The last time I wrote on this subject, I shared with you some very personal experiences. On several levels your comments were very encouraging, and for that I thank you.
The comments you left displayed a very important fact: Many people struggle with depression, even Christians.
Now, when I say “even Christians,” that might cause some of you to cringe. However, it’s not that Christians are any better than non-Christians, it’s just that so many people – especially Christians – think Christians should never get depressed. But reality is not perception, as your comments proved.
But, as I closed the last post on this subject, I promised to give you five (5) reasons people get depressed. Well, since then I came up with several others – now there are eight (8).
I’m not going to lie – each of the following have affected me in some way, so that is why I can list them with authority. Surely there are other causes of depression, or at least things that exacerbate it, but the following eight are ones with which I have experience.
Reasons for Depression
Some of you may have more experience with this than others, especially those of you with debilitating illnesses. However, sometimes even the most mundane of pains, nothing more than chronic discomfort, can wear us down. After a while of never-ending relief, our bodies and minds start to reject reality and begin looking for a way out. We get tired of the pain that never ends, making us weary of the future.
Unfortunately, many people take their own lives because of never-ending pain. Believe it or not, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults of all ages; homicide is only 17th! The overwhelming thought of having to continue to live with what can never be relieved is too much for some to bear, leaving all other options and reasons to live off the table. This, however, is when meaning and purpose must be stronger than the pain.
Hope is the medicine for life.
But physical pain isn’t the only kind of pain. Memories can hurt, too. And not only memories, but all kinds of emotional pain; pain of all kinds contributes to depression.
Now, for the record, I did not grow up rich. As a matter of fact, there was a time in my life when we lived in a house where you could see daylight through cracks in the walls! We also had no running water, except what we could get from a water hose attached to our neighbor’s well, so bathing was a pain, except when it rained; that’s when my dad and I would take the Dial soap and stand under the gutter.
The funny thing about poverty in my childhood is that I didn’t know I was poor, so it was no big deal. However, later in life I began to make a lot of money and began to grow accustomed to the finer things in life – including hot water and indoor showers. It was when God chose to remove that income and lifestyle that I revisited life with very little income, and I didn’t like it one bit.
Poverty – although nothing like what I saw in Zimbabwe – can lead Americans down the self-pitying road to depression. We bemoan what we do not have and mourn what we have no longer.
When I think of the word potential, I think of several things. I think of the things in life that could be, but have yet to be realized. I also think of all the kinds of things that could have been, but because of bad decisions or mistakes were lost to the “what if’s” of time.
Many people can grow depressed when they sit and ponder what might have been, or what is just out of reach. I have done that when I have looked back and wondered what I could have done if I had stayed in college when I was young, or continued pursuing a degree in law. I think of the business and employment opportunities I squandered that could have left my family and me in a much better position today.
But, potential is not what is, and where we are right now was never, at any time, a shock to our Creator and Sovereign God.
Surely you know what I mean by pressure, correct? If I listed fifteen blanks you could probably fill in each one with a word tied to some sort of pressure-producing issue in your life. There are the pressures to succeed, to meet deadlines, to impress, to keep people happy, to finish the project, to not mess up, to not give in, and to be everything everyone else wants you to be.
Are you depressed, yet?
Admit it, if you are on a computer reading this, you have no doubt come across something pornographic on the internet. It may have been by accident at first, but many of you have done more than stumble – you’ve dived in head-first to the cesspool.
If I were to say that I am immune to pornography simply because I am a Christian minister, I would be deceiving you. As a matter of fact, some surveys have shown that nearly half of all pastors have intentionally viewed internet porn more than a few times in the last year. Add to that fact the ease with which a person of any age can surf the web on a smart phone without leaving an obvious trace, who has not viewed porn in some form or fashion in the last year?
I am nearly 50 years old (will be in September), and I can tell you that porn is a big temptation. My first exposure to it was early on in life, before I was 10, when my cousins showed me my uncle’s hidden boxes of Playboys and Penthouse magazines. The indelible images left in my mind became dry tinder waiting to be reignited when VHS tapes became available, but thankfully I never purchased any. But when the internet became available, all it took was a curious click and I was pierced through with a flaming pitchfork.
Since the early days of my marriage, I have been very open and honest with my wife. Valerie knows my weaknesses, and so that helps me to avoid temptations. However, because of the world we now live in, when even burger commercials on television are nearly pornographic, the sparks that reignite the hellish images in my brain are floating in the air….and sometimes I fail.
What happens when we – especially Christians – view pornography? We experience the guilt that sin produces, and that can lead to serious, deadly depression. Even though Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross of Calvary, the Accuser never wastes an opportunity to remind us of how lowly and worthless we are. He does his best to turn us away from repentance and straight down the path of the prodigal.
Maybe you already sensed this in some of the things above, but one of the biggest contributors to depression is the past. I won’t dwell too much on this one, for you probably know all to well what it is like to be haunted by things you’ve done or said days, weeks, years, or even decades ago. It’s when these moments come back to remembrance that we can stoop into depressive, pensive moods.
Like I mentioned before, the Devil – the Accuser – loves to keep bringing up our past, even though God has place the Christian’s past in the Sea of Forgetfulness, as far as the east is from the west. But we are not God, are we? Unfortunately, because we are human, we tend to remember things we can’t correct or make right, like the time I said terrible, hurtful words to my father and made him cry.
Why not just take a moment at this point and think about how much you righteously hate Satan? He’s truly worth of hell, isn’t he? Not only did he tempt you and those you love, but he continues to remind you of things not even God will remember!
If you care anything about other people, people will depress you if you’re not careful, especially those who don’t even care what they are doing with their bodies and their souls. Wayward children, drunken neighbors, abused children, the starving homeless, crooked politicians, unrepentant atheists, and all kinds of others can lead even the most faithful into dark places of mourning.
Try sharing the gospel on a college campus and let me know if it’s easy to stay up and cheerful by day’s end. It’s difficult.
I’m sure the list could be longer, but I’ve just about run out of “P” words. So, let me end my list with one last cause of depression – a lack of prayer.
Friends, I can’t express to you how important it is to pray. However, make sure you understand the difference between “prayer” and talking with God. You see, there are those who believe that “prayer changes things,” so they go around spouting its benefits to any and all who are burdened, broken, sick, or downtrodden. But let me clue you in to a huge truth…
Prayer without Someone who can answer is nothing more than witchcraft. Yes, I said that, and you can take it to the bank. Prayers mean nothing without God. On the other hand, a simple conversation between the Father and His child “availeth much.”
But for those who never spend time with the Lord, or very little time, facing the daunting struggles and questions of life can simply become overwhelming. I firmly believe that had King David not prayed “evening, morning, and at noon” (Psalm 55:17), there would have been far more cries of “Why are you cast down, Oh my soul?” and far less proclamations like “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
That’s Not All, Folks!
Believe it or not, this is not the last post I’ll be writing on this difficult subject. My next one will bring some more observations to the table from which you can pick and use as needed. I just hope and pray what I am writing will continue to help and encourage.
But before I close, note that I did not give you many suggestions in the above post. In other words, pretty much all I did was list a bunch of things that cause, contribute to, or exacerbate depression, without offering ways to deal with them. So, let me share with you four (4) very important steps I’ve learned to take in my struggle with depression.
- Admit it, confess it, and talk about it.
- Don’t try to handle it on your own.
- Worship God, even when you don’t feel like it.
- Know that Jesus understands – that was what the cross was for!
Any comments? Any suggestions? Sharing is caring!