In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. Psalm 118:5
Mental health authorities say that at any given time 17% of the general populace is struggling with some kind of depression. If that’s true, and I have no reason to doubt it, one in five (more than two-thirds of them women) are struggling with the malady, this virus of your happiness and joy. If you are one of them, make a note of some simple guidelines which help you determine where you are and where you need to go for help.
First, ask yourself, am I really there or only suffering from a momentary set-back of some kind. That means you need to recognize some of the symptoms of the malady. Early warning signs of depression are withdrawal, difficulty in facing situations and people, procrastination, disregarding your appearance, a change in appetite, and a search for an escape of some kind or other, including drugs, alcohol, or the inability to pry yourself away from the TV.
Next, take inventory of how your habit patterns have changed. You used to take long walks and exercised regularly, but you find it more and more difficult to get out of bed, you avoid people, and you prefer to keep the blind pulled and watch TV. When that begins to be a pattern, you are yielding to depression. It’s hard to feel depressed when you see blue sky and green grass, when you walk on the beach, or on a trail, or rise early in the morning and walk briskly for a couple of miles.
Then ask yourself, “Have I caused my problem and is there something that I know that I should do to eliminate the situation?” Some depression is the result of allowing ourselves to get cornered or trapped. We allow something we ought not to, or we’re doing something which we know is wrong. You are allowing something in your life which you constantly try to cover, and you’re afraid of the consequences. No wonder you want to withdraw and climb into a hole.
“OK,” you say, “I have tried all of that, and it doesn’t work,” and you add a post script, and you say, “I’ve prayed for God’s help and, if I know my heart, I’m right with the Lord, but I’m still depressed.”
You need to voice three very difficult words, ones that smack of failure to you because you’ve always been able to handle things on your own. They are, “I NEED HELP!” When you have a virus that won’t go away, isn’t that what you tell your doctor, “I need help!” When your eyesight blurs, isn’t that what you tell the optometrist? So whom do you tell? Start with your husband or wife, your pastor, or possibly your family physician. There are times when medication helps immensely; there are other times when it only covers the problem.
But there is one thing that you can be sure of. God answers prayers for help in many different ways. Sometimes He gives us an immediate answer, lifting the cloud of depression. Sometimes He sends someone who listens, who serves as a sounding board who helps you see precisely what you need to do to work through the gloom; and sometimes He sends someone, a physician, who helps you in ways in which you can’t help yourself.
A closing thought. God is not the author of depression, though some of our depression comes by ignoring the directives He gives, refusing to live as He intends us to live. He is the one who brings health, wholeness, and healing to our broken hearts and lives. He is still the healer of broken hearts and a refuge for the troubled and hurting. While depression is not a friend, it can prod us to Him who is a friend who stays closer than a brother and who will walk with us through the gloom, and that is nothing but good.
Resource reading: Psalm 118