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by Rev. James Winsor
Lots of people these days suffer from depression. Many of them are Christians. If you suffer from depression, I hope the following information helps you. If you don't suffer from depression, then maybe this will assist you in understanding and helping those who do. Here is a list of three Depression Deceptions to avoid.
Deception #1: If you're depressed, you're not a strong Christian.
On August 2, 1527, Martin Luther wrote these words in a letter to a close friend: "l have been thrown more than a whole week into death and tossed back and forth in hell.. .I have lost Christ totally and have been shaken by the floods and storms of desperation and of blasphemy against God."
Even strong, mature Christians like Martin Luther can suffer from depression. Depression is not a sign of unbelief or weak faith. It's a sign of spiritual battle, and battles are for healthy soldiers.
This is a sin-sick world. You'd be crazy not to be depressed sometimes!
Deception #2: No one would understand.
Holy Scripture tells Christians to "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). We're told to "mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). God doesn't want you to carry your depression alone. God makes sure there are Christians around who understand.
You don't have to be alone in your depression. Not all Christians will understand it, but some will. You just have to take a few risks until you find the ones who have experienced depression themselves and will understand what you're going through. Your fellowship with those Christians will be tight. You may even end up being glad the depression brought the two of you together.
Deception #3: Depression is a Useless Detour in the Christian Life.
God has a purpose for the depression that falls on His children. In an Old Testament passage we're told that "an evil spirit from the Lord tormented King Saul" (1 Samuel 16:14). God had anointed David to be Saul's replacement as king. God wanted to save Saul's eternal soul, but He also wanted to replace him as king. So God sent David as a music therapist for Saul. "Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him" (1 Samuel 16:23). God gave Saul a problem and sent David as the solution. Saul might have done the obvious thing - thank God for David and support him! But instead Saul tried to kill David because he was jealous of him. Saul missed the opportunity his depression offered him. He rejected both his depression and David as gifts from God.
St. Paul, on the other hand, had a similar experience of evil sent from God for a good purpose. He responded the right way and received the suffering as a gift from God. Paul wrote, "There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.. .When I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
God presented Paul with a problem. Then He presented him with the solution, grace in Christ. Paul learned to be thankful for his weaknesses because his weaknesses made him need Christ.
Depression does that to and for you. It leaves you with nothing to hang onto, but Jesus. When you're depressed, you can't find anything inside to place hope in. All that exists is darkness and emptiness. You come to find your hope in something outside of you: Christ and His cross and pardon.
That's not a detour from the Christian life. That is the Christian life, God has you right where He wants you.
I was really depressed one day. I told a pastor friend of mine, "Sometimes I don't know whether I'm saved. All I know is that I have a Savior." God had me right where He wanted me. I could actually rejoice in my weakness. Suddenly all I had was Christ. And, in a way, you don't have Christ until Christ is all you have.
NOTE: If you can't seem to shake your feelings of sadness and depression after a few weeks, seek out help right away. Talk to your parents, a counselor, or your doctor to help you deal with these overwhelming emotions.
The Rev. James Winsor is pastor at Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Arvada, Colorado.
Galatians 6:2 - Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Romans 12:15 - Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
1 Samuel 16:14 - Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
1 Samuel 16:23 - Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Taken from the Spring 2002 edition of Higher Things magazine. You can write Higher Things at P.O. Box 58011, Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158-8011.
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