Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labor which I took under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:20
Over the last few months, I have encountered many people dealing with depression and anxiety. Some have been prayer requests within our group, the Gate Keepers. Others have been close friends. What is so concerning is that most of these people are surrendered followers of Christ. So, I began questioning why depression is so prevalent in the body of Christ. Aren’t we supposed to find joy in all things? After many months of searching for answers, researching data and examining my own life concerning depression, I came to realize, being a believer does not make us immune to depression.
To set the stage here, the kind of depression I am talking about isn’t necessarily a suicidal-type depression. I am talking about a depression that leaves a person down for an extended period of time with little being able to pull them out. Life is, well, life-LESS. It does have an end but often is a continual battle throughout many seasons of the person’s life. This isn’t the kind of depression that makes you want to end your life, just question it. And while you’re questioning it, you find it hard to get excited about things or find extraordinary joy.
How many of us who have dealt with this type of depression can say, “when it rains, it pours”? It seems like when we go down into the depths of depression the hole just seems to get deeper and deeper. More stuff happens and we get to a point where we are afraid to come out for fear one more dream or vision will be annihilated.
Seeking The Lord’s Wisdom
So, I’ve been asking God for wisdom about this topic. I need answers for myself but also to help others. When I went through this seven years ago, I felt as if I were in a dark hole. I couldn’t let anyone in because they wouldn’t understand. But I was crumbling inside. I would go for walks on our property and hide under a big tree and sob for as long as I thought I could without anyone finding me.
I would consider each of the believers I know who are going through this right now or in recent past to be very strong in their faith. Depression is not due to a lack of depth in our faith. This is made clear when examining Scripture. Depression was common. We read about several men in Scriptures who dealt with depression and anxiety. Some of these being, Job, David, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul. Strong men of God. These men were not shallow in the least. Yet they dealt with some form of depression.
I have a couple of thoughts I would like to share with you today in hopes that it will bring realization to things we can’t see when we’re in the middle of them. These thoughts are in no way trying to diagnose or treat anyone medically. Nor am I trying to say all cases of depression fit into this mold. That would be nonsense. These are just thoughts I feel I have been called to examine within myself with hopes that it will bring encouragement to others. Please do not take offense if you have been clinically diagnosed or your depression stems from something else. This is a personal thought process and a personal evaluation I feel The Lord brought me to and I am hopeful it will encourage others who may be dealing with this in a like manner.
Webster’s dictionary defines ideal as something imagined in a state of perfection; a goal; visionary. I think as believers we tend to get caught up in the fact that our lives should be perfect. If we look and do what so and so did, then the results will be great. But God doesn’t call us to be perfect, He calls us to be holy. And holiness only comes from obedience and surrender to Him. Holiness is not a work we can perform in our flesh and receive perfect results.
Yes, this is good theology, you may be saying. But what if we put this in real terms for real life? Let’s do it!
I am a goal setter. I believe strongly in goals for an individual, a family, a business, etc. All areas of life. Life just works better with Jesus and goals. 😇
But what happens if our goals transform in our minds to an unrealistic perception and actually set us up for a fall? Perhaps, we’ve walked a pure walk and waited on God for that perfect someone He has destined to be our spouse? What if our ideal picture was to be a Susanna Wesley and bear 19 children with several going into full-time ministry? What if we train our children with the utmost Biblical wisdom expecting perfect adults someday? How about multiple degrees within a career goal? A perfect church life? A perfect ministry? What if we have believed that by obtaining these goals, the results will ultimately be perfect and without fail? And then the unthinkable happens…our dreams, our goals, our ideals are not perfect and they DO fail.
Setting Myself Up For A Fall
My husband and I have been intentional parents for the last twenty years of our family’s life. Our oldest two children are 28 and 23. Several years into our journey as a family we sat down and wrote out goals we wanted to accomplish. We wanted a “dozen” children. We had high ideals for our perfect little family. Life was good. Problems were minimal and easy to handle, overall. I believe that by setting these high goals we were doing what The Lord was directing us to do. But at a certain point, probably much earlier than our physical eyes were seeing it, I believe we began to take on an attitude of pride and God’s Spirit encountered our flesh. God tells us in the Old Testament that He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). I believe that we had taken control and allowed our flesh to lead the way. We all know what happens when this takes place. A FALL!
A Personal Encounter With Depression
I would like to share with you what my heart came to learn through this. A little background information. I experienced a miscarriage in January the year my depression began. This was after a six-year wait for another child after baby number three. One of our children had a major health crisis. My husband had been a prominent builder in our community for the past fifteen years. When the market crashed work became scarce. He then decided to make a major career shift. Our family had sold the home our two oldest children had grown up in. We had found a larger piece of property sometime before everything else started. We were excited about the purchase of our new property and the building of a new home. But, when it happened alongside everything else, it became depressing to sell our home and start over. And while all this was going on our second child began going through things which pulled him away from our family. These were the major things; although, I could make an even longer list. Hence, when it rains, it pours.
Everything seemed dark. I was alone with myself all the time, even when I was with people. It seemed as if no one understood me. I saw no hope in the future. Life was just the mundane daily tasks. Everyone and everything else all around me continued on as if nothing had happened. I longed to just sit alone. Typically these times weren’t spent praying or thinking. I just sat and cried. Numb. Lifeless. Joy just seemed to have lost its position in my heart.
A Hard Fall
My life turned upside down in a few short months and it was more than I could bear. You might be sitting there reading this and saying, ” this is life” but if you’re here, you may be reading this saying, “this is how I feel too.” Everyone’s circumstances of how they got to this place are different, but I believe, for at least some of us, the root cause is synonymous. I believe our high ideals play a large part of our fall. We set ourselves up with these ideals that haven’t worked out for us and we don’t know where to go from there. How do we get up and start again?
High hopes which we have created in our own minds of what we can “do” rather than allowing God to be Lord over all will lead to despair. Planning, setting goals and being intentional is all good but when our flesh intercepts to keep our eyes off God’s goodness, His will, and His blessings this leads to despair and depression. This can and does happen in the heart of strong women (and men) of God. The church is not immune to depression. Probably more so than anywhere else we compare and rate our own lives and families up against someone else’s that we only see from the outside on Sunday mornings. This is bringing deep wounds to ourselves that are hard to go back and mend.
When Solomon in Ecclesiastes talks about falling into despair, he is instructing us to keep our perspective on God and His ways rather than the things of this Earth. Jesus tells us in the New Testament that our treasures in Heaven are far superior to the things we call treasures here on Earth. I think the main thing we tend to get caught up in is taking the reins and not allowing God to be God. We actually are guilty of putting Him in a box that says, “this is His way” when in all actuality it is not His way. We form these ideals and try to live them out within our own thoughts and our own power. Scripture tells us, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12, KJV) . Interestingly, this word death is not just the word for dying but can also mean destruction. With our ideals, I believe we set ourselves up for destruction.
Instead of these things being failures, as we see them, what if they are just part of the process The Lord has to allow us to go through to bring us to His perfect plan? What our eyes see as a failure may just be the will of God. And if we would take God out of the box we have put Him in and trust Him to do His work, His way…perhaps we wouldn’t be made to feel like a failure after setting ourselves up in the first place. Solomon knew this. He was saying here, “hey guys look, all that you’re getting caught up in is foolishness”.
My encounter with healing
I hope that I can show you through my testimony here that God never left me. He drew me to several things which brought healing to me and lifted my eyes to see Him and all His goodness. He did this at the time when He knew I would be responsive. One of the first things The Lord did was to give me a project which involved doing some family history research. What I found was such an inspiration to me and it gave me something to look forward to. Without a doubt, I believe God’s Spirit directed me to this. It became a real story in me that was proof of God’s love for many previous generations in my family. It put validation on the work He was performing in me, as well as the work He was doing in our family. I, not only saw His hand in the here and now, but saw it in the previous two-hundred years. This caused me to begin looking forward to the future again. And at the same time keeping my eyes on Him. Not circumstances and not failures.
I also began helping others more. We all know focusing on other’s needs rather than our own changes our perspective. My marriage went through some needful healing during this process too. The Lord also blessed our family with another baby. Now, this is how God brought healing to me. But, He will use different modes of healing for different people based on individual needs. The key here is to recognize there is a problem and seek Him for help. When we ask God for wisdom, He will not keep it from us (James 1:5).
I came to understand that my picture perfect world, with a picture-perfect family, perfect children, perfect everything was unrealistic. What I found I needed to focus on was living my life surrendered to The Lord and trust Him to work all things out for His purposes, in His way.
A Change In Perspective
What happens when we realize that we have put the emphasis on Earthly treasures and not Heavenly treasures? DESPAIR! Solomon tells us that. Depression comes on us and we are lost in a black hole within ourselves. Solomon is saying that we bring this on ourselves by all our concerns for Earthly things. Now, I am not saying children are Earthly things but sometimes we take on a worry that is Earthly-focused rather than Heavenly-focused. We must remember our stressors do not stress Almighty God.
We must relinquish our will and control to allow God’s Spirit to take over. A total surrender. When this takes place the burden is lifted from us and freedom will come. “…wherever the Spirit of The Lord is, there is freedom.” (II Corinthians 3:17, NLT)
Plethora of Personalities
Just like the plethora of book titles in a library, God’s children are a plethora of personalities. We are all created differently. I believe this is often a factor in those of us who deal with depression. My personality isn’t as carefree as my husbands. If something bad happens, he picks up and carries on. I have to pick the problem up, cry over it, touch it, smell it. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? If you were on the outside looking in, I believe this is what you would see.
We have to come to realize our individual needs and work to channel those differences appropriately. My husband and I know that each of us will react differently to different situations. And because we are one, we have learned (and are continuing to learn) to balance each other and encourage one another in difficult times. He’s learned to give me time to cry and mourn, but not too much.
Jeremiah was concerned about God’s people. He had delivered God’s message to them and he couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just straighten up and do what was right. Jeremiah saw the perfect equation as God had given it to him. Yet, they mocked and rejected him. Jeremiah became very downcast but he didn’t stop talking to God or trusting God.
Healing For The Hurting Heart
Here are some things that have helped me when I feel like I’m slipping into one of those dark moments again.
- Going into my prayer closet and pouring out every thought to The Lord
- Ask Him for wisdom and listen
- Write down what He says~ Scripture, words or thoughts I am sensing from Him
- Make a list of my fears followed by God’s truth and a Scripture reference for validation (i.e. I feel unloved/Loved, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love…Jeremiah 31:3)
- Make a list of hurts I am feeling, writing these down sometimes brings sense to hurt feelings
Know that one good hour of prayer time will not necessarily bring healing but as you continue to do this, change will take place. God’s truth will begin to uproot the lies you and the enemy have told yourself. You will begin to see things in perspective to things you should focus on and things you should not. And if you are confused about something, ask Him. He will pour out His wisdom on you. By opening up to The Lord, you will enable Him to bring healing to your heart through His creative and perfect ways of restoration.
Remember, goals are good but keep your focus on allowing God to be God. He’ll do His work in us through our willing and surrendered heart. It isn’t us that does it, it is Him. Recognize this and keep your eyes on Him alone and He will bring about His good and perfect plan for you.
A Cheerful Choice
Our most confidential friend is God Himself. We must never try and keep things from Him. It isn’t possible anyway to hide from Him, even though we all try this from time to time. He sometimes is just waiting for us to come and say, “Lord, I need You. Please help me”. Never doubt He will be there for you. You are never alone.
This is the gift of His Spirit. A relationship is a conversation between two people. Sometimes One talks while the other listens. And then the other talks as the One listens. Allow Him to set the goals and then depend on Him alone to accomplish those. Trust Him. He’s the only way.
Remember earlier when I said, “when it rains, it pours”? There is a Proverbs for this malady. “Everything seems to go wrong when you feel weak and depressed. But when you choose to be cheerful, every day will bring you more and more joy and fullness (Proverbs 15:15, TPT). We do have a choice. Let’s make the right one to bring peace. Tell that disgruntled self to go fly a kite and keep that cheerful one in The Lord’s fullness.
Our pastor asked a question this past week. When is it enough? “It”, you ask? Everything that we put on ourselves which out-does, out-performs, and out-impresses. When is it enough, ladies? Each of us can answer this question. It already is enough. Jesus has done everything. Surrender your heart to Him.