I am sitting at my desk enjoying the beauty of the surprise my husband brought home to me last night:
This was for no particular reason other than he knew I was feeling a little down.
While considering the reason for this unexpected gift, I began considering what can be a controversial subject in the Christian community. Depression.
I am talking about real depression.
Sometimes the word depression gets thrown around as a general description of unhappiness caused by our own sinful and selfish choices and attitudes. Let’s face it, all of us are guilty of wanting to indulge in a good, old-fashioned “pity party”. We get “depressed” because our house isn’t as nice as the neighbors’, or because we can’t afford a weekly cleaning service like our friends can, or because our husband always leaves his shoes in the middle of the floor….The list goes on and on.
We must be deliberate in our thoughts and attitudes. Much of our so-called “depression” is nothing more than a reflection of an ungrateful, self-absorbed, selfish, grown-up tantrum.
That isn’t what this article is about. That isn’t depression.
We can get depressed about circumstances beyond our control. Sadness comes to visit and doesn’t know when to leave. It is an annoying unwanted guest that we simply must tolerate and get through. This is often caused by the death of a loved one or some other such tragic event.
The depression I am speaking of is that cloud of darkness that can seem to swallow us for no apparent reason. Intellectually, and in our hearts, we acknowledge our blessings and our thankful but we cannot seem to shake a feeling of helplessness, doom and an overwhelming sadness. This is often brought on by a physical, chemical imbalance that is completely beyond our control and must be treated with medication.
I struggle with both of these to some extent.
I am finally accepting the fact that I cannot “talk myself out of it” or “make up my mind” to feel differently. Mine is brought on by the stress of parenting a special-needs child and her behavior challenges. Also, I think when I finally make it to the doctor, I will find it is partly the result of a hormonal imbalance.
So how am I dealing with it? First of all, I take all thoughts captive for Christ. Meaning, I analyze the thoughts going through my head and determine if what I am thinking is among the first group I mentioned: my selfish pity party. If so, I repent and ask Jesus to help me not indulge myself in such thoughts. After that, I simply ask Jesus to help me roll with it. I take a deep breath and acknowledge that although I am abundantly blessed, I am going through an emotional patch that I cannot control. I surrender it to Jesus. I try to get more rest; I ask my parents to watch my daughter. I let Hubs in on it, so he can be aware in case I find myself snappy and irritable.
Don’t believe the lie, that being a Christian means you can “live your best life now” if you just “believe” it or “speak it into your life”. That’s nonsense and a lie. We are going to have struggles and difficulties. We live in a fallen world; sickness is one of the results of sin entering the world. Not that those who are sick are so because of any particular sin they committed, but because this is a fallen world full of illness, injustice, pain and death. It is what it is and will remain so until Jesus comes. Mental illness is no exception. Hormonal imbalances are no exception.
We CAN control our sinful thoughts and attitudes. We cannot control certain circumstances or physical challenges. In those times we need to ask Jesus for help and guidance. Sometimes that help comes in the form of a lifestyle change, or medication, or therapy (I would not recommend going to a “secular” therapist, try and find a Christian though my experience has shown that is nearly impossible). Also, I have found memorizing joyful verses, as found in Psalms, can sometimes help keep our thoughts on “things above” and help us not to dwell on the things of this world.
While we may not be able to control some aspects of depression, we do have some measure of control of how we respond to it. Sometimes, we just have to roll with it and surrender it to Jesus, but we must be very careful not to let it get the best of us and say or do things to hurt others or dishonor our Lord.