I think it's safe to say we've all
experienced bad days from time to time. Well for some folks
those bad days have stretched into bad weeks, bad months or
even bad years. Some find themselves in kind of a personal
funk, saying things like, "whatever can go wrong will go
wrong, my life is worthless, I can't go on." They have a
pessimistic view of life, and suddenly find they we can't
sleep, lost (or gained) weight, and in some cases just don't
want to get out of bed.
The characteristics I've just
mentioned describe what could be symptoms of depression. The
fact is there are many people who suffer from varying levels
of depression. So today I want us to consider the topic of
depression and what we can do about it.
Well what is depression? Some who have
experienced depression say that it feels like a dark cloud
hanging over their lives. They feel as if they have no energy
and can't concentrate. Others feel irritable all the time for
no apparent reason. Now symptoms of depression vary from
person to person, but if you feel "down" for more than two
weeks, and these feelings are interfering with your daily
life, you may be clinically depressed and ought to seek help.
For your later reading and reference
I've included in your bulletin this morning some of the
symptoms that help medical professionals identify depression.
From my reading on depression this
week I've come to understand that most people who have gone
through one episode of depression, sooner or later, will have
another one. So learning to recognize the triggers or symptoms
of ones depression and working with a counselor or health
professional will help to keep the depression from worsening.
The truth is most people with
depression never seek help, even though the majority of folks
would respond well to treatment. And recognizing and treating
depression appropriately is especially important because it
not only affects us personally but also those around us.
So let's consider some causes of
depression. Well depression has no single cause; often, it
results from a combination of things. We may have no idea why
depression has struck us. But whatever its cause, depression
is not just a "state of mind," it's very real.
Some of the more common factors
involved in depression are:
- Family history. Our genetics play
an important part in depression. It can run in families for
- Trauma and stress. Things like
financial problems, the breakup of a relationship, or the
death of a loved one can bring on depression. We can become
depressed after changes in our life, like starting a new job
or losing a job, graduating from school, or getting married.
- Pessimistic personality. People who
have low self-esteem and a negative outlook on life are at
higher risk of becoming depressed.
- Physical conditions. Serious
medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, and HIV can
contribute to depression, partly because of the physical
weakness and stress they bring on. Also, depression can make
medical conditions worse, since it weakens the immune system
and can make pain harder to bear. And in some cases,
depression can be caused by medications that are used to
treat other medical conditions.
- Other psychological disorders.
Anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and
substance abuse can often appear along with depression.
Depression affects millions of people
every year. 16% of Americans will experience depression during
their lifetime, that's about 35 million people. And while
depression can affect anyone, its effect may vary depending on
our age and gender. " Women are almost twice as likely to
become depressed as men. The higher risk may be due partly to
hormonal changes brought on by puberty, menstruation,
menopause, and pregnancy. " Men. Although their risk for
depression is lower, men are more likely to go undiagnosed and
are less likely to seek help, because depression is often
times seen as a weakness and men do not want to be perceived
as weak. Men may show the typical symptoms of depression, but
are more likely to get angry and hostile or want to mask their
condition with alcohol or drug abuse. Suicide is an especially
serious risk for men with depression, who are four times more
likely than women to kill themselves. " Elderly Folks. Older
people may lose loved ones and have to adjust to living alone.
They may become physically ill and unable to be as active as
they once were. These changes can all contribute to
depression. Loved ones may attribute the signs of depression
to the normal results of aging, and many older people are
reluctant to talk about their symptoms. As a result, older
people may not receive treatment they need for their
Now I'm not an expert on depression,
but I think it's important that we know some of the basics
about an illness that will affect everyone of us in one way or
another. We may not experience depression directly, but odds
are someone in our family will.
Some folks want those who experience
depression to just "get over it," but often times this isn't
possible. Working through depression can take time, requiring
patience and perseverance. And as the medical profession has
learned more about depression we've come to know there is help
available through counseling and drug therapy, and I encourage
those who suffer from depression to seek out the appropriate
After experiencing my stroke, although
a physical issue, I found it fruitful to consider what God
might tell me through the experience, spiritually. You might
remember I shared with you what God revealed to me several
weeks ago in my "Reflections from the Lounge Chair" write-up
that appeared in the bulletin.
Well this morning I want us to
consider depression from a spiritual perspective as well, and
consider what God's Word might have to say to help us survive
the darkness that depression can create.
It's important to realize that as we
read the Bible we can see signs of depression in several
biblical characters like: Moses, Job, Jonah, Paul, and Jesus.
Now their condition isn't specifically called depression, but
they sure exhibit symptoms of depression.
Now depression is not a curse or a sin
as some have suggested in the past. Depression is very real
and not something to just "get over." And as I read the Bible
I don't ever recall God saying to anyone, "Get over it."
Again, we don't know if our biblical
brothers and sisters were "clinically depressed," but what we
do know, at least as it's recorded in the Bible, is that they
exhibited symptoms of some level of depression.
The biblical survivor of depression I
want to speak about specifically this morning is Elijah.
Elijah is a prophet, a man of prayer, and an advisor to the
king. Elijah was a godly man, and perhaps the only other man
mentioned in the Old Testament that could give Moses a run for
his money when it comes to his legacy.
In our scripture reading Elijah has
just experienced a very intense confrontation with evil. He
was in a spiritual battle of the ultimate kind.
And we can surmise by what Joe read
this morning, that throughout his ordeal Elijah became
absolutely exhausted. He was wiped out and ready to throw in
the towel. This great prophet of God, a hero too many of the
faithful over the centuries, was basically tired and
Elijah collapses under a broom tree
and prays "that he might die." Imagine one of the greatest
prophets of God, a man we lift up and admire, wanting to die
because "he's had enough."
Later on Elijah starts talking to God
again after God asks, "What he's doing there." Elijah replies,
"I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The
Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your
altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I'm the
only one left, and now they're trying to kill me too." Elijah
felt like he was the only one left that was standing for
truth. He felt as if everyone else was against him.
You see Elijah was filled with
determination and drive to serve God. But sometimes Elijah
didn't take good care of himself. And when that happened,
Elijah hit a wall, an emotional and spiritual bottom. As with
Elijah, I suggest that sometimes the depression we're
experiencing is actually a sign of something else going on in
our lives that we really need to pay attention to.
Perhaps there are physical, emotional
or mental health issues we need to tend to that are leading to
the bouts of depression we may experience.
Or, perhaps there are spiritual issues
we need to address. And it's the spiritual issues I want to
focus on this morning by suggesting we consider questions
- Have I been keeping the Sabbath?
- Am I harboring bitterness towards
another person? "
- Have I addressed the sin in my
- Am I feeling guilty about
- Have I turned away from God?
- Am I being a faithful disciple?
- So on and so forth
Elijah's depression was a sign of
something else going on in his life. Elijah was worn out
physically and spiritually. God provided Elijah some food, and
he got some sleep, and then he was ready to address the
spiritual wilderness he felt he was trapped in.
God took care of Elijah's physical
needs, but God wasn't through with him yet. God then reached
down through the darkness and took Elijah by the hand, if you
will, and led him on a spiritual retreat of sorts. God led
Elijah to a quiet place where he sought spiritual renewal, a
place hoped to hear the voice of God.
As the scriptures tell us a great and
powerful wind swept across the mountain where Elijah was on
retreat, but the Lord didn't speak through the wind. Then
there was a great earthquake, but God didn't speak through
that either. After the earthquake a fire came along, but God
didn't speak through the fire either.
Well after all this extreme drama,
there came a gentle whisper, and Elijah knew he was hearing
the voice of God. And through his words God gave Elijah a task
to do. Now I don't want us to miss two points here. First, God
can speak to us in many different ways. I'm sure most of us
would prefer that God speak to us in a thunderous unmistaken
way so we don't miss what he has to say, but often God
doesn't. And God didn't speak to Elijah that way either. God
spoke in a whisper.
This reminds us that when we want to
receive a word from God, we have to listen very carefully
because if we don't we may miss what God is telling us. We
have to be open to his desires, and the only way I know to do
this is to be still be restful in the presence of God and just
The other important point is God spoke
to Elijah in the midst of Elijah's depression. If we are
experiencing depression we must remember that God hasn't
abandoned us, God is walking with us. We must remain aware of
his presence, listen for him, and be prepared to respond to
I believe that depression can be a
means through which God speaks and calls us to serve him, just
like he did with Elijah. Even in times of extreme darkness we
can listen for God's gentle whisper. We can communicate with
the Lord by asking: " is their something you want me to do?
You see often times serving others helps us move through our
depression. " is their a new direction you want my life to
take? Perhaps we're off course and need a new way. " what do
you want me to learn from this experience? God uses the
experiences in our life to help us learn and grow. " Or
perhaps, Lord, just help me to hear your voice through the
clouds of depression that darken my life si I know you're with
Depression is serious and it's more
common than perhaps we like to admit. Depression is also very
curable if we're proactive about addressing the cause. We can
survive the darkness depression can bring; depression does not
have to have the final word.
Many people will experience depression
at one time or another during their life and I hope folks will
seek the appropriate intervention, which includes seeking out
that gentle whisper of God.
So let me suggest five steps to deal
with depression in a healthy way.
1. Acknowledge the depression, claim
it, and identify the severity of it. When we recognize the
onset of depression, we need to determine just how severe it
is. We all have or will experience a period of depression. The
question is, is it mild depression, you know having "the
blues," experiencing sadness, or having a gloomy feeling?
Or is it Moderate depression; meaning
along with the sadness comes a feeling of helplessness. Do we
have trouble making decisions, uncontrolled crying, dramatic
change in appetite and sleep patterns. If that's the case, we
ought to seek help from a trained Christian counselor.
When depression gets severe, we add to
all of the symptoms I mentioned, an inability to function. We
stop going to work or school. We sometimes don't get out of
bed. Thoughts of suicide can creep in to our thinking. In
these cases, immediate care is necessary, and further steps
must be taken with a health professional.
2. Share the concern with God. Prayer
is a powerful tool when dealing with depression. We need to
let God know what's going on in our heart and mind. When Jesus
was in His depressed state, He went right to God, and cried
out, "Please God, deliver me from this!" Elijah told God he
wanted to die! But you know what God did in those cases, he
ministered to them, He provided for them, He loved them, and
For Elijah, God came and made him some
bread, brought him drink, and allowed him to rest. Folks, God
wants us to be honest with Him - He wants us to share our
deepest hurts, disappointments, needs - even our anger! God
loves us - He won't punish us for our honesty. So we must take
our issues to Him.
3. Ask yourself, "What is this
Depression telling me?" Depression doesn't have to be seen as
a weakness or something to be avoided, it can be seen as a
message from God that something needs to be addressed. We can
turn depression from a tool of Satan designed to derail us,
into a tool of God to get us on track! Again, depression is a
symptom that warns us that we are in need of help.
4. Identify the Causes. Am I getting
enough rest? Am I taking care of myself physically? What
changes have taken place in my life? Have I started taking
some new medication that's causing this? Am I depressed
because I haven't dealt with some past loss or conflict? Am I
telling myself the truth about life, or telling myself lies?
Is there sin in my life? Ask, do I know what God wants me to
do? Is there something in my life I need to straighten up?
5. Make the necessary changes and get
help. Once the cause has been identified, then we can better
understand what needs to be done, perhaps with the help of
someone else. The next steps may include addressing the need
for: rest, better diet, help from medication, anger management
counseling, relief from pain, help with grief, addressing
negative thoughts or unrealistic expectations, addressing sin
or something else.
But no matter what, I encourage anyone
battling depression to seek help, from God and a trained
professional. No one needs to be held captive to depression,
there is a way out.
Elijah found a way out, by turning to
God. And by the grace of God we can survive the darkness too,
if we turn to God and seek his healing power. Amen.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade