It seems as if almost everyone one is suffering from one form of depression or another. Prescription drug use is at an all-time high, recreational drug use is rampant, alcohol sales are strong, and people are seeking something, anything to make themselves feel better. Today I want to look at we can and should deal with depression.
Our opening prayer – ‘Dear Heavenly Father, I know that you are in charge of the Universe. I know that you have a grand plan for us. I believe that you sent your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to live and walk among us and to die for us. I believe that you raised Him from the grave and that He sits at your right hand. Father, I ask that you send the Holy Spirit into my life whenever I begin to feel myself falling into a state of depression. Thank you – Amen.’
Our scripture today is from the book of psalms – Psalm 136
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
4 To Him who alone does great wonders, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
5 To Him who made the heavens with skill, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
6 To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
7 To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
8 The sun to rule by day, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
9 The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
10 To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
11 And brought Israel out from their midst, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
12 With a strong hand and an outstretched arm, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
13 To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
15 But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
17 To Him who smote great kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
18 And slew mighty kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
20 And Og, king of Bashan, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
21 And gave their land as a heritage, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
22 Even a heritage to Israel His servant, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
23 Who remembered us in our low estate, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
24 And has rescued us from our adversaries, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
25 Who gives food to all flesh, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
The message – Depression
The national institute of heath estimates that in 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This does not include those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which often leads people into a feeling of depression and suicide. The number of us feeling depressed is also estimated to grow by over 10 percent per year. As our society becomes more and more complex we have to realize that dealing with depression is something we have to come to grips with.
I want to look at what are some of the causes of depression, how can we recognize that we are slipping into a feeling of depression, how can we handle our depression and is there anything we can do to help when someone we know has slipped into depression?
What causes us to slip into depression? There are in fact many causes of depression. A Harvard university study has suggested that a chemical imbalance in our brains is not the only cause of depression. In fact, anyone of a number of life events, and life situations can cause us to become depressed.
In our society today, it seems that more of us feel isolated, feel completely alone than at any other time in history. We feel as if we are on an island by ourselves. When we feel isolated from others, it is very easy for that to turn into a feeling of being lonely; which in turn causes us to feel depressed.
Some of us feel helpless and it may seem as if our lives are spiraling out of control. Our jobs are going nowhere; our incomes are not enough to keep up with our expenses. We feel like we have reached the end of line and there is nowhere to turn. Unable to see a future we begin to feel depressed.
Some of us have seen our families fall apart. Long time relationships have ended, leaving us with a feeling of failure, a feeling that we are unloved. We have a gaping hole inside and we cannot find a way to fill that hole, so we begin to wander as if in a daze and that wandering leads us to a deep depression.
How can we recognize that we have slipped into a feeling of depression that is serious and not just a temporary sad feeling? We are tired all of the time. We want to sleep all of the time. We feel like there is a wall of darkness around us, and we can feel the despair deep inside our soul. We just do not know what to do anymore and we wonder if we can handle things on our own.
The words in Psalm 143 verses 3 and 4 capture that feeling perfectly, verse 3 says, “For the enemy has persecuted my soul and has crushed my life to the ground” I have to admit, there have been times when I have been so sad that I have felt crushed. Some of us have felt as if we have the weight of the world sitting upon our shoulders. We feel there is no way to stand up straight: to stand tall. In verse 3 continues, “He has made me dwell in dark places like those who have been long dead.” That is the curtain of darkness. Not only have I spoken to people who have been very depressed, I have experienced those feelings and it is like somebody has placed a bag over my head and there was no way to see out.
As a result, the words in verse 4 right true, “Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me. My heart is appalled within me.” We feel terrible, we feel terrified. We really do not know what is happening in our lives. One thing we must try to do is keep the Lord’s presence strong in our life, if He is not there, ask Him in. Once He is inside, once we have established that relationship we must try to keep Him there all of the time.
Even when the Lord is within us, sometime it is still difficult fighting our feelings of depression and if we find we cannot overcome those feelings, we need to understand that it is okay to seek professional help. I know in my own life, I often hesitate to ask for help, because I fear what others will think of me. I am afraid that they might think I am weak. In my mind, I believe that as a man, I am supposed to be able to fix things, including myself. In my mind, I worry that if I admit I cannot fix myself then they might think I am not much of a man.
It is okay to ask someone to help us. It is okay to reach out and ask God to show us somebody who can help. We need to let God help heal us. There are those who know what to do and how to help us deal with our situations, and how to help us control our emotions.
Remember when we are depressed, even though we feel like nobody can possibly understand; what we are going through, that is just not true. We all have times when we need help, so we must reach out and get help from somebody qualified to help, who can help us come out of our depression.
When we come out of our depression, we often find that good can actually come from our experience. Now I have to admit, when I am in the midst of feeling depressed, my first reaction when I hear that good can come out of what I am going through, my initial response is along the lines of “Oh please, I’m depressed. I am feeling completely devastated. And you think some good is going to come out of it?” As I look back, I can say with certainty that yes indeed, good can come from the experience. The primary good that came was an increased self-awareness of how shallow and weak I must have been.
We have a tendency to believe that when life is going really well for us; we think that we are the reason and that life it revolves around and is all about us. We may start to take the good time and our blessings for granted. Thinking that we are all we need is really a sign of weakness and when we are weak, when things begin to fall apart, we are shocked and uncertain of how to proceed. Our weakness shows and that is a perfect time for us to ask God to come into our lives.
It is easier during the weak times for God to come into our life because we are not all caught up in that delusion of self-perfection. There are cracks in that wall of ‘we have done it all ourselves’ that we have constructed around ourselves.
Bringing God into our life when we are depressed and trying to overcome some obstacle, we will know and feel the power of God. His role in our lives is clearly spelled out by Paul in 2nd Corinthians chapter 12 verse 9 “He has said to me, my grace is sufficient for you. Power is perfected in weakness.” Those words reflect how much power Paul was able to derive from the grace he had once he brought Jesus into his life. The dramatic conversion of Paul is one of those basic historical events that actually changed the world. No matter what Paul encountered because he had established that one on one relationship with Jesus, he never wavered, and he never surrendered. When we establish that same type of relationship with Jesus, we will be able to stand tall, to endure, and to overcome any and all of our human weaknesses.
We must allow the power of God to come in, show us the way, and give us that guiding light. Once we are shining with the light and love of Jesus then we will be in position to help another who is fighting depression. I have seen this occur, people will come up to me and say, “You know, a friend of mine is just really, really depressed. I do not know what to do. How can I help them?”
So how can we help somebody else who is fighting depression, especially if we are not trained professionals? The first thing to do is identify with them, empathize with them, and be willing to listen to them. Show them the loving care that Christ would have shown.
The words in Romans Chapter 12 verse 15 instruct us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” When one of our acquaintances is happy, we need to make sure we celebrate with them. Share in their joy. We do not always do that, do we? Often when we see a friend happy and joyful about something that happened in their life, it makes us depressed. We want what they have. We get jealous. We get envious. It is difficult for us to celebrate with them because they have something we think we should have. We must not let it bring us down because they have been successful; if we do let it bring us down, we are being selfish and self-centered.
Then it says weep for those who weep. If somebody is sad, be there for him or her. Sympathize. We have to show people that we care. We need to reach out to them, offering a hand so they will know that they can turn to us during tough times. When we are trying to help, we have to remember not to lecture them. When we tell somebody, ‘hey, get over it!’ it only makes it worse. They know that we are not listening, that we are not paying attention.
Proverbs chapter 25 verse 20, says, “Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day or like vinegar on soda, is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.” If somebody is in pain, if somebody is in anguish, if someone has a heavy heart, if somebody is alone and depressed, and we sit there and say, “It doesn’t matter. You are okay. You are all right. Snap out of it. Life goes on”, we are not helping them at all.
All we are doing is showing them that we really do not care. We really do not want to take the time to help them out. And men especially men, trust me on this one. The one thing a woman does not want us to do is ‘fix it’. They just want us to listen to them. They just want us to be there for them. They want us to understand what is going on, but they really just want us to listen so they can share what it is they are thinking.
Now, if they say, “I would like your advice” then it is okay to offer suggestions. However, if they say, “I want to tell you how I feel.” that does not mean they want us to give them advice. Just listen to them. Really, that goes for everybody. When a person comes and wants to vent their feelings, they really just want to talk. They want us just to listen. If they say, “Do you know how?” or “Have you heard?” or “Can you tell me?”, then we can and should offer to help them.
A few years ago, I became a regular speaker at a stroke support group. These folks were all either someone recovering from a stroke or a caregiver. Going in, I thought that I would encounter people who would be sad, angry, and depressed as anybody can be. Instead, what I found was a uniform sense of courage, fighting and wanting to overcome.
One man that I met with was an extremely happy and positive person. As I learned his story, he told me that his wife had six strokes in seven years. We talked about his faith in God and I thought about how he and his wife had every right to be depressed, but instead they both were there, fighting and striving to overcome the issues and the hand that they had been dealt. They did not give up on their faith. They knew that God had a greater plan for them.
Earlier in the message, I said that something good could always come from our situation. The good that came from that encounter was my having a better understanding of how strong humans can be in the face of adversity. How if we do not lose our faith, we can get out of and overcome our depression.
When we find someone hurting and are asked for help, one other thing we can and should do is simply pray with them. Read prayers with them. So much good comes from our just sitting down and praying with somebody. We do not have to preach to them, we simply have to be there extending our hand to them. Lives change dramatically when we are the Christian we are supposed to be.
We have to believe in our hearts that God has a greater plan for us. If we become depressed, reach out to somebody. Once we have overcome our depression, think of somebody else. Think of the example we can be for somebody else who is depressed. No matter how dark it gets, no matter how bad we feel, no matter how devastated we feel, remember God is always there for us.
Turn to Jesus. When we feel depressed, we must try to bring God’s strong presence into our life. Do not try to handle it with booze or drugs. Turn to God, and let Him help us overcome the situation. He can lead us to someone who can help us out of the mire, the swamp in which we seem to be stuck.
Allow God to show the path that will help deal with the situation. Once we find ourselves out of our depression, look back, and remember the steps taken to get out of it. Most times, we will see that it was by the grace of God. If the one good thing that comes from our depression is, the realization that we have brought God more fully into our lives that is one amazing good result.
Let God be your light. If you feel you are in a dark tunnel, let God be the light at the end of the tunnel. Not only is He the light at the end of the tunnel, but He is also the light illuminating the path to the end of the tunnel. Follow the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Remember. For everything, there is a season. For everything, there is a reason. Let God come into your life and show you the way out of any situation that you are in.
No matter the situation, if we are the ones feeling depressed or if it is someone we know, the reality is when we bring God into our live, things are going to turn out okay.
Try this simple prayer –“Dear Heavenly Father, I know that you are in charge of the Universe. I know that you have a grand plan for us. I believe that you sent your Son, my Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ to live and walk among us and to die for us. I believe that you raised Him from the grave and that He sits at your right hand. Father, I ask that you send the Holy Spirit into my life whenever I begin to feel my emotions taking control of my life. Thank you – Amen.”