I’m not sure who this may be for, but I am feeling led to write about depression and anxiety today.
Most of you probably don’t know that I have suffered with various levels of depression since childhood. A couple doctors along the way briefly prescribed a drug, but I had reactions to the ones prescribed and no follow up by the doctor. I was also in denial about my need for medication, as I was functional and didn’t believe Christians should need medication for depression. I was so wrong! There are times even believers need medical help and should not be ashamed to seek it. Other believers should not belittle their condition and look down on them for seeking help and taking medication.
What should we do if we feel that God is the cause of our troubles? In 2010 God was moving us 1800 miles from Southern California to St. Louis, Missouri, which I knew from day one was totally of Him, no doubt. Then, one week before leaving, we learned our younger daughter was expecting her first child, our first grandchild. I was heartbroken, having to leave just when we were finally becoming grandparents. I cried out to God, “Why?” His only answer was, “You always have a choice.” But I know there is no choice outside of His will and plan for my life. Knowing that didn’t make it any easier. I held onto that pain too much, too long. It fed the depression and anxiety. Even going to the grocery store caused anxiety attacks. It got a little easier once I found a church and made friends, found sisters to do life together. But the pain of separation from my family ate away at me. In hindsight, I also was not doing all the things God wanted me to be doing. I wasn’t seeing it, because I let anger at being taken so far away eat at me and I couldn’t admit I was angry at God. I finally admitted it, but it was several years in. What a waste of time. But God redeems these things and uses them for His glory when we allow Him to heal us.
I remember the first time I realized Missouri IS my home now. I was on a visit back to California without my husband. As much as I enjoyed the visit, I was ready to go home. That was a huge revelation for me. Until that moment I had still been referring to California as “back home.”
I had been hiding in TV, social media, and game apps. One day God used the dialogue in a TV show to speak right to me. The character said, “Stop the pity party!” But I heard it as Holy Spirit speaking directly to my heart. Definitely got my attention. I began seeking the Lord more and focusing on ministry and other things outside myself, my thoughts, and my pain, but I still was not dealing with all the sources of the pain that were causing the depression and anxiety in my life.
A few years ago depression and anxiety got the better of me and I could no longer function. I could barely even pull my thoughts together enough to seek the Lord with much more than a “Help me” and “What’s wrong with me?” He answered both when the depression began causing me physical symptoms. My doctor ordered several tests. The results sent me to a Neurologist, who recognized all the symptoms I was exhibiting were from depression and anxiety disorder. Both the friend who came to the appointment with me and I felt the Lord’s presence very strongly in that office. This was where I needed to be. The doctor started me on medications. The meds are not a magical cure. But they enabled me to function enough to begin dealing with the causes of the depression, with God’s help.
I cannot afford a therapist. But both Jesus and Holy Spirit are referred to as Counselor (Isaiah 9:6, John 15:26). I sit down across from an “empty” chair and converse with Jesus. I pour out my heart. I know He is there and He hears me. When I get quiet I can “hear” Him revealing things like unforgiveness I had hidden in my heart, other painful feelings I thought I had released to Him, I talk it out, pray it out, let it go (as many times as it takes), and in return He fills me with His peace and joy.
The thing is we have to be willing to let go of the pain and not take it back (Matthew 11:28-30). Sometimes we feel like if we let go and forgive it lets the other person off the hook. But punishing ourselves with depression and anxiety does nothing to them. And forgiving is a command (Luke 6:37, Colossians 3:13). The other person has already moved on. Only God can deal with them. The final blow may not come until they meet Him on the judgment seat, but it will come or they will repent before and be redeemed. Either way, abusing ourselves only hurts us, not them. We also need to learn one more powerful step to healing ourselves, praying for our enemies and blessing and not cursing them (Matthew 5:44-45, Luke 6:27-28, Romans 12:14). It is very freeing to pray for good for someone who has hurt us. Sounds so wrong by worldly standards, but God’s ways are higher and the best (Isaiah 55:6-9)! It is very hard at first, I will not lie. I have had to say I forgive out of sheer obedience to God at first, and keep saying it until it becomes heartfelt. The same with praying for them. But God honors our willingness to be obedient and softens our hearts as we obey Him. We never have to do anything in our own power alone. He makes a way when there seems to be no way.
I still have bad days or groups of bad days. It keeps me humble and seeking after the Lord to uncover anything else I need to repent or release into His hands.
I have not worked outside the home since we moved eight years ago, so I have to be purposeful about not staying isolated and seeking fellowship with my sister’s in Christ. They help me stay grounded.
There is an acronym for the word joy that has helped me considerably with focusing and keeping that pity party from returning.
The way I interpret this is when we take our eyes (our thoughts, our concentration) off of ourselves and focus (our attention, energy, love) upward (in faith, love, and obedience) and outward (with faith and love in action) toward others, God takes care of us, in all things, including our soul needs of joy, peace, and rest. Not that we neglect self-care, but our thoughts do not need to be inward like they are when they cause us depression, anxiety, and pity parties.
Isaiah 43 has a couple passages I love. God specifically gave me verses 18-21 during a particularly hard time.
1But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:1-3 ESV
18“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.”
Isaiah 43:18-21 ESV
If you suffer from depression remember: * It’s okay to seek help from a therapist for counseling and/or a doctor for medication.
* Do not isolate yourself. Call a sister(s) in Christ for fellowship. Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer and a listening ear.
* God is for you (Psalm 118:6, Romans 8:31).
* He has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5).
* Nothing can separate God’s children from His love (Romans 8:35-39).
*Hope is ours in Jesus as an anchor in our storms. It does not disappoint us (Hebrews 6:19, Romans 5:5). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 ESV
*Ultimately God will heal us, it just may take a different route and outcome than we expect (Isaiah 61:3, 1 Peter 3:13-17). [Ex: someone may have an accident and become paraplegic. God may not heal their physical body, but use the disability to heal soul and spirit and use the person to bring Him glory in other ways.]
*God does not waste our pain (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 12:19).
He will use it as our testimony and our ministry… 3″Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV
Thank You, Father, for this gift of comfort, that we can use the comfort we receive to comfort and encourage others in similar circumstances. It can really make all the difference and make it worth having gone through our own pain to see others helped by our testimony.
Father God, we lift up everyone reading this article who suffer from depression or loves someone who does. Be with them and guide them on wisdom to the answers they need. Do they hold unforgiveness in their hearts? Are they holding onto burdens buried deep within? Do they need help of a therapist to sort it out? Do they need the help of medication? Do they need a sister(s) to come along side them? Answer these questions for them and lead them to the fulfillment of tje answers. Fill them with the hope that comes to each one in Jesus Christ our Lord, that they may know the joy and peace You promise. Let them know Your presence with them in a tangible way, to know they are never alone. Show them how to keep their focus on J.O.Y. – upward and outward and let You have Your way with their inward. We praise and thank You, Lord in Jesus’ name, amen!