(Caveat: If depression has a vice-grip on you, and you haven’t done so, please seek medical intervention, including a thorough physical exam. It’s also my conviction that for serious cases, anti-depressant medications, combined with professional counseling, can be means of God’s grace for you.)
When enveloped by the darkness, here are four ways I endure.
1.Call a friend who’ll pray for you over the phone.
Choose someone who wouldn’t mind receiving a call from you at 3:00 a.m., who’s comfortable offering heartfelt intercession on the spot. This is a form of immediate burden-bearing (Gal. 6:2). No one can help you bear a burden that you aren’t willing to disclose.
Who’s on your short list to call?
Force yourself to take a long, fast walk. Or jog. Or ride your bike until the sweat rolls down your face. Or go to your fitness center and lift weights. When darkness descends on me, I often go to a local rec center and swim for forty minutes.
Physicians at the Mayo Clinic cite a strong link between exercise and enhanced mood. They believe exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals; reduces immune system chemicals that exacerbate depression, and raises the body’s temperature, which can have a calming effect.
The next time your spirits sag, what form of exercise will you choose?
3.Memorize Bible verses, especially promises, that remind you of God’s presence and character.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we defeat depression merely by flinging a Bible verse at it. But I am saying that no matter what causes depression, we have a spiritual battle to fight. It’s a tug-of-war between belief and unbelief.
When I’m feeling lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut, it’s difficult for me to view God as good, caring, powerful, or sovereign. My bleak mood clouds my vision of what God has promised for His people in the future. Recalling selected texts buoys my sagging belief, instilling hope, even when the depression doesn’t evaporate. It’s a matter of sustenance, not a glib panacea.
Here’s a sampling of verses I repeatedly review: Psalm 27:13-14; 42:5; 54:4; 62:5-8; 73:25-26; Lamentations 3:22-25; Isaiah 40:27-41; 41:10; Matthew 11:28-30; Revelation 21:4.
Which verse or set of verses will you memorize first?
4.Do the next thing.
So emotionally numb you can’t feel a thing? So hypersensitive you weep but can’t explain why? Either way, pick a task that needs to get done. Choose to do it. You might as well achieve something instead of sitting in a stupor or lying in bed. Whether you do or don’t tackle the task, you’ll probably still be despondent an hour later. But at least it will have been a more productive hour.
*Wash dishes for your wife.
*Take your dog for a walk.
*Pay those bills stacked on the counter.
*Call a friend and ask about the recent prayer request she gave you.
*Prepare for your next Sunday School lesson.
*Write an encouraging note to someone who’s been struggling.
*Fill out a friend’s reference form that you’ve been putting off.
I’m not saying it’s easy to do the next thing, or take the next step through the darkness. Yet I am saying it’s possible. We don’t have to feel like doing something before we do it. In my case, I tell myself to put on my big boy underwear and get it done.
If you’re despondent right now, what will your “next thing” be?
My tips are far from exhaustive. What would you add?
For a link to Terry’s 30-minute testimony on depression and faith, plus other articles/poems on the subject, see the “Resources” section of his website: www.terrydpowell.com.