Health – Depression

In all my years of attending church, I have noticed that there are some subjects, two in particular, DEPRESSION and its twin sister ANXIETY, that are rarely if ever mentioned. It is as if it does not exist among Christians, or that Christians should be above such behavior and therefore there is no need for its acknowledgment.

Having been employed in psychiatric institutions for many years, I can assure you that this illness knows no boundaries or discrimination: wealthy or poor, famous or infamous, anyone can be affected by this silent killer.

Depression comes from the root word depressed, pressed down. It is an intense feeling of sadness, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, uselessness, and extreme fatigue. If it is not treated, it may lead to psychosis and suicide. It is often triggered by a traumatic event: the loss of a job, death of a loved one, psychological and physical abuse and a host of other reasons.

The following statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health for individuals from ages 18 and older in America reveal the prevalence of mental health disorders:

  • Major Depressive Disorder – 16 million (worldwide – 350 million)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – 15 million
  • Phobias – 19 million
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) – 7.7 million

Staggering, is it not?

When my daughter decided to take psychology as her major in college, a church official suggested that she not waste her time. Really? I wanted to chip in; have you seen the statistics of our society? I am so happy that my daughter is receiving education in how to reach out to humanity, to be a blessing, whether it be in Christian counselling, social work, psychotherapy, whatever the direction. The Lord knows we need it.

Throughout our world history there have been many in leadership positions who have suffered with depression. I will mention just a couple.

Abraham Lincoln was known to have battled depression and suicide all his adult life.

Sir Winston Churchill called depression his “black dog.”

You may ask the question: Should a Christian ever be depressed, and if so, would this mean a lack of faith? If you are someone who is sensitive, loving, caring, giving, feeling, nurturing, empathetic, you are sure to have experienced depression to some degree.

Consider these few excerpts from Adventist Review Online, January 3, 2017, “Ellen White and Depression,” by Tim Poirier.

“In her autobiographical accounts, Ellen White frequently describes times of depression and melancholy. Many were merely a passing sadness over present conditions, but others were extended periods of gloom and discouragement. She often attributed her depressed spirits to physical ill-health, which she suffered throughout her life, in part a result of her life-threatening accident she experienced at age 9.

“In 1859 Ellen White candidly informed church members, ‘For years I have been afflicted with dropsy (edema) and disease of the heart, which has had a tendency to depress my spirits and destroy my faith and courage.’ She described having felt ‘no desire to live,’ and being unable to muster enough faith even to ‘pray for my recovery.’ Testimonies, vol. 1, 185. During this time, she confided in her diary, ‘Oh, why is it that such gloom rests upon everything? Why can I not rise above this depression of spirit? … I have no health and my mind is completely depressed.’ The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts with Annotations, vol. 1, 632, 633.

“As the Lord’s messenger, she was uniquely sensitive to the spiritual deficiencies of individuals and the church generally. Both she and James carried the state of the church continually upon their hearts: ‘Our happiness has depended upon the state of the cause of God. When God’s people are in a prospering condition, we feel free. But when they are in disorder and backslidden, nothing can make us joyful. Our whole interest and life have been interwoven with the rise and progress of the third angel’s message. We are bound up in it, and when it does not prosper, we experience great suffering of mind.’ ” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 297.

“She knew the darkness of losing children and even one’s life companion to death. Recalling the bereavement for her 3-month-old son John Herbert, she wrote, ‘After we returned from the funeral, my home seemed lonely. I felt reconciled to the will of God, yet despondency and gloom settled upon me.’ Ibid., 296.

“Ellen White found hope in Biblical accounts of spiritual giants who experienced periods of deep discouragement, yet who were not abandoned by God: individuals such as, Elijah, David, and Paul. Even Jesus, she noted, was not free from such feelings. (Matthew 26:38; John 12:27.) The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 94.

“Of Elijah she wrote, ‘If, under trying circumstances, men of spiritual power, pressed beyond measure, become discouraged and desponding, if at times they see nothing desirable in life, that they should choose it, this is nothing strange or new. … Those who, standing in the forefront of the conflict, are impelled by the Holy Spirit to do a special work, will frequently feel a reaction when the pressure is removed. Despondency may shake the most heroic faith and weaken the most steadfast will. But God understands, and He still pities and loves.’ Prophets and Kings, 173, 174.

“Writing to her son Edson, who had a tendency to ‘look on the dark side’ of things, Ellen White reminded him that ‘With the continual change of circumstances, changes come in our experience; and by these changes we are either elated or depressed. But the change of circumstances has no power to change God’s relation to us. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and He asks us to have unquestioning confidence in His love.’ In Heavenly Places, 120.

“Recalling the feelings of overwhelming despair that followed her childhood accident, Ellen White reflected, ‘I concealed my troubled feelings from my family and friends, fearing that they could not understand me. This was a mistaken course. Had I opened my mind to my mother, she might have instructed, soothed, and encouraged me.’ Life Sketches of James and Ellen G. White, 135.”

On days when you feel “pressed beyond measure” and sinking fast into despair, remember Peter’s words, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). Then Ellen White recommended the benefits of outdoor activity, gardening, enjoying nature, and simply praising God. “Go right along, singing, and making melody to God in your hearts, even when depressed by a sense of weight and sadness, I tell you as one who knows, light will come, joy will be ours, and the mists and clouds will be rolled back.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 242, 243.

Yes friends, EXERCISE is very important. When we exercise, our body releases chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals act as analgesics and reduce the perception of pain and triggers positive feelings. For example, the feeling after a workout or a run described as “euphoric” or as a “runner’s high” creates positive energy and a positive outlook on life. There is no excuse for inactivity, unless you are in a coma!

Claim God’s promises: “And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:1–3).

Let’s encourage one another to trigger our happy chemicals. And always remember what Paul said, “But it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

May God bless and keep you.