One of the difficulties in handling depression is the tendency to think that, as a Christian, you should not feel this way. We so easily imbibe the thinking that when you become a Christian all of your problems are now sorted; Jesus is alive from the dead, smile and be happy. Now there are elements of truth in that presentation of Christianity, but if that is our only perspective on our faith that in Jesus, then we will be very dismayed when troubles hit us in our mental and emotional state.
Essentially then, I would have no sympathy with the simplistic, Jesus is risen; all your problems are over, perspective on the Christian faith. This is because it is evidently unbiblical. However, I still struggle with feeling the wrongness of being mentally and emotionally frail.
I have mentioned previously here about how Satan exploits the frailties of the mind to his own malicious ends to accuse and spiritually incapacitate the Christian suffering with mental afflictions. The derailed thinking goes something like this. “I’m a Christian, but if I was a strong christian I would not feel like this and other people will think I am a pathetic weakling because I can’t keep it together when I get stressed”.
One of the best antidotes to this attack is consider examples of those who have been evidently used of the Lord, but have suffered much in the mental and emotional realm. We find them:-
- in Scripture: Elijah in 1 Kings 19 is evidently cast down even depressed. David know what it was to be cast down in spirit. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? (Ps. 42:5a) is his lament.
- in history. It is good to read Christian biographies and know of the likes of Cowper and Spurgeon who suffered in this realm.
- in experience. It is such an encouragement to know of other believers who have suffered much with depression. I met a godly lady last month who would be in her eighties who had suffered much through depression for many years. This was such an encouragement to know that someone with such evident commitment to the Lord could suffer so much.
Through this I am encouraged that I am not alone.
The righteous person may have many troubles (Ps. 34:19a) is the observation of David and leads us to ponder upon the afflictions that specifically attach themselves to those who believe in Christ unto righteousness. Someone mentioned to me how Christians suffer particularly in the mental and emotional realm because of the workings of the devil in this arena.
Satan is very clever in using the vulnerabilities of our minds to his nefarious ends. Certainly there have been times during my recent depression episode when I have felt the reality of being bombarded by all kinds of derailed and pernicious thoughts and attitudes. Notwithstanding the vagaries of my mental state that has led to this, I am persuaded that demonic forces love to exploit these weaknesses so as to assail us and bring us down. I have felt that.
Therefore, i need to be aware that there are some very real spiritual matters happening. And I need to take heed to Scriptures which can garrison me from attack and collapse through demonic activity:
- submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (james 4:7)
- take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Eph. 6:14b)
- we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5)
would be some of those scriptures.
Finally let us rejoice that
- we have a Saviour who prays in John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Our beloved Lord Jesus is praying for us in all our mental and emotional vulnerabilities
- that Psalm 34:19 goes on to say but the Lord delivers him from them all.
As Paul had a thorn in the flesh, which the Lord determined would be better left in situ than removed, so it is that my struggle with depression may be life long. But Paul was not to have the thorn in the flesh for no reason. Rather God had great purposes for him in giving the thorn in the flesh, like He has for all who go through great weakness.
We read in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 : Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Through this experience of depression I am so patently shown my weaknesses. Humanly speaking that can be disastrous. But this scripture transforms everything, because there is a God, who is my Father, who delights to exert Christ’s power through the weakness of His people. I am thereby encouraged to trust in the Lord that my weakness, rather than disqualifying me in God’s kingdom, is actually a great quality that, through His grace, can be the means for His strength is seen. Oh may it be so.
I have been asked several times about the symptoms associated with my affliction. I think for many, there is the assumption, that depression is just a severe case of feeling low in spirits. That would be a reasonable inference from the term “depression”. Given that to be the case “depression” is a little bit of a misnomer and does not fully reflect the totality of the experience. I will first seek to give the overall perspective and then look at detailed symptoms.
- “I can’t cope” is a phrase that embraces much of the experience.
- Not functioning properly.
- Life feels like walking through sludge. Everything is heavy going.
- Overwhelmed by things.
- Cold hands and cold feet.
- Panic attacks.
- Tight chest.
- Seizures in chest region.
- Reduced appetite.
- A mind that goes looking for worries.
- An inability to properly process those anxieties.
- Lack of / disturbed sleep.
- Episodes of sensing darkness in my being.
- Generally “on edge”. Thinking that if certain things happen then I won’t be able to cope.
- Claustrophobia (on occasions) in confined spaces.
- The accomplishing of everyday activities becomes hard.
- Body getting hot and sweaty.
- Burning sensation in chest.
- “Anxious” stomach.
- Feeling light-headed, although that may have been due to medication.
- Sensitive to other people feeling I am acting in an odd way.
All of these detailed symptoms have not been there all the time, but there has been some manifestation of them. I don’t want to exaggerate the severity of them, but they would be a part of the experience. No doubt, others who suffer depression have differing experiences, but I relate what I have been through thus far, in my recent affliction.
I heard second-hand of a depression sufferer saying on the radio, that she wishes that non-depression sufferers could just experience depression for fifteen minutes, so they could know something of what it is like. It was an interesting observation. The experience of depression can be so painful.
As I write this I feel somewhat improved, but still with someway to go. Some of the pain still seems very close in terms of experience and time.
So much to learn. Thank you Lord for recent relief. Thanks to all who have prayed and shown interest.
In my last post on depression (here) I mentioned about the anticipated beneficial working of the sertraline. One thing I have been pondering upon is the danger of just relying on the medication to move through this present affliction. I was led to think of king Asa. We read that In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the doctors (2 Chron. 16:12).
The fact that I consider the medication a beneficial gift from the Lord. does not take away from the need to continue to trust in the Lord through the experience. As I have observed previously (here) I do not fathom how the mental, emotional and spiritual intermingle to establish my well-being. However, I do know that the call on me as a believer is to be believing in the Lord.
King Asa got things wrong not in seeking the doctors, but in only seeking the doctors. The Lord calls us to live with all of our life placed in His hands. We use various means for the furthering of our lives, families and churches, but we should never only use means. In fact our use of means should always begin, continue and end in the presence of the Lord through prayer and thanksgiving.
Of course in all thsi I am a failure; I have not trusted and do not trust Him as I ought. So I come to ask Him for forgiveness and for enabling to trust Him into the future.
Yesterday, January 17th, I decided to pull back from involvement in church life at Feltham Evangelical Church, for the time being at least. Having sought to keep going for four weeks whilst feeling unwell, I concluded, that I was not helping myself by continuing with my involvement with the ministry here. I felt I had to take time-out to seek to get myself functioning properly again. This was a painful, and yet relieving, decision; I shed quite a few tears.
So I will see where I go from here. People say that the benefits of taking Sertraline are only really experienced after a month. That means I have about ten days more until then. I had a wretched morning today, but a much better afternoon. Perhaps only once in the last four weeks have I felt rested by my afternoon rest. Today though I was granted some rest; thank you Lord.
So we move forward seeking to trust in our God. May it be that something of Job’s acknowledgement in Job 23:10 is known in my situation But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
I am not sure if I will continue blogging whilst recuperating; possibly. Thanks to all who have shown interest and prayed.
My post from Friday raises the issue of Christians taking antidepressants (see here). I have written about this previously here. In many ways I do not have much to add to what I wrote there.
I would like to ponder on of the issue of us living in a fallen world and how that bers upon taking anti-depressants. As Christians we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. We have an everlasting salvation now which cannot be taken away. However, we still live in this world. And this world is a fallen world; in so many ways it does not function properly and in so many ways we do not function properly. The fact that we get illnesses and injuries demonstrates this.
As Christians we so easily categorize physical ailments as being acceptably treated with medication, but that issues of the mind are spiritual and should not be medicated. Such seems a very simplistic approach. The fall also has consequences for our minds as well. In a sense my mind is dysfunctional. I mentioned this in a sermon I preached last year at our church. It is here. The medication is a provision from God to help me and many other sufferers to function better than we would otherwise.
As some people take regular ongoing medication for heart disease or blood pressure problems so others take medication to stabilize their mental condition. Although, I do not profess to be an expert in the medical issues it appears I have a tendency to be deficient in seretonin. The taking of sertraline seeks to boost production of seretonin.