Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Depression. Is it Christian?

Dear Friends,

I love the good times in life. You know what I’m talking about. Those times when your life is like a Disney cartoon. When the chipmunks are dancing in the lush meadow of sunflowers and the baby deer are running and playing. The birds are twittering, the sun is shining and the princess is singing while riding on the back of a white horse. These are the zippity-doo-dah days when we are enjoying God’s blessings and we wake up every day filled with the joy of the Lord. We have no problems or concerns. We are living on the mountain top of life. 

But what goes up must come down and so we go for the smog test and our car needs a major repair. The house air conditioner stops working in 108 degree weather, you get the overdrawn account notice from the bank and your back goes out again. And if you were dancing on the mountain top victorious in Christ, you’re now sliding into that pit of despair feeling slammed by Satan. And that old demon of depression is back again.

Depression is that emotionally heavy feeling that can occasionally descend on even the most devoted Christian believer. It’s a mood marked by sadness and gloom. There is little interest in life and sometimes a deep sense of despair. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those times when we’re moping around like Eeyore in the “Winnie the Pooh” books. All of us experience depression to one degree or another at one time or another. Depression can have physical or psychological causes but the most common cause of depression is giving place to a spirit of self-pity. No matter how good life is at the moment, as soon as we begin to experience the normal tribulations and trials we go into our Eeyore mode, hang our head and feel sorry for ourselves. 

Jezebel had put a contract out on the life of the prophet Elijah and he ran away into the wilderness to hide from her. He collapsed in a heap of self-pity under a tree. Elijah prayed to God that he might die and said, “I’ve had enough, Lord, take my life.” Then Elijah ran and hid in a cave which is where God found him. And I love what God said. He said, “Hey Elijah! What are you doing here?” I had always read this as God asking Elijah what he is doing in the cave –this physical location. Then one time I read this scripture and saw it from a different perspective. When God is talking to fearful and unfaithful Elijah and asking what he is doing “here” I wondered if He was asking what Elijah was doing in this psychological place. Hey Elijah! What are you doing here in this place of self-pity! God didn’t show up at Elijah’s pity party with a nice bottle of wine and a thoughtful hostess gift. God showed up and said, “What are you doing in this place of despair? Get a grip Elijah!” 

We read that God spoke words that took away Elijah’s fear, doubt and self-pity and spoke words that strengthened Elijah’s faith and trust in God. And Elijah blew out the candles on his pity party cake, got a grip on life and marched out of that dark cave of despair. 1 Kings 19:1-18 Like Elijah, for many of us the most common cause of depression is that we’ve allowed the circumstances of our life to twist into a knot of self-pity. We’re crying in our beer and life seems like one long sad country song and then God shows up and says, Hey Bubba! What are you doing here?

But sometimes depression can be caused by an unexpected emotionally traumatic event. All of us have experienced depression caused by a normal and natural psychological response to grief, loss, a major life-change. And the most helpful thing for us to do is to just let that grief or loss work its way through us knowing that it will be temporary and transitory. We’ve lost loved ones and in the height of our grief and depression we were absolutely sure that we would never get over it. We were so far down in that pit of despair that we couldn’t even find the slightest hope for our future. And then God heals. Because when we were in that pit, our Heavenly Father was right beside us with His arm around us. As we heal, the intensity of our grief diminishes. He restores us. When your depression is the result of your crummy circumstances, keep spiritually focused on God and know that the emotional pit you’re in is only temporary. Always remember that there’s no place that the circumstances of life can take you where God can’t reach you!

But sometimes the cause of our depression is not a temporary hormonal glitch, a personal tragedy or self-pity. For some people, the cause can be organic and can lead to what is called “chronic depression.” Chronic depression  can occur in both men and women and is pervasive and long-lasting. It is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration are felt every day and last for many months and years. Chronic depression is an illness that the best and most spiritual of us Christians can struggle with. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s an organically-caused physical illness. When people experience chronic depression, like with any other illness, they need to see their doctor.

Many of us with depression find refuge in alcohol, drugs, sexual immorality and other activities that soothe the pain of life’s difficulties. But you can’t find refuge when you run away from your circumstances. When life became unbearable, Elijah ran to hide in a cave but God showed him that the cave was not the refuge. God was his refuge. God is our refuge. We run to Him. He reaches for us and enfolds us in His love and heals us.  Amen?

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