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by

Voyle A. Glover, Esq.


Depression is a killer. Its victims are doctors, lawyers, judges, pastors, wives, husbands, teenagers and even children. Sometimes, the result is suicide. Sometimes the result is a life that seems to melt into nothingness, a kind of bland mediocrity. And too often the result is a life whose tragedy has already been told in the classics because before depression worms its way into that deep, inner part of a person's being to bring them to a desire to embrace death, it usually does other insidious things to its victim. Depression is a killer of faith, of spirituality, of friendships, of fellowship, of marriages, businesses, jobs, futures, wealth and of time. Especially time. The depressed person will waste hundreds of hours escaping into that "safe zone" of comfort where the doubts don't shriek in the mind, where the weight of dark loneliness which sits like a heavy fog in the mind is temporarily unnoticed. At best though, escapes are but mere distractions, a temporal fix that will last about as long as a drug user's 700th "hit."

Depression is not something Christians feel comfortable discussing and its a topic that most Believers would probably deny ever having experienced...seriously. Most of us will admit to having experienced depression, now and then, you know, but truth is, most of us who've lived long enough to have some grey in our hair have probably had some bouts of depression that were serious and were troubling to us. We are comfortable with the professionals talking about it. The "shrinks," particularly if they're Christian, can discuss it (as long as we're not part of the discussion group) and maybe we'll listen. (But probably not if we're depressed, since those who are depressed seldom care to read about depression unless the article or paper happens to hit them just right.) Most Christians who've experienced deep depression can talk about it, but will candidly admit they're not comfortable talking about their depression. Frankly, they'd rather talk about yours. Personal pains, doubts, desires to suicide or die, and feelings of deep, confusing pain are not hot topics for those who've been there.

I've never been depressed enough to consider suicide. I've grown discouraged (We like that word better, don't we?) along the way, tired, weary, and completely exhausted. And sometimes I've just wanted to leave it all behind. I have to admit that except for my responsibilities as a husband and father, I'd probably have found a cave in the desert a time or two in my life. King David expressed my feelings best in the Psalms: "And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. 7. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah."Ps 55:6-7. Like King David, I've wished for wings in order to fly to some remote part of the land. And if you're truthful (and you've lived long enough to "taste" some of life's offerings), so have you.

I recall when I was twentish, a young lady in my church's youth group was severely depressed. I didn't know much about depression then. She used to sleep more than anyone I ever met in my life. She'd work her job, go home, eat, then go to sleep. On the weekends, she'd sleep most of the time. I asked her about it once and she said, "It's my escape from reality."

And many Christians seek to escape their reality and their depression with actions that are duplicative of mankind's' efforts historically. The natural desire of anyone working through depression is to seek a quiet, unseen corner of their world where everything that can torment is shut out. For some, it's binge sleeping. Some crave noise, particularly loud music, while others must have quiet, soothing sounds. And many depressed persons seek pleasure in its varied forms as an escape.

Depression settled its dark cloud on some very famous people in the Bible, some of whom were pretty strong in the faith. King Saul (not known for being a giant of faith) was said to have had bouts of melancholy which drove him into fits of rage, anger and paranoia. He once became so angry he tried to kill his own son. Clearly, Saul was not a man "in control." Elijah, the Prophet of God, known for his boldness, ran fearfully from the evil Queen Jezebel and then fell into a deep depression in the desert, no doubt despairing because of his sudden loss of faith and his fear before a woman. He'd just stood boldly before the false prophets and soldiers of the king, but now had fled in fear before the threats of a mere woman.

The prophet Jonah sat despairing under a tree, dejected that God hadn't smitten the city of Nineveh. He wanted to die. And the people of Israel left Egypt, witnessed God's miracles and presence, then became extremely depressed out in the desert wandering around with Moses, so much so they said they wished they'd died, preferring death or a return to slavery than their current state of existence in the desert.

The reasons for the depression of those mentioned in the Bible are identical to the reasons for depression today. Some things don't change. The human flesh that wandered the deserts and sat under juniper trees now wander concrete jungles and sit under canopied balconies staring into the night. The tormented mind that demands a David with a harp to be played to cloud its depression now clouds the same depression with an I-pod or similar device. Flesh is flesh, and mankind has changed very little in the centuries past.

Depression oft comes where one encounters an overwhelming or very arduous event and that one's physical and emotional reserves become depleted. The ability to counter or resist the forces diminishes and bleak images of disaster seep through the cracks like moisture into a dank, dark basement. I am convinced also that improper diets can combine with difficult circumstances to throw one into a depressed state of existence. There is a definite correlation between the physical, the spiritual, the emotional and mental parts of our very sophisticated system.

Jonah came through a torturous journey, physically demanding and mentally exhausting. He'd run from God. This act alone no doubt threw him into a state of depression, fear and guilt. He despaired of his life and no doubt assumed his punishment had come as he flew through the air and landed in the dark, frothy waters. And consider his mental anquish, when he discovered himself in a black hole with sides slicker than wet clay, covered from head to toe with sea weed, lying in a pile of rotting, digesting fish, with his face and clothing coated with the slime of the innards of a great fish. The air could not have been anything but foul. Talk about being depressed! All of this had to be very hard on him physically and emotionally.

Elijah had just completed one of the most dramatic episodes of his career. He'd routed the soldiers of the king several times. They'd come to take him and they'd been slain by his Protector, the Lord of the Universe. And then he'd gathered the king, the people, soldiers, and 400 false prophets in one location. Once there, he'd boldly thrown a challenge to the prophets, and when they failed to call fire down from heaven and devour the sacrifice, the confident and powerful prophet Elijah called fire down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. Then, with an authority he did not have before, he ordered the false prophets put to death.

Ah, but shortly afterwards, a slip of a woman, Queen Jezebel, vows he will be dead soon. She makes a vow to kill him. And Elijah, the man of faith, the man who called fire down from heaven, became filled with fear and ran as a coward far into the desert to hide himself. Once there, he fell into severe depression. He was defeated, prostrated at the feet of his enemy.

Now consider this. Elijah was exhausted. He'd been in physically demanding conditions for a long, extended period of time. He'd been fasting. He'd run before King Ahab's chariot after the rains came which had further drained his energies. Now, suddenly he'd wavered in his faith and fear had overwhelmed him for a moment in time. The enormity of his cowardice overwhelmed him. He understood that everyone in the land would soon know of his flight. They will hear how the man of God fled from a woman. All the good he'd done, all the great reputation he'd gained was now in tatters. Now, he just wants to die, ashamed at his failure, discouraged with his actions, and depressed so deeply that he is unable to do even rudimentary things in order to survive in the desert. God sends an angel to feed him and give him water. Elijah was so depressed, so discouraged, he wanted to die. But God didn't want that. God understood all that had happened and why.

The people of Israel, born and bred in the relative comfort of a sheltered Egypt, though inured to harsh, grueling conditions as slaves, were completely overwhelmed by the harshness of the desert. At least as slaves, they were fed regular. There was always the Nile for water to drink and water in which to bathe.

In the desert, there was no water and no food. Moreover, there was no apparent way to get either of those in sufficient quantity to care for so many. Thus, many began to despair and as the depression grew, their will and resolve diminished. Eventually, they came to believe it would have been better if they'd died or at least, had stayed slaves in Egypt.

 

Physical depletion played a part in the depression of each of the described events. And so did pride. Jonah was proud of being a Jew and did not want the people of Nineveh to be saved. And then, after he'd given the warning, God spared them because they'd repented. Jonah's reputation as a prophet was at stake now. He'd declared destruction, but it would not come and he knew many would doubt his credentials. [see the book of Jonah]

Elijah's pride was in the accomplishments God had achieved through him and in the despair that overwhelmed him because he'd be thought of as a coward (like his father). His name would be on the lips of all of Israel as the one who'd fled Jezebel. His pride caused him to have a burning shame. And it was pride that exalted in the power and demonstrations of the power of God. Elijah had reached a pinnacle in his career in that he had been the instrument through which miraculous events had been enacted. But, Elijah had to learn that God was not to be looked for just in the miracles and not just in the mighty demonstrations of power. Elijah had to listen for the still small voice, that soft voice that whispers to us. God wanted Elijah to be quiet and to learn to be sensitive to the whispers of God. It is easy to hear the roar of the waves parting and easy to hear the thunder of God in the destruction of our enemies. But, we also need to learn quietness and meekness, and to listen for God in the small voices, the little events, the little breezes that blow across our lives. [see I Kings 18 & 19]

Only King Saul did not have an apparent physical depletion, but he did encounter a situation that was, in his mind, overwhelming. He'd been told that God would remove him as king, that another had been anointed. David slew Goliath. David was a warrior they sang about in the streets. And Saul's mind became inflamed with jealousy. But Saul knew he'd sinned. He knew he'd betrayed God, and God's rebuke to Saul through Samuel was ever present with him. The result was a rampage of emotions within Saul that threatened to unhinge his sanity.

Here, he'd been anointed by God to be the first ever king of Israel and he'd blown it. Worse, he understood it. He knew his sin. But his pride dominated him and would not permit him to be gracious, would not permit him to step aside, and would not permit him to publicly admit his sin. He could admit his sin privately, but never publicly. And finally, he held genuine affection for David. Thus, Saul was a man whose emotions were in great conflict, and who had a destiny that he was unable to control. Yet, he tried desperately to control it. But, in his attempt to control it, he exhausted himself physically and mentally chasing the elusive David. Moreover, while he chased David, his enemies gathered strength until finally, they defeated Saul. But Saul was defeated long before the battle with the Philistines. He lost control of his life when he ignored the warning signs his body sent him and when he ignored some important laws of God.

Christians who ignore the same warnings and the same laws will eventually lose control of their life and will pay a heavy price for ignoring the warnings and ignoring the laws. They may even pay with their life, and if not, then certainly will pay in a significant loss of the quality of their life with a corresponding loss in their effectiveness for Christ.

WARNINGS

The first warning no Christian should ignore is the body's signals of exhaustion, of physical depletion. God expects us to take care of ourselves. If we take the vessels God has given us, the vessel He has chosen to call home, His Temple, and abuse them, we can expect a causative action, namely, the physical breakdown of our flesh. As Christians, we can decry the abuse of alcohol and tobacco by some, yet we will abuse ourselves with foods that are bad for us (and even smile about it), or by pushing ourselves beyond our physical limits. And some of us will drive ourselves harder than we'd ever drive another human, and ironically, if we worked for someone and they forced us to work the pace and hours we demand of ourselves, we'd call them "inhumane," "godless," and "evil."

The second warning no Christian should ignore is when troubles hit and we don't plough through them like we used to or when we begin to have feelings of being overwhelmed by such troubles. Do you walk into your office or onto your job, take a deep breath and then kind of "short circuit," unable to decide what has to be done or mechanically performing your work? Are you looking at your life and beginning to wonder how you can possibly survive?

A third warning no Christian should ignore is when you begin to operate mostly on adrenalin, habit and sheer will power in order to get you through your days. If you've reached a stage where you have to have a crisis in order to get a job done, or you have to grit your teeth and literally force yourself to do the job, relying on the habitual functions ingrained within you, then you had better take notice. The popular term for what you're experiencing is "burn out," but the warning is that you are on the path to serious depression, and it wont take much to shove you off the road where you crash and burn.

 

There are certain laws that we cannot ignore as Christians. I call them laws, but perhaps it would be more proper to call them principles. The first principle or law deals with understanding that we "are not our own," but we belong to God. Our body belongs to God. We are stewards of that body. Thus, we are commanded to be "good stewards." That means we are to take care of ourselves. We should force ourselves to eat properly, to exercise and to keep the body under subjection. We must make our bodies obedient to the spirit within. If we don't, eventually we will pay a price which may include having to deal with circumstances in our lives that, due to our physical and mental fatigue, threaten our sanity. In other words, you may undergo severe depression merely because you haven't been a good steward of your mind and body.

A second law deals with how we view our relationship with God. The Israelites who came out of Egypt were spectators. They did not want to draw nigh unto God. And they did not want to hear God. They didn't want God's laws in their innermost being because they did not want to give up their old ways, their old lusts. They were content to hear God's man, Moses, but not God. They were content to watch God perform His miracles, but wanted no part in becoming God's miracles. The told Moses they'd hear him, but not to let God speak with them. [see Exodus 20:19]

Christians who want to be spectators to God and His works will never learn of God in the depth necessary to thrust aside the devil's sword of depression. And do not think Satan does not use depression to his advantage. Satan lurks, watching, setting up difficulties and sending troubles, knowing that you've strayed from the path, perhaps by overloading yourself with duties, perhaps by not being a good steward of your health. And, just as Satan whispered in the ear of Peter long ago (and was rebuked by Jesus for it), even so, Satan whispers evil, destructive words in the ears of exhausted, overwhelmed humans, for this creature knows that often, such humans will self-destruct. Every suicide you ever heard about, Satan played a significant role. Thus, one cannot afford to be in such a weakened state of mind that one becomes susceptible to the dark, hidden whispers of death.

A Spectator Christian will never draw close to God and will never learn how to depend upon Him for strength when all strength is gone. A Spectator Christian will always be content to watch, but never to participate, never to go forth and conquer in the name of the Lord. You cannot be a spectator and expect to slay the Dragon of Depression when it comes. (And it does slither down your trail and will one day encircle you.) A spectator will never develop a close, loving and dependent relationship with God. A spectator will demand manna from heaven and water in the desert, and when it doesn't appear, will despair, believing that God has deserted him or her. A trusting Christian has learned to wait on the Lord and has learned that God is faithful. God can be trusted.

The Christian who neglects the reading and studying of God's Word is a prime target for depression. We must be willing to hear God speak and cannot depend solely on the pastor to give us our "daily bread." We must learn to live by the Bread of God. Our God will speak to us through His Word. It is from the Word that we will learn of this great and powerful and loving God. We will learn there of His provisions for us, of His ability to help us, indeed, of his willingness to help us. We will learn there of our need to put our faith in Him, that we cannot please God without faith, and we will learn there that He will never leave us nor forsake us. With such promises, we can lay hold on them when the hard times come and we are weakened by circumstances in our lives which are beyond our control.

 

A final law that cannot be ignored is prayer. The principles of prayer may not be understood by the Christian, but the one thing that must be understood and believed is that God hears prayer and is the God Who answers prayer. Men have prayed for strength and received it. Women have prayed for life to a child and God has heard the prayer. But without faith, it is impossible to please Him. And recall that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Thus, even prayer, even the faith necessary for prayer, is tied directly to the Word of God. The Bible is not a stagnant, collection of ancient words and sayings. The Bible is a vibrant collection of the thoughts of Almighty God and a revelation of His ways, His statutes, His truth, His gospel, His character and His promises. For a Christian to neglect the Bible and prayer is tantamount to the captain of a great sailing vessel to neglect to bring his compass, his charts and enough crew to man the sails properly. He is then subject to the whim of the winds, and even if he can keep the ship headed in a particular direction, he's hard pressed to know where he's at or even where he's truly headed.

Depression need not claim the Christian. It may come, and when it does, Satan will seek to exacerbate the situation and to make darker the images of the mind. When it comes, the psychologists, Christian or otherwise, aren't going to dispel the darkness. They may be helpful in dealing with some of the symptoms, but some things cannot be solved with man's understanding, man's reasoning and man's wisdom. It is the wisdom of God, the understandings that God places deep in our soul that sustain us. The Light of God can illumine and excite the mind and give escape in a way that is permanent and not temporal.

There may come an "Andrew" into your life one day. It may blow away the barriers you've erected in your mind and sweep away your defenses. But some things cannot be swept or blown away. God's Word is forever. God is the anchor of our soul. God's promises which are embedded into the depths of our soul will withstand the most severe winds that ever come into your life. But even if that were not true, God is unmovable. And I belong to God. I am His property. He loves me and I can rely upon Him. He said He would provide for my every need. Thus, although my life is barren, swept clean by an "Andrew," I can, by faith, expect God to provide and care for my soul.

It becomes, I contend, absolutely essential for the Christian to employ those principles which engender faith, for everything boils down to that one thing: faith. "We walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7. And again, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him."- Colossians 2:6. Faith says that my circumstances are mere images of reality. Faith says God is reality. God's Word is reality. God's promises are reality. And if my circumstances conflict with God's Word, then my circumstances must ultimately give way to God's truth. Of course, if I did not know God very well, was a Spectator Christian, didn't have much communication with Him and didn't read His truths, then I couldn't very well exercise much faith and would, therefore become very depressed at my circumstances. I could never see a way of escape. I would have no hope.

So what about it? Will you continue to ignore the warnings? Will you pay attention to your life? And will you draw nigh to God? Will you learn the walk of faith? It may well be that in order to learn that walk, God may have to bring you through the valley of depression, of despair, of fear and troubles. Then you will know that He is a Deliverer and a Healer and a Restorer and is good. Oh, so very good.

The End

copyright 1997 Voyle A. Glover

Like to talk about your depression (or your victory over it)? Be happy to share conversation with you and if I can, to help you. Don't want to debate you, but will be happy to chat with you. -Voyle Glover

For more on the subject, see the following:

Contemplating Suicide? (excellent site with testimonials - I disagree about his view on being able to lose one's salvation but there is a lot of good, supportive material here)

RBC Ministries.

 

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