To the Depressed: Reach out and Reach up
It is estimated globally, that roughly around 350 million people suffer with some form of depression. Those individuals who are afflicted with such depression often feel despondent, lost and disconnected from life. Even Christians who attend church regularly and have a firm faith can fall under depression’s dark cloud.
Depression is not just feeling blue or moody; rather it is much deeper and much more severe. The “dark night of the soul” as John of the Cross once put it, is just that, those who are suffering from depression see a perspective that is incredibly bleak and many times are unable to articulate that reality to others. Do Christians get depressed? Certainly. Is there hope for the depressed? Absolutely. That hope for me was found in the pages of Scripture.
Depressed Christians, to many, seem like an oxymoron. Christians should have the joy of the Lord, they have the hope of heaven, there is no reason for them to be depressed, right? Wrong, and because of this assumption, many well intentioned church-goers will offer advice such as “you need to pray more” or “read your bible more often.” And yet for the one struggling with depression, it takes almost every ounce of strength just to crawl out of bed, so pat answers and quick fixes do little if anything at all to help. It may even only exacerbate the problem and leave the person feeling even more isolated.
When I have struggled with depression, there was no easy fix for the level of hopelessness I felt. For many who are depressed, hope is a distant reality and is obscured by the overwhelming feeling that depression is a permanent condition. In other words, how you are feeling in this moment is going to be how you are feeling forever. However, depression is not and doesn’t have to be a permanent state and I said before, what helped me to realize that was the Bible.
In Psalm 42, the Psalmist speaks specifically about the deep pain and reality of depression. For example, he writes in verse 3 that day and night, his tears have become his food; a powerful illustration of the level of sorrow that is so tangible when someone is depressed. Yet there is something absolutely astounding and remarkably helpful that the Psalmist does in verse 5, he asks the question “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” What we are seeing here is an internal dialogue that the Psalmist is having within himself. In the event of your depression, how many times have you asked yourself that very same question? I know in my experience, hundreds of times.
However moving further we see this statement “My soul is cast down within me”. Through the internal dialogue we have seen in Psalm 42, the author comes to an admission of his depression. It is common knowledge that in order for recovery to happen, there must first be an acknowledgement of an issue. The first step in overcoming depression is to admit that you are depressed. For men especially, this is hard for us to do. There are multiple reasons for this, such as we are afraid that if we admit it, that we are perceived less than masculine, or associated with stereotypical ideas regarding mental health, or perhaps we just aren’t self-aware enough to articulate our feelings. Whatever the reason may be, admitting that you are depressed is the first step to getting your feet back on the ground and having a sense of normalcy.
In addition to the acknowledgement of your depression, a reminder of hope, even if it is just a faint glimmer, can provide such strength during depression’s darkest storms. We read in Psalm 42:5, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” That little word “again” points to the season of life that was prior to the onset of depression, where there was a not only a sense of normalcy, but of joy, happiness and connectivity to life. Furthermore, that very same little word reveals the hope that depression can be a season of life not a permanent condition.
As someone who has battled with depression, I want to say to you that there is hope and that there is a rock to anchor to, that is higher than us (Ps. 61:2). Don’t be afraid to reach out and reach up and know that I am praying for you.