Welcome to our series called ‘Soul Care’. Soul Care is about us dealing directly with mental health issues. Today we will talk about depression. But quickly, remember Sam’s talk on discouragement last week? It was an excellent talk about how life circumstances lead us to be discouraged. Sam said discouragement in our lives is a soul issue. Discouragement is how our soul processes adversity, challenges, and trials in our lives. He then gave four steps to help overcome discouragement. My favorite part was how Sam walked us through scripture and helped us see how practical decisions have spiritual implications. If life adversity, challenges, or trials have left you feeling discouraged, please take the time to see his talk.
Today we move to the next topic, depression. Here is the reality of depression. Everyone will face depression at some point. It’s normal. However, there is a difference between feeling depressed now and then versus living in a deep cycle of depression and feeling like there is no hope to enjoy life. Let’s start with facts about depression. Then we will talk about how we can take care of our soul to fight depression.
What is depression? Depression is how our soul processes regret. It’s a sadness or disappointment that things aren’t the way we want them to be. It’s a persistent sadness that impacts what we think, what we feel, and how we live.
What does depression do? It steals your passion to enjoy life. If light represents hope and joy, depression creeps into our souls and slowly turns the light out. It steals our passion.
When is depression normal? When you face normal life moments that you can’t control like rejection [in relationships, from teams, etc.], loss [job loss, financial loss, relationship loss], mistakes or failure, weather change, during or after pregnancy, life stage, or illness, etc.
When does depression become something severe like chronic depression? When depression becomes so big, so loud, so heavy in our lives, we can’t do normal things in life. Be with people. Go to work or school. Pay the bills. Go to the grocery store. Be in healthy relationships. Have fun.
Why is depression so hard to break? Depression messes with how you think, how you feel, and how you behave at the same time. It’s brutal because all those things swirl around making it hard to overcome. And over time, depression slowly turns the light out in our souls.
How can we identify depression? When you have a few of these symptoms for two or more weeks consistently, you might be experiencing depression. Here are 11 possible signs. Source https://www.nimh.nih.gov
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Feelings of irritability, frustration, or restlessness.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities.
- Decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling slowed down.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
- Difficulty sleeping, waking early in the morning, or oversleeping.
- Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes.
- Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not have a clear physical cause and do not go away with treatment.
- Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts.
Here is a super high-level understanding of depression. I want to give you a brief overview and then give details. Let’s start here. As we walk through life, life happens. That simply means you will face normal challenges and setbacks in life. Those normal events can create stressors in us. Three things can happen. First, it can impact our thoughts – what we think about ourselves. Second, it can impact their feelings – how we feel about ourselves. Third, it can impact our physical body – we are worn down. If all three things are negative, our thoughts, our feelings, and the energy in our body, what happens? It becomes too much for us. We feel trapped. Depression enters and it steals our sense of hope that we will ever enjoy life. And the longer this goes on, it becomes too heavy, so we just want to quit in life. We don’t want to do the normal things in life because everything seems too difficult.
Let’s get more detailed. Something happens in your life. Like people who you thought were friends reject you. Or you are fired from a job or cut from a team. Or you experience a setback or a loss. What happens in your mind? Negative thoughts like, “I’m a loser”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m worthless”, “I’m a failure”, etc. The longer you think these negative thoughts, the more you repeat them over and over, even if you joke about it, you can begin to believe that these thoughts are true.
When these thoughts become true to you, they can impact how you feel about yourself. You can feel worthless [I’m so worthless I don’t understand how people or God could like me or love me]. You can feel unmotivated and numb to the world [I am not enjoying life, so I just exist and push through]. You can feel misery [Nothing in life works so life just doesn’t seem worth living]. Etc.
Negative thoughts about yourself mixed with negative feelings about yourself will lead to your physical body feeling tired. You can experience sleep problems. Have concentration problems. Have very little motivation.
When negative thoughts, feelings, and body issues swirl around, they can steal your passion for living life. You see very little hope of ever enjoying life. The light in your soul is slowly turned off. And when that happens, you begin to behave differently. Your depression will come out in how you live. You will try and you will struggle to hide that you are depressed.
You might begin to withdraw from relationships. Because of little motivation or low energy, you might want to just stay at home and talk to no one. You will tell people ‘I’m fine’ when you really are not. In fact, you may not even be able to tell people what’s wrong. Simple life tasks become overwhelming and very difficult. You may turn to alcohol or drugs to try to numb or avoid the reality that you are depressed. Even worse, do self-harm.
Stop and imagine that for a second. Imagine a life that has negative thoughts, and negative feelings, and is physically worn down. Every day, those three things relentlessly swirl around. If this was you, what would you conclude? You would conclude, ‘I have no hope of ever enjoying life.’ Please hear me, depression is a thief. It steals your passion to live life. It turns the light off in your soul. And it’s brutal to get out of.
Where is God when we are depressed? Let’s read what Jesus said.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” MSG Matthew 11:28-30
If depression is turning the light off in your soul, it demands that we must fight back. You must understand that this is a battle, it demands that we do something. God created you and breathed life into your soul, which makes your soul, spiritual. That means your soul was created to be in a relationship with God and only God can bring your soul to life. Only God can bring you the rest and healing you are looking for. And when we pull away from God, our souls miss God. Being far from God does immeasurable damage to our mental health.
Am I saying that depression is 100% spiritual? No, but this is what we know. As our culture pulls away from God, it is doing immeasurable damage to our souls. We are seeing a dramatic and immediate increase in mental health issues like depression. We must make the connection. God created us which makes our souls spiritual. And only God can bring rest and healing to our souls.
As life happens, because it will, we are walking through a battle. Depression is waiting for the chance to destroy your soul and to turn the light off in your soul. That’s why we started with, everyone will feel depressed now and then. That’s why Jesus’ invitation is to give rest and healing to our souls. To accept Jesus’ invitation, we must do something.
Let’s get even more detailed. Four decisions we must make to fight this battle against depression.
What triggers depression? Rejection, loss, challenges and setbacks in life.
First decision. Accept the reality that life is hard and it’s not fair.
Why is this important? Because people wrongly believe life should be easy. They believe, “If life is hard, something is wrong, and it’s someone’s fault.” In other words, “If life is hard, I’m a victim.” Truth is life is hard and it’s not fair. Outside of someone breaking the law to harm you, you are not a victim. Truth is, life is hard and it’s not fair. Why? Because Satan rules this world and sin has been released into our lives.
Listen to what James wrote.
My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. GNT James 1:2-3
One of the things people don’t understand is that God cares more about your holiness than your happiness. Did you know that? God cares more about the purity of your heart than how happy you feel throughout the day. If God cares more about your holiness than happiness, that means God will allow us to walk through hard times. The process of growing up is called ‘hard times, challenges, rejection, etc.’ Walking with God is not about the absence of hard times, it’s about walking with God through the hard times.
Rick Warren wrote in his book, “God cares more about your character than your comfort.”
The first decision we must make is to accept the reality that life is hard and it’s not fair. Setbacks in life are not unique to you. Everyone faces challenges and setbacks. If you have challenges in life, that is normal. And God works through those moments to develop you.
When life hits us and hurts us, when we face rejection and loss, what can happen? We can start having negative thoughts about ourselves. Thoughts like, “I’m a loser”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m worthless”, and “I’m a failure.” The second decision we must make is huge.
Second decision. When I give my life to God, I am no loser, I am filled with the righteousness of God.
Scripture tells us,
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV 2 Corinthians 5:21
You are no loser. You are no failure. You are not worthless. Imagine every day believing and living in the truth we find in scripture. I am filled with the righteousness of God. When I pray, when I confess my sins, God pours the righteousness of Jesus into me. Would that change your life?
I was listening to the Ready Heart Podcast on the subject of depression. Here is a quote.
“You are not worthless, you are not a failure, and you are not a loser, that voice saying you are is just depression trying to trick you.” Ready Heart Podcast
Those thoughts, “I’m a loser”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m worthless”, and “I’m a failure” are a lie from the pit of hell. It’s depression knocking on the door of your heart trying to enter. Never say them. Never think about them. Never agree with them. Never joke about them.
The second decision you must make is when you give your life to God, I am no loser, I am filled with the righteousness of God.
When life hits us and hurts us, when we face rejection and loss, what can happen? We can start having negative thoughts about ourselves. Thoughts like, “I’m a loser”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m worthless”, and “I’m a failure.” We talked about that. We can also begin to have negative feelings about ourselves. Things like feeling worthless, unmotivated, or miserable.
Third decision. God came after me to rescue me, that proves I matter.
Scripture tells us why God came to rescue us.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. NIV Colossians 1:13
Did you know that? God came to rescue you. That means you matter. You are not worthless, you matter. Here is a quote that should help.
“God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants us.” C.S. Lewis
Those feelings that creep into our souls are evil and they are meant to destroy you. I am worthless [I’m so worthless I don’t understand how people could like me or love me]. I’m unmotivated and numb to the world [I have little interest in enjoying life, so I just exist and push through]. Misery [Nothing in life works so life just doesn’t seem worth living.]. Etc.
Question for you: If you are worthless, then why did God die to rescue you?
The third decision you must make is, God came after me to rescue me, that proves I matter.
When life hits us and hurts us, when we face rejection or loss, what can happen? We can start having negative thoughts about ourselves. Thoughts like, “I’m a loser”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m worthless”, and “I’m a failure.” We talked about that. We can also begin to have negative feelings about ourselves. Things like feeling worthless, unmotivated, or miserable. We talked about that. We can also be physically impacted. We can experience sleep problems. Have concentration problems. Have very little motivation. Why?
“Your body hears everything your mind says.”
Remember Sam’s talk last week? When Elijah was discouraged and wanted to die, God told Elijah, “Get up and eat.” Was that practical or spiritual? Yes. It was both. We simply must understand the choices we make practically have spiritual implications. When your body is showing physical signs of depression, you must deal with them.
Fourth decision. Get off your butt.
“Awake, O sleeper, and rise up from the dead; and Christ shall give you light.” So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to find out and do whatever the Lord wants you to. Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him. TLB Ephesians 5:14-18
One of the clear ways to fight this battle against depression, based on our abilities, is our practical decisions about how we treat our bodies. What we put in it. If we rest it or if we push it too far.
That’s why Ephesians says, …Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him.
“True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.” – Wilhelm von Humboldt
Let’s close with this.
God created you and breathed life into your soul, which makes your soul, spiritual. That means your soul was created to be in a relationship with God and only God can bring your soul to life. Only God can bring you the rest and healing you are looking for. That also means, that if it’s normal for us to be far from God, it will do immeasurable damage to our souls. God won’t be able to give our souls rest and healing. Immediately, we will see an increase in mental health.
Like a bonfire on a cold night, if you want to get warm, you have to get closer to that fire. And the further away you are, the colder you will become. We must be in that relationship with God. We can’t take steps away from the bonfire and then act surprised that we are cold.
Please hear me, depression is knocking on the door of your heart with the goal of turning off the light in your soul. How? Life will come and give you challenges and setbacks. That’s why we must accept the reality that life is hard and it’s not fair. Depression will try to mess with what you think about yourself. That’s why we remind ourselves, when I give my life to God, I am no loser, I am filled with the righteousness of God. Depression will try to mess with what you feel about yourself. That’s why we remind ourselves, God came after me to rescue me, that proves I matter. Depression will try to wear down our physical body. That’s why we get off our butts and do something about it. You are in a battle with depression, and you will need to fight back. If you surrender to depression, it will steal your passion to enjoy life.