When a very famous individual, who has everything that most in this world think would make them happy, takes his own life, the question “what happened?” is front and center.
Robin Williams made so many people laugh and outwardly appeared to be a very happy person. Sadly that was not reality and it took him to a very dark place. I have been counseling individuals for decades and depression is many times the issue.
There are no easy answers, and when the level of depression is where Robin Williams was at, very serious action needs to take place. Many believers think because they are children of God they should never experience periods of depression. There is no Scripture that states that children of God are exempt from any of the “woes” of a fallen world.
I have seen three levels of depression.
· Minor: Pressures that affect our emotions;
· Normal: Problems & Pressures that affect us in a way that others will notice, as seen in
2 Corinthians 4:8–9 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
· Major: Crushing and overwhelming circumstances which takes away all strength: Spiritual, intellectual, physical & emotional, as seen in the life of Job:
Job 7:7–10 O God, remember that my life is but a breath, and I will never again feel happiness. You see me now, but not for long. You will look for me, but I will be gone. Just as a cloud dissipates and vanishes, those who die will not come back. They are gone forever from their home— never to be seen again.
Job 9:21 “I am innocent, but it makes no difference to me— I despise my life.
Job 10:1 “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain.
In a book called Spiritual Diagnosis this definition is given: Depression is a persistent mood that is characterized by intense feelings of inadequacy, sadness, hopelessness, pessimism, irritability, apprehension, and a decreased interest in or ability to enjoy normal activity.
It would be right to call this a spiritual diagnosis because we are spiritual beings. We are multifaceted creations, but first and foremost we are spiritual, created in God’s image.
In my post-grad work while studying “Mood Disorders” I was required to read DSM-IV which is “the book” used to diagnose all mental illness. When depression gets to the level of making a person dysfunctional it is then being defined as Major Depressive Episode. In the DSM-IV the description is:" a period of at least 2 weeks during which there is either depressed mood or the loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities …the individual must also experience at least four additional symptoms drawn from a list that includes changes in appetite or weight, sleep, psychomotor activity; decreased energy; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions."
Be aware that many people use the word "depressed" to describe just a bad moment. "Depression" is not a moment nor should it be treated that way. My desire at this time would be to help any who are “feeling down” or “emotionally stressed” consider how to deal with those emotions before they snowball and lead to a much more serious situation.
In my Senior year of Bible college, I went through a time of deep emotional stress. I had just buried my mother, she was 49, I was taking 8 classes including Greek, I was running my own painting company, and I was a youth Pastor at a local church. I had too much on my plate and getting far too little sleep, which will help propel your emotions. Before I realized what was happening I found myself breaking down in tears at various times for no apparent reason. As He has done so much of my life, my God brought me some medicine when I needed it. I was in chapel and was beginning to tear up when I opened my Bible to Psalms and landed on Ps 102
Psalm 102: A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.
Hear my prayer, O Lord! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; In the day when I call answer me quickly. For my days have been consumed in smoke, And my bones have been scorched like a hearth. My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away, Indeed, I forget to eat my bread. Because of the loudness of my groaning My bones cling to my flesh…My days are like a lengthened shadow, And I wither away like grass.
The Word of God pushed me to deal with my emotions with Him. I did and found joy coming back into my life. I want to share what I mean by that, but first please know Child of God you are not alone.
Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679)
"One who truly fears God, and is obedient to Him, may be in a condition of darkness, and have no light; and he may walk many days and years it that condition.
C.H. Spurgeon – 1866
`I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.' Twenty-one years later in 1887 he said from the same pulpit, `Personally I have often passed through this dark valley.'"
"John Henry Jowett, wrote to a friend in 1920,
`You seem to imagine I have no ups and downs but just a level and lofty stretch of spiritual attainment with unbroken joy and equanimity. By no means! I am often perfectly wretched and everything appears most murky.'
"Alexander Whyte, perhaps Scotland's greatest preacher since John Knox – he had seasons of deep depression regarding the results of his work in the pulpit or among his people.
"Martin Luther was subject to such fits of darkness that he would secret himself away for days, and his family would remove all dangerous implements from the house for fear he would harm himself. In the midst of one of these times, his wife, Katherine, entered his room dressed in mourning. Startled, Luther asked who had died. She replied that no one had, but from the way he was acting, she thought God had died!"
Even our Lord had to confront deep emotional remorse.
Mark 14:32–34 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”
First we have to deal with our emotions, which means facing them honestly.
Psalm 143:7 Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails; Do not hide Your face from me, Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.
Psalm 6:2–3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O Lord—how long?
Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.
What is the cause of these emotions? I believe individuals lose their perspective. They only see the darkness of the moment and forget that in that tunnel and beyond it, is a Big God and another beginning.
Timothy LaHaye says, “of the hundreds of depressed cases I have examined, without exception they began with a disappointment or an experience in which the individual was displeased.”
1 Kings 19:4–18 … he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers…What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away…. “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
As we begin an emotional tailspin we need to seek to change our perspective. That's what God did for His prophet. The best way to do that is to reach out to someone close and have a heart to heart about what you are feeling. As you discover the key issue, you need to bring Truth to the equation and that will bring a new perspective.
Let’s look at some examples.
What if you are emotionally down because of guilt in your life?
The truth is that repentance will bring a healthy perspective.
Psalm 32:1–6 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered…When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long…I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide… And You forgave the guilt of my sin.
2 Corinthians 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Much of depression is caused by the fact that we are hearing lies from the enemy, if we allow ourselves to believe them, it will affect our emotions.
Lie: I am alone
Matthew 28:19–20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Hebrews 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
Lie: Nothing good can come of this
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Lie: My boss/former friend/family member is my enemy
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Lie: God is being mean to me
Hebrews 12:5–11 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”...Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all...But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
There are many more. Don’t be afraid to sit with someone and discuss your emotions. As God enlightens you to what the real issues are, as you deal with them in Truth your emotions will change.
Just a few other thoughts:
· Turn off people with little or no faith – stop listening to them.
· Establish a time and place to commune with the Lord
· Stand Still: Do not make decisions in that state of mind, there is no sense of reality.
· Stop focusing on yourself – focus on God and –even though you do not “feel” like it, begin to thank Him for His love and your life.
· See the Eternal Picture
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
· Remember our greatest example:
1 Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Who do you have in your life to talk to? If none, what are you going to do about that? Are you proactively making sure you deal with your emotions? How? When was the last time you had a good heart to heart with someone? When was the last time you had a heart to heart with the Lord?