Tag Archives: depression

Psalms 40-44; Snap Out Of It

Have you ever felt blue (as my mom would say) or depressed, and then scolded yourself because you don’t have any reason to feel that way? You’re healthy, you have a job, a home, food on the table, your kids are ok, and the sun is shining? I have. David did.

In Psalm 42 David asks several times: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” In other words, “What’s wrong with you, David?”

Often, when my own soul is downcast, I begin to remind myself of all the ways I’m blessed, as though remembering those things should snap me out of it. Then I end up feeling worse when it doesn’t. I tell myself, “What’s wrong with you, Connie? Shame on you. You shouldn’t be down. Look at all the reasons you have to be happy.”

Yeah. That helps.

In fact, it often pulls me further down. Because now I’m not only downcast, I feel guilty about feeling downcast.

A couple of things came to mind as I read these psalms today. First, I need to search my heart to see if these feelings are coming from unconfessed sin. Is this God’s gentle hand of conviction on my life? Is my sorrow a result of my putting distance between my Savior and me? If that’s the case, what I need is repentance. I need to confess my sin and allow God to wash me clean.

Oh, what joy!

Secondly, constantly reminding myself of all the things in my life that should make me happy is destructive on a couple levels. It implies that people who struggle financially, or who are sick, or whose children are troubled don’t deserve to be happy. Do we really think we are only blessed if we have “things”?

I think the beginning of Psalm 42 contains the key for upcasting a downcast soul. It’s that thirst for God Himself, it’s that hope that we have in Him, it’s the trust we have in His unfailing love, the Presence of the Comforter. It’s not what makes me happy, but Who.

I really don’t even like to use the word “happy” because we aren’t promised happiness, are we? I have a friend who is dying of cancer. She’s not happy about it. But you can’t spend ten minutes in her presence without recognizing her joy. You would not describe her soul as downcast. Does she shed tears for her husband and kids? Yes. Does she pray for physical healing so that some day she can enjoy being a grandma? Yes. But those things, as precious as they are, are not her source of joy. Her relationship with Jesus is.

I hope you will read Psalm 40 today if you read nothing else. Listen to some of what David wrote:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God… Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust… may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”

Are you living with a downcast spirit? I won’t tell you to snap out of it. But I will tell you to turn your focus, you thoughts, your energy toward God. Praise Him. Love Him. Let Him snap you out of it.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his glorious face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
(H. H. Lemmel)

 

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I Samuel 24-27; The Answer

I’ve been dealing with (or maybe ignoring would be a better word for it) a bit of depression lately. There are several things going on at the moment, but one is the fact that I’ve gained some weight the past couple of years. I hate the way I feel, and how my clothes fit. I hate it when people take pictures of me because I’m sure the camera adds ten pounds.

And to make matters worse, I’m an emotional eater. Feeling good? Have a pizza. Angry? There’s that bag of chips. Sad? Get out the ice cream.

So the more depressed I get, the more I eat, the more weight I gain, and the more depressed I get. It’s discouraging.

Reading these chapters today makes me wonder if David wasn’t a bit discouraged, too. He’d done nothing to deserve Saul’s unfair treatment. David was forced to leave his home and live in caves so Saul wouldn’t find him. More than once, David proved his faithfulness to Saul, and each time David heard Saul promise, “I’ll never hunt you down to kill you ever again.” But Saul never keep his word, and David kept running.

If you read the psalms David wrote during this time I think you’ll agree the man was dealing with a bit of depression.  At least he was discouraged and frustrated.

Here’s what spoke to me today: We don’t always make the best decisions when we are living in that state of mind.

In chapter 27 we find that David, still on the run from Saul, finds shelter in the middle of enemy territory. He went to hide out with the Philistines (yes, Goliath’s gang). What follows is a series of really bad choices made by the future king of Israel.

I wish David would have remembered what he’d said in 26:24:

…may the Lord value my life, and deliver me from all trouble.

Here’s the thing. Depression is a result of “I”. For instance, look at the sentence I wrote earlier:

So the more depressed I get, the more I eat, the more weight I gain, and the more depressed I get.

Mine is not a chemical imbalance. It’s an I imbalance.

I read some of the psalms David may have written during this time in his life. I noticed they all had something in common. Along with heart-felt expressions of sadness, frustration, discouragement, they also included verses like these:

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17)

The Lord is my light and my salvation… (Psalm 27:1)

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. (Psalm 52:8b)

I’m tired of all the well-meaning self-help books and advice, people who tell me I should “take care” of my self, or look within my self for answers. I’m the one who is hurting. Obviously what I’m doing isn’t working. When I feel like this, I should be the last person I go to for answers.

The answer to my depression is not a look within myself, but a dying to self. It’s not about focusing on me, but on focusing on my Lord. It’s not about doing what I think is best for me, but doing what God is asking me to do. It’s not about getting in touch with my feelings, but getting in touch with my Savior, not about spending time with “me,” but spending time with my Lord.

So, paraphrasing David’s words in I Samuel 26:24, let me say I know God values my life. He died to give that life to me. I am the apple of His eye, His precious lamb. And I am confident He will deliver me from all my troubles, even those I bring on my self by focusing on my self.

I have every reason to rejoice today when I look at Jesus. Everything else seems to dim in comparison.

Loving Father, thank you for Your Word to me today. Forgive me when I take my focus off of You, and place it on myself. Help me to bring it all to You and leave it at Your feet. Help me to trust You, to serve You, to love You, to praise You today. My life is Yours. If I have joy today, may it be Your joy. If I have worth today, may it be because I am clothed in Your righteousness, loved by You, and trusting in You alone.

December 4 – Momentary, Light Affliction

2 Corinthians 1-4

Paul talked a lot about the sufferings he was enduring. He used words like affliction, excessive burden to the extent he wanted to die, a peril of death, anguish of the heart, and in 4:7-10 he said:

… we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Verse 11 says he was constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake. Then in verse 17 he said:

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

Momentary? Light? He just got done listing a bunch of affliction that doesn’t sound momentary or light to me. How could he say that?

I think it’s perspective. And it’s a perspective I’d like to adopt.

Everything that happens in our lives happens for one reason only. That is to point us and everyone around us to Jesus. From an irritating hangnail, to this cold I’ve been fighting, to my sister’s cancer, and the tragic death of her son, everything that happens is an opportunity to reveal my Savior to myself, and to people I come in contact with.

That’s why I think Paul could describe his life as having momentary and light affliction. He wasn’t focusing on the pain. His only focus was on Jesus. He didn’t let the circumstances sideline him. He kept on sharing the Gospel.

We all go through hard times, personal pain and difficulties. Life is hard. But Paul’s example tells me that the worst this life can throw at me won’t last forever. And if Satan thinks he can use my suffering to cause me to doubt God, or to be angry at Him, or to steal my joy, he’s wrong.

Don’t miss what Paul said at the end of verse 17. The hardships we go through in this life are producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

A weight of glory. That’s what’s ahead for those of us who keep our eyes on Jesus.

Dear God, I pray for those who are going through valleys today. I pray for those who are looking at the toughest battle of their lives, or who despair of life itself. God, may we look to Jesus. May we trust Him to be exactly what we need, to give us exactly what it takes to get through. Help us to keep our eyes facing forward instead of inward. Give us Paul’s perspective, that what we face, as hard as it is, as painful as it is, can produce something more wonderful than we can imagine. Thank You for being exactly what we need in the darkest hours of our lives. May Jesus be glorified.

October 15 – Demons Among Us

Matthew 8:14-34; Mark 4&5

Whenever I read the account of the demoniac in Gerasene I wonder what it had been like for that poor man. I wonder how long he had suffered from that mental illness that made him act like an animal, how long had he lived trying to hurt himself? I wonder about his mom. Did he have a wife who loved him, children who needed him? Were there lucid moments when he despaired of his situation?

How alone he must have felt in his demon possession.

I know people who are diagnosed with mental illnesses, and I am thankful for Christian counselors and medication that help them navigate through life. But I wonder if we don’t do them an injustice if we don’t recognize the spiritual component as well.

Is there a demon named Depression, one called Schizophrenia, another Anorexic or Bi-polar?

Hear me when I say I am NOT advocating exorcisms by priests or pastors. In fact, I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where that is called for.

And I am not advocating anyone go off their medication or quit seeing their Christian counselor.

What I am advocating is prayer for those in our lives who are battling mental issues. And perhaps identifying the enemy in their lives is an important part of that prayer.

Jesus heals. Jesus has power over any demon that is afflicting us. Do you believe it? Then pray believing.

August 17 – Don’t “Should”

Jeremiah 30-31

There is a former student of mine, the mother of four, a young woman who loves her husband and who is loved by him, yet who battles depression and the all-too-often desire to stop living. She’s not a Christian. She reads self-help books, listens to Oprah, and tries to follow the advice of friends who tell her she shouldn’t feel that way, that she should be thankful, that she should tap into her own strength and pull herself up.

But I think all those “should’s” just make it worse.

I thought about her today as I read these chapters. God is telling the Jews that they have a serious injury, an incurable wound.

There is no one to plead your cause; no healing for your sore, no recovery for you. (30:13)

God even goes a step further and tells them to  quit crying about it. Felling sorry for yourself doesn’t change a thing.

Wow, God. Thanks for the encouragement. I feel so much better now.

Read on. God gives more than just a sympathetic pat on the back.

For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds, declares the Lord. (vs 17)

The truth is we all have reason to loathe ourselves. We’ve all done things to be ashamed of, to be sorry for. But trying to fix things by our own efforts is a bit like putting a bandaid on that incurable wound. We may feel better for a time. But when we fall (and we always fall) that wound bleeds a bit more. We feel worse than before, more useless, more of a failure than before.

God wants us to know that we don’t have to manufacture a feeling of healing. HE IS THE HEALER. We don’t have to pull ourselves out of the pit. He died, went into that pit Himself, so we wouldn’t have to live there. He rose again so that we could be born again ourselves, be free from the power of sin, and know the joy that comes from having our sins forgiven.

I think the only “should” we should listen to is the one that tells us we should go to the Father, repent of our sins, and let Him heal us. There is a sense of relief in that “should.”

July 25 – The Plumb Line of Emptiness

Isaiah 31-34

God, through Isaiah, is describing the devastation the result of His wrath will bring. Mountains drenched with blood, the sky rolled up like a scroll, streams turned to pitch, a fire that can’t be quenched, complete desolation where the land is inhabited only by pelican, hedgehog, owl, and raven.

I picture a ghost town in a B movie western complete with rambling tumble weeds.

Then God says He will “stretch over it the line of desolation and the plumb line of emptiness.” (34:11)

Has that ever described you? Have you ever felt that life has abandoned you, that you have a longing that burns and can’t be quenched, you feel alone, and lost, and empty?

Dear one, that is not where God wants you to live. Jesus died so that, when you repent of your sin, He can fill you to overflowing with Himself! His love. His grace and mercy. His goodness and joy. When you allow God to fill you, you will have hope for the future, and strength for the day.

The plumb line of emptiness, true emptiness, is the life without God. That void in your life was placed there by God to be filled by God alone. Oh, you can try to fill it yourself. Drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, other gods, self, career, family, busy-ness. But all are substitutes for the real thing – the plumb line of fullness which is God Himself.

That is the point from which your life is blessed by God. You don’t have to live in that black and white movie ghost town with rotting floorboards and banging saloon doors, in a place inhabited by rodents and scavengers.

Let God fill your emptiness like only He can. He’ll turn your mourning into joy, and your tears into gladness. He’ll turn your loneliness into fellowship, and your despair into hope.

You Aren’t God

The Bible talks a lot about how we should consider our “selves”. I know modern psychology, and Oprah, and Joel Osteen, and the like say we need to feel powerful, and able, and special, fulfilled, and important. But I see the Bible telling us something quite different. I see Scripture saying we are helpless, sinful, depraved, that we need someone outside ourselves to save us from drowning.

Modern psychology does not work. We are a people drowning in a sea of “self”. People who are angry, depressed, anxious, violent, and who keep looking within themselves for answers because that’s the popular notion are looking in the wrong direction. How many people are medicated today because of psychological problems from eating disorders, to sexual confusion, anxiety to clinical depression? Even children are given pills for psychological problems.

Our children are taught that they are the most important entity in their own lives. So, when a police officer tells a young person to stop, to put their hands in the air, or to drop a gun, we end up reading about a shooting because the young person feels he is above the law. We hear about unspeakable crimes against children, against women, against the elderly because someone has considered their own desires more important than anything else. Abortion? Don’t get me started.

I was reading in Isaiah this morning and was impressed by God’s take on the whole thing. Chapter 45:9-10 tells us what is created has no business questioning the Creator. 47:10-11 says when we say, “I am, and there is no one else besides me,” evil will come upon us.  Proverbs 26:12 says a man who is wise in his own eyes has less hope than a fool.

These verses are only a few throughout the Bible that warn us about the foolishness of focusing on ourselves. Isaiah 48 spoke to me about who God really is. He is the Creator. He alone is God. And everything he does points to the fact of his absolute superiority.

Isaiah 46:5 asks a redundant question. Do I really want to put myself up next to God to establish equality? Do I really?

This just occurred to me as I was thinking about this subject. When a counselor or a pastor tells us to change our thinking about ourselves by telling ourselves how wonderful we are, we end up repeating things like:

I am powerful.

I am capable.

I am good.

I am worthy.

And in doing so, we replace the Great I AM with a counterfeit. Satan wins. We lose.

May you see yourself through God’s eyes today. You are someone who is lost, who is vile, who is powerless, and someone Jesus felt was worth dying for. Let him transform you into someone truly powerful and capable and good and worthy when he pours Himself into you, when HE gives you everything you need to face this day and its challenges.

There is nothing you can do for yourself that he can’t do so much better. After all, he’s God. And you’re not.