BY rev. pam morrison
“Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:49)
David’s story has been shared triumphantly for centuries…a young boy, one stone, and a giant crashes to the ground in defeat. David came to mind as I thought of another giant taunting God’s army of believers. His name is Depression. Like Goliath, he isn’t alone. Multiple Philistines accompany him: fear, anxiety, and other paralyzing emotions.
I hear many believers reluctantly confess their struggle. Convinced that the judgment “lacks faith” would be theirs if this siege came to light, they often forego support. Feeling weak because they cannot defeat him, they continue on in pain.
When depression is moderate to severe, pastoral and/or medical caregivers may be needed, but what if one is simply beginning to feel unrelenting sadness? Is there something to be done?
In David’s match with Goliath, he selected five smooth stones, but used one. Battling depression, one well-placed “stone” might be all we need. On the other hand, we might require all five stones. Let me suggest some:
When we notice depression settling in, one of the very first things to take inventory of is our bodies. Are we getting enough sleep? Are we eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meat, drinking plenty of water? Dietary needs can vary, but we all need essential proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. .
Another thing that recedes as one experiences depression is activity. Pleasurable hobbies and exercise get neglected. Getting up and going helps to combat chronic sad feelings, particularly getting out in the sunlight.
For some, depression comes as part of a condition that does not permit much exercise, the bedridden patient, chronic back pain. Is there still a way to be active? If legs can’t move, can arms be lifted? If the body is paralyzed, can the mouth sing?
As mentioned, fear of being rejected may accompany depression. Our distorted thinking is, “If I am a Christian, I should not feel this way. If I hide it from others, they’ll continue to approve of me.” But what does scripture say?
“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord…” James 5:13-16
What is needed is the help of others. Four men carried a paralytic on a mat, dug a hole in a roof and lowered him to Jesus. The text says when Jesus saw “their faith,” the man was both forgiven and enabled to walk. (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:3-12, Luke 5:18-26)
I participate in Prison Fellowship Ministry. The inmates have suffered so many losses and made so many poor choices that there is much to be sad about. Depression stalks them. Recently, we noted one young woman with eyes focused downward, not speaking.
As we went around the table to see “what was new,” we gently drew her in and tears flowed as she spoke of life choices and separation from a dying relative.
We did not contradict her remorse. We simply began to point out the hope in Christ, shared scripture, laughter and affection, and her countenance changed. Joy crept back in. Talking to trusted others is a huge piece of feeling better.
Prayer is one of the most essential “stones.”
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world . . . they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Paul is speaking, in part, of prayer. It can demolish the strongholds that imprison us. The “arguments” destroyed are those that call us worthless and paint everything negatively. Instead of these dark, depression-driven thoughts, hope and joy, every thought made obedient to Christ, can be the outcome of prayer. Prayer opens the channel for God’s power to transform our perceptions and give us “knowledge of God.” Prayer enlists God’s help to defeat the real Enemy behind the enemy of depression. Jesus said that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10) Prayer is the way in which we engage the Lord to defend us.
My Bible study group has noted one of the delightful words in Luke, “favor.” We have begun encouraging one another to look for signs of God’s favor. How has God lightened your load? Answered a prayer? It can be as simple as someone inviting you to step in front of them in the check-out line. When you say, however, “Thank you, God, that Your love touched their heart and was shown to me;” or “Thank you, God, that you made this situation a little easier for me,” etc., you begin to feel God more present and helpful. This switch in thinking, alone, takes away Depression’s great twisted taunt that everything is bad and all is hopeless. Certainly, dwelling on the “favor” of God’s exquisite creation can bring more peace.
The Persian proverb, “I lamented my lack of shoes until I saw someone with no feet,” is true. We can see our difficulties as the worst until we look about at the needs of others. Helping them can stop us from dwelling on our pain enabling us, instead, to feel needed again.
Finally, some will say, “There’s not a great deal to be happy about today as unemployment rises, the economy falters, and wars continue,” yet our internal joy, is not intended to rely upon circumstances.
The Apostle Paul was very negatively received at many points. In Psidian Antioch, the crowd turned sour, “…filled with jealousy and talking abusively against what Paul was saying.” (Acts 13:45) Paul and Barnabas were expelled from the region. (Acts 13:50) They could have been overcome with sorrow. But the Bible tells us the disciples left town “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52)
I am convinced that God desires this to be the standard state of His children and will help us throw our five smooth stones at the Depression giant the moment we see him, if we just ask.
*All verses in this article are taken from the New International Version of the Bible.
Pam MorrisonRev. Pam Morrison is a pastor and freelance writer who lives inKansas. She has served five churches, from rural to mega-church. Her husband is a grant-writing consultant and teacher. They have two children, one married, and the other a graduate student inIndiana.