Advance! Depression Series Part 2: What the Bible Says About Depression, Stress, Anxiety and Worry.
Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Life can catch you off guard in a thousand different ways by circumstances that are both invasive and unwelcome. A scary diagnosis, a deadline that is impossible to meet, a relationship that you can't repair, heartbreak with your children, financial setback, deep loneliness, loss of employment, and this infamous global pandemic disrupting every aspect of life. This just names a few. The possibilities are endless but the result is the same. Stress, worry, and anxiety that if not controlled, can lead to crippling depression. Perhaps this ugly trio has paralyzed you just when you most need clear thinking or decisive action.
Depression creates suffering, there is no doubt about that. The hard thing is that it's a silent suffering. On the outside, you appear great! When your out and about, at work, church, or with family and friends, you put on your happy face, your "game face". But inside, your heart is heavy, broken and you can't explain why. People will say, "Oh, just find the ways to bring joy in your life! Think of things that make you happy! Remember the good times!" Like it's so easy. And for them, maybe it is. One of the hardest things to understand is how to find joy when you are suffering.
When I don't understand something, I'll look to see what the bible says about it.
When I don't understand life's issues, I'll go straight to the Word.
So looking to the bible about finding joy in your worries, anxieties, stress and depression, well, it wasn't hard to find. We know that joy can be found in our trials because the bible says it can.
Lets start with Paul. He was a man who endured a chronic ailment, physical abuse, persecution for his faith, financial hardship and he wrote the following words while sitting in a prison cell... "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Phil 4:6-7. This is great advice. It doesn't say to ignore your anxiety and pretend everything is fine. Instead, it encourages three steps...
Admit your fears: Once we are honest with ourselves about the source of worry, we can bring that concern to God. Paul wrote that we should talk to Him about everything through prayer.
Ask for action: Make a specific request for God to act. The Bible is filled with examples of people who asked God to intervene in a specific situation. Sometimes He chose to act in a clear, dramatic manner. At other times, a greater purpose was at play. Like a child who asks a loving parent to meet his or her need, we can boldly ask our Heavenly Father to act. At times He will give us what we request. At other times, He may have something even better in the works.
Give thanks!: It’s practically impossible to feel truly thankful and discontent at the same moment. That’s why something powerful occurs when we give thanks, especially when we may not feel grateful. Stress, worry, and anxiety rob us of joy as they focus our hearts and minds on what is wrong or missing. So specifically give thanks for 1. What He has done (He has given us life. He has met our needs. He paid the penalty for our sins and gave us the hope of eternal life. Thank Him for these and the many other blessings of life), 2. What He is doing (We know that He is able to use the present circumstances in ways that we may not see. Give thanks for what He is doing in the world and what He is doing in us), and 3. What He is going to do (Perhaps most importantly, give thanks for what God will do in coming days, confident that He will work all things together for our ultimate good).
I can go on and on! James tells us to "Consider it all joy". Peter tells us to "Keep rejoicing". Jesus says "Rejoice and be glad, your reward in heaven is great".
But still, even with all these tools that the Word shares, for those under the heavy cloak of depression, you ask, "How this is even possible?" It's not that anyone wants to feel like this, nobody does! But some just can't shake that heaviness and the deep sadness they feel. Others feel anger. Some are confused. Then you will find that some hold on to their depression and don't know who they are without it because it's become so much a part of them.
On top of daily prayer, it's important to have a good support network. People in your life that can help realign your thoughts. Good influences. It doesn't need to be a huge amount of people but make sure that it's one or two people that you trust and can lean on when you need to. People that give you good advice and lift you up when your down. People that will pray with you and just "be still" with you.
Exercise is also key! Exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference. It reduces stress by releasing serotonin production in your brain which gives you your "happy vibes". It takes your mind off worries, boosts confidence, gives you more social interaction and it helps you cope in a healthy way, as opposed to unhealthy ways of coping such as drinking or drugs to make yourself feel better. Exercise is a very positive way to manage depression or anxiety.
But perhaps the most important way to cope is to simply open your bible. Own those scriptures. Declare them over your depression. Declare them over your circumstances. Declare them over your anxiety, stress and worry. Make them your own and watch what God does. He will begin to lift it. Place that depression at the foot of the cross and surrender it completely to God. Healing does not happen over night most of the time, but it does happen. You will start noticing little bright spots in your day. Then those bright spots will appear more frequently.
Some have told me that they are not very religious, others don't feel God will take them seriously if they pray. That is opposite of what God tells us and don't believe that lie. God would never tell you not to come to Him, but Satan would. Be careful who you listen to. I can tell you with 100% certainty that God wants you to come to him. He wants everything that you are and everything that you are not. He will take the broken pieces of your heart and put them lovingly back together. We may not understand the peace of God, but we can still receive it. We pray because doing so changes our perspective. Stress, anxiety, worry and depression nurture internal and external conflict. Prayer, on the other hand, guards us in two ways.... It gives us a
calm heart as we sense God's loving care, and a calm mind as we remember that God is much, much bigger than our circumstances.