Happy New Year, all! I know this post seems bleak at the outset, but bear with me!
Although it isn’t something I’m entirely comfortable discussing, today I feel compelled to address depression from a biblical standpoint. The word “depression” is thrown around today in a casual way that really disturbs me. I know that anti-depressants are widely used and that everyone seems to know people who are or have been depressed. But that doesn’t make the associated feelings any less real or horrible. It doesn’t mean that the people asking for help are necessarily more self-absorbed or less capable than anyone else. Yes, depression can be sinful and selfish, but most of us battle self-absorption… it just manifests in different ways. It does seem particularly relevant in the first-world. Maybe there are cultural variables that make us more likely to become depressed, but I don’t think so. You only need open your Bible to see myriad verses addressing fear, anxiety, mourning, tears, oppression and darkness.
I don’t know exactly how depression makes others feel, but I’ve had just enough experience with it to care deeply for those who are really struggling. For me, it had very physical effects. The feeling of removal or isolation was positively palpable. On a beautiful, sunny day the world could appear (literally) quite dim; A heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach made me feel anxious, like something was truly wrong. Irritability was always bubbling in my chest. It never seemed to be situational – I couldn’t point to any external circumstance that was affecting me. Many people can relate to these feelings – it is no picnic when they are all present for an extended period. I apologize if that sounds melodramatic, I’m only trying to help those who haven’t been there to understand on some level.
But recently when I begin to feel low or angry in a non-constructive way, I am aware of a fork in the road. I experience the feeling and then I face a conscious decision: I can give in and wallow in these feelings, or I can acknowledge them and choose to act in a positive way. I don’t ever remember recognizing this choice before. I think it is a gift, an opportunity to avoid negativity, but where there is choice there is also burden. It should be simple: I want to feel happy, so I should choose the happy path. I don’t want my loved ones to suffer because I’m unhappy, so I should choose the happy path. But ironically, in the moment, I WANT to let the anger or depression in. I don’t always choose correctly.
When describing these feelings, I’m afraid I have used the excuse, “I can’t help it.” It is my resolution for the New Year to stop using this insipid expression. I may not be able to control the feelings, but I CAN control my actions. I can accept God’s offer to help me out of that quicksand trap. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” The overwhelming theme in the verses that address the feelings I’ve been talking about is that through God people can receive solace, strength, hope… My new-found awareness of these spiritual gifts leads me to an understanding that to refuse them is to deliberately turn away from God; something I’d like to avoid! 🙂
Would that we all could someday joyfully pray:
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” ~Psalm 30:11
Take care, everyone!