Have you noticed that a lot of people are struggling right now?
“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus told us, so we should not be surprised at what the Apostle Peter called the “fiery trials”of life. They are not pleasant, but we should know that they are very normal and they are to be expected and accepted with faith.
Even so, these circumstances can very quickly steal our joy and then lead to anxiety and depression. And yet we are instructed in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always”and to “not be anxious about anything.” These are not suggestions; they are commands. But how can this be? I mean, isn’t joy like love? Isn’t it just a spontaneous feeling that comes over us at random times? Emotions can’t be commanded, can they? Don’t they just happen?
Well, no… In fact, the Bible makes a regular habit out of commanding us to feel certain things (check out Psalm 42:5, Matthew 10:28, Romans 12:15, Ephesians 4:32, Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:15.) We are commanded to feel, not given the option to feel them. We are not to wait for these feelings to come or to wait until circumstances are right to feel them. In other words, the power of Christ must become greater in our lives than the power of circumstances.
But we still experience feelings of anxiety from time to time, don’t we? The Bible tells us that the cure for anxiety is prayer. The cure for the feeling that something bad is going to happen that is is beyond our ability to control is to call on the one who can actually do something about it! The cure for anxiety is faith in the mercy, sovereignty and absolute goodness of God.
And you should know that you will not always be in a state of freedom from anxiety. Anxiety is not something you overcome once and then never have to deal with again. It will be a recurring challenge in our lives, so we must continue to pray and continue to trust. The Christian life is about constant, ongoing responses of faith to God and the degree to which you, as His child, will feel His peace and His joy is determined by your response to His goodness.
What about depression? Should we just, as many people suggest to those who suffer from depression, “get over it”? Should we just choose not to feel depressed anymore?
From my own experience I know that many people are very insensitive about the reality of depression. Because of this, people who struggle with it are often afraid to talk about it. And that is unfortunate because burying depression and being made to feel ashamed of it is exactly the opposite of what a depressed person needs.
Learning to deal with my own bouts of depression was a long journey of discovery for me. But over time I learned to determine which of my seasons of depression were caused by sin, which were caused by a lack of faith, and which seasons were just brain-related imbalances that were somehow part of God’s good and mysterious plan for me at the time.
I accepted those seasons in faith that God would somehow redeem them and I can testify that he has redeemed every one of them; none of that time was wasted.
What about medication? We know that depression is sometimes caused by a lack of faith, a failure to believe that God is who He says He is. And sometimes it is caused by anxiety, by worrying about things over which we have no control and don’t trust God to work out for our good. All of us need to deal with these issues on a regular basis, but once you’ve honestly dealt with sin and faith issues, if the depression persists, it is not wrong to ask for and take medication. There is no shame in that!
But please, please, please talk to God first, seek Him in prayer. Ask for help and prayer from a trusted brother or sister in Christ. Depression can be a spiritual problem but it is not always a spiritual problem. One thing is certain: the last thing you want to do is try to medicate a spiritual problem. This will not work and will likely leave you worse off.
You Are Not Alone
The power of Christ must become greater in our lives than the power of circumstances. We access His power by submitting our wills to His, by rejoicing regardless of our circumstances, and by praying in faith, believing that He is both sovereign and good.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression right now, choose to rejoice and choose to pray. If the depression persists, ask a pastor or a close friend to help you work through the possible spiritual causes. If depression still persists, talk to your doctor about medication.
Do not be ashamed. You are not alone. I know it’s difficult – it was for me – but working though my depression and opening up about it turned out to be the best way through it.