June 15, 2009
by Biblical Counseling Ministry
I’m usually not a depressed person, but lately I feel like I’ve been walking around in a dark cloud. Nothing interests me, and I’m tired all the time. Everything is a chore! I don’t like my work, and life just isn’t fun anymore. What can I do to break out of this funk?
You are not alone in this experience. Many Christians find that at times they struggle with a feeling of sadness they cannot shake. Down times remind us that this world can’t hold ultimate joy for us—in its fallen state, our world is much less than the Lord created it to be. Sometimes the world’s fallenness touches us, and we feel sad. That feeling is normal and even sometimes beneficial, because it forces us to look beyond this life to something of greater value that only God can give.
Even our great heroes from the Bible understood what it meant to encounter this heaviness of spirit. Although depression is not a word used in Scripture, the Bible does talk about many godly men and women who underwent sadness and loneliness at difficult times in their lives. David, for example, was subject to strong surges of painful emotion:
I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God. (Psalm 69:23)
The apostle Paul once stated that his burden was so heavy that he “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Even our Lord Jesus understood deep sadness. Isaiah describes Him as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Because Jesus is familiar with deep hurt, He knows how to intercede with the Father on our behalf when we are filled with sorrow.
A person might feel depressed for many reasons. The cause may primarily be emotional, such as the anger of Cain or Jonah (Genesis 4:5-6; Jonah 4:1-11); spiritual, as was the guilt of David (2 Samuel 12:1-17); or physical, similar to the fatigue of Elijah (1 Kings 19). Many Christians think that if they are right with God, they should always be happy and joyful. However, God doesn’t expect us to be continually “up.” In fact, such a state isn’t even possible. Please understand that the Lord isn’t angry with you for feeling sad. (Note: Every person struggling with depression should consult a physician in order to deal with related physiological problems. Certain medical problems can actually cause depression.)
In Psalm 73, the psalmist talks to God about his despair because of the injustices in his life and his terrible fear that God has abandoned him. But in the end, he turns again to the Lord, his only hope. Let the psalmist’s prayer be a model for you when you are deeply troubled or saddened.
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26)
Read through this Psalm, and prayerfully meditate on these verses. Pour out your own pain to the Lord, and experience His healing touch as the psalmist did.
You can also do a few things to help lift your mood. Research has shown that exercise (like walking) can be very helpful in elevating a person’s mood. Other adjustments, like getting plenty of sleep, eating healthier food, and spending time with friends, can also be helpful. You’ll be surprised at how doing little things like this consistently can help.
Although these suggestions might not make your problems go away, they will give you strength and support to deal with the depression. Take a look at your daily schedule. Have you fallen into a routine that feeds your negative thoughts and feelings? Try changing one habit, and see if that change brings a bit of joy back into your life. Reach out to friends at church and others in your life whom you care about. We weren’t meant to live life in isolation; we must seek out others and their friendship. Deep relationships with others—serving them in love and being served by them—make life a wonderful blessing.
Perhaps the best weapon in your arsenal to beat the blues is the truth. You may be stuck in a habit of interpreting the events in your life with a negative spin. A circumstance may not turn out as you hoped, or someone may make a cutting comment, and you think devaluing thoughts like these: “Nothing I do turns out right,” “I’m a failure, a nobody,” “If I don’t get what I want, I can never be happy,” “I might as well give up,” “Nobody cares about me.”
If you hear these thoughts in your head, try countering them with the truth from God’s Word, which tells you that in Christ you are valuable, you have all you need, you have God-given abilities, you have a purpose in life, and you are loved. Focus your mind on God and on serving Him regardless of your circumstances or what other people say. It’s amazing how serving the Lord takes your mind off of yourself and shifts negative thoughts to thoughts of contentment and gratitude.
If you find yourself slipping further into depression, having disturbing thoughts that you can’t shake, having trouble concentrating, sleeping more or less than usual, avoiding pleasurable activities, or feeling sad all of the time, find a person with whom you can talk openly, such as a Christian counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. There’s no shame in seeking professional help. Many times depression has a physical cause that can—and should—be addressed. Call him or her when you’re feeling low, particularly if you have thoughts of suicide, and follow his or her advice. Perhaps your pastor or regular doctor might be able to recommend someone whom he or she trusts.
We wish we could give you an easy cure for the blues, but such a patch doesn’t exist. However, God offers you something much better than a quick fix. He offers you Himself as your Companion and Guide through this dark night of the soul.