Healing for Depression
Warning: Depression is emotional despair that can end in suicide.
If you feel suicidal, or are trying to help someone who may be suicidal, click here.
The for the person who is suffering from sever depression, this may seem like a long study, do not give up. If you are trying to help a friend who is suffering from depression, I believe this study will give you many helps.
Table of Contents
How do we Define Depression?
Isaiah 53:3 ~ He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Before we try to find the cure for depression, lets try to define it. Though a little dry, the following definition comes from the Mayo Clinic.
The two symptoms key to establishing a diagnosis are:
1. Loss of interest in normal daily activities. You lose interest in or pleasure from activities that you used to enjoy.
2. Depressed mood. You feel sad, helpless or hopeless, and may have crying spells.
In addition, for a doctor or other health professional to diagnose depression, most of the following signs and symptoms also must be present for at least two weeks.
1. Sleep disturbances. Sleeping too much or having problems sleeping can be a sign you're depressed. Waking in the middle of the night or early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep are typical.
2. Impaired thinking or concentration. You may have trouble concentrating or making decisions and have problems with memory.
3. Changes in weight. An increased or reduced appetite and unexplained weight gain or loss may indicate depression.
4. Agitation. You may seem restless, agitated, irritable and easily annoyed.
5. Fatigue or slowing of body movements. You feel weariness and lack of energy nearly every day. You may feel as tired in the morning as you did when you went to bed the night before. You may feel like you're doing everything in slow motion, or you may speak in a slow, monotonous tone.
6. Low self-esteem. You feel worthless and have excessive guilt.
7. Less interest in sex. If you were sexually active before developing depression, you may notice a dramatic decrease in your level of interest in having sexual relations.
8. Thoughts of death. You have a persistent negative view of yourself, your situation and the future. You may have thoughts of death, dying or suicide.
Depression can also cause a wide variety of physical complaints, such as gastrointestinal problems (indigestion, constipation or diarrhea), headache and backache. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2008)
The Mayo Clinic staff compiled this list of symptoms from the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) bible, the DSM -IV-TR. At the time this is written, the DSM -IV-TR represents the current opinion of the APA, and was created in an attempt to standardize treatment for different mental disorders.
We should remember that in trying to diagnose depression, psychiatrists interpret the different symptoms subjectively. For instance, how much ''loss of interest in normal daily activities'' does it take for a healthcare professional to check that symptom? Therefore, in real life, the line between being temporally depressed and being diagnosed with clinical depression is subjective, and subject to change.
The public has a right to know that when they go to a therapist, they are almost certain to be given a psychiatric diagnosis, no matter how mild or normal their problems might be. It is unlikely that they will be told that a diagnosis will be written forever in their chart and that alarming consequences can result solely from having any psychiatric diagnosis. It would be disturbing enough if diagnosis was a thoroughly scientific process, but it is not, and its unscientific nature creates a vacuum into which biases of all kinds can rush. (Caplan, 2004)
Chemical Balancing is Not a Cure
It is also important to note that the Mayo Clinic's definition did not mention a chemical imbalance. This is because the relationship between depression and chemical imbalance is not as established as many in the mental health community would have us believe. According to Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey R. Lacasse's The Media and the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression , factual documentation for the chemical imbalance theory is rather sparse. If you know a patient who has been diagnosed with depression and told that they have a chemical imbalance, you should ask them one question. Was their diagnosis established by a blood test or with a behavioral questionnaire? Would your friend accept the diagnosis of a serious physical ailment, such as diabetes or cancer, from a doctor using a questionnaire instead of lab tests?
Admittedly, there is heated debate on the topic of chemical imbalance and both sides have firm convictions. Unfortunately, the the pharmaceutical companies (who make billions on this theory) have had a major influence in shaping the medical community's opinion. If you believe that chemical imbalance causes depression, then you will likely believe that counseling and lifestyle changes will be ineffective without prescribing psychotropic medication, the only real answer.
Even if the chemical structure of the brain were different in a person suffering from depression (this has not yet been established), that alone would not prove the chemical imbalance theory. For example, a person who is really angry will have a fast pulse and elevated blood pressure, but this does not prove that a fast pulse or the elevated blood pressure caused his anger.
If you accept the opinion that you have a chemical imbalance, the blame shifts from your behavior or worldview, to some outside force that you cannot control (in this case too much or not enough of a particular chemical). If you are wrong, you may spend the rest of your life medicated (many people do), yet you will never be healed. Even worse, when taking medication for depression it is easy to mistake the side effects of the medication for the symptoms of depression. In fact, every FDA approved drug for depression has ''suicidal thoughts'' as a side effect. To show this, I have prepared a spreadsheet that compares the symptoms of depression with all the side effects of the different psychotropic medication used to treat them.
Many people on psychotropic drugs have told me that the drugs help them deal with depression. This may be so, but at what cost? A lifetime addiction to prozac? Is there a numbness to life, or sacrifice in going through life with an altered state of consciousness? By using drugs to treat symptoms, does the person fail to deal with the underlying cause of his depression?
If you are currently taking a prescription drug for depression, do not stop taking the medication except under the care of a physician. Withdrawal symptoms from psychotropic drugs are dangerous, even life threatening. You should ask your mental healthcare professional about all the side effects and dangers associated with taking a prescription medication (and withdrawing from the medication) before you start taking any drug.
It is important to realize that there will always be ups and downs in life.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 ~ A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
However, as Americans we are conditioned to expect immediate healing. For instance, as we sit in front of the television, a sitcom will introduce some emotional problem and its solution in less than half an hour. During the commercials we are sold instant cures to all our problems. We are told that we deserve to always feel good. Have you ever wondered why the cure for almost everything is a pill? Do you have a headache? Take a pill. Stomach ache? Take a pill. Have an infection? Take a pill. Have an allergy? Take a pill. Have a runny nose? Pill. Leg cramps? Pill. This conditioning has been going on for a long time. Quoting Dr. Bernstein as early as 1973:
Prescription drugs are now a multibillion dollar industry. The public has been convinced that human problems such as anxiety, misbehavior, obesity, insomnia, overpopulation, sadness, rage, marital difficulty, and school adjustment all require medical attention. Once a problem is considered as a ''disease,'' it is easy to think of drugs as a cure (Bernstein and Leonard, 1973).
Has the pharmaceutical industry improved its advertising skill since 1973?
Unfortunately, when you do not understand depression, it becomes like a Chinese finger cuff: the harder you resist, the harder it grips. I am not against taking an antibiotic for an infection; they that are sick need a physician. I am opposed to doctors who prescribe antibiotics, or other medications, that are not in the patient's best interest; like the doctor who offered a new widow psychotropic drugs so she would not have to mourn her husband's death. Rainy days are a normal part of life. There are times when we need to mourn.
Matthew 9:15 ~ And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
The Prescription for Healing Depression
Even though there is a time to mourn, some people suffer from a depression that goes beyond normal grieving. If drugs are not the answer, then what is the cure?
Jeremiah 31:13 ~ Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
A life given to Christ
In the simplest terms, giving your life to Christ will cure depression. While this study will not offer an altar call until the very end, the cure offered in this study comes from the teachings of Jesus Christ. After many years, many scientists are starting to find out that following His teachings will lead to a sound mind. Those who have given their life to Him will concur with Jesus' statement:
John 10:10b ~ I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
This does not mean that we will not have trials or sorrows. It does mean that we can have joy and peace in the midst of our trials, and hope in the midst of our sorrows.
John 16:33 ~ These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Even so, don't many professing Christians also suffer from depression?
Luke 6:46 ~ And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Unfortunately, and at the risk of being offensive, many who profess to be Christian are not following the teaching of Jesus, even if they are practicing the traditions taught in their church. Many Pastors, instead of counseling the word of God to their congregation, have become a referral service for psychologists. In fact, pastors are the main referral service for the secular psychiatric community. In doing so, pastors ignore many biblical admonitions including:
Hebrews 13:9 ~ Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
1 Corinthians 3:19 ~ For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
Sigmund Freud hated Christianity, calling it a neurosis. Albert Ellis (perhaps the second most influential psychotherapist in history) felt religion hindered the fun of fornication and therefore was detrimental to mental health. Carol Rogers founded the Association for Humanistic Psychology. Maslow and Jung both thought that Christianity was, at best, mythology. Any Pastor who couches the teachings of someone who mocks or hates Christianity into his sermons is not teaching the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus warned,
Matthew 7:15 ~ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Paul also lamented:
Colossians 2:8 ~ Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
In order to protect yourself from these errors, it may be helpful to learn the contradictions between the Gospel and modern psychology . If you do not wish to be spoiled through philosophy, but rather to obey Jesus, you will see victory over not only depression, but other mental disorders, as well. Believing this, let us look at some of the specific precepts that Jesus taught.
For good mental health, stay open to counsel, accountability and exhortation.
1 Peter1:7 ~ That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
As we start to look at exhortation and accountability, we see two competing world views. The most popular is a belief in relativism and the other is a belief in absolute right and wrong. Absolute rights and wrongs are one reason that so many have a hard time submitting to Jesus.
Proverbs 9:8 ~ Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
John 3:19-20 ~ And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
Compare the above scriptures with the methods of secular counselors, who treat their patients' depression by trying to increase their self-esteem. In such cases, the patient must return week after week to have their lifestyle affirmed. The psychiatrist of a patient I personally knew, told her to avoid people who did not affirm her choices, ''they are dangerous people.'' After this, the patient could no longer receive correction from family or friends. In obedience to her doctor, she regarded those who would not affirm her decisions as dangerous and avoided them. Unfortunately, as the result of making poor decisions, she suffered with depression for the rest of her short life, which ended in suicide (using pills prescribed by her 'safe' psychiatrist).
Proverbs 14:12 ~ There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
It is more natural to look for affirmation, than it is to admit a fault when we have done something wrong. For example, Jane Doe has an abortion. Her boyfriend, parents, even her pastor pressured Jane into it. These friends told her that she had no choice; that carrying this untimely baby to term would ruin her life.
Countless women receive the same counsel every day. If we look into Jane's future, we would not be surprised to see her, years later, actively counseling other women to also get an abortion. In counseling others, Jane is trying to reaffirm her own choice that she made years earlier. At this point, Jane has closed her mind to any counsel or exhortation that may be critical of her earlier choice.
Jane is still hurting from her abortion , which is common. However, as long as she remains closed to self-examination, she will never heal. Jane's mind is telling her that she had no choice and that it was only a blob of tissue. Jane's psychiatrist is telling her that she has a chemical imbalance. Yet deep down Jane's own heart is telling her, ''I killed my baby.''
While untreated post-abortion syndrome is one source of depression in women, any sin that has hurt others will cause depression. Real deliverance comes when we recognize and purge our hearts of these secret sins. In order to see how we have hurt others, and in order to overcome our weakness, accountability, and even criticism, can be very helpful.
If you are open to receiving correction, use the Bible as your final authority. You can judge every admonition by it. If unsure on the meaning of a scripture verse, err on the side of literalism. Be sure to the exegete (get your doctrine from) scripture, not eisegete (read your personal beliefs into your interpretation of) scripture. Beware of loyalties to family, culture, and even the church in regards to interpreting the Word of God.
Acts 17:11 ~ The [Berean's] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Always give credibility to scripture over your own experience. Our own limited experiences can be misinterpreted, subjective and deceptive. For example, most people, if they judged by nothing but their own personal experience, would conclude that the world is flat.
More Bible passages on the topic:
2 Timothy 3:16 ~ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Revelation 3:19 ~ [Jesus said:] As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Good mental health needs a good diet and exercise
Proverbs 13:4 ~ The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
Interestingly when I searched Yahoo for "bible diet" the word 'diet pills' came up 20 times on the first page. While the Bible is silent on junk food, Moses did spend a lot of time telling the Hebrews what they could and could not eat. Without being carried away worrying about diet, we can see that some of the symptoms of depression, like fatigue or weight loss, could be diet related (or at least related to the additives and preservatives in food).
As we start out on our quest for a sound mind, we should look briefly at diet and exercise. And we will start this by looking at part of a news article from Reuters Health:
A number of studies have found that physically active people are less likely than couch potatoes to suffer depression. Some clinical trials have shown regular exercise can help treat the disorder, and perhaps be as effective as antidepressant drugs in some cases.
The new findings suggest that exercise can even help people whose symptoms have been resistant to medication, according to the study authors. (Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, 2007)
This study implies that if you are sitting around glued to the TV you are probably suffering from more symptoms of depression than if you are a physically active person. And the same thing goes for your diet. When Moses gave the law to the Hebrews, he inserted many dietary requirements. Even doctors who believe in the chemical imbalance theory should see the importance of a balanced diet and try this approach before prescribing a drug cocktail. Avoiding the chemicals in processed foods and supplying the proper nourishment for the body to function properly makes sense, even if you are not suffering from depression.
When a person is suffering from depression, they often neglect their responsibilities. The piling up of these neglected responsibilities only aggravates the depression. Understanding this, for part your daily exercise simply tackle on one responsibility each day. One day, it may be to pay some bills (getting out of bed), the next day it may be to clean out the refrigerator or do a load of laundry to completion.
Ephesians 5:14-16 ~ Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
The healing power of forgiveness
Proverbs 11:17 ~ The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
When discipling troubled people, I have seen one very common problem that arises with monotonous regularity: unforgiveness. ''I can't ever forgive him'' and ''You don't know what he has done'' are common phrases. Often the one who will not forgive becomes a bitter person, suffering from many physical and psychological disorders, while the offender goes through life blissfully unaware of the problem.
Studies on the subject of forgiveness did not appear in the mental health community until the 1980's. Prior to that time, it was a practice primarily taught in the Christian faith. Loren Toussaint of Luther University and her colleagues were the first psychologists to establish a long-term link between a person's health and their propensity to forgive.
Before we try to understand forgiveness, we should probably wade through the confusion and understand what forgiveness is not. First, a victim does not have to return to a place of vulnerability in order to forgive. Similarly, forgiveness does not mean that you have to restore fellowship with the offender. Depending on the transgression, restored fellowship may not come until the person who committed the offence repents and asks for forgiveness. The transgressor may even need accountability to prevent further transgressions. Thus, gentlemen, do not fool around and then try to tell your wife or girlfriend that it is in her self-interest to forgive you. The apostle Paul said:
Ephesians 5:11 ~ And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
Next, forgiveness is not belittling the transgression, and it is not necessary to play the situation down in order to forgive. When receiving an apology, a victim need not answer, ''That's okay, it was nothing''. Offences can be as great as murder and still be forgiven.
Acts 7:59-60 ~ And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. [died]
Finally, forgiveness is not taking the blame, or even partial blame, for the offence. Do not feel like you must take partial responsibility in order to forgive the offender, unless you really are partly responsible for the offense.
Then what does it mean to forgive? The New Testament definition for forgiveness, as Jesus forgave us:
1) release from bondage or imprisonment
2) forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed),
remission of the penalty
In talking about sin, Jesus often used the example of debt. Once you have marked the balance as zero, the person no longer owes you anything. Going further, when you forgive, try to empathize with the offenders plight, wish him well and move on, whether the offender is sorry or not.
Forgiveness is a skill that you can and may have to learn. Researchers have discovered:
Often just a couple of short sessions in which the wounded are guided toward positive feelings for an offender can improve cardiovascular function, diminish chronic pain, relieve depression and boost quality of life among the very ill. (Healy, 2008)
When a person says, ''I cannot forgive him'' this is because the victim has not learned how to forgive, not because the offender has done something unforgivable. Jesus isn't asking us to do something that He Himself wasn't willing to live out. Even in his death, He gave us a perfect example. While he was nailed to a cross:
Luke 23:34 ~ Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they [the soldiers who just nailed him to the cross] parted his raiment, and cast lots.
In the last decade, those studying and preaching forgiveness have found many health benefits. Even so, there is still confusion in the mental health community concerning forgiveness. Some psychologists find the new science of forgiveness troubling. They are afraid that when a patient is pressured to forgive it may be psychologically damaging. To quote Jeanne Safer, a New York psychoanalyst and author of Must We Forgive:
For many patients, forgiveness is a double-whammy: First someone (hurts) you, and then it's your fault you don't want to embrace them in heaven. I'm not against forgiveness; I'm against compulsory forgiveness with no choice. And I'm against ''forgiveness lite,'' which keeps you from feeling the intensity of the experience, from deeply grappling with what's been done to you. (Healy, 2008)
Ms. Safer is partially right, there is a double-whammy. First, someone hurts you. However, she is wrong on the second whammy; the second whammy is when the victim suffers from ongoing depression and other health disorders as the result of being unable or unwilling to forgive.
As a psychoanalyst, Safer believes that you must go into the past and be ''grappling with what's been done to you''. Some psychologists believe that you must also vent your anger (which is the opposite of forgiveness) before you can experience healing. It should be no wonder that it's a normal thing for patients to spend their whole lives in psychoanalysis without being cured. With such an aversion to forgiveness, Ms. Safer is probably unable to forgive someone herself.
In another example, Linda Davis, executive director of Survivors of Incest Anonymous, also has concerns with forgiveness.
Among victims of incest, many of whom have turned blame inward or fear that forgiveness entails reconciliation with an abuser, pressure to forgive can be stressful and sometimes impossible
I always tell ministers, ''Don't use the F-word.'' [Forgiveness].
You have to get to a place of acceptance, forgiveness is a bonus. You don't have to get there. (Healy, 2008)
In defining forgiveness as turning blame inward and restoring fellowship with an unrepentant molester (placing the victim in a vulnerable position), Davis does not understand what forgiveness is. In telling ministers never to use the word forgiveness, comparing it to the F-word, it sounds like Linda Davis is also unable to forgive someone. Any pastor who will not teach forgiveness is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Mark 11:25-26 ~ And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
While Davis and many other psychologists resist the idea of forgiving,
A study at the University of Northern Iowa of psychological treatment plans for adult women who had been victims of childhood incest found that those who went through forgiveness therapy experienced less anxiety and clinical depression than a control group. Gains for the forgiveness group also persisted after the therapy ended. (Todd McPherson, Bandar Seri Begawan , 2008)
If you need to learn how to forgive, you must go to someone who is able to practice and teach it.
There is more confusion concerning forgiveness in the mental health community. Another mistake is in a form of psychotherapy called Recovered Memories. This is where the therapist asks leading questions (often combined with drugs, hypnosis and or suggestive dream interpretation) in an attempt to recover a patient's lost memories.
This therapy, the opposite of forgiveness, is dangerous. Though it has recently been debunked and there are lawsuits against recovered memory therapists, there are still counselors practicing it. Numerous individuals, some whom I have known personally, have falsely remembered and ‘relived' horrendous experiences that never happened.
Other psychotherapies are also preoccupied with revisiting your childhood. Yet, it is unprofitable, even counterproductive to look up past wrongs if you do not intend to forgive them. If you want healing, do not keep revisiting past wrongs in your mind. Healing comes when we forgive others for past wrongs and then move on.
Philippians 3:13 ~ Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.
Lastly, some confusion exists since some psychologists have gotten forgiveness completely backwards, teaching patients that they must forgive themselves. Other relativistic psychologists believe that there is no right or wrong. Does this mean that there is no such thing as forgiveness? Advertisements like the following are common.
If you are feeling depressed or anxious or stressed out, you might feel like you are a bad person or have done something wrong. This is not true, but it can be hard to shake that off by yourself. As a compassionate, ... (NetworkTherapy.com, 2008)
But if ''you are a bad person or have done something wrong'' (we all have) this counselor's help will be useless and even counterproductive.
Isaiah 48:22 ~ There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.
Jesus did not brush our transgressions aside; he paid for them.
Galatians 1:4 ~ Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.
Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins, a death on a cross. When we realize what Jesus went through, the thought ''I can't be forgiven'' is replaced with thankfulness that He paid the cost to forgive us.
Acts 3:19 ~ Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
Forgiving yourself can be meaningless. Like owing yourself money, the debit is balanced by the credit, there is nothing to forgive. Forgiving oneself may also be counterproductive, if it is not accompanied by repentance and reconciliation. When you try to reconcile, you cannot expect the one you hurt to return to a vulnerable position. If someone needs to forgive you, go to the one you have hurt, ask them for their forgiveness, and try to reconcile with them (as far as possible), and then move on. One also ought to ask forgiveness from God. When that is received, there is tranquility.
Matthew 5:23-24 ~ Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Traditionally, forgiveness has been thought of as only a blessing extended to the transgressor (and it is true that the person who truly forgives has made a personal sacrifice), but scientific studies have proven that the healing power of forgiving extends to the one willing to forgive, as well. Let us look at a few quotes from three different sources:
Worthington, who is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a pioneer in forgiveness research, has found that people who won't forgive the wrongs committed against them tend to have negative indicators of health and well-being: more stress-related disorders, lower immune-system function, and worse rates of cardiovascular disease than the population as a whole. […]
In contrast people who forgive, Worthington finds, may have better health, fewer episodes of clinical depression, longer marriages and better ''social support,'' another indicator of well-being. […]
Another study of elderly women, published in the journal Psychotherapy, found that those who scored well on a standard test of forgiveness traits had higher self-esteem and fewer episodes of anxiety and depression compared to those who scored poorly. (Easterbrook, 2002)
Those more inclined to pardon the transgressions of others have been found to have lower blood pressure, fewer depressive symptoms and, once they hit late middle age, better overall mental and physical health than those who do not forgive easily. (Healy, 2008)
So how can you know that you have forgiven successfully? As one who has also struggled with forgiveness in the past, I suggest praying for the power to forgive until the ill feelings toward the wrongdoer are gone. Later, if evil thoughts toward the one who wronged you reappear, say the same prayer all over until the thoughts are gone. Do this until you can think of the offender without having ill will toward him. I know it sounds simple, but sometimes the most simple methods can be the most effective.
There are two simple ways to recognize success. First, if you hear good news about the person and are happy for them, you have forgiven them. Second, if you hear bad news about the person and are sad for them, you have forgiven them. If their good news upsets you, or their bad news makes you happy, go back and pray.
As a Christian, we can meditate on the price that Jesus paid for our sins. Only the most stubborn person will not try to forgive or will believe they are still unable to forgive. For those people Jesus taught a parable of a king reviewing his servants accounts:
Matthew 18:24-35 ~ And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshiped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
The healing power of charity
Proverbs 13:7 ~ There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
If there were two characteristics that stood out in our culture, the first would be materialism and the second would be emptiness; an emptiness that often borders on depression. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five adult Americans are suffering from a mental disorder at any given time. One of the most common disorders is depression, and one of the main reasons for depression is selfishness. If you wish to overcome depression, you must start giving of your time and resources.
Acts 20:35 ~ I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed [fortunate, well off, happy] to give than to receive.
The disciples of Jesus have taught this for a long time, and now modern science is starting to concur. For instance, in a recent study, researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University asked Canadian students to rate their happiness. Then at random, they gave each student an envelope containing from five to twenty dollars. The researchers instructed half of the students to spend this money on themselves, the other half were to buy a gift for someone else.
That evening the students were called together again and asked to rate their happiness. According to the researchers, the amount of money they spent had no impact on their happiness; however, those assigned to buy something for another person reported greater happiness than those who purchased things for themselves. (Schmid, 2008)
These results should not be surprising; one group spent a significant portion of that day:
- Thinking about their own selves while they spent the money.
- Buying something to please only their selves.
- Trying to gratify a desire with a material object.
The other group spent a significant portion of that day:
- Thinking about someone else while they spent the money.
- Shopping for someone else.
- Imagining the happiness of another person receiving the gift.
- Seeing the happiness of the person to whom they surprised with the gift.
These same researchers did other studies that reached the same conclusion. Yet, we need only look to our own experiences to see the same thing. A person who is continually selfish will very likely be suffering many symptoms of depression. If your therapist has told you that you must love yourself more, do not be surprised if his advise has bought you no relief from your depression.
In light of these findings, one counselor has come up with a simple yet effective 12-step program to overcome depression.
- Step one - Donate time, energy and talent to sacrificially help someone else. You
must not expect or desire to receive any personal compensation in return.
- Steps two through twelve - Repeat step one.
- If this does not cure your depression, go through the program again.
1 Corinthians 16:14 ~ Let all your things be done with charity.
As a Christian, we can take this therapy further. Jesus taught:
Luke 6:26-38 ~ But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Children of the Highest have the hope which makes it possible to genuinely love their enemies; to give, expecting nothing in return, becomes not only possible, but also becomes a pleasure when we believe that we are giving to Jesus.
Matthew 25:40b ~ [Jesus speaking:] Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The healing power of thankfulness
Hebrews 13:5 ~ Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Practicing charity is a good beginning; now let us look at our preoccupation with worldly possessions. As already mentioned, Americans are hit with hundreds of advertisements daily, none of which would be effective were it not for our covetous nature. We are constantly told that if we buy a coveted product we'll be happy, and that making our neighbors envy us will bring contentment. If these promises are true, then why are we not only deeply in debt, but still suffering depression? Americans have more material possessions, and at the same time suffer from more mental illnesses, than ever before. Living for worldly possessions does not bring happiness, it enslaves us.
Ecclesiastes 5:12 ~ The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
Even in prosperity, and often because of prosperity, we succumb to despair, confusion and depression. To see this clearly, next time you are in line at the supermarket look at the tabloids at the checkout counter. They reveal the lives of our Hollywood role models; the very people who have arrived at the pinnacle of worldly success are often the most miserable. Brad Pitt gave a candid interview in Rolling Stone Magazine.
Pitt: Man, I know all these things are supposed to seem important to us - the car, the condo, our version of success - but if that's the case, why is the general feeling out there reflecting more impotence and isolation and desperation and loneliness? If you ask me, I say toss all this - we gotta find something else. Because all I know is that at this point in time, we are heading for a dead end, a numbing of the soul, a complete atrophy of the spiritual being. And I don't want that.
Rolling Stone: So if we're heading toward this kind of existential dead end in society, what do you think should happen?
Pitt: Hey, man, I don't have those answers yet. The emphasis now is on success and personal gain. I'm sitting in it, and I'm telling you, that's not it. I'm the guy who's got everything. I know. But I'm telling you, once you've got everything, then you're just left with yourself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it doesn't help you sleep any better, and you don't wake up any better because of it. (Testimonies, 2008)
The problem of depression is bigger than just Hollywood. Look at some of the greatest men in history. Alexander the Great died of alcoholism at a young age. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon went insane for seven years (Daniel chapter four). Solomon, an ancient king of Israel whose wealth and power was supreme, came to the same conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 2:10 11 ~ And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy … and, behold, all was vanity [emptiness] and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
Jesus Himself taught:
Luke 12:15 ~ Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
If you harbor thoughts like, ''If I only had this, I would be happy'', you are only deceiving yourself. If you are jealous or envious of another person, your covetousness is keeping you from being content with what you currently possess. In order to overcome depression you must replace covetous thoughts with thankfulness.
Colossians 3:15 ~ And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
1 Timothy 6:8 ~ And having food and raiment [a covering] let us be therewith content.
1 John 2:15 ~ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Romans 1:21-22 ~ Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
''He who dies with the most toys wins.'' is the best hope that unbelievers have. From the Christian perspective, though, he who dies with the most toys is still dead. Not to covet is foolishness to the worldly person, wisdom the to Christian, and healing to the person suffering from depression.
Peter warns the self-gratifying hedonists:
1 Peter 4:2-4 ~ That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.
It is interesting to note that those who live to party think ill of the one who begins to think soberly. Yet those very same hedonists have empty lives, doing recreational drugs to forget their emptiness.
In closing I would like to point out that not many people teach thankfulness because there is no money in it. It's easy, on the other hand, to exploit another's covetousness.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 ~ But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
The healing power of humility
Let us define humility as a willingness to surrender our rights. It is this aspect of humility that we will examine in this chapter.
Case History #1 Dining at a restaurant
Imagine that you are traveling to visit relatives, and stop at a restaurant for a quick bite to eat. The service is slow; you are finally seated in a drafty corner, and served stale coffee. The waitress must have been waiting for your cell phone to ring as a signal to deliver the food; her timing could not have been worse. Your bacon is over cooked, your eggs are under cooked and all the food is cold; how is this possible? You look the hash browns; you remember having ordered the fruit salad instead. The only thing that went right is that the waitress never came back to refill your coffee.
Case History #2 Now imagine that a couple of hours later you are at a hospital with severe stomach pain.
The room is cold and small. The nurse is making tracks in your arm trying to start the IV which infiltrates (goes bad) a few hours later. As if that wasn't enough, your pain is not being controlled by the medication, and the nurse is slow to respond to the call light. If you thought the restaurant food was lacking, we will not discuss the hospital food. Besides, you are too busy filling out the paperwork to complain about the food. When you are finally able to leave the hospital, you are amazed that they didn't amputate your leg by mistake - What!? Your car has been towed.
Okay so your day didn't go this bad. But if you eat out often, chances are that many things in the first example have happened to you. Same with our hospital example: this list of complaints (except the leg and towed car) is a common one.
During the day things go wrong; people do not treat you the way you want or deserve. So what do you do? You have two choices: you can demand your rights, or you can surrender them. Your choice will often determine how pleasant your day will go. This was brought home to me a few summers ago.
My wife and I were driving up Highway 101 when we entered into a construction zone. A sign warned us to expect delays. Shortly thereafter traffic came to a stop. During the next hour and a half traffic moved about a hundred yards. We were all getting frustrated with the road crew's incompetence, when some poor construction worker walked by. A driver from a few cars back got out of his car walked up to him, angrily demanded the name of his foreman, etc.
Here is the point: This driver felt that he had a right to not be blocked in traffic; he probably paid his taxes. When somebody infringes on his rights, and that person is going to pay for it. In this case, it was the foreman.
When the worker got a chance to speak, he said that there had been an accident up ahead. A logging truck had hit a car. There were fatalities, and everyone had stopped what they were doing and were trying to save the other lives.
I had been trying to be patient, but if I had known there was an accident with fatalities, I would have been much more patient. In fact, I might have thought of things to be thankful for. The truth is I could have been thankful anyway; if I had been, my afternoon would have been a lot less unpleasant. If I had vented my frustration, it would have done nothing to help the victims, move the traffic, or bless the foreman.
Reap what we sow
I recently interviewed a nurse (we will call her name Mary) about some of her hard cases. She told me about a patient (we will call her Jane) in her mid forties who was in the hospital, being treated for an abscess.
Jane was always complaining, for it was always either to hot or to cold. The room was to small, or, "Oh, why did you put cell phone so far away?"
Jane and the hospital meals did not mix. Though she was always sorry for being "picky this one time. I am not a picky person but ..." Once she ordered ice cream and chocolate milk, unfortunately the kitchen was out of chocolate milk. Jane was so upset she would not eat the ice cream.
Another time when dinner was served, Jane complained that she did not want beef soup; she wanted chicken soup. When the chicken soup arrived she thanked, Mary by saying, "This soup tastes like vomit, why did you give it to me?"
As a Christian, Mary bent over backwards to give all her patients excellent care, even the ungrateful ones. When she asked Jane how she was doing, (though they may dread hearing the answer, nurses have to ask that question). Jane always complained about things the nurse needed to fix, when she was done complaining about those, she went on to complain about the things she could not fix. Things like the doctor's decision, medications; it was continual ten-minute stories of how life was miserable and unfair.
Medically Jane would have been an easy patient, however, always demanding what she believed was her due, she needed constant attention.
Mary said nothing to me about this woman being depressed, but I did not need to be told. At this point in her story, I interrupted her, "No doubt she suffers from depression". Mary answered that she had in fact been diagnosed with depression. I continued, "And for her treatment, no doubt, the doctor prescribed medication". After reflecting, she answered that Jane was indeed on depression medication. So what is the real cure for someone in her situation? It is to surrender her rights. Here are some scripture passages on which to meditate.
Matthew 5:39, 44 ~ But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. [...] But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Romans 12:12 ~ Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.
Romans 12:20 ~ Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Rather than dwelling on how people wrong us, we should be praying for and thinking of how to bless those same people. In our imaginary restaurant scenario, instead of getting upset with the waitress, think of ways to bless her. In the hospital scenario, when the nurse was slow to respond, in that situation how could you bless her? Maybe she was having a hard day, too. Anyone who wishes to overcome depression must learn to get even by overcoming evil with good.
Romans 12:21 ~ Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Not only do we have God working miraculously to heal us when we obey Him, there also is some common sense in following this pattern. For instance, in the first scenario, the waitress is slow to seat you. You have two choices: you can be pleasant (thankful to be seated), or you can complain (you suffered, so now she should suffer). Our common response to poor service backfires; she knows that any visit she makes to your table will be greeted with complaints, and will now avoid you at your own expense. Why should she take care of you, at this point? You will not tip her anyway. The truth is that, good or bad, we often make our own luck.
What about my rights?
Forgetting the waitress, some may argue that, as Americans, we have rights! In fact, our founding fathers gave us the Bill of Rights, and we expect others to show consideration for our rights. However, if you want the healing power of Christ, you must realize that, as a Christian, you have no rights. Jesus said:
Mark 10:44 ~ And whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all.
The Greek word for servant is δοῦλος (pronounced doo' los), which literally means a slave. Neither slaves nor Christians have rights. Jesus Himself set an example for us in becoming a servant.
Philippians 2:7 ~ But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
In fact, as Christians, God expects us to be content with food and a covering.
1 Timothy 6:6, 8 ~ But godliness with contentment is great gain. [...] And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
When we understand that everything we possess, beyond food and clothing, is not our due, but is extra, it should produce thankfulness. So in the imaginary hospital scene, you can complain about the cold room and the paper work, or you can be grateful that you had a hospital to go to in your time of need.
Deuteronomy 8:14a, 17-18a ~ Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, [...] And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.
In our culture of personal rights, we often forget, or fail even to understand, the healing power that comes from surrendering our rights. What our patient needs for healing is a dose of humility.
The healing power of love
Matthew 22:39 ~ And the second [commandment] is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
What does it mean to love your neighbor? The definition of love that has withstood the test of time was given to us by the apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 13:3-8a ~ And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.
Love is more than giving to the poor or dying for a cause; it is the motive for doing these things. Jesus also defined perfect love:
John 15:13 ~ Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
True love doesn't give in order to get something in return, rather, it gives for the sole benefit of the other person.
Matthew 5:44-46 ~ But I [Jesus] say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
John 13:35 ~ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Often a part of loving others is making friends. Humans are social creatures; while we can survive in solitary confinement, we cannot thrive in solitary confinement.
The only two things that can satisfy the soul are a person and a story; and even a story must be about a person. - G. K. Chesterton
If we need companionship in order to be fulfilled, then companionship can also help in a struggle with depression. Sometimes it is hard to make friends, especially good ones. Be careful, many forms companionship are unhealthy. The embrace of a pickpocket is not love.
Some keys to making friendships are:
Learn friendly behavior
Proverbs 18:24 ~ A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Do not talk about yourself.
When you are trying to make a friend, do not talk about yourself. Talk about your friend and ask them questions about themselves, taking an interest their lives. Be sure to sit quietly and let them talk; do not interrupt. People who monopolize conversations are not popular.
Proverbs 17:27-28 ~ He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Proverbs 29:5 ~ A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.
People can usually tell when they are being flattered. While a sincere complement will bind friends closer together, insincerity never will.
Proverbs 28:23 ~ He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue.
Do not overstay your visit with friends. There have been times when I have visited a lonely person, and they would not let me leave without showing me one more thing and telling one more story (which led to showing one more thing and telling one more story). It's like the telemarketer who won't hang up until he's sold his product. Will your friend come back if he is made to feel insensitive when finally tearing himself away? Often loneliness causes this behavior and this behavior causes more loneliness. Though wanting to visit a lonely person, it can be difficult to do, unless one has time to spare.
Proverbs 25:17 ~ Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
Do not be a gossip
This rule is important for close friendships. Do not try to build up yourself up in the eyes of your friends by putting other people down. It does not work; the conversation won't be that enjoyable and your friends will suspect that you also talk about them the same way, behind their backs.
Proverbs 18:8 ~ The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Forgiveness and charity
We have already talked about forgiveness and charity. These two qualities will make a person popular.
Proverbs 18:16 ~ A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
Proverbs 19:6 ~ Many will entreat the favor of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.
Learn where to look for friends
Avoid the bar scene.
Bars are full of lonely dysfunctional people. This is often because they have not learned the rules of friendly behavior. The guy in the bar will be friendly because he, like the pickpocket, wants an embrace - not because he really cares about you. Until he starts to think about others, instead of himself, he will suffer from mental disorders, and it is only after you get to know him that you will see this baggage. When these relationships breaks up, it leaves even more baggage, including depression.
Proverbs 13:20 ~ He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Another reason for picking your companions carefully is that a person is known by the friends he keeps. One, who might otherwise be a good friend, may avoid you if he is trying to avoid trouble himself.
Find a church
The basic biblical definition of church is ‘an assembly of people.' In a good church, you will find friends who will genuinely care for you.
John 13:35 ~ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
While dysfunctional people often go to church too, those who are trying to overcome their trials can be healthy friends. In fact, Bible studies and informal accountability groups are very healthy.
Proverbs 17:17 ~ A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Hebrews 10:24-25a ~ And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another.
Watch out for cults
A cult is not the same thing as the church . While the church should be known for the love we have for one another, those who have come out of a cult will tell you that belonging to a cult is more like being in slavery. The danger comes when cults members flatter lonely people, by given them attention, to recruitment them.
Recognize that God is your best companion
Sometimes, even when you have done everything right, you may still be lonely. In these times, it is good to know that Jesus himself has given us the promise of His and the Father's fellowship. Jesus said:
John 14:16-23 ~ And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever ; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
To explain what God dwelling with us is like is difficult, so to many this may sound overly simplistic, but it is hard to suffer chronic depression when you have an intimate friendship with God.
Controlling our Thoughts
Do chemical imbalances cause depression, or is depression the fruit of our preoccupations? Is it possible that our thoughts are the engine and our feelings the caboose? In the Bible, Moses records an interesting view about the thoughts of men:
Genesis 6:5 ~ And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Many years later Jesus showed up on the scene. The apostle John said this of Him:
John 2:24-25 ~ But Jesus did not commit himself unto [his fellow countrymen], because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
What do you spend your time thinking about? What do you watch on television? What type of jokes do you think are funny? Would you like to share your thoughts with Jesus? If you had been entertaining Him last night, would you have watched something different on television? Would you have turned the TV off? Is it not strange how some of us do not wish to overcome our old nature? Do we imagine that we can entertain ourselves with wrong thoughts now, and then when we get to heaven will somehow desire only good thoughts?
Hebrews 12:13-15 ~ And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.
If God did make us, then it would make sense that filling our minds with things that offend Him will cause us mental and emotional problems. For this reason, the apostle Paul taught:
Philippians 4:8 ~ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
You can control your thoughts. It takes practice, and occasionally you may slip up, but as you practice dwelling on good thoughts your disposition (and symptoms of depression) will improve. Does this mean we are not subject to chemical imbalances? No. It is just that we should use thoughts, not medication, to balance our chemicals. We all know that if you tell a scary story around the campfire to a group of boys, they'll get an adrenalin rush. The best way to calm them down so they'll sleep later is not to medicate, but to redirect their thoughts. A psychiatrist's recommendation to medicate depression is an oversimplification of the problem. A single living cell is far more complex than a space shuttle. If a space shuttle had a glitch, would dousing the control panel with chemicals really counter-balance the problem? Yet psychiatrists think that drugging the human brain, which is made up of billions of these complex, living cells, is an adequate solution. If medicating really balances the chemicals, then why do these medications so often have suicidal and other dangerous side effects?
If God wants us to control our thoughts, then it is possible to do so.
2 Corinthians 10:5 ~ Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Proverbs 16:3 ~ Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.
AND if he wants us to get the victory over depression, then it is possible to do so.
2 Timothy 1:7 ~ For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ~ There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
When it seems impossible to control your own thoughts, go to Jesus on His terms, and He will help. Jesus said:
John 6:37 ~ All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Realize that all things work together for good.
Many people with depression also suffer symptoms of anxiety. Our last prescription for overcoming depression is to overcome anxiety by looking at our trials in a positive light. This is more than learning to accept what happens, we must realize that trials like chastisements are good for us. According to the Apostle Paul:
Romans 8:28 ~ And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
If you believe this truth, you will look at your troubles differently. As Jesus said to Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. If people could realize that the problems they are worried about are allowed by God for their good, rather than stress, they would have peace.
Once when I was in manufacturing, I made a big mistake, costing the company I worked for thousands of dollars. I was worried that we would lose our client, which at that time could have been a fatal blow to the company. Adding long hours and some other problems to this, I began to suffer an anxiety attack which fortunately brought me to a point of prayer, during which I recalled the above verse. In professing to love God and believing that He was in control, I was able to accept that all things work together for good. My mind was refreshed, and my anxiety left, replaced by the hope that I would learn quickly whatever God was trying to teach me. With the anxiety gone, I was able to function again and continue in my responsibilities, which I was not able to do in my anxiety. Finally, most of the things I had been worried about never came to pass (most never do).
A Christian worldview will help you to see differently the situations that are causing your anxiety and depression. Some passages in the Scripture speaking on our present suffering include:
Hebrews 12:5-8,11 ~ And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. […] Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
2 Corinthians 4:17 ~ For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
And here is an interesting Scripture verse.
Hebrews 5:8 ~ Though he were a Son, yet [Jesus] learned obedience by the things which he suffered.
With the right worldview, our trials should produce hope, not depression.
Romans 5:3-4 ~ And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.
Many true stories could be told of overcoming depression by realizing that all things work together for good. If you believe this, you can endure any situation that He places you in. But it is more than that; one who has experienced the love of God would rather be in tight spot with Him than to have all the world's pleasures without Him. For an amazing example of the peace of God in a tight spot, look at Polycarp, an early church leader:
Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place.
The proconsul then urged him, saying, ''Swear, and I will release thee;--reproach Christ.'' [All Polycarp had to do at this point was deny Jesus, and they would have released him]
Polycarp answered, ''Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?'' (Fox's Book of Martyrs)
Even with Polycarp's troubles, because of his faith it was impossible for him to suffer from anxiety or depression. No doubt without Christ Polycarp would have been overwhelmed with distress, willing to do nearly anything to negotiate a release. But knowing that all things work for good to them that love the Lord, Polycarp could embrace his trial. Did it work for good? Yes, he went immediately to his glory, and he has left us encouragement and a glorious testimony. He, of all people, had reason to suffer from anxiety and depression, but he did not, because his King had saved him.
Reviewing the cure in outline form:
A sound mind comes from obedience to the teachings of Jesus.
A life given to Christ
Isaiah 26:3 ~ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Openness to counsel, accountability and exhortation
Mark 4:12 ~ That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 ~ Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
A good diet and exercise
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ~ What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
Colossians 3:13 ~ Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Matthew 5:44-45 ~ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Hebrews 13:5 ~ Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
James 4:10 ~ Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
James 2:8 ~ If ye fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well.
Controlling your thoughts
2 Corinthians 10:5 ~ Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Knowing that all thing work together for good
1 Peter 4:12-13 ~ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
Addiction to depression:
Up until this point we have discussed the cure for depression, but we have not yet covered one important point: being addicted to depression. All sin is addictive, and, unbelievably, so is depression. If you do not believe that all sin is addictive, name one that isn't, and be sure to let me know!
Nobody likes feeling depressed; why or how could somebody become addicted to the symptoms of depression? While it is different for each person, some possibilities include:
- It has become their identity; many do not know the way out.
- Depression gives the sufferer an opportunity to be the center of attention (it is being the center of attention, not the depression that this person needs).
- It is easier to lay in bed with depression, than to get up and do something about it.
- Some would rather be depressed than forgive or be thankful (maybe they are trying to punish somebody).
Matthew 13:15 ~ For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Once you understand the addictive nature of sin, you will realize that as you resist the temptation to sin, in time its attraction will diminish. Some may get angry with me for implying that they like to be depressed. However, I did not say that, I am saying that they are addicted to their depression. It is because of this addiction they will not do the things necessary to be cured.
John 8:34-36 ~ Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Psalms 144:15 ~ Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.
To those of you who are suffering with depression, why not give your life to the Lord?
Matthew 11:28-30 ~ Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Authored by Jeff Barnes
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Quoted from a Google book review.
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