Have you ever wished that the night would be longer so that you don’t have to face the day? Or on the other hand do you have terrible nights where you toss this way and that way, no matter what you do you just can’t go off to sleep? Do you find yourself worrying about the credit card, and mortgage payment? Have you ever felt like giving up because no matter how hard you tried you seem to have no victory over a bad habit? Have you ever had feelings of worthlessness, struggled with false guilt, lack of concentration, experienced fatigue, and lack of appetite or increased appetite? If you have experienced any one or more of the things mentioned above it is highly possible that you might be going through depression.
If you are going through depression, you are not alone. Dan Blazer in his article “The depression Epidemic” published in Christianity Today magazine mentions, “The world health organization named depression the second most common cause of disability world wide after cardiovascular disease, and it is expected to become number one in the next ten years. In the USA 5 to 10 percent about 19 million of adults currently experience symptoms of major depression. Around 15% adults are taking antidepressant medications.” Another report suggests depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020.
The statistics are quite alarming. Both, those who attend church regularly and claim to be Christians and those who do not attend seem to be struggling with depression. Wait a minute did I say Christians!! Faithful church goers? Getting depressed? Even pastors? You got to be kidding that is not supposed to be true. We think Christians should never be depressed or we hear statements from other believers saying, “if you are depressed it means you have some sin in your life.” Well that may be partially true, certain unwise choices we make in life could make us depressed. But the truth of the matter is even the most righteous people can also be depressed at times. As I am talking I know some pastors who are depressed.
During 1992-93 due to a broken dream and an unfulfilled expectation I went through a mild depression. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I couldn’t sleep at nights, the future looked hopeless and I even entertained thoughts of suicide. The truth of the matter is that most people at some point in life are hit by depression. It can attack any one regardless of age, color, and race, educational, religious, and economic backgrounds. The effects of depression are felt at alarming rates in our society like never before. Blazer, terms this as, “The Depression Epidemic” Therefore it is important that we understand what depression is? How do we recognize it? So that we know how to avoid it or how to handle it and be able to help those who might be struggling with depression.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF DEPRESSION:
Depression is not a new thing. Throughout history people have struggled with this phenomenon, but they did not call it depression until recently. In the fourth and fifth century it was first mentioned as “melancholia.” In 3rd century AD, leaders of monastic orders called it “acedia” a condition characterized by symptoms such as exhaustion, sadness or dejection, restlessness and aversion to the monastic cell and the ascetic life. Since the early 1900s, the term depression began to appear in the medical field and Psychology.
SAINTS WHO STRUGGLED WITH DEPRESSION: A number of people in the Bible and in the church history from time to time struggled with depression.
David: We know David as the man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22) but the other side of David is not that glorious. Samuel anointed David to be king over Israel but no one recognized him as king immediately. Though he faced the giant, facing the jealousy and envy of Saul was almost crushing him. He was on the run to save his life from those who were trying to kill him. After he became the King, one day while every one else was in the battle field fighting, for a moment of pleasure he committed adultery with Bathseba that led him to become a murderer. His estranged son Abshalom tried to kill him.
In the Psalms we get glimpses of the despair and hopelessness David was battling with. “Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.” Psalm 6:2-4
“For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. 5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. 6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.” Psalm 88:3-6. Even though David went through bouts of depression he never failed to take hold of God. He would say to himself. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5
Elijah :( I Kings 17-19) Elijah was a powerful prophet of God in Israel. He spoke God’s word fearlessly. He declared boldly “there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word. And behold there was famine in the land for three whole years. He even raised the dead son of a widow in whose house he was staying during the famine.
When he spoke God’s word after three years the heavens poured down rain. He single handedly challenged 450 prophets of Baal. In front of the King and all the people he called upon the name of the Lord, the fire of the Lord from heaven fell and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood and the stones, and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench. It was a clean sweep. Then he turned on the 450 prophets of Ball and killed all of them. This incident would have earned him a sure spot in a Mel Gibson movie. He had a lot going for him.
No body would think that a mighty prophet like Elijah would go through depression. But when he found out that Jezebel the wife of King Ahab was after his life, he was scared to death. He was afraid and ran for his life. He went to the wilderness sat down under a “broom Tree” and wished he would die. Listen to Elijah’s talk, “It is enough, now Lord take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” After having, said that he fell off to sleep under the tree. But God did not leave him in his state of depression. God sent an angel to reach out to him. The angel came and provided bread to him twice; with that strength he goes to Horeb to have an encounter with God. (I Kings 19:9-19).
Elijah had a mountain top experience but right after that plunged into a major depression with suicidal thoughts. Isn’t that true for us too at times after scaling great heights, something happens, a word of criticism, a set back and we all of a sudden drown in despair. You find yourself in the valley of depression.
When we are going through tough times, difficulties, hardships, and trials of all kinds we tend to think we are the only ones going through such things. Every time when you think you are the only who is struggling and got a raw deal, remember what God said to Elijah, 7000 people had not bowed their knees to Baal. Or remember what Peter said to the suffering believers in 1 Peter 5:9 “Your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. Therefore you are not alone in your depression. There are even great preachers who had suffered with depression from time to time.
Charles Spurgeon suffered terribly with a joint disorder that was diagnosed as gout. He was forced to stay in bed, sometimes for weeks at a time in excruciating pain. "I have been brought very low," he wrote to his congregation during one long bout, "My flesh has been tortured with pain and my spirit has been prostrate with depression. . . . With some difficulty I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope. http://www.bulletininserts.org/spurdepr.html
Let’s face it. Depression may be more common among us than we like to admit. You, your spouse or a close friend may be going through depression right now. Depression is not something to be ashamed of; neither is it something to be proud of. We simply acknowledge the fact that we all are prone to get depressed. There is nothing sinful about it, however certain sins may make us feel even more depressed. For a child of God who is battling through depression there is hope that hope can be found in the everlasting arms of a loving God and in the nurture and support of a caring community.