Overcoming Dangerous Emotions: Depression
How can we overcome depression, a painful emotion that can feel like we’re having our insides removed? Part 6 of the “Overcoming Dangerous Emotions” series.
When we suffer loss, disappointment, failure, monotonous routines—or whatever else the devil makes louder than God’s truth in our lives—depression can be the negative emotion we feel.
Many counselors and therapists will agree that anxiety and depression usually hold hands while they make people miserable. The Bible agrees with this assertion: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression” (Proverbs 12:25, emphasis added throughout).”
However, anxiety isn’t always the sole cause. Other thoughts and associated feelings mentioned in this “Overcoming Dangerous Emotions” series can also be responsible, while the ultimate responsibility rests on the being who wants all humanity to be depressed and miserable: Satan.
The rest of the above-mentioned Proverb states, “But a good word makes it [the heart] glad.” How do we make our heart glad when we are feeling discouraged and depressed?
Why is depression spiritually dangerous?
The spiritual dangers of living in depression are self-evident. God’s message to the world is one of life, hope and truth. The gospel focuses on the bright and wonderful future that God’s Kingdom will bring to humanity.
Depression doesn’t care about that future and can’t get past the fact that we are hurting so bad right now, and that is all that matters. Our thoughts can become so focused on the present that we can easily forget that Satan is in charge of this world at this time, so of course there will be misery and suffering. The coming Kingdom of God, something that we all need to believe in and look forward to, can seem like just another pipe dream that won’t help us now.
Proverbs 17:22 states, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” Although God does look kindly upon a poor and contrite spirit, He can tell when it is directed toward Him, as it should be, or directed inwardly (destructively) toward ourselves.
In the parable of the sower, we must remember that the seed that fell on the stony ground represents those who first receive God’s Word with gladness, but only endure for a short time without developing deep roots. When tribulation or persecution comes, they stumble (Mark 4:16-17).
If we don’t seek God’s help to rekindle that gladness in the knowledge of God’s truth, as well as growing in perseverance, then we are in danger of stumbling and stifling our demonstration of the spiritual fruits of joy and outgoing love.
Identify the cause of the negative thinking
Let’s start our written list of questions with the most obvious one: “Why do I feel this way?” From that question, we can connect other questions that will help us pinpoint the cause, such as: “Is one of my relationships not what I expected or ever thought it would be?” “Is my job not what I wanted?” “Am I not able to get out of a rut regarding sin/failure/loss of direction in life?”
A trusted friend or counselor might help us uncover causes of our depression and help us deal with them.
The ultimate cause for depression always seems to be an emotional hole that we know we need to fill with God’s way of life. But our natural instinct is to try to fill it with other things. Too often our coping mechanisms and thought processes are not rational or helpful.
So how do our thoughts compare to reality?
Analyze and compare the thinking to reality
With depression more than any other negative emotion, it is crucial that we write down the exact thought that popped into our heads without any sugarcoating, such as: “I’ve made no difference to anyone in this life.” “If I try anything new, I will fail at it, so why try?” “No one cares about anyone anymore.” “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do today.” “People think I’m fine, but I’m not.” “How did my life get like this?” “I hate my job/wife/boss/husband/father/mother/etc.”
When we ask for God’s help to shut out these negative voices so that we can finally see depression as something that we don’t have to suffer from for the rest of our lives, we can come to see these thoughts as being filled with hatred, self-centeredness, fear and a lack of faith in God’s truth. Do these thoughts sound rational? Of course not!
- Is it fair/rational to think that God is unaware of our situation and can do nothing to help us because we feel depressed? (Isaiah 41:13 tells us: “For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’”)
- Is it fair/rational to think that the world and our lives will continue in this state forever until we die? Is it fair/rational to think that we have no power to change our lives?
- Is it fair/rational to think that we can only be happy if we have Satan’s version of success (vast riches, powerful and important careers, huge crowds of adoring friends)? Is it fair/rational to think that we, as bright children of God, don’t make a difference in this dark world?
Replace the irrational with rational
The Bible is full of encouraging and prophetic truth that is specifically meant to uplift those who are discouraged and sorrowful. For Christians, hope is rational and despair is irrational. Joy in the future is rational and depression is irrational.
It is good to have attack phrases ready when we want to slip back into the comfort shell of depression. We can remind ourselves: “It will not always be like this. The Kingdom of God is the only thing that can ultimately solve the vast majority of the world’s problems—and it will! My fellow Christians and I are in this together, and I’ll go to them for encouragement and help to get my life moving.”
What if I’ve already lost control?
Pray immediately to our loving Father who knows exactly what we have been through, are going through and have yet to experience. We should write down the most encouraging biblical truths we can think of (perhaps start with these 50 Encouraging Bible Verses) and then call our fellow members of the Body of Christ. They are there to help us and be with us in our suffering.
We can ask ourselves, “Do I believe in the Kingdom of God and my role in it?” Then ask, “Do I control my depression, or does it control me?”
Once we have taken a cannonball shot at the wall of depression in our lives, each continuing shot (even if it takes thousands) will splinter it more and more until it comes down. We matter to God more than we can comprehend.
Note: This article deals with feelings of discouragement and depression in everyday life. There are deeper levels of clinical depression that go beyond the scope of this article and can require the help of a professional counselor.