RELIGION COLUMN: Help for the depressedBy Staff Reports Published 9:04am Thursday, March 7, 2013
By Charles Christmas
Believe me, there is hope and help for the depressed. Depression is a kind of health problem, just as a kidney stone, diseased gall bladder, ruptured appendix, herniated disc, breast cancer, a broken bone or cataracts are health problems. Unfortunately, a medical specialist cannot do a surgical procedure on depression to remove it or fix it, but there is help and hope for depression. I don’t pretend to be a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a medical doctor or even a counselor, but such professionals have been among my close and most valued friends.
As we experience depression, remember that we are in good company. Many of God’s greatest servants experienced their times of depression. Such were Elijah, Jeremiah, King David, John the Baptizer, the Apostle Paul and Jesus. As he neared the crucifixion, Jesus expressed his depression as he said to his closest three friends, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38) Then he poured his very heart out to the Father. But remember, on the cross he felt God-forsaken and cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Sometimes a depressed person can wonder where God is, and others may assail you saying, “Where is your God?”
God’s most prolific pastor/preacher of the 19th century, Charles H. Spurgeon, had his disabling times of depression. Some of God’s powerful preachers of our time have experienced disabling depression. The finest servant of the Lord I have personally known, my darling wife Louise, experienced times of depression—sometimes disabling—but the thousands who were touched by the Spirit of God through her life would testify, I am sure, that she was an example of hope, help and restoration. God’s repeated deliverances made her light shine even brighter than ever. I would never list my name with those used of God, but I have had levels of depression when it seemed that I could not continue in my responsibilities, but then I was enabled to serve beyond former boundaries. I still have periodic times of depression but hope and help is mine.
I will not even try to discuss the causes for depression because such is too numerous and complex. That does not mean that common wisdom may not help us discover a root cause and possibly help us with deliverance. If you ever hear someone say, “If he or she were just right with God they would not be like that,” then that person probably has a master’s degree in ignorance. That is certainly not to say that there is not great help in all kinds of depression in a relationship with God, for there certainly is: in the gospel, in prayer, in faith, in the Word of God, in the indwelling Holy Spirit and in the local congregation. Jesus, on occasions, dismissed the root cause of an infirmity and moved on to practical help.
Let’s scan Psalm 42 and 43, and then I will list six suggestions to help in dealing with depression. Three different times in these scriptures the following exact words are repeated: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” We find a search as to the cause of my depression. “Why, why,” we ask. We may or may not discover the source. Then we are exhorted to look to God for his help, provision and leadership toward deliverance: “Put your hope in God.” Then comes the affirmation: “I will (be delivered from this depression and) yet praise my Savior and my God.”
Suggestions for dealing with depression
•Spend special quiet times with the Lord and in his word meditating, laying it all before him, thanking him and asking. In what may have been David’s lowest pit of his life, the Bible says in 1 Samuel 30:6, “But David encouraged himself (found strength) in the Lord.” I relate to this. In my lowest times of discouragement, I have found his strength to go on, and finally up. Praise his name.
•Confide in a close friend or friends. Jesus set this example for us. He shared his depth of depression in Gethsemane with three trusted friends. Share your heart with someone you trust. Many have needlessly ended life in a feeling of hopelessness only because they would not share their depressed feelings with some trusted person. Share! Be that friend with whom someone can share. I am your friend.
•Give some of yourself away to serve another or others.
•Seek a professional counselor with whom you may share your depressed feelings.
•Seek help from your family physician to rule out a physical cause and be willing to consider prescription medicine for depression.
•If deemed necessary, welcome your physician’s direction toward a specialist he may recommend to give help beyond his expertise.
I consider each of the above suggestions as hope and help from God for depression. It is only a limited list. I thank God, totally, for every deliverance experienced in my family. I thank him for every way those in the medical field are used in his healing work, whether or not he is acknowledged as the source and the healer. There is hope, and there is help for depression. Don’t delay in seeking it.
—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.