A teacher said to her students, "Boys and girls, there is a wonderful example in the life of the ant. Every day the ant goes to work and works all day. Every day the ant is busy. And in the end, what happens?
Little Johnny said, "Someone steps on Him."
Depression is a hopelessness that's not consistent with reality. It's a temporary condition, an emotional state with exaggerated feelings of sadness. It is more than discouragement. It can make negative circumstances overwhelm a person's life.
Recent studies of more than 11,000 individuals found depression to be more physically and socially disabling that arthritis, diabetes, lung disease, chronic back problems, hypertension, and gastrointestinal illnesses. 19 million American adults or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older suffer from depression every year. Twice as many women as men are affected. These figures translate to 12.4 million women and 6.4 million men in the U.S.
Women between the ages of 25-44 are most often affected by depression with a major cause of depression in women being the inability to express or handle anger.
Symptoms of depression
1. Weight loss or weight gain.
2. Loss of sleep and energy.
3. Lose interest in most or all pleasurable activities.
4. Reduced ability to concentrate.
5. Overcome with feelings of hopelessness or uselessness.
Death or serious illness of a friend or family member
Loss of love or attention from a friend or family member
Breakup of a romantic relationship
Family problems, especially parents' divorce
Physical, verbal, and/or sexual abuse
Genetic vulnerability, particularly if a parent is/was depressed.
Background to depression
77% of everything we think is negative and counterproductive and works against us. People who grow up in an average household hear "No" or are told what they can't do more than 148,000 times by the time they reach age 18. This results in unintentional negative programming. Negative parents breed negative children. 1 Corinthian 15:33.
It is not uncommon for servants of God to suffer from depression. Listen to Moses in Numbers 11:15, "If this is how you intend to treat me, do me a favor and kill me. I've seen enough; I've had enough. Let me out of here." Elijah made a similar request for God to take his life. 1Kings 19:4. Job cried out, "Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived!" Job 3:3. Therefore if you are a Christian and you are depressed, you are not alone.
One of England's finest preachers was C.H. Spurgeon. Frequently during his ministry he was plunged into severe depression, due in part to gout but also for other reasons. Sometimes he would be out of the pulpit for two to three months at a time.
Many years ago a young Midwestern lawyer suffered from such deep depression that his friends thought it best to keep all knives and razors out of his reach. He questioned his life's calling and the wisdom of even attempting to follow it through. During this time he wrote, "I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell." That lawyer was Abraham Lincoln who became the 16th President of the United States of America.
Timing of Depression
1. Depression may come after a time of intense ministry output. Elijah became depressed after defeating the prophets of Baal. 1 Kings 19:1-18. More pastors resign on Monday than any other day of the week. Don't be surprised therefore if you experience depression after a very success program or event. Pastors wonder why they feel so low after moving into a new church building. Athletes wonder why they feel so empty with the trophy in their hands; students wonder why they feel so unfulfilled with the diploma in their hands. Mothers wonder why they can't stop the tears after giving birth to a healthy baby.
2. Relational conflict is a common cause of depression. Problem with your boss, breaking up with boyfriend, argument with wife are not uncommon.
3. After physical exhaustion. Elijah killed 450 false prophets, prayed intensely for rain, and then in the power of the Holy Spirit ran for over 20 miles just before he became depressed. Sometimes, overscheduling and overloading ourselves may make us susceptible to emotional letdown. Inability to balance the demands of work, family, church and recreation can tilt us over. While you can do anything, you cannot do everything. When you are tired you are really vulnerable to the discouragement that leads to depression.
How to get depressed
1. Be alone. Most depressed people are lonely or act as if they are alone. Elijah wasn't all alone, what about Obadiah that brought him the news of hiding prophet of God? 1 Kings 18:13. Depression shuts out the thing we need most: people. When we gather in Sunday school class of caring people, when we come into a church service with Christian friends we draw strength for life's battles. So when you are struggling with depression don't go somewhere alone, find Christian friends to be with so they can minister to you. Remember Galatians 6:2 says "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."
2. Focus on the negative. We all have negative times in our lives, but when we make little things into big things and let them overwhelm us, we become downcast. This enhances our loneness. There is a silver lining in every cloud. Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
3. Leave God out. God provided for Elijah through a widow who had nothing. This man of God called down fire from heaven and caused rain to cease for more than 3 years. God had never failed him. Has He ever failed you? In times of crisis, it is easy to forget the faithfulness of God in our lives and focus on the immediate challenges in isolation.
The Best Anti-Depressants
He cured Elijah and He will cure you too. There is no problem He cannot solve, no challenge He cannot overcome for you. No other anti-depressant works as well. If there is any one principle that can help all depressed people, this is it. James 4:8, Psalms 40:1-2. During the 1st part of the 20th century, J. C. Penney presided over a successful business of over 1,700 stores. At the time he had the country's largest chain of department stores, each one bearing his name. But, although his enterprise made him incredibly wealthy, J.C. Penney's life was not devoid of setbacks and troubles.
When the Great Depression struck the country, it came at a time of great financial vulnerability for Penney. In the good times, before the Depression, Penney had overextended himself and had borrowed heavily to finance many of his ventures. But when the Depression hit, banks began to request repayment of his loans sooner than anticipated. Suddenly cash flow was tight, and Penney was finding it difficult to meet payment schedules. Constant and unrelenting worry began to take its toll. "I was so harassed with worries that I couldn't sleep, and developed an extremely painful ailment," he said.
Concerned about his deteriorating health, Penney checked himself into the Kellogg sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan.
"I got weaker day by day. I was broken nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for; I felt that I hadn't a friend left in the world, that even my family had turned against me."
Alarmed by his rapidly deteriorating condition, Dr. Eggleston gave Penney a sedative. However, the effect quickly wore off, and Penney awakened with the conviction that he was living the last night of his life. "Getting out of bed, I wrote farewell letters to my wife and to my son, saying that I did not expect to live to see the dawn."
Penney awakened the next morning, surprised to find himself alive. Making his way down the hallway of the hospital, he could hear singing coming from the little chapel where devotional exercises were held each morning. The words of the hymn he heard being sung spoke deeply to him. Going into the chapel, he listened to the singing, the reading of the Scripture lesson, and the prayer.
"Suddenly something happened," he said. "I can't explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into a warm, brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I had been transported from hell to Paradise. I felt the power of God as I had never felt it before." In a life-transforming instant Penney knew that God, with His love, was there to help. "From that day to this, my life has been free from worry," he declared. "The most dramatic and glorious 20 minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning." Here are the words of the hymn he heard that morning:
Be not dismayed whate'er betide, God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you.
God will take care of you, through every day, o'er all the way;
He will take care of you, God will take care of you.
Change your thinking.
There is nothing new under heaven, including all your problems. Problems are in 2 categories: the ones you can do something about and the ones you cannot. No amount of worry will resolve issues that are beyond you. The Bible contains many promises that will uplift even the most depressed individual. Get acquainted with them. Read them aloud several times a day. Check your thoughts. The Bible says we should take every thought captive. What am I thinking? Am I seeing things in a healthy way, or am I seeing everything as the end of the world? Continuing to live a life that is hypocritical is a huge cause of depression.
Share your problems with others believers. Problem shared is problem halved.
During a lecture on mental health someone once asked Dr. Carl Menninger: "What would you advise a person to do if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?" Most people thought he would say, "Go see a psychiatrist immediately," but he didn't. Much to everyone's astonishment, Dr. Menninger replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find somebody in need, and help that person." To overcome discouragement, "Don't focus on yourself; get involved in the lives of other people". Proverbs 11:25
Regular exercise toughens the mind as well as the body. After working out three times a week for six months, one group was found to be 20% fitter. Bonus: they also scored 70% better in a test of complex decision-making.
Not only does exercise improve the body and mind, it also improves the spirit of a person. It can help to relieve some of the effects of depression.
Let God, not problems be your Director.
Depression may be a signal to warn us that we need to deal with something. Is there some past trauma that we have not dealt with – loss, anger, abuse, poor decisions of the past, is there sin in my life? Norman Wright describes depression as being like a person in a deep pool of water, holding on to a large, heavy rock. The rock will pull us down. If we refuse to let it go, it will destroy us. It is not the rock that will destroy – it is our decision.