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Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

Depression: The Reality

Here in the recent edition of Evangelical Times is a sane article about the devastating impact of depression. I wrote here myself about the realities of my own experience.

As I move on into life without the rigours of depression it is easy for me to forget the traumatic reality of the experience. A four day spell last month was once again a reminder of how debilitating depression can be.

The comparisons in Mr Thomas’s article are salutatory and most helpful. Broken minds can be more devastating than broken legs.

Depression (Again) (13)

It is a year today since I reached the lowest point of my episode of serious depression around the turn of the year. On January 17th I pulled out of work to seek to get myself better.

It is sobering to look back over this year. In it I see how there has been so much to learn. To be reminded of our weakness is never a bad thing. It teaches us of our need to rely on our God and also upon others. This passage from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 has been ever so precious to me:

 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I trust I have learnt to eschew the peril of self-dependence which afflicts so many of us, particularly in the West. To have tasted that his grace is sufficient is a beautiful thing. I trust I will always be experiencing that reality.

I do now feel so much better in terms of my mental and emotional health. I thank my Father for this.  I trust I am a more caring and sympathetic person on account of what I have experienced.

I remember the pain though and do not want to go there again. But I have learnt so much through the experience.

Now feeling so much better there is that tendency to think that I might be able to get off my medication. To be anti-depressant free is, in a sense, the holy grail of the depression sufferer. Wisdom convinces me that it’s only in a better land with the Lord when that will be the case. There there will be no more pain and suffering. There will be no more depression when we are with the Lord. In the meantime I walk with a limp.

I do not know what the future holds, but I do know the One who holds the future. So by faith we seek to go forward.

 

 

Evangelism In The Darkness

I wrote here about how Christmas may not be the big time for evangelism that some assert. I am left wondering though, whether now we are entering the time of year when we have the most fertile opportunities to engage in evangelism.

January is recognised as the month of year when our moods are at their lowest. Many things combine. We are on the leeward side of the Christmas and New Year party season. There is the gnawing feeling that those parties just did not deliver the satisfaction that they promised. Moreover the excess associated with the holiday season has left us deflated about our appearances. And then there were those fractured relationships which were once again evidenced in the family gatherings over Christmas. Oh and don’t forget the debt-ridden bank accounts from all the necessary (and unnecessary) expenditure at Christmas. Then there is simply the process of putting away the Christmas decorations and realising how we put them up in much excitement for the holiday season and now it is all over; the parties and the holiday were not that great either.

Furthermore, there is the higher level of illnesses such as cold and flu. The weather often being dark and dreary does not help.

Put into this cocktail the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and there is much feeling that everything is not right, SAD is the condition that results from the reduced level of sunlight at this time of year. In passing I note, that the third Monday of January is  generally known to be the saddest day of the year.

So what does all that mean? It means that January is the time of year when it is most detectable that all is not well.  People are thinking, more than at other times, “there has got to be more than this.”

All this sits up as a free hit for evangelism. So there seems something wrong, in my observation, in the church going into something of a stupor at this time of year. We give it our best go over Christmas; now we will have our January sabbatical and get on with preparing for Easter in February.

I caricature, of a measure, but I feel there is more then a grain of truth in this. Are we just missing a great importunity through not being more sensitive to the emotional flow of our neighbours and our society more generally? Is it the case that the fields are ripest for harvest in January and the church is hibernating? How about re-thinking some of our strategies?

Oh and of course don’t forget this has everything to do with the eternal welfare of those around us. We love our neighbours most when we are willing to intervene to help introduce them to the Saviour. Right outside your door (and mine) there might be many who are more open to hearing the hope of the gospel than at any other time. So why don’t we get praying and get going and sharing our Saviour.

Darkness

When it is dark a lot is going on. This is what we learn from Psalm 103:20:

You make darkness, and it is night,
    when all the beasts of the forest creep about.

We have the perception that darkness means that things “close down” for the night. However, in the forest, unseen to us, are a multitude of beasts vibrant with activity in the darkness.

When darkness descends upon us, whether that be in an episode of depression or in a period of feeling low and out-of-sorts, we can conclude that life has closed down. We feel that life will only start again when the darkness passes and “I can see clearly again”.

But that is not so. In God’s all perfect purposes the darkness can be a time when He is busy with much activity in our lives. In the darkness we immediately learn of our insufficiency. When wisdom grasps this reality, we can know that this is one of those workings for good in God’s good and perfect purposes (see Rom. 8:28), even though the dark times can be very unsettling.

In times of darkness we can be being prepared for future usefulness. In these times we are learning that our faith depends upon God even when we don’t feel or see Him. Thereby, with a grasp of this knowledge, we can be such a great use to others.

As a brother in the Lord related to me recently, the Lord makes His goodness known to us in every season. And so He does and that includes the dark seasons. We need the eye of faith to see Him and His purpose in the darkness.

The bewilderment of darkness can be the means by which we see God in a fuller and better way. We are led into so much of the experiences of God’s peoples as related in Job and some of the Psalms for example. Through this our fellowship with the Lord is enriched. Through this we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Saviour.

When darkness hides His lovely face I rest on His unfailing grace (On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, Edward Mote; 1834). By faith may we experience this truth in the realities of life.

Depression – What Not To Say

As I have observed here staying quiet and listening can be one of the best responses we make to those in need. Notwithstanding that it is good to show our interest in others by actually speaking to them, being quiet and listening is vital. With depressed people we can so easily think that we have to give our advice to seek to give them help. In such a situation we can blurt out all kinds of unhelpful things. So here are some things not to say to the depressed:

Just Relax “I would love to be able to do that; to just relax and feel my being eased. Don’t you think I want to be relaxed!” is how the depressed person would want to respond to this. A far better way is to know the person and to guide them into the ways that help them to relax.

You’re better off than a lot of other people – to which the depressed person may well say: “I know that I am, but that does not alleviate the pain that I am feeling.” When dealing with depressed people you need to know that at the heart of the experience of depression is that of a mental dysfunction. Physical and circumstantial re-arrangements may have little impact upon their mental and emotional well-being. Their circumstances may be far better than that of others, but that is not the issue

You need to get better sleep. “If only I could! I would love to be sleeping better. However, I am so mangled with stress that sleep is so often elusive. And then there is that waking up with a feeling of hopelessness and disarray.” So says or thinks the one assailed with depression.

How are your wife and family coping with your depression? – “Oh no I’m not just in a mess myself, but i am causing all kinds of difficulties for my family” thinks the depressed person. Ask the family directly, if it is appropriate, about how they are getting on, would be a better approach in exercising your care for the family.

Cheer Up – “Oh I do wish I could be brighter and not so deflated by life, but it’s not just about cheering up.”

Pull yourself together. “If only I could. I would love to be back together like I have been in the past. But my being is now in a state of disrepair and I can’t get things together.”

Christians should not get depressed – Urrh, what about Elijah then in 1 Kings 19? The man who had it all together in facing the prophets of Baal in chapter 18 is now in disarray under the broom tree. So we read: But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 18:4). And what of the soul’s cast downcast condition related by the sons of Korah in Psalm 42? Is that not depression?

Christians should not take medication for depression. This may be true for some people who have a variety of depression that is more appropriately dealt with by counselling or lifestyle changes. However, for many the chemical imbalance that leads to reduced serotonin levels is appropriately dealt with through medication.

Finally:

  • please do not shun people with depression and do not feel you have to avoid the subject when speaking with them. However, do be careful with what you say.
  • remember that depressed people likely do not have a great capacity for interacting about matters, so short times with them is probably best for them.
  • before you say anything pray to the Lord for wisdom.

Depression (Again)(12)

It is six months today since I reached the nadir of my episode of serious depression around the turn of the year. On January 17th I pulled out of work to seek to get myself better.

In the mercies of the Lord, I have been restored to reasonable mental and emotional health. Through medication, prayer to the Lord, encouragement from others, wifely and family support and and some good rest and renewal, I have been brought back, in the Lord’s mercies, to a place where I feel I am functioning reasonably. I am still taking mediation, although am very gradually reducing the dose. Although I am persuaded that I will have to have this for the rest of my life.

I have had some fluctuations along the way. One period in particular in early June when May Lin was away in Malaysia, was hard with some reverberations of what I had been through.

I have been back working normally since early May. I have set myself to have some three week long sabbaticals and am in the midst of one of those at the moment.

I am a scarred man. But I trust I am a better man through what I have been through. When I hear of others going through the afflictions of depression or being overwhelmed with life my heart breaks and I long to pray. In many ways I want to be of help to others, but I feel so very weak. Nevertheless you feel I could be of some help to you, on account of what I have been through, please contact me.

I know not what the future holds, but I know my Father holds the future and that His everlasting arms are always underneath and are always strong enough to hold me now and forever.

If you are one of those who has prayed for me and encouraged me, then thanks. and by the way I still need those prayers and encouragements.

Prayer and Recovery

I write this pondering upon how I am immeasurably recovered from where I was five months ago. My mental and emotional state now is incomparable to how I was when in the depths of weakness and despair through depression. If you want to follow the issue of my depression please follow the “Depression (Again)” posts which start here

I write this wanting to thank all who have prayed to the Lord for me. I am grateful for all who have shown an interest in me. I am grateful for all who have encouraged me. But I am left, above all, pondering upon the issue of the power and impact of prayer to the Lord by different ones for me.

Paul says to Philemon about how, through prayer, he expected something to happen. He writes: At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you (Phile. 22).

I am left wondering about how much of my recovery is down to the fact that people, including possibly yourself, have prayed for me. God really does work through prayer.

I am reminded of what I wrote here from Jackie Hill Perry about how she believed her coming to Christ was bound up with prayer.

Which all leaves me pondering upon how much of Philippians 4:6-7 is being seen in my life. Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Oh may you and me be encouraged to be praying for people and situations and believing God really does work through prayer.

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