By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – Feb. 9, 2015) — It’s a dark pool; sometimes the water rises like a wave and overwhelms you, sometimes you manage to swim, but your feet are always wet.
It’s a black dog, sometimes pulling at the leash, sometimes biting your hand, sometimes sitting in the corner, but it’s always there.
Sadness. Anger. Irritable. Frustrated. Tired. Disinterested. Anxious. Guilty. While everyone experiences these emotions at some point, what if you can’t move past them? What if you don’t feel anything at all? That change in sleeping habits, those feelings of worthlessness, that difficulty concentrating or remembering? If you’re stuck in any or all of these, you may suffer from depression.
And you wouldn’t be alone. If the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is correct, nine percent of the adult population suffers from depression.
A study released by the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shared other statistics:
· 8% of persons 12 years or older (6% of males and 10% of females) report current depression.
· Females have higher rates of depression than males in every age group.
· Males aged 40–59 years have higher rates of depression (7%) than males 60 years or older (5%).
· Females aged 40–59 years have higher rates of depression (12%) than females aged 12–17 years (8%) and females 60 years or older (7%).
Furthermore, according to WebMD:
· Older people reported less major depression, the CDC says, with only 1.6% of people aged 65 and older reporting depressive episodes.
· 5.9% of people without health insurance reported depressive episodes, compared to 2.9% of people with insurance coverage.
· 6.6% of people who said they were previously married, or never married, reported some depression, vs. 2.2% of married people.
· 9.8% of people who were unemployed and 22.2% of those unable to work reported depressive periods, compared with 3% of homemakers and students, 2% of people with jobs, and 1.6% of retirees.
· 4% of non-Hispanic blacks reported depression, 4% of Hispanics, 4.3% of non-Hispanic people of other races, and 3.1% of non-Hispanic whites.
What the statistics demonstrate is that depression is a common reality—regardless of sex, race, or age group. Depression is an equal opportunity provider; it can happen to anyone.
And sadly, depression can lead to deeper problems, including suicide, cutting, and drug abuse. Concerning the later, Dr. David Brendal writes for ABS News, “There is a very close relationship between depression and substance abuse in adults. The two conditions are highly comorbid, which is to say that they occur together in an extremely high percentage of individuals. There are a number of different ways that this occurs. Substance abuse can cause depression and depression can cause substance abuse.”
Maybe you suffer from depression. Maybe you believe that depression is something that Christians shouldn’t experience, adding extra guilt to your life. But this is not the case. Christians do suffer from depression. We are human, not spiritual robots. Pastor Skip Heitzig observed in his booklet Overcoming Depression that “Christians are not immune to depression.”
The good news is that Jesus loves the broken and depressed. Jesus died for the brokenhearted, the outcasts, the wounded. Jesus loves you and yearns for you to turn to Him in moments of dejection, despair, and despondency—in all times, really: in moments of fear, joy, trust, and pleasure. Jesus wants us in any condition, in any state, and at any moment.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines depression as “feelings of severe despondency and dejection.” Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, writing for the Mayo Clinic, gives more information: “Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn’t the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder.”
In another article for the Mayo Clinic, depression is defined as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest…it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living.”
Knowing that many people in the Bible fought depression can produce empathy among Christians and dispel the idea that Christians can’t or shouldn’t be depressed. Godly men and women have fought this very real emotional state of being. Men such as Job, Samuel’s mother Hannah, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the apostle Paul, and others faced depression at some point, often in the midst of serving God.
Here’s a small sampling of heart-cries and encouragement for the broken and depressed:
Psalm 16:7-8: ”I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”
Psalm 42:5-6: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You.”
Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Psalm 34:17-18: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
Psalm 102:1-11: “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; incline Your ear to me; in the day that I call, answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned like a hearth. My heart is stricken and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. Because of the sound of my groaning my bones cling to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop. My enemies reproach me all day long; those who deride me swear an oath against me.
For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping, because of Your indignation and Your wrath; for You have lifted me up and cast me away. My days are like a shadow that lengthens, and I wither away like grass.”
Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
1 Peter 5:7: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT)
In his forthcoming booklet on depression, Pastor Skip Heitzig helps the Christian develop a plan, offering practical and biblical insight. Pastor Skip writes,
“If you are experiencing depression, or are reaching out to someone who is, there are many great resources to assist you. I’ve mentioned a short booklet I wrote several years back that gives practical and Biblical advice. Using the life of Elijah as example, I recommend exercise and rest; change of emotional and mental perspectives; and setting realistic expectations.
“My friend Josh McDowell has a wonderful book called Handbook on Counseling Youth that provides great insight—both biblically and medically—into a host of problems people face, including depression. I also recommend Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones’ book, Spiritual Depression.
“I’ve also been exposed to practical counsel from other Christian teachers and authors. My only piece of advice is that any insight you get from people be both biblically based and medically supported.”
Your understanding of depression should form the basis of a plan to reach a person with the love of God, whether it is someone you know or someone you have yet to meet. Use the acronym LOVE as a guide:
L is for listen. Listen to people. Get to know the co-worker or relative on a personal level. Don’t offer any advice until you’ve listened. Listen with generosity and genuine interest. Let them explain how they feel and why.
O—Offer Support: Let your friends and family know you are there for them to talk, pray, wrestle with the issues, and stand with them through all the ups and downs of dealing with brokenness and depression. Let them know that they don’t have to capitulate to social pressure and internal desire and that you are there in a supportive role. As a Christian, offer them a chance to hear the gospel and respond, even if it’s with a weak faith. Jesus repairs and restores our brokenness if we want to be made well.
V—Voice God’s Truth. Don’t be fearful of the truth, nor embarrassed by it. Read up on this subject and have the guts and compassion to speak openly about it. Certainly the heart of the gospel is love—the love of God in Christ to rescue any who turn to Him in faith. God accepts us just as we are but He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. Jesus loves people (and therefore so must we), but He accepts those who repent and believe in Him, not those who persist in living their way.
E is for esteem. All people deserve some level of respect simply because they have been made in the image of God, however marred that image may be. To esteem another person doesn’t mean you must agree with them or side with them on a particular subject, but it means that you voice and show your respect as a living testimony that you belong to Christ.
Another acronym that summarizes some key thoughts on moving through brokenness and depression is REST:
R—Relationships. Surround yourself with loving, caring Christians. Have them pray for you and encourage you. Allow your godly relationships help with priorities and the problems of life.
E—Exercise. With a doctor’s approval, find something to do physically. Work toward relieving the stress with good, old-fashioned sweat.
S—Scripture. Turn to the Bible to find comfort and answers. Allow God to speak to you through His word.
T—Trust. You must place yourself squarely in God’s hands, trusting Him to help you overcome all the trials of life—including depression. Trust is based on faith, not certainty. As the psalmist said in Psalm 42 and 43, “Hope in God.” Jesus put it this way: “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Trust that the King of the kingdom knows His citizens and will care for them. Give your worries, your anxieties, your fears, your sorrows, over to Jesus; He has it under control, paid for by a crown of thorns that will one day be for the Christian the crown of life.
To learn more about the Jesus Loves People series, click here: www.jesuslovespeople.com
 Heitzig, Skip. Overcoming Depression. Connection Communications, 1998.
 Heitzig, Skip. Overcoming Depression. Connection Communications, 1998.
 Matthew 27:29
 Revelation 2:10. Also read Revelation 21 and 22.
Photo caption: Depression (www.webmd.com)