HELP, I'm depressed!
By: Steve Shirley
In our society today, depression is at the highest level it has ever been. Why are people so depressed today? There are many factors, with a number of them having do with things that are happening in our society today that were rarities in the past.
The breakup of families, divorce, and childhood abuse are at all time highs. Stress and demands on our time have never been greater. Rejection of God, Christianity, and persecution of Christians has never been greater.
As a result of this, we have seen the highest levels of alcoholism, drugs, pornography/sex, overeating, overspending/debt, etc... in the history of the world, as people are seeking ANYTHING to deaden the pain they are feeling inside.
People are turning to all kinds of different sources to find answers and help. Psychologists and psychiatrists are in huge demand. Some even have their own t.v. and radio shows. Bookstores have set aside large spaces for self help and counseling books. In fact, one of the best selling books in history has to do with people finding a purpose in life. People are turning to psychics and mediums for answers and guidance. Religions have sprouted up, and become popular, which make people feel better about themselves, offer no judgment for any lifestyle you choose to live, teach that all paths lead to God, or even claim that the person themselves can become God...
In this study, we will be focusing on Biblical answers for dealing with depression. Before I begin, I want to stress that I am well aware that there are some people who need the kind of help that only a trained physician or psychiatrist can offer. There are those who may need drugs to correct chemical imbalances in their brain. While I personally believe that medication is way over prescribed as a solution, clearly some do need that kind of help, and I urge you to get that help if so needed.
Let me begin by offering a small testimony. For those of you suffering from severe depression, I have been where you are. I spent nearly three quarters of my life (as I write this) in various degrees of depression. There were times when I didn't even want to live anymore I was so depressed. I have shared many of the same symptoms you have had, so I know where you are coming from. If you wish to read in-depth about my testimony, you can find it on this page.
In short, I spent those first three quarters of my life believing I was a Christian, when I was not. When I surrendered my life to Christ, and became a Christian, I found a peace and joy I had lacked my whole life. I cannot say that I have never struggled with times of depression since then, but they have been nowhere as severe as they were before.
So, this is the first and most important step to overcoming depression. There can be no greater help for depression (or any other problem) than our Father in Heaven, and we go to the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. If you have never committed your life to Christ, please make this decision today by going to our Plan of Salvation link.
When we become a Christian, we have many promises from God that we can lean on through our various trials, including depression. Here are a few:
(Ps 27:10) When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.
(Mt 5:4) Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
(Ps 34:18-19) The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (19) Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
(Isa 41:13) For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
(Jn 14:18) I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
(Jn 16:33) These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
(Isa 54:10) For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
(Ps 46:1) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
"OK, I AM a Christian, and I know God's promises, but I am STILL depressed, so now what?" We will spend the rest of this study addressing this.
First, let's look at some of the signs of depression: lack of energy, unable to concentrate, irritability, sad, tired, want to sleep all the time, can't sleep, suicidal thoughts, fear death, feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, physical problems, lack of sexual desire, emptiness, feel like you are in a black hole and can't get out, guiltiness, no hope, continually negative or bitter, unable to enjoy life, perfectionism, isolating oneself, discontentment.
Do any of these describe you? I know I have had over half myself at one time or another. I suspect the vast majority of the human population has had some of these at one point in their lives. However, there are two types of depression: short term and long term. While almost every person experiences depression at some point in life due to something like a traumatic event (i.e. death of a loved one, illness, infidelity in marriage, divorce, loss of employment, etc...) or possibly pregnancy, hormonal changes, or menopause in women, these bouts of depression are short lived, and the person moves forward. However, some fail to move forward, and cannot break free from the depression. It goes on day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. If this describes you, we are going to look at some steps you can take that might help you overcome.
As we look at these steps, please keep in mind that healing from depression is going to be a process that takes time (unless God chooses to to instantly deliver you, which He does for some). Just as a broken bone takes time to heal, so does depression in most instances. Taking one or more of these steps is the process to begin this healing. Please keep in mind that some of these steps may not apply to you, but I would also suggest that you pray about them before dismissing them as not applying to you. I know that "I" would have been upset if someone had told "me" that this might apply to me, when I was sure it didn't. The same may hold true for you.
*** Note: Please keep in mind these steps are in no particular order.
#1. Put your past behind you / forgive those who have hurt you.
Someone once said, depression is anger turned inward. This is a great definition for the depression of many people. Anger towards others who have hurt you, or anger towards yourself (we will deal with this next). Statistics say that when a child has been traumatized, they are more likely to be depressed as an adult. Sometimes this was unavoidable, such as the death of a parent or sibling, an accident of some kind, etc..., but many other times it was intentional pain caused to the child by such things as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, divorce, or substance abuse. In addition, the parent may have struggled with depression themselves and failed to get help, which affected the child.
These events lead to "scars" in our minds, and every person has some. If we don't treat these scars, over time they become infected and poison us. They turn to bitterness, anger, hatred, and resentment. In some cases, they turn people away from God, because if God was real, He wouldn't have allowed the event to happen. (Please see my study: Why Does God Allow Suffering? for more on this.) Until we deal with these, the depression that has resulted will remain.
What is the key to overcoming? Forgiveness. For the sake of time and space, I am not going to go into depth on the importance of forgiving others, but I would ask you to see my study on this under the "What The Bible Says" link on our homepage. In short, we are commanded by God to forgive (Mt 18:21-22)(Eph 4:31-32). We are to love our enemies and pray for them (Lk 6:27-28)(Mt 5:44). This is not an easy thing to do if we have been hurt by someone in the past. However, if we remain in unforgiveness and bitterness, the Bible says it becomes a root that grows (Heb 12:10). We are told to get bitterness out of our lives (Eph 4:31). Unforgiveness gives Satan a stronghold in our lives and hinders our relationship with God. It is sin, and sin separates us from God (Isa 59:2)(Ps 66:18)(Jn 9:31)(1 Pet 3:12)(Prov 15:29). Jesus also said in (Mt 6:14-15), if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us... Jesus forgave those who persecuted Him, and we must also.
How do I forgive someone who hurt me so bad? Here are three Bible verses to give you a start.
(Rom 12:14) Bless them which persecute you: bless them and curse not.
(Rom 12:20-21) Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
In other words, bless and do good to those who have hurt you. I suspect it sickens many of you to even consider doing this, but God tells us to do so. If we obey God in this, He will honor it and work in us.
#2. Don't blame yourself for others actions / forgive yourself and accept God's forgiveness.
As we said earlier in our signs of depression, two of the signs are feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred. These symptoms are most often the result of things that have happened in our past in which we either:
(A) Blamed ourselves for their occurrence when it wasn't our fault.
(B) Did something that was our fault, but we couldn't get past it.
As a result, we end up with unforgiveness and hatred towards ourselves, and we feel worthless. Let's examine (A) and (B) more closely.
If (A) is what you are struggling with, then you need to realize that we cannot blame ourselves for the actions of others. Do you blame yourself for someone committing suicide? Do you blame yourself that your parents got a divorce? Do you blame yourself that you were (or still are) abused? Do you blame yourself that your spouse had an affair?
This is not of God, but of Satan. Satan is called an accuser (Zech 3:1)(Rev 12:10), and condemner (1 Tim 3:6). We are NOT responsible for the actions others take. God does not hold us responsible for the sinful actions others take (Ezek 18:14-20)(Deut 24:16)(2 Kin 14:6)(2 Chr 25:4)(Jer 31:29-30), nor should we. Many of us often want to say, "If only I had done this," or "If only I had said that."
Dear friend, one of the greatest gifts God has given us is "free will." Each of us is able to choose good or evil. Unfortunately, some choose evil, and others get hurt, or the person themselves gets hurt. All of the examples above are the result of people using their free will to commit evil or sin. Ultimately, they also have one thing in common: selfishness. Suicide is selfish, divorce is selfish, abuse and adultery are selfish. When people commit these acts, they are not thinking of others, or the harm it will cause them, they are thinking only of themselves. In the day of judgment, they will be accountable for their actions, not us.
It is also important to understand that the reasons leading up to people taking many of these sinful actions is a pattern that has been building in the person for years. The sinful action taken is simply the culmination of years of things leading up to it. For instance, in suicide, people don't take their lives as the result of one single act, even though it may appear so. There have been things in their past that have been building to lead to this point. The same with divorce, abuse, or adultery. We CANNOT fix or change people, only God can do this. And, God does not do this either if the person is unwilling to take the steps to change.
Each of us is accountable for our own actions, and we must be willing to take responsibility for them. We are not responsible for others actions, and cannot change another person.
Some also blame themselves that someone died or got hurt in an accident, and they feel they could have prevented it somehow. However, in the case of an accidental death or injury, we must remember that ultimately, God is in control. If something bad happens, one of two things has occurred: God caused it, or God allowed it. We cannot, nor will we ever know the reasons why some things happen, but there IS a reason for it. And, if we are a a child of God, God promises to work all things for our good in some way (Rom 8:28). Again, for much more explanation and depth on this subject, please see my study Why Does God Allow Suffering?, where I believe you will find some comfort and peace.
Now, to address point (B). Each and every person on this planet has made mistakes in the past. We have all done things we wish we hadn't done, or said things we wish we hadn't said. If we have caused harm to another person, we need to go to them and apologize and ask for forgiveness. The harmed person will either accept our apology and forgive us, and the relationship will be restored, or they may refuse to accept the apology, and refuse to forgive us.
If a person rejects our apology, they are the ones in the wrong. Ultimately, it will cause them harm if they hold unforgiveness inside. Our apology to others is not only meant to restore relationship with the harmed person, but also with God. When we fail to go to those we have harmed, and ask for forgiveness, it is wrong in God's eyes (See: Mt 5:23-24), and it hinders our relationship with Him. (This is also why we confess our sins to God, because sin separates us from a close walk with God, and confessing our sins restores that relationship.) However, if we have obeyed God, and sought to make amends, and a person does not respond in a way that is obedient to God by forgiving us, we can and should take solace in the fact that if we do as God asks, He WILL take care of us no matter what happens. Again, as we said above, we are not responsible for the actions of others, only for our own actions. Keep the person in prayer, take steps to bless them when you can, show unconditional love, and trust God to work in them.
Let me quickly add here, that while a person may accept your apology, completely restoring a relationship is likely going to be a process that takes time. While God is able to totally put the past in the past immediately, it doesn't usually happen that way with people. For example, if you have violated someone's trust in some way (i.e. adultery, breaking a confidence, etc...), repairing that trust will take a while. Be willing to take whatever steps you can to restore it, being open, honest, and willing to answer any questions. As you prove over time your trustworthiness, things will get better.
There is one other thing to address with point (B): seeking and accepting God's forgiveness. When we have sinned, there are two steps we need to take with God: confession and repentance. We need to confess what we have done wrong and ask for forgiveness for it, and then we need to repent, which means to feel sorrow and remorse for our sin, and a desire to turn from that behavior and go in a new direction. Keep these Bible verses in mind:
(1 Jn 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(Ps 32:1-3,5) Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (2) Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (3) When I kept silence, by bones waxed old through roaring all the day long. (5) I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I have not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord: and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
(Prov 28:13) He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
(For a great example of how to confess your sins, see: Psalm 51.)
Once we confess our sins, and repent, God removes our sins are far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12), and casts them into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19). In other words, He no longer holds our sins against us. They are forgiven and in the past, and we need to move forward. We need to accept God's forgiveness. If we continue to condemn ourselves after God has forgiven us, we are in sin. We are being unforgiving towards ourselves, which is just as sinful as not forgiving another person. It needs to be confessed and removed from our lives. God loves each of us unconditionally (Jn 3:16)(Rom 5:8)(Titus 3:4) (1 Jn 4:8-9), and we should love our neighbors as OURSELVES (Mt 19:19)(Mt 22:39)(Mt 12:31)(Rom 13:9).
#3. Thankfulness / praising God in the midst of trials.
(1 Th 5:18) In EVERY THING give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
(Eph 5:20) giving thanks ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Phil 4:6) Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in EVERY THING by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known unto God.
*(caps emphasis mine)
Are we able to do this? Are we able to be thankful in ALL things? I think it is safe to say that most all of us fall short on this from time to time. However, when we look at some of the greatest men in the Bible, they were able to do just this. For example:
(David) thanked and praised God over and over in the Psalms, often during his most difficult trials. He thanked God for:
His faithfulness (Ps 36:5)(Ps 40:40)
His righteousness (Ps 7:17)(Ps 35:28)
His deliverance (Ps 18:17,19,43,48-50)(Ps 55:18)(Ps 56:13)(Ps 86:13)
His lovingkindness (Ps 36:7)(Ps 40:10-11)(Ps 63:3)(Ps 69:16)
For choosing Him (Ps 33:12)(Ps 65:4)
(Paul) was able to to pray and sing praises to God (along with Silas) after being beaten with rods, having his feet put in stocks, and being cast in prison (Acts 16:23-25). He was able to take pleasure in his infirmities (2 Cor 12:9-10). (For more on the the trials Paul suffered, please see: Paul's Trials.)
One popular song today as I write this is called "I Will Praise You In The Storm" by Casting Crowns. Thankfulness and praise go hand in hand. When we praise God, we should be offering God our thanks for the same things David and Paul did, even in the midst of the trials and storms of life, and for EVERYTHING in our lives. Praising and thanking God in this way pleases Him. I believe this is why God called David a man after his own heart (Acts 13:22)(1 Sam 13:14). When we offer praise and thanks in our trials, it shows we trust Him.
We have soooo much for which to be thankful. The old saying goes, "no matter how bad we have it, someone else has it worse." Only one person in the world has it worse than anyone else, and you AREN'T that person. The fact that you are reading this means you have eyes to read it, have learned to read (1 in 10 can't read at all), and most likely you have a computer. The cost of your computer could probably feed a starving person in many countries for several months or more.
What do you have to be thankful for?
Do you have your health? Many don't.
Do you have enough to eat or drink? Many lack clean food and water.
Do you have a place to live? Many are homeless.
Do you have friends? Many are friendless.
Do you have a car? Many can't afford one.
You are alive, millions were never given that chance.
A part of your body may be injured, but many have numerous injuries.
Have you lost a loved one? Many have lost multiple loved ones. Many have never even had a loved one at all.
If you can walk, be thankful you aren't in a wheelchair.
Do you have a job? There are lots of people who would be thankful for ANY job.
Can you practice your faith? Many are killed for theirs in other places.
There is a great story about a well known Christian from several centuries back who was robbed at gunpoint one night and his wallet and all of his money was taken. (I am paraphrasing here from memory.) How did he respond? I am still alive, I could have been killed. I lost a lot of money, but I can make more. At least I had money to lose, many have none. I have God to help me through this, that poor man probably doesn't even know God.
May we all take that point of view. Let's us not look for the negatives in whatever situations we face, but look for the blessings.
Let me share a little story about a recent trial in my own life and how I believe God showed me the blessings in it. I will shorten it as much as possible.
Recently, my family had gone on a trip to visit family, but I had to remain home to work. While they were gone, I used my wife's car to drive back and forth to work. On the way home one night, the car suddenly stopped running right in the middle of a fairly busy road, but I was able to coast around a corner to a side street, where I parked. I could not get it to start again, and I had to walk home from there. The next day, I had to call a tow truck, pay to have it towed to an auto repair shop, pay quite a bit of money to get it fixed, and then have someone from the shop pick me up after it was fixed (they forgot to pick me up too, and came 3 hours late.) There was a bit more to this story that added to my whole frustration, but that is the simple version.
As I prayed through this whole situation, however, I really came to see where God God blessed me in so many ways in the midst of this trial. How?
First, I was able to get around the corner when it died. If it had stopped in the middle of that busy road, it could have been a LOT worse.
Second, it broke down close enough to home that I was able to walk home. It could have been a MUCH longer walk.
Third, God kept our car safe overnight in a strange neighborhood.
Fourth, when I called for a tow truck the next day, they got there in about 5 minutes. I have waited much longer before.
Fifth, while it cost a lot to get it fixed, we did have the money and they fixed it the same day. I have waited up to 8 days to get a vehicle fixed before.
Sixth, it happened that the day I had to get it fixed was my day off. It would have been a real mess if I had tried to do all of that and work the same day.
Seventh, (I didn't find this out until later) my wife had to drive to a meeting that was about 60 miles away the day after she got back from her visit. If I hadn't been driving her car while she was gone, she likely would have broken down on the interstate during that trip!
It is easy to look at the negatives when we are in trials, but the positives are there if we look for them. When we can do this, it will truly help us on the road to overcoming depression.
#4. Take your mind off of yourself and help others.
Much of depression comes when we keep our mind focused on ourselves and our problems. The very best cure for this is simply to take our mind off of us, and focus it on helping others. As we just mentioned, there are always people worse off than us out there, and they need help. Helping others is a blessing, as well as an act of obedience to Jesus (Mt 24:34-45).
Help feed the hungry, visit shut-ins or those in nursing homes, volunteer in a place that helps those in need in the community, get involved in a ministry that reaches out to those in prison, give shelter to someone who is homeless, be available to listen to someone who needs to talk, etc... There are opportunities all over to help others.
In addition, the Bible says that EVERY Christian has at least one, but usually several, spiritual gifts from God (1 Cor 12:4-7)(Rom 12:4-6). God gives us these gifts to serve others and build up the body of Christ. When we don't use these gifts to help others, we are wasting our God given gift, and this is most certainly going to leave us feeling frustrated, empty, and lacking. However, when we do use these gifts to help others, there is amazing satisfaction and peace when we see God working through our gifts to make a difference the lives of others, and fulfill the call God has given us. If you do not know what your spiritual gift is, please see our link spiritual gifts under "What The Bible Says About" to get some help on finding what your gift or gifts might be.
(Phil 2:4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
(Rom 15:2) Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
(Lk 6:38) Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over...
(Ps 41:1-2) Blessed is he that considereth the poor: The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. (2) The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive; And he shall be blessed upon the earth: And thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.
#5. Let others help.
One of the main things people who have been hurt in the past do, is to put up walls around their lives so that they won't have to be hurt again. These walls keep people at a distance, not allowing anyone to get too close. If a person gets too close, they might cause more pain. In addition, abused people tend to not trust anyone, because their trust in people has been shattered. (This can even extend to not trusting God.)
It has been my experience, as well, that some of the people most hurt by the effects of abuse, are also the most emotional. It has been proven that emotional people tend to need other people more. However, when the "walls" go up as a result of abuse, many of the people who need others the most, have shut themselves off from the support that they truly need. In other words, they need people in their lives more than the average person, but they can't trust or let others in because it might hurt them. In addition, they often shut down their emotions, which makes it even more difficult, because they are pre-dispositioned to be more emotional. Can you see what a problem this creates?
The effect of these walls being put up, is a life of isolation. God never meant for us to live our life this way. The Bible is full of places showing that we need each other. Even Jesus had a group of twelve that walked with Him, and of that group, and even closer group of three. When the disciples and apostles went out, it was in twos (Lk 10:1), because they needed each other for support. Brothers and sisters in Christ depending on each other is God ordained:
(James 5:16) Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
(Gal 6:1-2) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
(Eccl 4:9-10) Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. (10) For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
(Heb 3:13) But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
(1 Th 5:11) Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
(Prov 27:17) Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
(Also see: (2 Tim 4:2)(2 Cor 1:3-4)
We MUST tear down these walls. We cannot walk alone. One of the best places to go for help is a local church. I realize that you may have been hurt by church people in the past, but not ALL churches, nor are ALL people in a given church, ALL bad. It is foolish and unwise to paint ANY group of people with a broad brush as ALL bad. This is why we have racism. There are people out there who would be happy to help you, but you need to seek them out. Bible studies, Sunday school, or small groups within the church are a good place to start. It is in these settings that we can get to know people more intimately. Building relationships takes time. It is not always easy, especially when you have trust issues. Start slow and build that trust and bond over time.
Another possibility you may need to consider is counseling. This can be from a trained counselor, psychologist, pastor, etc... If you are a Christian, I believe it is wise to seek a Christian counselor, who will give Godly and Biblical advice, which is the best way to overcome any problem. However, any kind of wise counsel and support is better than going it alone.
Tearing down walls and letting others help will be a HUGE step in overcoming your depression.
#6. Do not look to people or "things" to meet your needs, look to God.
One thing in life you can be assured of is that if you look to people or "things" to meet your needs, you are ALWAYS going to be let down eventually. We may find temporary happiness in the things of this world (including people), but that happiness will be short-lived.
People change, make mistakes, fail to live up to expectations, choose to sin, have flaws, get carried away by "feelings," and any number of other things. When they do, we often end up feeling hurt or betrayed, and change our feelings towards that person. This is why we have such a high divorce rate today in society today. People marry with the "in-love feeling," but eventually that "feeling" fades, and then it is decided that they don't "love" their spouse anymore, because they aren't meeting their needs, so they should get a divorce. This isn't confined just to marriage either. Many friendships and other relationships end for the same basic reason, this person isn't meeting my needs anymore or has hurt me, and I no longer have the "feelings" I did once did, so I am done with them.
In addition, we often turn to "things" to fill that need in our lives such as alcohol, drugs, food, sex, money, sports, material possessions, etc... The pleasure we derive from any of these is ALWAYS fleeting, and then we have to get more of what we are using (more drugs, more sex, more money), or get something completely different, to fill that void. However, as we find out sooner or later, it is NEVER enough. We will always feel empty in the end.
Who can fill that void and emptiness in our lives and meet our every need? GOD! God never changes (Mal 3:6)(Jas 1:17)(Ps 102:26-27)(Heb 13:8). He is ALWAYS there for us and will never leave nor forsake us (Heb 13:5)(Deut 31:6). He loves us unconditionally. In fact, the Bible tells us that if we look to anyone or anything in the world to meet our needs, we become an enemy of God (James 4:4)(Rom 8:7).
There is a Biblical difference between happiness and "joy." Happiness is tied to the things of this world, and is fleeting. However, joy is a fruit of the spirit (Eph 5:22)(1 Th 1:6). There is unspeakable (inexpressible) joy in Christ (1 Pet 1:8). There is fulness of joy in Christ's presence (Ps 16:11). Joy is described as everlasting (Isa 51:11)(Isa 35:10). We should have joy because our names are written in Heaven (Lk 10:20). (Neh 8:10) says, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength." One of Satan's main objectives is to steal our joy, because when he does this, he can steal our strength. However, if we are obeying God's commandments (Jn 15:11), praying in Jesus' name (Jn 16:24), and in fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:4), our joy will be full.
#7. Break out of your routine.
Two traits that a number of depressed people have in common are perfectionism and obsessive compulsiveness (OC). Both of these can often be traced back to a childhood that had some kind of abuse. When a person is abused, it means that the victim has no control over their abusive situation. The result is quite often an adult who becomes a perfectionist or OC because both of these traits have at their center: control.
Being a perfectionist or OC can actually have some positive benefits. People who have these traits tend to be extremely organized, neat and clean, very attentive to detail, very consistent, and hard working. However, these often are carried to the extreme, and become out of balance which creates a problem, and most often ends in depression. How does this happen? Let's examine this.
I must admit, I have struggled with both of these problems in my own life. I recently heard something that REALLY enlightened me on why perfectionist/OC people do the things they do. The main reason is to reduce STRESS. As I thought about that, I really came to see how true it is. If you struggle with this, think about why you do the things you do. When things are organized, isn't there less stress? When things are neat and clean, isn't there less stress? When you have a consistent routine, aren't you less stressed? YES! What a revelation this was to me.
However, this often gets TOTALLY out of balance. Life becomes a daily cycle of doing the exact same thing over and over and over... What was meant to reduce stress, instead creates stress. For example, the person gets up at 6:30 a.m., showers at 6:45 a.m., gets the kids off to school by 7:15 a.m., gets to work at 8 a.m., eats lunch at 12 p.m., gets home at 4 p.m., fixes dinner at 4:30 p.m., eats at 5 p.m., helps kids with homework at 6 p.m., kids to bed at 8:30 p.m., watches t.v., cleans, washes clothes, or whatever until 10 p.m., then goes to bed. The next day the whole routine starts again. You don't even have to be a perfectionist or OC to have a life like this. However, the perfectionist/OC person often finds comfort in this routine, while the average person just finds it dreary and mundane.
But, this routine eventually creates depression for the perfectionist/OC person. They create a "bubble world," in which they have totally encased themselves, closing themselves off from anything that would break their routine. This includes making friends, going places, getting involved with church activities, etc...
Think about what you do all day. If I was to ask you what you did today, how would you respond? Would your response be a routine and pattern that is exactly the same every day? If someone came and described their life to you, and it was the same as yours, what would you think about it? I am guessing you would say, "Boy, that sounds really depressing." You would be right... Nothing in that "routine" is done to lift depression.
This is an important step to take, we MUST break out of that rut. It doesn't have to be anything huge, but take some small steps. For example, if you get up at 6:30 a.m., get up at 6:00 and spend some time in prayer, or do a Bible study, or take a walk. If you drive the same way to work every day, take a different route. If you eat lunch at work, go out to eat or eat outside. Maybe take a colleague with you. If you always eat supper at home, go out to eat sometimes. If you tend to eat the same things, try something new and different. If you watch t.v. at night, don't watch it, but instead read a book or take a walk. Ask a neighbor to go with you. Set aside a night or two to attend a small group or Bible study at church. If you are married, make sure you take some time to go out as a couple on a regular basis. There are SO many other things to try, but do SOMETHING to break out of that depressing cycle.
One other thing to keep in mind is that you may need to consider making some new friendships. One thing that is quite common among most people is that they naturally tend to make friendships with those who are like them and share common traits and interests. This also holds true for those who are depressed, surrounding themselves with those who are also depressed. The old saying "misery loves company" is quite true. Depressed people may not readily admit it, but they want people around them who are depressed too. They don't really like people around them who are positive and upbeat and joyful. It irritates and upset them. Quite often, when positive people are around them, consciously or subconsciously, they usually try to bring them down.
This is a cycle that must be broken. We naturally tend to become like those we spend the most time with. (This is one reason why the Bible says not to be yoked with non-believers.) Surround yourself with people that will encourage you, build you up, and are positive and joyful. Take steps to practice what you see in people with these traits. Watch the things you say (Prov 21:23)(Ps 39:1)(Ps 141:3). Learn to speak words that are for building up, and not for tearing down (Eph 4:29)(Rom 14:19). As you take these steps, I truly believe you will see a change in your outlook on life.
#8. Look at things from an eternal viewpoint.
As Christians, we are told in the Bible not to be a part of this world (James 1:27)(Rom 12:2)(1 Jn 2:15-16). We are to live our lives looking towards our eternity with God. The pleasures and sinful things of this world are fleeting (Eccl 1&2)(Heb 11:25). Our joy and peace as Christians comes from knowing that one day we will spend eternity with our beloved Savior Jesus Christ, and we will be free from tears, sorrow, or pain (Rev 21:4), and from wicked people (Rev 22:15). This was one of the most important aspects of Jesus' resurrection, and why the apostles became so bold and willing to die for their faith after seeing the resurrected Jesus. It gave them assurance of a better life in the future, because Jesus' resurrection showed that because He overcame death, we could as well through Him.
No matter what trials or tribulations we face here on Earth, we are told that they are very brief (1 Pet 1:6-7) from an eternal viewpoint (2 Cor 4:16-18). In other words, whatever trials we face in our 70 or so years on Earth pales in comparison to the billions of years we will spend in eternity free from any trials or tribulations.
We are told to rejoice in our trials and tribulations (James 1:2-4)(Rom 5:3-4)(Mt 5:10-12). Jesus suffered and he told us we would too (Jn 15:18-20). Jesus was hated without cause (Jn 15:25)(Acts 13:28)(Ps 35:19)(Ps 69:4), and we may be as well.
Jesus also told us to store up our treasures in Heaven (Mt 6:19-20)(Mt 19:21)(Lk 12:33)(Lk 18:22). When we suffer and are persecuted, and we do God's will in the midst of it, we will be rewarded in Heaven one day. When we forgive those who cause us harm, love our enemies, and bless those who seek to use and abuse us, we are laying up treasures in Heaven for ourselves. These treasures and rewards will be ours FOREVER!
If you are suffering from a physical ailment, keep in mind that one day you will receive a brand new body free from sickness or disease (1 Cor 15:42-44). It is not always easy, but pray for God to use you in the midst of your sickness. Let the light of Christ shine through you. There is no light that shines brighter than the light that is able to shine in the midst of obvious pain and suffering. People want know about, and have whatever it is that can make you so joyful and peaceful, when according to the "world's standards" you should be the opposite. Some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring testimonies I can ever remember hearing have come from people who suffered, or are still suffering the most. You can have an impact not only on people in this world right now, but you can also set aside rewards in Heaven as well.
#9. Exercise and diet.
Getting proper exercise and eating right is VERY important. Study after study proves that both are vital to our health and well being. Our body is God's temple (1 Cor 3:16-17)(1 Cor 6: 19-20), and we are to take care of that temple. Exercise and a proper diet makes you feel better, helps relieve stress, lowers blood pressure, reduces your risk of diabetes, lowers your cholesterol level, gives you a stronger heart, stronger bones and muscles, and helps you sleep better, among many other benefits. In addition, if you are overweight (which is depressing for most), exercise will help you burn calories, lose weight, and improve your self-image.
#10. Other small tips to keep in mind.
I would like to conclude with a few other ideas that you might want to consider as well, that people have used to help them on the road to overcoming depression.
Journaling - Keep a journal of how God has blessed you. The blessings are there if you look for them as we spoke of in category #3 (thankfulness). Write them down in a journal, and look back at them in the more difficult times, to see how God has helped you in the past. If a person has said something positive about you, write it down. It can also bless you in a difficult time. It also helps sometimes to just write down how you are feeling. Writing can be an outlet for "getting it out."
Get a pet - Pets offer unconditional love when you sometimes feel it is lacking from any other source. However, let me caution you that they should NOT become a replacement for people. We NEED people to support us and come along side of us. When we make a pet more important than a person, this becomes a problem that needs to be changed.
Allow yourself to grieve - If you have had a tragic event in your life, do not bottle up your emotions. Let them out, share your burdens with others. Seek prayer support and get counseling if you need it. When we keep our emotions bottled up, we become like a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode. It damages our health.
Don't overload yourself - God wants us to have balance in our lives. When we get out of balance, this can cause stress and depression. Take whatever steps you need to keep a proper balance. This may mean you have to make some difficult choices. You may have to say "no" to some people who ask you to do something. You may even have to eliminate an activity that you enjoy. Pray and prioritize your activities. If married, discuss with your spouse what they feel would be a proper balance. If you have kids, discuss with them your need to cut back on some things you are shuttling them back and forth to. Have them prioritize the importance of their activities too. I recently heard one Christian counselor say kids should be allowed "one" activity at a time. Whether you choose one, or more, keep it reasonable.
***Note: This can even happen with "Christian" activities. You may think because it is God's work, it is alright to go overboard. It isn't...
Always remember, we are created for God - The Bible says we were created by God and for God (Rev 4:11)(Heb 2:10)(Col 1:16)(Rom 11:36)(Prov 16:4). Our lives will will never be complete (Col 2:10), or perfected without the Lord. If we don't keep God at the center of all things, we will always find our lives lacking purpose. We must do ALL things to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31)(Col 3:17,23).
Dear friend, keep in mind that many people in the Bible suffered from depression: (Elijah: 1 Kin 19:1-15) (Job: Whole Book Of Job) (Jonah: Chapter 4) (Solomon: Ecc Chapters 1-4)(David: Psalms 42 and 69) (Jeremiah: Jere 20:7-18) (Moses: Num 11:10-15), amongst others. They made it through with God's help, and you can too. You have worth in God's eyes (Mt 10:31)(Lk 12:7)(Mt 6:26)(Mt 12:12). He loves you and has a perfect plan for those who are His (Jer 29:11). While we don't always understand that plan, or His means for bringing it about, there is nothing that happens that He does not allow for some reason (1 Pet 3:17). We can rest assured that He will work ALL things that happen in our lives for good (Rom 8:28). Trust in Him, lean on Him, and seek Him in your trials, for this is often why God allows them. God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). And, (Jer 29:13) says, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye search for me with all of your heart." (Also see: Deut 4:29)