I’m not supposed to have sugar, but today I’m ignoring the voice of wisdom. I’m savoring a little square of real Norwegian chocolate. It’s amazing—creamy chocolate with tiny almonds, a hint of caramel and surprising bits of salt. I might share if you ask nice. I know I’m not supposed to have it, but it came all the way from Norway. What idiot would pass it up? Besides, chocolate is a sure fix in a time like this.
Okay. The truth is, I’ve been battling depression for several weeks. Once in a while, I give in to it. Let it wash over my heart and flood my thoughts, blocking the light and darkening my mood.
Have you ever given in to the Big D?
I’m not prone to drama or emotional breakdowns; I’m usually the even-tempered one. But sometimes depression strikes without reason. Well, that’s not true. There are reasons if I step away from the conveyor belt of life and take inventory. Lately, I’ve had a number of disappointments. It’s not like life is bad. These aren’t earth-shattering. But several disappointments at once can stack up like boulders, squashing me until I’m numb and good things are dull gray and I’m responding to everything with apathy. And at the moment, rain is pounding the roof so hard it sounds like an angry, hissing crowd, making the sky so dark I want to turn on every light in the house and blast some grinding, bass-driven rock. If this keeps up, the family won’t be seeing the rest of that Norwegian chocolate. (Ever seen a depressed Norwegian? Me neither.)
Mix disappointments with a couple minor health issues, nagging pain, and chronic poor sleep, and voila, the recipe is perfect. The result: a triple-layered funk coated with a thick glaze of apathy.
And I know better. I have so much to be thankful for, countless things I take for granted. One day in a third world country would probably slap 99% of the funk right out of me.
How do you deal with depression? I tell myself to snap out of it and smile at the checker and muster up genuine excitement at someone’s great news, or at least have the decency to appear excited.
When that doesn’t work, counting my blessings helps. It helps a lot, actually. It’s not as trite as it may sound. So much of our negative emotion and mood comes from a bad attitude, which comes from negative thoughts—true or skewed—roaming around loose in our minds.
This thoughts-to-attitudes-to-actions tendency is a sneaky business. When I’m feeling low because of real issues, negative self-talk seems to find a better foothold too. I start noticing crappy things about me, like how socially awkward I can be. How I compare to others. What I’m not doing right. Past mistakes.
Some of these things are simply nasty little lies. Others contain some truth but don’t really matter; they do nothing but encourage self-centeredness, which is useless and a breeding ground for all kinds of mental and spiritual crud.
The best way I’ve found to steer out of a depressed funk is to list the positives. Honestly. Humbly. And then eventually, I remember to pray. What a concept.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians blows me away. His letter—from prison—encourages the Philippians to be full of joy. He uses the word “rejoice” 16 times. And there’s not one word about gritting our teeth, putting on a smile for the checker, and faking it. He had genuine reason to rejoice and wanted us to bury this reason deep in our hearts.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4-7
Counting our blessings is a good start. Voicing gratitude to God takes the defunking process much further. Thanking God for what we have and what he’s done reminds us of God’s infinite wisdom and amazing grace. It dissolves the negative and erroneous self-talk tangled around our hearts. It forces our faces up out of the chocolate chip bag long enough to see beyond the moment. Reminds us we have hope.
I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. ~Philippians 3:13
Forgetting what’s behind and looking ahead may sound like some kind of holy denial, like using blinders to ignore our problems or mistakes. That may be the case if we haven’t addressed some sin. If you haven’t, talk to Jesus about that today. But if you have brought your junk to the Lord and it still trips you up, ask God to cleanse, renew, and empower you. Sorrow lasts for a night, joy comes in the morning.
I want to keep a carefully balanced view of both past and present. We have to watch where we’re going rather than where we’ve been so we don’t fall flat on our face. We also need to look ahead to what is promised to give us hope to move forward.
But a certain kind of looking back is important. What is the most memorable thing God has done in your life? What moments stand out as times God made himself real to you? A healing? Peace in the midst of turmoil? Courage under fire? An undeniable sense of his presence? Provision for a need you had no resources for? A breakthrough of understanding from his word? A miracle? Strength to endure a particularly tough time? Joy in the midst of sorrow? A palpable sense of God’s all-encompassing love?
I forget these things sometimes. Doh! I also forget I have a loving Savior who understands and cares about everything I’m going through. If anyone can sympathize, it’s Jesus.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. ~Isaiah 53:3-4
Jesus suffered so much and so willingly, out of his great love for us. Let’s allow his love to penetrate our thoughts, our attitudes, and our mood. Let his promises for our future give us hope.
And let’s remember with gratitude all the things God has done for us. It strengthens our faith. And faith is the basis of hope.
And hope (not Norwegian chocolate, I’m pretty sure . . .) is the cure for the funk.
Can I pray for you?
Jesus, please be with my friend now, especially if she’s battling depression. You know what she’s going through. You know her pain, her struggles, her disappointments. When she hurts, You hurt with her. Please touch her heart like only You can. Help us count the many positives with grateful hearts. Show us the lies that have robbed us of life and joy, and free us with Your truth. Show us mistakes we may still need to admit and help us lay ourselves fully at Your feet. Heal wounds, old and new. Cleanse, renew, and empower us. We need You, Jesus. Fill us with hope and joy. Amen.
Question: What is the most memorable thing God has done in your life? What moments stand out as times God made himself real to you?