What is a depressed Christian to do? I am going to offer some suggestions and perhaps a kernel of hope to those of you suffering from depression or for those of you with close friends and/or loved ones suffering.
1. Tell Somone (trustworthy). Many are ashamed of their depression and so they suffer and spiral down in silence. Insecurity, self-loathing, and embarrassment keep them from going to other trustworthy people in the body of Christ, people who would gladly help bear their burdens. If you are suffering from depression, please do not let lies or shame keep you from confiding in another trustworthy person. Tell of your depression and confess your sins if need be so that you might start to be healed. There are plenty of people who want to walk alongside of you and pray for you. God is here. However depression often mutes your perceptions of his presence. One of the most tangible ways you will experience God’s love, especially in this darkness, is through loving, trusthworthy, people in the body of Christ. If you are reading this and haven’t told a soul, now is the time to speak–to someone trustworthy–to someone who won’t brush you off or offer trite answers.
2. Take Thoughts Captive. This requires your constant effort and continued vigilance. You feel awful–like you’re looking up at rock bottom. You cut your soul with the words you say to yourself. It’s easy to cling to everything awful and untrue while in this state. It is harder to tell yourself the truth about God, yourself, and life because you don’t feel the truth or because you don’t believe it.
This is where you have to often go contra feeling. Your depressive feelings and thoughts become obsessive. It has become easier to swallow lies than truth. However, you have to combat them with truth even if you don’t believe the truth right now. For example, you might have thoughts and feelings such as, “No one cares about me. No once cares whether I live or die. God could care less about me.” That is untrue. But you don’t feel the truth only lies. Even so what you might do is start listing off the people that care about you. There must be at least one. And also, try to find verses in the Bible that speak of God’s care and his love. The Psalms are wonderful. I think of excerpts from Psalm 145 (NIV):
And even if you don’t feel thankful for anything, start listing off the things you have to be thankful for. Like a roof over your head and food. And if you don’t have that you can be thankful that you are alive and for the computer that you have that enables you to read this. We all have blessings to count and things to be grateful for even if we aren’t feeling particularly thankful.
Another thing you might think about is the fact that many in Scripture and throughout history either suffered from depression or had bouts of depression or dark nights of the soul where God seemed silent. Think of Elijah, David, Jonah, St. Paul, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and Mother Teresa. This fact probably doesn’t make you feel better but it helps to know that you’re not alone.
Think magnificently about God and not evil of him for he is not evil and means to do you good. In him there is no darkness at all.
3. Exercise and Get Outside. This is a hard one because for some people the hardest thing to do on any day is to get out of bed. But whether inside or out walking/exercising will be good for your soul. It’ll get the endorphins going. For some readers it may mean putting snowboots on and trekking out in front of the house on a blustery day for a few minutes. The act of getting up and getting outside even in the cold will shed a bit of relief on a numbed soul. If you can’t do it alone could a friend or family member walk and/or exercise with you on a weekly basis?
4. Maintain a Routine. This is the hard part. You might want to sleep in or neglect your job/other duties…maybe your children. You just don’t have the motivation or the energy to care. If you choose to give into those feelings troubles begin to pile up and make you feel like you’re drowning. Don’t give up! It is time to go contra your energy and feelings again. Doing what you have to do even though you have no ounce of desire to do it will help maintain your soul’s health. It is possible. You might need accountability partner and some help. Please tell someone if you do. A loving friend/family member can try to keep you accounable.
5. Counseling. Pastoral Care. Maybe you can’t afford a counselor. Maybe you can. Many counselors or social workers have sliding fee scales to help. Some churches have counseling centers and may be able to help you if you’re having trouble paying. Some offer free counseling. It is helpful to have someone to talk to. Alert the caring leadership/pastors of a church. If you don’t go to a church, maybe you could ask around for a good church. Churches often have reputations you know, and so people in your area will know where to refer you. It is good for the godly leaders of a church to know of your situation so that they can rally around you and rally others around you.
6. Medication. See a doctor and tell her/him of your situation. There might be some other medical cause for your depression. I realize that some churches/pastors teach that Christians shouldn’t take medication for depression. That just isn’t true. Some have biological issues/psychoses that necessitate medication. You and your doctor can discuss that. Obviously one shouldn’t over medicate or use medication in lieu of dealing with their issues. But sometimes medication under a doctor’s supervision is necessary. If you don’t have medical insurance, search for a free clinic and/or let your church know. Thank God that we now have medications to help people that we didn’t have a hundred years ago.
7. Read. Read scripture and stories of saints and others who have overcome adversity and difficult circumstances to gain encouragement and hope. It can do you untold amounts of good.
8. Humor. Find people, read about, or seek healthy situations that make you laugh. It will be good for you.
9. Remember. All the times God has been good to you and delivered you in the past. That’ll give you reason to believe that he will be good to you now and in the future. Recall those times as often as possible.
10. Prayer. Cry out to God as much as you are able and have others pray for you. God hears. God hears. He does hear. And he cares deeply for you. God answers prayer.
* climbing out of depression is a process. There is no formula and it doesn’t happen over night. Some people struggle throughout their lives…but it doesn’t have to be something you go through alone or as awful as it is now. Please seek help. And realize that my list is not exhaustive nor a formula. Hopefully it is something to cling to in the wilderness of depression. I pray God’s blessing on you. Love to you in Christ.