Unmasking, emerging from our depression
July 14, 2010 - Several months ago I did a series called Survivor. We looked at a handful of things that make life tough. One of those things was depression.
I think we all deal with some form of depression – even if it's just discouragement. But haven't we all had those "down" times?
I know that technically speaking, there is a difference between "depression" and "discouragement," but it's sort of like arguing over whether we're in an economic "recession" or a "depression." If you lost your job, it's a recession. If I lose my job, it's a depression.
Let's think about discouragement-depression. First, what is depression? I think Psalm 40 gives us a pretty good definition. Psalm 40:1-3 says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."
Depression is when you feel like you're in a slimy pit and you can't get out. Everyone is discouraged at times. But if your discouragement becomes too deep and lasts too long, it's probably depression.
Second, what causes depression? It may be a physical condition. Your body may lack proper amounts of chemicals such as serotonin.
I have a pastor friend who leads a large church. He was speaking to a group of us pastors a few years ago and he told us how hard it was for him to admit that he had a physical condition of depression.
The first time he went to the drugstore to pick up his medicine he was afraid. He just knew the receptionist at the counter was going to announce over the speaker, "Will Pastor Marty of Crossings Church come to the counter to pick up your depression medicine!"
He was ashamed that he –a pastor – had a depression problem. But you know what? He's on the proper medicine, and God is using him and using his struggle with depression to create a sense of brokenness and humility that is reaching out and touching many people for Christ.
Lack of replenishing relationships may also cause depression. Mary Southerland is a Christian woman who has written about her own depression and how she deals with it.
She discovered in her own life that she was running around and serving everybody. She discovered that a major cause of her depression was that all of her relationships were superficial and even draining. She was always giving and serving and never receiving.
So ask yourself: Do I have healthy relationships in my life where I personally am replenished and gain strength from those relationships?
Depressed people usually feel alone and isolated, like no one understands them.
Others causes include poor self-image, failure to deal with past issues, such as unresolved anger and disappointment over a loss.
The big question is, how can we get out of our pit?
First, get a medical evaluation. Only a doctor can tell you what's really going on in your body.
Secondly, exercise and rest. There are all kinds of studies that show how exercise and rest fight off sickness and depression.
Third, develop healthy relationships. Don't be a loner. Don't slide through life with superficial relationships. Have a few close friends where you laugh together and play together and cry together. (This is what church is supposed to be about!)
And most importantly, receive God's grace.
Base your self-esteem on God's love for you. You are valuable. You matter to God. He loves you so much that he gave his Son for you.
When we're willing to look beneath the surface and unmask our depression, God is more than able to lift us out of the slimy pit, set our feet on a rock and put a new song in our mouth.
The Rev. Greg Henneman is pastor of Clarkston Community Church