“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 5: 4-5
Many matured Christians have had to deal with the problem of depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), during any one year period, 17.6 million people suffer from a depressive illness – depressive illnesses often interfere with normal functions, causing pain not only to those with the disorder, but to those who care about them. Serious depression can destroy family life, as well as the life of the ill person.
Christians certainly are not immune to the problem of “depression”. Great men of God have been known to suffer depression: Elijah, David, Jeremiah. Overcoming depression is not easy, but it can be done.
First, let’s start by trying to understand the problem itself:
A. DEPRESSION DEFINED
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, depression is a psychotic or neurotic condition characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, and feelings of extreme sadness, dejection, and hopelessness.
According to NIMH, depression is a “whole-body” illness, involving your body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. It is not the same as a passing blue mood, or a sign of personal weakness. It is not a condition that can be willed or wished away; without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, even years.
However, faith in Jesus can greatly complement any effort (such as therapy and medication) to overcome depression.
OVERCOMING DEPRESSION THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS
Jesus addresses many issues that can depress people.
Among many things that can make people depressed, there are such things as:
a. Guilt for sins committed in the past
b. Concern regarding one’s relationship with God in the present
c. Fear for what might happen in the future
As we have stressed before, what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do, addresses such problems:
a. He addresses the problem of sin, through His death on the cross!
b. He teaches us how to pray, and maintain a healthy relationship with God!
c. He gives us hope and promise concerning the future, through His resurrection and ultimate return!
JESUS PROVIDES POSITIVE COGNITIVE THERAPY…
Cognitive therapy seeks to help one recognize and change negative thinking patterns that contribute to depression; sample suggestions include:
- Don’t set for yourself difficult goals or take on a great deal of responsibility
- Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, do what you can as you can
- Don’t expect too much from yourself too soon as this will only increase feelings of failure
- Participate in activities that may make you feel better
- Try to be with other people; it is usually better than being alone
In His teachings, Jesus stressed similar principles!
- Reminding us of God’s providential love and care – Matt. 6:25-32
- Teaching us where to place our priorities in life – Matt. 6:33
- Revealing our own limitations – Matt. 6:34
- Pointing out the kind of selfless service can provide true joy – John 13:12-17; Acts 20:35
- That God is longsuffering, willing to forgive and comfort the downhearted – Matt. 5:3-6.
JESUS PROVIDES POWERFUL INTERPERSONAL THERAPY
Interpersonal therapy focuses on one’s disturbed personal relationships that both cause and exacerbate the depression.
Jesus certainly addresses interpersonal relationships!
- Our relationship with God – II Cor. 5:18-21
- Our relationship with fellow men – Matt. 5:23-24; 18:21-22
Through His death and teachings He strengthens interpersonal relationships!
- Reconciling us back to God and man – Eph. 2:14-17
- Teaching us how to love God and one another – John 13:34-35; I John 5:2-3
- His church is to be a family, providing strength and encouragement, even bearing one another’s burdens – Gal. 6:1-2; I Thess. 5:14
Depression, like anxiety and boredom, is not something to be taken lightly; many people suffer from it, including brothers and sisters in Christ. It can have a debilitating effect on the one who suffers from it, and on those around them.
Yet Christ can provide a way out for those willing to have faith in Him – not just faith in the one suffering from depression, but faith in those who are in position to aid the suffering. It is only when both the “patient” and the “care-giver” accept and act upon the words of Jesus can there be the kind of joy, peace and comfort Jesus intended.
Indeed, His teachings are designed to provide true joy and peace – John 15:11; 16:33. As Paul wrote, God “comforts us in all our tribulation” – II Cor. 1:3-4; but such comfort is intended to be shared, that “we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble”
Is our faith in Jesus what it ought to be? Is it such that we can carry out Paul’s admonition?
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (I Thess. 5:14)