First of all, my family has a history of depression, so I am speaking somewhat from experience. My dad has dealt with depression his whole life – unsuccessfully I might add, as he is unsaved and clearly rejects Christ. My brother struggles with it a lot, and for the most part, lets it overcome his life. He made a profession of faith in November 2000, and when he spends serious time in the Word of God and prayer, the sun breaks through the clouds of gloom, even if it is only temporarily in his case. I also deal with it; and though I don’t let it overcome me that often, there are seasons when the battle is fierce.
Secondly, I have learned through studying the Bible that the Lord doesn’t allow for a Christian to stay in depression and discouragement. There are examples of God’s children that struggled with this, but the Lord didn’t let them stay there. He always provides a way of escape. 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Yes, Jesus has tremendous compassion on those going through discouraging trials, but He wants us to be victorious, not overcome by them.
Thirdly, while there may be many factors that influence someone to be depressed or discouraged, Biblically, there is only one root cause: our own sinful nature. I know it is not politically-correct to state this fact, but either modern society is right and it is not our fault if we let ourselves get overcome by discouragement, or the Word of God is right about it when it says in James 1:13-16, Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. (Why does it say, do not err? Because we tend to deceive ourselves about this very thing. If we say that we are not responsible, and that there is nothing we can do about it, then we make God the author of our sin. James says this is a grievous error!)
While we cannot control our situations, we can control our attitude, responses, and focus. Depression comes when we take our eyes off of Jesus Christ and place them onto our situation. Our vision gets out of focus and our problems seem distorted, somehow seeming larger than the Lord in our lives. Our focus needs to be single – focused back on Christ. (See Matthew 6:21-23; Colossians 3:1-2, 22) No matter what may influence you towards being depressed and discouraged, the Bible offers many promises and passages of comfort that will help you overcome and be victorious today. Jesus will give you the grace to stand if you stay focused on Him and His Word. You can have the victory each day this trial comes your way; but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a struggle or warfare.
And fourthly, there is no way you can be victorious in the Christian life until you are in fact a Christian. If you have never turned to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, believing that He paid the complete penalty for your sins when He died on the cross, was buried, and physically resurrected on the third day, then you will never be victorious in this battle until you come to the Saviour, and let Him save you. If you don’t remember a time or place that you trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, I would encourage you to do so today. Today is the day of salvation, to quote the Apostle Paul. Once you become a child of God, you will find the grace and strength you need to overcome all of life’s battles in the Word of God, in prayer, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. “Giveth” is present tense, and means that He continually gives us the victory through Jesus Christ.
My worst battle with depression began the winter of 2000. I had no family nearby. My sister was living in Arizona, and my brother had just moved out of Kelowna. Christmas was coming up, and I let myself get discouraged, thinking about how I would be spending it all by myself that year. I started to get very lonely and focused on my situation. Over the next few months, my attendance at church was irregular, and I started avoiding the other Christians in my life even the few that were reaching out to me. (One thing to never do when you are depressed is to isolate yourself.)
I found it increasingly difficult to overcome the loneliness, and started being so depressed that it showed outwardly to others. Unfortunately, one of my coworkers encouraged me to go to a nearby bar and hang around with some of the crowd there, play some pool, and have the occasional drink. I ignored his advice for a few weeks, but the closer it came to Christmas, the more I thought about it. I started going to the bar after work, met a few “friends”, and started playing pool. I was so nervous about being around this crowd that I started drinking to relax. Over the next few months, I got very involved in the pool playing and used it as an excuse to be around this crowd, even if I didn’t drink every night.
Several things I learned right away were: you can go through a lot of money quickly, alcohol doesn’t help depression – it strengthens it! – and it was all empty and vain. The drinking and ungodly company (not to mention the music and atmosphere) did not fulfill, but made me empty inside. The more I pursued this course, the more I was convicted about it. So now I not only had my depression bringing me down, I had the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin (which made me more depressed because I did not repent of it at that point in time), and I had the accuser of the brethren knocking me down because of my compromise and ruined testimony. To quote a line from one of my poems, The Prodigal Has Come Home, “The swine husks could never truly satisfy, And oh how soon the wine became tasteless foam.”
By the time I got sick of the drinking, and wanted to clean up my life, I realized that some of my sins during that time had caught up with me. I made some associations that were not easy to break away from, including a “friend” that turned out to be very bad news and would not let me back away from the bar-scene. In desperation on how to deal with this person, I pleaded with God to help me separate from him. He died of cancer very shortly thereafter. This shows me that it is a serious thing to cause a child of God to stumble. That was a very sobering and scary fact to realize!
I found that it wasn’t as easy as I thought to get out of the pit I had dug for myself. I realized that some of the crowd at the bar were very immoral and perverted, and I can only praise God that He prevented me from walking into sexual immorality. I find that the fear of man brings a snare, and that I have the hardest time trying to witness to anyone that I knew from the bar, or that knew I had gone there. I had shot myself in the foot, regarding my testimony with these people.
The first step was to completely break away from those “friends”, and the bar itself. That done, it took me awhile to get back on my feet spiritually as I was still struggling with loneliness and self-pity. The woe-is-me syndrome. Somehow I had convinced myself that the battle I was going through was unique to me, despite what the Word of God teaches: He fashioneth their hearts alike. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. …Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (Psalm 33:15; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 5:9)
I was having a hard time getting back into the Word of God until I came across the account of Christ’s betrayal. Then it hit me: Christ went through loneliness, betrayal, discouragement, suffering. He went through worse than you or I will ever go through; and He did that because of His love for us. This was the clincher for me. Jesus could relate to my depression, and He overcame. So could I! He kept His focus on His Heavenly Father, and continually submitted His will to His Father’s will. He prayed so fervently there in the garden, when Satan tried to overwhelm Him with sorrow and heaviness of heart, that He sweat drops of blood. This showed the tremendous stress He was under, but He was victorious!
After I was restored to the Lord and strengthened in my walk, I wrote a poem called Take A Second Look At Calvary, which was my way to remind myself that the battle could be won by focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ and not on myself.
When I went through times of loneliness, I thought, “Lord, where were You?
Don’t You know, Lord, can’t You see all this pain I’m going through?”
Then in the midst of my devotions, I was thunderstruck one day
When I realized: in my Saviour’s darkest hours all His friends had turned away.
When I struggled through depression, I cried, “Lord, where were You?
Can’t You take these doubts and fears away; help me somehow make it through?”
But I knelt in sweet submission, surrendered all and my heart was still,
As I remembered my blessed Saviour praying, “Not Mine, but Your will.”
When my heart ached in bitter anguish, grief-struck and broken too,
I cried through tears of agony, “Oh my Lord, where were You?
I can’t fight this battle anymore, I can’t overcome this gloom.”
Then in my self-pity, I recalled, that Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb.
When I think that I’m forsaken, bitter, anguished and alone,
I remember that my Saviour made all my pain His own.
He tasted death, He suffered much, He was tempted, tried, beset,
And in all His trials and afflictions, Jesus loved me yet.
A man of sorrows - He knew our grief, He bore our sin and shame,
He was forsaken by God above that we may never be again.
He was wounded for our transgressions – as the Bible has revealed -
But most of all, Jesus shed His blood and by His stripes we are healed.
So when you are feeling lonely, depressed, and are haunted by your grief,
Here’s a solution that, through eyes of faith, will surely bring relief:
When you are wondering if the Lord cares and if He is watching from above,
Take a second look at Calvary – and there behold God’s wondrous love!
March 12th, 2001
Last fall (2001), our church started a Sunday School bus ministry, which I got involved in from the start. I didn’t think I would enjoy working with the kids but it has been a blessing, and it keeps me out of trouble on my days off. I am more active in witnessing, and developing my website. I was busy “waiting upon (serving) the Lord.”
When depression struck again this past winter, I chose not to get side-tracked and fall into sin. I started to get discouraged the closer it came to Christmas, and I pleaded with God for more grace. Everytime I felt overwhelmed - and sometimes it was fierce! – I cried out to the Lord, praying fervently for peace and Scripture passages to remind me where my focus should be. The bus ministry helped. I was not left alone, nor was I isolating myself. Because I chose to seek the Lord first, and not my own self-will, He honoured that and provided for me in so many ways this winter. Financially, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. My landlord’s family (who are members in my church) started inviting me over for lunches or suppers, and this helped me more than I realized. The Lord has set this solitary person into a family. (See Psalm 68:6) Their house has literally become my second home. Angela, my landlord, made me up a frame with my poem inside (the one quoted above) to remind me of where I continually needed to be looking – at the Lord. So many times I’ve read and reread the words of that poem, and stopped my self-pity trip before it could gain ground.
Some of the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind this past winter were:
Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. (My heart has definitely been strengthened over and over.)
Isaiah 58:9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am. (Oh, precious, precious promises! He was there for me whenever I needed Him. Though I fail Him, He has never failed me!)
Isaiah 26:3-4 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength. (Perfect means complete. If I keep my part of the promise by staying steadfastly focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, He will keep His promise to give me His perfect peace. See also Philippians 4:6-7)
Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Mount up means to rise, to ascend. I can soar above my problems, and not be weighed down with them!)
1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.
Psalm 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Yes, He gives the measure of grace I need when I abide in Jesus Christ!)
Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (The Lord Jesus Christ is my refuge! Believe me, if you are searching the Scriptures, this theme is repeated over and over in the Word of God!)
I dealt with an ongoing battle with discouragement within the last two months. This one had to do with my brother. He got depressed again, and was trying to place the blame on everyone but himself. He wanted the Lord to magically take away his depression, but he didn’t want to maintain his walk with Him. He called me on March 11th, and twisted some things I said while I was trying to exhort him to get right with the Lord. I tried to clear up what he was saying to no avail. He hung up. Then he called me back an hour later, telling me that he almost committed suicide and it was all my fault. Boom! The bomb dropped, and I was devastated! I had to take an hour off of work to go to a nearby coffee shop to just pray and read my Bible. I was determined to keep my eyes on the Lord, and pleaded with God to give me peace and comfort. Then I searched the Scriptures. Passages about peace of mind, and about God being our refuge came to mind, and I devoured all I could find. Some of these became the Scripture references I quoted in one of my poetry books (The Seasons Of Your Pilgrimage). Several verses out of Psalms 18 and 91 comforted me greatly at this time, and were major sources of strength.
On March 12th, I was reflecting on the fact that I felt so much closer to the Lord as a result of that trial, that I counted the trial joy because of that. My poem Count It All Joy was written that day. If you read it in light of the particular trial that I went through, and my victory in Jesus, then you will realize I am not just spouting words without meaning and just quoting Scripture verses, but am relating what I have personally experienced.
Count it all joy, my brethren, for the trials in this race.
Count it all joy, my brethren, as you seek the Saviour’s face.
Jesus is with you through every trial.
He will stand by you all the while.
Count it all joy.
Count it all joy, my brethren, for the trials that you’ve seen.
Count it all joy, my brethren, for nothing can come between,
And separate you from the Lord.
Just cling to Jesus and His Word.
Count it all joy.
Count it all joy, my brethren, this trial is but for a season.
Count it all joy, my brethren, the Lord has planned it for a reason.
He is working out all things for your good,
As only our Heavenly Father could.
Count it all joy.
Count it all joy, my brethren, for the trials that you go through.
Count it all joy, my brethren, for the fires that purify you.
As He molds this vessel to perfection,
Someday Jesus will behold His reflection.
Count it all joy.
March 12th, 2002
That wasn’t to be the end of that particular trial. My brother tried to overdose on his medications and was hospitalized for several days at the end of March. Again, I fled to Jesus for refuge, and there I stayed. And it wasn’t a rollercoaster ride for once, but a mountaintop experience, even though I was going through a valley. Seems almost a contradiction, but it isn’t. Jesus is still giving me the victory! I am more than a conqueror through Him. I CAN do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me! My mind is staying steadfast on the Lord and I have His peace, even when my world is turbulent.
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ…
Psalm 18:32-33 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
Truly, He has set me upon my high places and given me the victory!
For a follow up to this testimony:
Winning The Battle Over Depression