Are you feeling sorry for yourself? If so, welcome to the club. In a fit of depression, the painter Van Gogh cut his own ear off. Many sports, movie and pop stars sink into depression when their fame dims. Some kill themselves while others turn to drugs. I was shocked by my sister’s comments once, that many people use anti-depression pills to function ‘normally’ in the marketplace. It does seem depression is rife in our society.
How do we recognize depression? From observation and personal experience, one symptom is loss of hope. One feels there is no future and the mind becomes preoccupied with despair and pessimism. It causes loss of self-esteem as one thinks oneself to be a failure in life.
Emotions too become difficult to handle. I have seen tears, fear, anger overwhelm a person over the most minor incidents. It also leads to a lack of self-control. Some cannot eat while others indulge in overeating. Some cannot sleep while others sleep for long hours yet wake up to a chronic fatigue. Depression can lead to isolation from others; social activities are dreaded and phone calls are not returned. Sometimes, this is aggravated by well-meaning but insensitive remarks like “just move on”, “Jesus has given you the victory” “give up that pity party”, etc. Extreme depression can even lead to suicidal thoughts. Think back to Elijah crying out in 1 Kings 19:4, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life” because he saw no hope.
How would I deal with severe depression? I am not an expert but a good start would be to connect with our Lord regularly each day. I can praise him, seek him out in his Word and listen intently for his still small voice. God knows my thoughts anyway so I might as well be honest and tell him exactly how I think and feel. It’s best to lay my fears, frustration and all negative feelings before his throne of grace. After all, Christ is always listening.
I also believe one must pluck up the courage to ask for help. This is a tough act but we must be open to receiving another’s helping hand. Pastors especially need to awaken to this truth. They are so busy fulfilling the needs of others that they suppress or ignore their own need for help. It is the fear of being seen ‘unspiritual’ or ‘lacking in faith’. We should just ask. Christians generally are willing to help if they find the objective achievable. They might also counsel us of the primary things we should be focusing on instead of sweating over the ‘small stuff’. Helpers give us perspective. We should attend to the essential and be ‘thick-skinned’ and ignore the non-essentials even when there is pressure to do them and plaudits gained. Such counsel aids our healing tremendously.
Finally, grieving for any loss, whether it is the loss of self-esteem or the esteem of others or any other form of personal loss, does help tremendously. Grieving is cathartic, normal and a great aid to recovery. Elijah grieved, ate and slept. Only after that was he ready to listen to the gentle whisper of God. It worked for Elijah and should work for us too. Hearing God’s voice assures us of his care and compassion for his children. In that still small voice is the hope of the meaningful future our Lord Jesus has planned for us if we are willing to focus not on self or circumstances but on our sovereign Lord.
“Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).