Oh my soul, why are you so downcast my soul – Journeying through depression.

I was talking to a friend and fellow minister yesterday about depression. During our conversation I admitted to him that I have suffered from it in the past. Not only have I suffered from it in the past, there are still times when I have to subdue its ugly head as it tries to overcome me. I asked him if he was thinking of blogging on the subject, as our conversation had given me the inspiration to do so and started to write down a few thoughts. 

This morning, like many others, I was shocked to hear that Robin Williams had died, through suicide. Robin Williams was an interesting actor. Someone whom I admit I both loved and hated. He was able to cause me to double over with pains of laughter, tears streaming down my eyes. There were many times he also caused me much emotional pain through many of his cringe moment scenes. Like many other brilliant and funny actors, he also suffered from depression. This is something that I admit I didn’t know about him until I read a number of articles this morning. 

There are a large number of factors which cause depression. Continual stressful situations can rock us. Drug abuse and addictions can lead to dysfunction of the brain. Grief is a major cause. Lack of sleep. Constant adrenaline rushes followed by the lows. Sin, and spiritual / demonic oppression can be another. 

My friend yesterday asked me what three key points I used to combat depression. And being the preacher I am, I gave him four. I want to say upfront that there is no easy solution to combating depression. It’s a very real and often can be a very complicated issue to deal with. And so, though I give my points here – I want to avoid simplistic 1, 2, 3 steps to conquer it. Instead of using the terms conquer and getting over it, I prefer to use the terminology of journeying through it. 

My first point in journeying through depression is to identify the source. Is the depression caused by stressful circumstances. Are you going through a grieving process? Have you been hurt? In identifying the cause of the depression, its helpful to acknowledge that we have a right to feel. We have a right to be upset. We have a right to be confused. We have a right to be angry. And we need to accept that depression is not a sin and that its a normal result of what we are going through or have been through. Self acceptance is important. Perhaps though, the root of our depression is that we need to forgive: Maybe we need to forgive ourselves, someone else, a situation ( I once had to forgive a horse for bucking me off and wounding my pride ) or perhaps even forgive God.

It’s important when journeying through depression we don’t do it alone. We need the help of a faithful friend, or three, who will listen to us. People who will let us speak. People who can draw us out. People who don’t judge us. Who won’t condemn us. They need to be people who will come along side and speak life into us. Someone who will encourage us. Sometimes we need medical help in the way of medication, doctors and counsellors. Personally I think caution is needed here. I don’t think its right to medicate grief. Grief is a natural response to a painful situation. And human nature being what it is, we tend to want to avoid grief and numb it with drugs, alcohol and take a happy pill. Other times, medication is an important part of helping someone to journey through depression – particularly if its caused by an imbalance of the brains hormones. 

The second point I made was in the area of “Spiritual Warfare.” Within Christian circles I believe there are two mistakes made. The first is to deride the existence of the devil and his henchmen. Demons are explained away as being ancient mythological superstitions. The second mistake is to believe there are demons under every rock. We blame the demonic for our burnt toast. Our missing socks. Our car running out of petrol. And every illness and hardship we face. 

I have had some personal experience with the demonic. In 1997 I was freed from 3 demonic forces which had enslaved me to a gambling and masturbation addiction. When freed from these oppressive forces, I was instantly set free from those addictions and have been free ever since. I have also lived in a haunted house, which sadly the previous occupants had released a demonic spirit into the house through their holding a seance in the home. The experience wasn’t a pleasant one. Since then, I have been involved in praying for others to be released from demonic forces and prayed through houses, freeing them from demonic forces in them.  

But I digress. The spiritual warfare I am talking about doesn’t involve so much of telling the devil to get. Rather it involves taking my eyes off myself and looking to Jesus. It involves my confessing the truth of what the Bible says about me. During the crux of my deepest darkest time, I found praying what I call the prayer of reception a powerful prayer. 

Lord I receive your love so that I can love you, myself and love others.

I receive your patience so that I can be patient with you, myself and with others.

I receive your mercy so that I can be merciful to you, myself and to others.

I receive your kindness so that I can be kind to you, myself and to others.

I receive your joy so that I can be joyful with you, myself and with others.

I receive your peace so that I can be at peace with you, myself and with others.

I receive your discipline so that I can be self controlled with you, myself and with others.

And the third area is to start thinking about, helping and praying for others. I can’t tell you just how often I have felt a bit low (its too many) and I consciously make the effort to pray for others and before I know it, my own spirits have lifted. There have been times when all I wanted to do was to climb down and hide under my rock – and instead friends have gone out for a meal with a friend, attended a function, helped someone move, garden, cook, go for a walk etc and soon found myself laughing and forgetting about myself and my own situation. 

Scripture is full of stories about men and women who suffered depression. Some of their prayers and songs of lament are recorded. I’d like to finish this post today with one such prayer / song of lament. 

Psalm 42 The Message (MSG)

A psalm of the sons of Korah

42 1-3 A white-tailed deer drinks
    from the creek;
I want to drink God,
    deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it—
    arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
I’m on a diet of tears—
    tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long
    people knock at my door,
Pestering,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

These are the things I go over and over,
    emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd,
    right out in front,
Leading them all,
    eager to arrive and worship,
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
    celebrating, all of us, God’s feast!

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.

6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
    everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
    including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos,
    to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
    crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day,
    sing songs all through the night!
    My life is God’s prayer.

9-10 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
    “Why did you let me down?
Why am I walking around in tears,
    harassed by enemies?”
They’re out for the kill, these
    tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.

 

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About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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