13 June 2007

thinking about depression

I have been thinking about what it means to be depressed. Actually, I have been doing more than thinking about it. I have been depressed. Recently there has been an ill-defined yuckiness going on in my thought life. "You are stupid, worthless and horrible. No wonder no one loves you. You are unlovable. You can't even be excited about being a Christian. There is something major wrong with you. You are disgusting, can't you do anything right?" Are you familiar with the drill? Thankfully I remembered the verse Paul gave us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 about how we are to take every thought captive. It is so easy to think that means we should stop thinking about wealth, fame, and evangelizing young men on the beaches of Waikiki. It is so much more than that; it means we need to line up all of our thoughts and measure them to the truth of God's Word. The good, the bad, the ugly... all of them need to be accounted for. Why is it that we try so hard to avoid misery and then inflict it upon our own souls by being too lazy to take the precautions the Word gives us?

While I was wading through the depression it seemed that the harder I've sought to define it, the yuckier it became. It didn't take long for the prevailing yuckiness to spread from ugly thoughts in my head to involving my entire body. The bible says that sin rots our bones (Psalm 32:3) and my body was reacting as the thoughts seeped out, poisoning how I felt. Depression is a horrible, nasty, cyclical thing. Odd thing about it is that now I am sort of grateful for it.

Grateful for depression? I know, it sounds pretty bizarre, but it is true. I am grateful for depression because it has moved me from where I was to where I am. I am not talking geography here. I am saying I am not the same woman I was before the depression set in as I am now that it is lifting. I am better. I don't mean I am better because the pain has stopped, I mean I am a better human being now than I was before.

How has depression made me a better woman? Because it forced me to get real with my faith and seek my God for answers. Make no mistake depression is suffering and I have been suffering. I don't want to make light of the fact that depression feels horrible. Feelings are never a good foundation for making decisions. Feelings lie. Feeling peaceful about something isn't a good measure either. Jonah slept peacefully in a boat going in the opposite direction from where Almighty God had just told him to go.

The feeling of depression seems overwhelming. Depression takes over every other feeling and morphs into pain and hopelessness. It quickly and cleverly takes center stage. I said I wanted to feel differently, but secretly I was getting into being depressed. In a moment of God given clarity, I started wondering why I was fixating on how horrible it felt and not fixating on how to get out from under it. I decided that rather than trying to identify, quantify or wax poetically about how it feels to suffer, I would study what God says about suffering. It's sort of scary but here it is:

Job 5:6-7 "For affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble sprout from the ground, 7 For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward. (NAS, emphasis mine)

In other words, none of will escape trouble or adversity. We should be expecting it because we tend to prepare for what we expect. So, why don't we? I think I expect God to give me a free pass. Why? Because I am sinfully proud, arrogant and selfish. You see, I think I deserve a free pass. I think I have suffered enough. The truth is that whenever we set our expectations on anything other than what God has set forth in His word, we are premeditating our own disappointments. Focusing on our disappointments is a great first step to being depressed. James says this:
James 3:16-17
16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. (NAS)

I think we Christians need to relearn how to think and what to think about. Too many people think meditation is an Eastern pagan philosophy. The truth is meditating on God's Word is the first step to implementing and practicing what it says. If we want to reap the benefits, we need to spend the time sowing the seeds of His Word in our souls.

Ps 1:1-2
1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.

Ps 104:34
34 Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.

Phil 4:8-9
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.
(NAS)