Last week’s post, “The Stigma of Mental Illness in the Church” definitely struck a chord in others. If you could only visualize the internal anguish I felt about writing on this topic. The feedback I’ve received was worth it. It’s clearly a subject that needs more attention.
Our moods can be impacted by stressful life events, genetics, hormones, medical conditions, substances (alcohol, drugs, medication) and more. Pinpointing the cause of depression is sometimes easy and sometimes not. The one thing I can say for sure is that when it does strike, the person suffering can’t control how he feels.
I’ve been that person who essentially says, “Why can’t you just snap out of it?” But I’ve also been on the other end, when it’s been asked of me. If only it were that easy. Just think happy thoughts—unicorns and rainbows. Or in the circle of believers, just pray and then you’ll snap out of it.
The reality is that depression can have a vice-like grip on your emotions and thoughts. Its hold can be so powerful that it seems like an unbreakable barrier between you and God. No amount of prayer, Bible reading or worship music will make it go away. In other words, you can’t just snap out of it.
No one wants to feel this way. The individual isn’t choosing to be depressed. And yet so often, the “just snap out of it” mantra comes across as the solution. But if that’s not the answer…then what is?
When you just can’t snap out of it, know that it’s hold over you can be broken. Psalm 42:11, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
Putting your hope in God takes the responsibility off your shoulders to just “snap out of it.” You can’t manufacture a content spirit and you certainly can’t will yourself to feel joy. But when we put our hope in God, we are essentially giving it all to Him. We know that we’re unable but He is more than able.
Hope that you are loved by God. Hope that just as He has come through for you in past difficulties, so will He now. Hope that He is working out the perfect ending to this temporary twist in your story.
You discipline yourself to hope by praying…even when it feels like you’re talking to a wall. You read the Word…even when it makes no impact. You listen to uplifting music…even when it stirs nothing inside. These are disciplines that over time will most definitely make a positive difference and help break the chain of depression.
But there are other ways we can find hope—for some, it may mean medication (short or long term). It may require seeking professional counseling. Or asking your closest friends to help pray you through.
There’s usually not a quick, easy fix for depression. Even telling someone to have hope in God sounds so trite. King David is a prime example of someone who experienced many stressful events in his life. Yet he verbalized his hope in God. He spoke it out loud. He reminded himself of God’s faithfulness. He declared that his faith was in a trustworthy God. His circumstances didn’t always change. But it was hope that enabled him to break free from the chains of depression.
Hope is not a magical key to happiness. But it is the source in finding strength to get through the battle. Hope is what carries us out of the valley of despair. Hope is what brings us peace. Hope is what breaks the bonds of depression and fills us with joy.