Depression and the God of Hope – Part 2
Greetings! Many of us have either suffered from depression or have known someone who has. In Part 1, I introduced the topic of depression and how the Christian can better understand this challenging issue.
Today, I will share a few thoughts on how we can connect with God or help those we love do so.
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” – Psalm 42:9-10
Here are a few thoughts on how we may want to consider depression and and the Christian life:
1) Depression is not necessarily a sin. When discussing depression, I often hear people frame it around a discussion on sin. What did this person do to "deserve" this? or, What sin is in their life that leads to depression and sadness? We assume sin is involved. Perhaps it is, but I've noticed that the majority of times, it is not. Jesus was once asked this question of a man born blind.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:1-5
Instead of judging others or assuming, work on having compassion on yourself (or your friend) and seek how to support them. Mother Teresa once said, "When we judge others, we don't have time (or energy and motivation) to love them." This truth has made a huge difference in my life. My job is not judging, but love. I can never go wrong by loving and having compassion on others. It is always the right thing to do! Here is a helpful article.
2) We can grow as we deal with depression. While I do not struggle with depression, I know those who do (and I struggle with other painful mental health issues). These challenges in my life have caused me to draw closer to God and to find ways to grow. I've leaned on this verse many times in my life:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4
Here are some useful questions: What has your depression "taught" you? How have you been able to run to the mercies of Jesus in your worst moments? In what unique ways has your depression drawn you close to God? How have the Scriptures informed you during this time? What promises do you hold out from the Bible?
Knowing that we are covered by the grace of God in all of life's struggles allows us the space and the freedom to stand back and "find God" in our challenges. This is not always easy or clear, but the opportunity is there. Take time to journal your thoughts or find a trusted friend to answer these (and other) questions. Perhaps God desires to use you for His great plans. You may find the words of Jesus to be true, as they were for the man born blind:...but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
3) We draw close to God in our depression. The Psalms (and other books in the Bible) teach very clearly that we have the opportunity to draw close to God in depression. We are able to look up to Him and find comfort and intimacy in our depression. We find a God of compassion and understanding as we struggle with our feelings of sadness and loneliness. This article further discusses drawing close to God in depression.
Consider the following verses I pulled out of Psalms 41 and 42:
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble. – Psalm 41:1
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness. – Psalm 41:3
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God? – Psalm 42:2
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you. – Psalm 42:6
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:11
I hope these words have encouraged you or perhaps enabled you to better engage depression in your life or with your friends. In Part 3, I will discuss how we can better help those dealing with depression.