Battling depression is hard and ugly. And this has been my struggle for quite some time. To be completely clear...
Yes, I am Christian.
Yes, I fully believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross.
Yes, I affirm the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting.
Nevertheless, I struggle with depression and anxiety.
This has not been the glossy, attention-seeking journey that is often depicted in movies. In fact, this has been nothing like what I had assumed before personal experience. Although I have readily assured and validated others’ decision to acknowledge and seek guidance for their depression, I still viewed my own fight with depression in a stigmatic way. Consequently, the denial of my depression only caused my condition to worsen as time passed.
In my experience, I’ve learned that depression is not something that can be easily “willed” away. It affects people in a variety of ways and, for me, it has been an incredibly frustrating and exhausting experience. In many instances, I have remained highly functional through my depression, but a few months ago I began to experience days where I felt literally paralyzed by my thoughts. I’ve experienced great difficulty in completing small tasks such as going to the grocery store or completing a simple “to do” list at work. Even my ability to write and study God’s Word has been affected. My days started to feel insurmountable and daunting. I attempted to hide my struggles behind smiles and laughter with the hope that my external facade would conceal my internal agony. Chronic fatigue and constant headaches were the physical accompanists to my emotional & mental distress. Questioning myself and God became a regular routine:
“Why am I not beyond this by now?”
“How can I reconcile what I know with how I feel?”
“What am I doing wrong?”
But the hardest part of this journey has been actually coming to terms with everything; no longer denying the depression out of fear of appearing to lack faith or Christian maturity. It has been difficult to admit and accept my own fragility and brokenness. But in doing so, I have found myself perfectly positioned to behold the glory of God all the more. And as I dependently journey through this, God has been kind and gracious in allowing me to learn a few things that I’d like to share with you:
Humility is necessary. If you want to have your life completely ravished by depression then pridefulness is a sure-fire way to accomplish that. Pride has almost been the death of me. When it came to battling depression, I didn’t want to accept the fact that I needed God’s grace. Humility and the grace of God go hand in hand. How can we truly receive something that we don’t think we need? James 4:6 states, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” We must recognize that as feeble men and women, we are corrupt in all our faculties. Our fleshly bodies aren’t beyond depression. Even in Christ, we still wrestle with the flesh. Thus, we must be aware that our battle against depression starts and ends with humility. We need to be cognizant of our inability to sustain ourselves or keep our own minds in perfect peace. We must acknowledge our brokenness and look to God for grace to be freed from depression in this life or sustained through it until we meet Him in glory. And, in light of common grace, we ought to have a willingness to seek and accept help from therapists and physicians who can provide solid counsel and prescribe medications, if needed. Furthermore, seeking help through these means certainly do not make one any less of a Christian.
Depression is a spiritual battle. Although depression manifests in very visible and tangible ways, the problem (at the core) has everything to do with the schemes of our chief adversary, the devil. In the book, Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cures, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains, “He can use our temperaments and our physical condition. He so deals with us that we allow our temperament to control and govern us, instead of keeping temperament where it should be kept. There is no end to the ways in which the devil produces spiritual depression.” To make this simple, Satan tempts us with unbelief. He uses situations, people, and even our own bodies and minds as a means to tempt us to deny the truths of God. This is precisely why we must constantly be reminded of God’s Word. We must study and hold firm to what is true. As Christians, our hope is in glory! Christ has overcome this world and all of the troubles that come with it! We can find deep solace in the fact that our present sufferings with depression pale in comparison to the glory that is to come when we join Christ in Heaven.
Learn Contentment. I know it sounds a bit paradoxical, but even while battling depression you can learn contentment. In Philippians 4:11-12 the Apostle Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” The Greek term here is αὐτάρκης (autarkēs) and it simply means to be satisfied in one’s circumstance. Learning contentment basically means having an untroubled acceptance of where God has sovereignly placed you in life. True contentment is possible for us because of strengthening that comes from Christ. As Paul makes it clear in v. 13, it is the power of Christ within him that provided genuine contentment. Our ability to overcome some of the direst physical and mental difficulties lie solely in the power of God. Even while suffering through horrible things like depression, we can continue to rest easy and contentedly in God’s supreme power over all things.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am STILL struggling with depression. Everyday. Even as I write, I am reminded of how the past few days haven’t been the prettiest of days. And frankly, it is not easy to write about something that remains a present struggle. But, I realize that sharing my journey and experience with depression is not so much about me, but rather it’s about sharing the truth that I firmly believe; the truth that is found in God’s Word. And I wholeheartedly believe that resting in the truth of God is what has kept me alive. Depression has often knocked me down, but it has not destroyed me and that’s only by the grace of God. He helps me, strengthens me, and upholds me with His righteous hand! (Isaiah 41:10).