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Friday, March 23, 2012

Depression and faith in Jesus Christ

                Being a devote believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior it can be very tough to reconcile depression with the hope I, by faith, believe is in place for those who believe.  It is evident that I have battled depression the better part of my adult life and probably even adolescence.  Significant life circumstances, some put upon me and some caused by me, contributed to this “diagnosis.”  I don’t dispute any of it, yet going through the depression “cycles” sucks.
            As a strong believer in Christ Jesus, the Lord of All and the Creator of the Universe, I tend to get MORE depressed because I couldn’t “get” my hope to alleviate my depression.  But, I am learning some great lessons over the last year.  First, I am not the only follower of God who has struggled with this issue.  It appears that Moses, David, and Solomon (at the very least) struggled significantly with this issue of depression.  What I understand from their struggles is that sin has a pervasive effect.  It is not just “eternal” it affects our physical, social, emotional and psychological makeup.  Whether the sin is from other people or our own indiscretions we will be affected.  Sin, bottom line, is the disobedience to God’s ways and the preoccupation with self.
            My “natural” deficiencies get highlighted and magnified by my ego which has been distorted by my sin nature. As a consequence I take too much responsibility for what goes right in my life.  But, the opposite is also true.  As my depressive state shows, I also take way too much responsibility when things are less than ideal.
            Two recent “crises” have highlighted this for me and are helping me to understand how much more I need the Holy Spirit to transform me and how much more I need the Word of God to renew my mind to correctly address the issues of life.  For the sake of the people’s privacy I cannot elaborate.  Yet, suffice it to say one was of a critical, life ending attempt and the other was my inadequacy, despite a more than significant effort, to help someone achieve a dream. As a parent, these are the “worst” case scenarios.
            I am already on a medication for depression (actually an anxiety med) and very grateful for it.  It has helped me to stay balanced in a very traumatic and stressful time in life.  I am not given to exaggeration and many who know me say I am understating the stress associated with the issues at hand.  Yet, I have been secure in God’s providential care. This security, I believe, helps me see the stresses more objectively and address them in a more biblical manner.
            First lesson I am now learning: depression is NOT a sin associated with lack of faith!  This is crucial.  If Moses, David and Solomon were regarded as stalwarts in faith (even with blatant sins) and they struggled with depressive issues, then surely God isn’t going to write off my “lack of faith” and cease to use me.  It may very well be their understanding of their inadequacies was exactly why God could use them effectively and eternally for our benefit.  While they struggled with these inadequacies they remained open to God leading them in His will.
            Second lesson: God uses psychiatry, psychology, etc. to help us address our emotional/psychological frailty.  American culture contributes significantly to the issue of self orientation.  We have been created by God to be “other” oriented.  Our culture and Christian faith are in direct conflict with each other.  Even in our attempts to be other oriented, our failings (i.e. lack of expected results) become a false, negative perception of self.  The issues arising from family of origin and life circumstances have a far greater effect on our decision making processes and self understanding than most of us can acknowledge.  Christ alone should be our identity, results are only the responsibility of God, and every situation is under the direct control of God, the Creator of the universe.  Yet, faith in these all important truths, still get distorted by our basic sin nature which makes “self” responsible over God.
            Third lesson: Medication, because it takes care of the “edge”; therapy, because an outside/objective/trained individual helps us sort out the circumstances of our life; and a developing faith and understanding of Scripture (our ULTIMATE guide and healer) are necessary for us to proceed in the “abundant life” Christ has granted us through our devotion to Him.  It is not easy, it can be messy, it will have travails, it will even have “defeats,” but the process will transform us to look more like Christ and better serve the portion of the world we have been called to serve.
            Last lesson:  Whatever I am, it is solely because of Christ.  I am wholly different than I was the day I first trusted in Christ (November 18, 1988) and I am significantly different than I was one year ago.  It is the intention of God and the desire of my heart that I will be significantly different one year from now. I will still have depressive states. I will still fail in some noble attempts. And I will still, very unfortunately, sin.  Yet, what I know conclusively is God will be with me.  He will not leave me OR forsake me.  As the great Scripture promises through David, “Though I walk through the valley of death, you are with me, your rod and staff they protect me…”
            May this blog message encourage my fellow believing family members toward overcoming the difficulties in life.  And, if you don’t believe, may you have the courage to inquire of me to my faith.  God bless you all.  You are each individually created by God for His purposes.

jeff