Though some argue that depression is a fault, flaw, weakness, failure…I reject these notions. I suffer from depression myself. I have counseled other depression sufferers. It is a reality. I dealt with this in my last post. Today, I want to share some strategies I have learned for coping with depression.
- Seek aid from others. Go see your doctor. He can help. Seek a counselor. She can help. Talk to a friend. Don’t fight this battle by yourself. Do not be ashamed.
- Pray for circumstantial help. Sometimes, life overwhelms us. We face difficulty piled on difficulty. Chronic stress adds depth to our despair. Some seasons suck the joy out of living. In Psalm 43:1, the depression sufferer rightly asks God for help with difficult circumstances. He wants God to change things. He asks for rescue and vindication. He pleads for supernatural intervention. Sometimes, that is exactly what we need. It is not shallow to pray for such help.
- Exercise heroic self-discipline. Depressives must make themselves do what they do not want to do…when they do not want to do it. You will want to go to bed, pull the covers up over your head, and tell the world to go away. That may include spouse, children, friends, boss. You cannot give in to these strong impulses. Remind yourself of the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear, retreat, surrender), but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” [NIV]. Get back out there.
- Combat your spiritual dryness. When your depression is heavy upon you, you will not feel like praying, singing, worshipping, reading the Bible, or anything else that connects you to God. Do it anyway. You are not a freak or a failure because you feel isolated and separated from God. Intimacy with God is a casualty of depression. The singer in Psalm 43:3-4 also felt separated from God. He could not find God. He could not feel the closeness of God. So he asks God to come and find him. I have found that when I do not feel like practicing spiritual disciplines, one thing I can do is listen to music. At one particular period of deep depression, I played…over and over and over again… “Garments of Praise” by Robin Mark. The words broke through my spiritual block and encouraged me.
- Talk to yourself. In Psalm 43:5, the psalmist speaks strongly…to himself. This is an important practice. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the former pastor and medical doctor from London, described the importance of talking to ourselves: “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in this psalm] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”
- Realize hope. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to you is one it took me a long time to learn. There is hope for the depression sufferer. How you feel today is not the way you will always feel. Life will not always be as bad as it seems today. Hang on. Depression is often cyclical. I had a professor…my favorite professor…Dr. J. W. MacGorman… who knew something about dealing with difficulty. One of the memorable things he said was, “Some days, survival is a worthy goal.” Every day will not be slaying dragons and rescuing damsels. Days and seasons come when you just hang on. Wait on God. Survive. It will get better. Really. It will.