Depression is defined as a persistent sad mood or loss of pleasure in normal activities. Normal ups and downs are a common part of life; everyone feels sad at times. For some people, however, feelings of sadness and hopelessness can become crippling or prolonged, making normal day-to-day functioning a struggle.
Early on after becoming a believer, I experienced a season of depression. In hindsight, experiencing this depression was a tipping point God used to wake me up, inviting me into a recovery process which has transformed my relationship with Him and others.
Though this time of depression, I often felt hopeless and sad. I withdrew, had consistent thoughts of guilt and shame, and had trouble functioning. I also had a distorted belief that “Jesus + my visible success + approval of certain others = I’m okay.” This formula is not God’s design, and striving for approval and success weighed me down. I also had not worked through my past, both hurts I’d experienced and harms I had done to others. I had not forgiven significant people in my life and just glossed over the pain they’d caused me. I also was too prideful to own my part and ask for forgiveness from other people.
Over time, this approach to life did not work. It affected me emotionally and spiritually, and I experienced depression. I kept thinking there might be a “magic bullet” to not feel this way. Was I reading and memorizing enough Scripture? Sharing the gospel enough? Serving enough? Was there some area of sin? Was I headed in the wrong direction in life? Would more exercise help? Did I need to see a doctor?
I struggled with admitting that I had depression, feeling it was something a believer would never struggle with if they were doing things “the right way.” Thankfully, God brought me to a place of admitting my problem to a community of friends and beginning a journey of healing.
Depression didn’t enter my life overnight and it wasn’t healed overnight. God has used a variety of means of grace over time, including:
- Friends who allowed me to be real and admit my problems without judging me or trying to fix me.
- Renewing my mind from the lies about a distorted image of God, such as believing I needed to add to what Christ has done through my own performance, or looking for my greatest joys apart from Christ.
- Healing from the past through forgiveness and amends.
- Taking care of my health, getting enough sleep, and getting medical input.
Now, I can thank God for this depression, as it has led me to greater intimacy with Him, and a greater freedom to live authentically and to love others.
If you are experiencing depression, know that God loves you and there is hope. He wants you to bring your heartache to Him, and He wants to give you His peace. Below are some steps to start with:
- Be courageous to be honest with a friend about your struggle. Honestly admitting your need begins the journey of healing.
- Meditate on God’s Word to renew your mind and remind yourself of what is true. Read Romans 8:31-39; Psalm 103:2-4; Lamentations 3:20-26; and Zephaniah 3:17.
- Consider areas that might be contributing to your struggle: circumstances, emotional or relational pain, health issues, or spiritual illness (such as sin in your life, believing lies, idolatry, etc.). What are some steps you can take?
- If you are having suicidal thoughts and have a plan to take your life, please seek medical help immediately by calling 911. Your life is precious.
For additional resources, check out the Depression Issue Sheet and listen to some stories of hope from Joseph, Lauren, and Herschel.