found to experience anxiety or depression each year, and these are only those being reported. From my experience, I would guess that those numbers would probably double if every case were reported.
What brings on depression? Is it avoidable? Is there a remedy for depression that doesn’t involve some form of expensive drug or counseling treatment?
I have experienced depression and I can say from personal experience that it is a dangerous state to be in. The world looks different from that position, darkness seems to surround you, hopelessness seems to be knocking at your door, waiting for you to let it in. What I’ve found is the deeper you go into a depressive state, the more debilitating it becomes. Depending on how good you hide the depression often determines how long it takes for others to step in and help.
According to the Mayo Clinic, recurrent depression can include a combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests these factors may cause changes in brain function, including altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.
The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.
All of these symptoms I experienced when I was dealing with the prospect of quitting the college program I was involved with and trying to determine my next step. When I was a young man, young married, with two small children I thought I knew what career I wanted to pursue. After a couple years of community college and a year in a University, I realized I was pursuing a course that was not meant for me. Once I came to this conclusion, I remember very clearly the dark funnel of depression I began to transcend into. Feeling like I had wasted the past 3 years of my life, knowing I was working a dead end job that wouldn’t support my family, and with no clear direction to take, I thought I had let everyone down, including myself.
I decided that instead of commiting a knee-jerk reaction and quickly pursuing another direction, I would wait and pray. I started working full-time and barely making ends meet at home but the Lord provided for us and my wife was very supportive. I remember so clearly, each week in our church home group at the end of the evening we would take prayer requests and mine was constantly asking for God’s direction in my life. I grew so tired of this prayer, it seemed like I was a repeating broken record. One day, after about a year of praying, one of the members of our home group suggested I look into an x-ray program that was offered in a city about an hour and a half away, so I did. To make a long story short, everything started fitting into place, the director of the program gave me some classes to take before I applied, the program fit me perfectly, and it became very clear this was the Lord’s direction for my life.
That time of waiting upon the Lord was one that was difficult at the time but 30 years in the past and it seems like a distant memory. These moments come for a time and then they go, the Lord leads us through them, changes our course, and directs us in the way He has set before us. We can’t lose patience and despair in the midst of change, if our focus is on trusting the Lord, He will show you the way.
Proverbs 4:10-13 “Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,
And the years of your life will be many.
I have taught you in the way of wisdom;
I have led you in right paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hindered,
And when you run, you will not stumble.
Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life.”
I recently asked a friend who has recurring depression what the causes of it typically come from, one of them was a sense of despair regarding the world.
When examining this world and all that it represents, I would have to concur with my friend that it can be a depressing place to live in, particularly if my hope is found in it. When I take into consideration my citizenship, my home is not of this world, nor is it of my christian friends. You see, a godly perspective changes your outlook regarding everything.
John 18:36 “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
Just as Jesus’ KIngdom is not of this world, our KIngdom is with Him. This world may be collapsing all around us and yet we can rejoice in knowing that our hope resides in a different land, a place where the curse of sin has been vanquished, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Hopelessness is never a true reality when death has been swallowed up by the Cross of Christ. We always have hope–it cannot be taken away.
2 Peter 1:10,11 “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
What things are we to do so that we will not fear?
Vs. 5-7 “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
When our focus is on these things, our focus is on things above, not on this earth. As we walk in the attributes of godliness, we sense ourselves walking in accordance with God and it boosts our spirits, gives us strength, and our joy is made complete in Him.
Proverbs 23:17,18 “Do not let your heart envy sinners,
But be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day;
For surely there is a hereafter,
And your hope will not be cut off.”
Why would we envy those who live for this world, even if they grow rich or powerful, all they have is what is here and now, nothing they have will last. As sons and daughters of the King, we have an eternity of gladness to look forward to, we have untold things to see and experience, we will dwell in the presence of the Lord Himself, it is this future that simply has no equal.
There are ways we can help ourselves out, particularly when it comes to chemical depression. Many drugs and alcohol are depressants and many of the drugs that aren’t true depressants leave you in a state of despair that results in devastation. Addiction leads to loss of friendships, loss of honor, and it warps the mind and corrupts the body. If substance abuse is currently a part of your life, breaking this pattern must take priority, it is not something that can wait.
Habitual sin leads continually down a path of darkness. It seems clear that spiritual darkness will lead to depression but for many, the darkness shrouds the ability to even recognize the state of hopelessness. It is up to God’s people to shine a light in their darkness, this is the duty of all who call upon the name of the Lord.
Make your devotions in God’s Word a priority each day. Pray and present to the Lord all the things that are going on in your life and trust Him to lead you in them. You’ll find that a majority of the reasons for depression will subside with just a few changes in practice and point of view.
Finally, find good friends who are believers and reach out to them whenever the trials seem to get to be too much. This is what the church is for, strengthening and upholding one another in love. Know you are not alone, you have a family of people who share the same Spirit and who are going through the same ordeals as you are, we understand the struggle, it is real for everyone.