Breaking the Chains of Depression

Many people experience feelings of depression-ranging from just feeling blue to an ongoing major depressive disorder. The World Health Organization reports that over 121 million people worldwide are affected by depression, most of them in North America and Europe.
Breaking the Chains of Depression
Depression, a disorder that affects both the mind and body, is characterized by a variety of feelings  like sadness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety, apprehension, hopelessness, and much more.  These feelings can and often do lead to a loss of interest in many activities and social interaction in general. In addition, the depressed person may also exhibit a range of somatic symptoms such as loss of appetite or excessive eating, weight loss or gain, fatigue, excessive sleeping or insomnia, poor concentration, and in extreme cases, suicidal tendencies. It’s not uncommon for people to suffer from depression for years without others knowing what they are going through.

The causes of depression include genetic predisposition, chemical imbalances, psychological makeup, serious losses and setbacks, difficult relationships, stress, chronic illness, side effects from medications, drug addiction, financial problems, environmental causes, and many other factors.

Treatments for depression range from the extreme electroconvulsive therapy, to less traumatic options such as antidepressant medication and various forms of psychotherapy and self-help measures. All of these have different levels of efficacy and come at different costs.

Many factors contribute to depression; however, the basic cause is that the individual is reacting to some situation or circumstance. We have the power to take control of our circumstances. The truth is, it is neither the situation nor circumstance that cause us to become depressed, but rather our reaction to the situation or circumstance. Understanding this fact is the key to overcoming depression.

The apostle Paul understood this principle. That’s why he was able to maintain a positive, godly attitude even while chained in a disease and vermin infested jail with his life hanging in the balance. Paul boldly asserted,

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11, 13)

We can see how the principle of reacting or focusing negatively on our circumstances works by looking at a few examples. Marcus is sad because he lacks an intimate relationship. His envy and bitterness is compounded whenever he sees his happily married friends. The more he thinks about it, the lonelier he feels and the further he sinks into depression. He is overcome by a morbid fear that he is destined to live out his years as a lonely, miserable bachelor. He notices, however, that when he forgets his single status and becomes engrossed in other activities, he enjoys his singleness and depression seem to disappear.

Another example: Imagine you are up to your neck with increasing debt. It’s weighing heavily on you, the more you think about it. The  anxiety that comes with the problem is sinking you into a bottomless pit of depression. But, when you focus positively you don’t feel as depressed, at least for a while. The secret is to take your mind off that which is depressing you and focus on more positive things that make you feel good to raise your self-esteem and confidence. The solution is changing your mindset and refocusing your attention away from the negative circumstances.

As you remove your attention from negative external circumstances and refocus it on positive imaginary thoughts,  , you will spend a lot more time feeling good than bad, so your depression will soon lift.” (Steve Pavlina, Overcoming Depression)

Refocusing our minds on the positive is a biblical principle. Philippians 4:6-8 says,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus… whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…meditate on these things.”

Our mind is very powerful, but we only use a fraction of it. Our thinking shapes who we are and how we feel. In the words of the ancient proverb, “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Our minds are like magnets; they draw us towards what we think about, whether good or evil, joy or sorrow. Popular psychology calls this the Law of Attraction. When you focus on what you desire and feel good about it, you attract those desired effects into your life.

Many people today are tuning into this ‘new’ philosophy and reaping success. But for Christians, the promise of success and overcoming depression are infinitely greater. When we make Christ our first priority and keep our focus on His Word, we can deal with anything the devil throws at us. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Meditating on the Word while filling our minds with God’s laws and His promises is the surest way to beat depression.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

Living with depression is like being in a prison without bars. You want to get out. There are no visible barriers holding you in, but somehow you can’t seem to break free. I know just what that feels like.

I lived with depression for over seven years. Virtually no one, except my wife, knew of my challenges. I was still able to function, wearing a mask which outwardly gave the appearance that all was well. However, deep down inside I was dying-a mere shell of a man, looking sound on the outside but slowly rotting away on the inside.

There were times when I dreaded going to work because of fear and when it became overpowering, my muscles would just tighten up leaving me almost immobile. The physical symptoms were bad but the mental agony and confusion were far worse.
Breaking the Chains of Depression
I felt helpless and hopeless.

I was totally consumed with myself and my circumstances. Ironically, I was able to deliver some good sermons which encouraged others but somehow couldn’t help myself. I suffered, mostly in silence.

I often cried out “Lord, help me.” But God seemed far away. Then one morning, I rose early around 4am and went into the study to pray. I was praying and praising God when somewhere in the midst of my prayer something strange happened. It felt like a light flicked on in the darkness of the room and something opened up in my mind.

It was as if a voice was saying to me, “I am the Jesus whom you know about. Now I want you to know me.” I broke down weeping uncontrollably. They were not tears of sorrow but of inexpressible joy. It’s an experience I find difficult to explain but it has been indelibly imprinted in my mind. Since that day my life has never been the same. I believe I understand what Job meant when he declared at the end of his awful trial,

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” (Job 42:5)

Depression imprisons its victims by robbing them of hope while drowning them in a sea of melancholy, self-pity, and fear. Jesus is the answer and has the answer. At the start of His ministry, He boldly proclaimed that part of His mission was to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18).

When we allow His perfect love to flood our hearts, fear and other negative, depressive thoughts won’t find a place to stay in us (1 John 4:18). When we draw near to God, He draws near to us through the Holy Spirit (James 4:7-8). We are confident that He will not leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), so that even though we may go through the valley of depression, He is with us. Paul brings us more powerful words from his arsenal of encouragement in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9,

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Depression is no trivial matter. It is a  mental/spiritual disease. It may manifest itself in physical symptoms but the root cause is spiritual. We can take physical measures to treat it, but ultimate and lasting success will come only when we attack this problem at its root, on the spiritual level.

Like any other pernicious, bad habit, it will only be rooted out with heartfelt prayer and fasting. Our adversary is bent on using this problem to destroy us by stealing our joy and our hope. Hope deferred or taken away does make the heart sick, but when our desires are fulfilled it brings life (Proverbs 13:12).

Every person who has ever suffered from depression, or who may face it in the future, should know that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Jesus said that we shall know the truth and it will set us free (John 8:32).

Knowing is not just having knowledge, but putting it into practice. If depression comes knocking at your door, you can put on the helmet of the hope of salvation, rise up, and confidently tell the enemy the promise that God has given you in Jeremiah 29:11,

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”


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