Overcoming Depression

depressedDr. Larry Crabb in his book “Effective Biblical Counseling” used a very key term in understanding human need.  He theorizes that the two greatest needs for human beings are Significance and Security.  I want to focus on this thought in terms of our theme this month—Overcoming Depression– and say  that my writing this month will focus on how depressed feelings can come from not having these two needs met.  I’ve heard ministers teach a pie-in-the-sky Christianity in which depression does not darken the doorstep of good solid Christians, but I see no scripture that supports this belief.  I want to be clear that although below I am laying out the clinical markers for depression, we are still talking about spiritual warfare when it comes to overcoming this as a Christian. As a believer in Christ, we have additional help to overcome Depression.  Webster’s dictionary defines Depression is defined as, “A mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy, feelings of sadness and gloom.” We have biblical examples of good men of God who seemed to be baffled by their situations and this resulted in feelings of sadness, gloom, or pessimism as a result. God was still on their side and did not abandon them.

DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) describes clinical depression in the following ways:

  • Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks.
  • Mood represents a change from the person’s baseline.
  • Impaired function: social, occupational, educational.
  • Specific symptoms, at least 5 of these 9, present nearly every day:
  1. Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
  2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day
  3. Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite
  4. Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia
  5. Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  8. Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness
  9. Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan.

(You can read more about clinical depression here:  http://www.psnpaloalto.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Depression-Diagnostic-Criteria-and-Severity-Rating.pdf.  The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  To be honest, even after the exhilarating experience of being forgiven of all my sins—life happens.  God never stops life just so that we can have good feelings.  It keeps coming, and in that onslaught of daily experiences and activities, there are times that I could not understand what I was feeling or I could not think clearly and things looked pretty bleak. As a result, feelings of inadequacy, sadness, gloom, and apprehension and just all out depression seemed to overcome me.

 You do not have to linger in this state, however, nor should you.  Satan wants you to carry your depressed feelings around and attack the very areas that make you feel accomplished as a human being—significance and security. Depression makes you feel hopeless and overwhelms you with the idea that nothing you do will matter or be of any significance or effective.  It constant sends the thought that as a person you are not accomplishing anything by your actions; that you are going nowhere in your life and that nothing you do matters.  This surely takes away the second human need—security.  Depression shouts to us –“How can you feel any security in your future when God is not with you?” Depressed feelings are an added struggle for believers because the scriptures tell them that God will always be there for them, but the feelings are not matching what they believe. The struggle is to not let the feeling or doubts take hold to the point of total unbelief in your relationship with God and the reality of what Christ has done for you.

The scripture tells us to praise God and to rejoice.  These are conscious acts of obedience that are not based on feelings or circumstances, but love. The scripture tells us that faith and love are tied together (Galatians 5:6).  Satan does not want Christians to rejoice but more importantly, he doesn’t want them to pray in faith.  The less you pray, the less confidence you have, and the more insignificant and insecure you feel for prayerless living. Satan hopes you won’t fight depression; he hopes you will accept these feelings forever.

Once Satan has you under his accusations about how little you are seeking God, he will beat you down even further to get you into a state of unbelief. He does not care how many hours you pray when he knows you are not praying in faith. No matter how badly you feel, it’s important that you never let the enemy keep you from praying.

 Don’t pray to experience a particular feeling; pray in trust and belief that you love God and have no mind to leave Him, no matter how badly you feel.  It may (and if you are in very deep depression, it will) seem as if God does not hear you.  KNOW that He does, because His Word says He does, and continue to serve the Lord. The worst thing you can do is shut yourself off from other people.

 Confide in a trusted counselor or your Pastor how you are feeling.  Talking about it and exposing what is happening on the inside opens the door for help.   Your feelings are the glue that bind you to depression, so there is certain level of disregarding of those negative feeling that you have to do.  Stick to the truth of the matter. The truth is that you love God and want to serve Him.  Remember that feelings alone do not build true faith, but walking in faith can often build good feelings.

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