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Daily devotional Sorrow and Joy, a waterfall and rainbow. "A Study in Psalm: Books Three and Four" Daily devotional Sorrow and Joy, a waterfall and rainbow. - "A Study in Psalms: Books Three and Four"

Questions & Answers

As a Christian, how should I deal with depression?

Depression can manifest itself as general sadness and increase all the way to severe clinical depression. Someone experiencing severe depression may experience disruptions to their life and environment. In severe cases, it is always important to reach out to a licensed counselor or medical professional. Unfortunately, we never know how a traumatic event, sudden loss, or challenges, even those experienced long ago, will affect our emotional, psychological, spiritual, or physiological life. The good news is that when this happens, you can receive help. You are not alone in this season.

If you are experiencing depression, here are a few suggestions to care for yourself:

  1. Find a balance in your life between work, family, friends, church, and school;
  2. Move your body (i.e., walking, exercise);
  3. Connect with your family and friends and resist isolation. Getting together with others (especially in person, but even virtually) can help improve your mood;
  4. Journal (expressing your feelings can give you an outlet and help you gain a better perspective); and
  5. Tap into the power of prayer (Ps. 4:1; Ps. 17:6; Ps. 23).

Finally, while dealing with depression may seem hopeless, the Bible shows us how to hope. In the psalms, we read about the same struggle. The psalms often start with a question and end with a hopeful outcome. For example, in Psalm 43: “Why, my soul are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Savior, and my God” (v. 5).

If you or someone you love need immediate help, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a helpline. Call 1-800-950-NAMI or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741.

Why do mature Christians experience depression? Shouldn't we be able to pray it away?

If you experience depression, even as a Christian, you are not alone. Charles Spurgeon, a well-known preacher from the 19th century, struggled with depression for many years: “My spirits were so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet not know what I wept for.” Spurgeon believed that his depression equipped him to minister more effectively. “I would go into the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary,” he wrote in 1858.

Spurgeon’s challenges help illustrate the depths and sometimes debilitating effects of this mental illness. Currently, depression is the number one mental health concern, followed closely by anxiety and stress. Depression is not new, and, even within the biblical context, we see references to it. We read about individuals who experienced these emotions, including Elijah (1 Kings 19:3–4), Job (Job 3:20–26), Paul (2 Cor. 11:24–28), and even our Lord Jesus who while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane was “overwhelmed with sorrow” (Matt. 26:37–38). The Psalmists express these feelings as being “downcast” (Ps. 42:11), “crushed” and “brokenhearted” (34:18), “disturbed” (42:5).

A friend of mine says that I seem depressed. How do I know if she's right?

Recently I viewed a video clip of my church service from the early part of 2020, before the pandemic. I noticed how individuals in the church sanctuary were singing, laughing, hugging, raising hands, and standing shoulder to shoulder. They were enjoying a time of worship and praise. Fast forward to the end of 2020. I drove past my church and noticed a nearly empty parking lot. I was flooded with memories and a sudden wave of sadness, emptiness, fatigue, and loss.

That’s how quickly depression can occur. It arises from a variety of circumstances and can disrupt four key areas of our life: our body (sleep disturbance, low energy, no appetite), our mind (poor memory, inability to concentrate), our emotions (hopelessness, sadness), and our relationships. Depression is a common mental disorder that affects both our minds and our bodies. Globally, an estimated 264 million people are affected by depression. God has created us in wonderful and complex ways. He created our “inmost being” with emotions, feelings, thoughts, and senses (Ps. 139:13–17). All of these beautiful parts are designed to function together in a certain way. However, just as we can become physically ill, we can also suffer from mental illness. Depression acts as an alarm signal to let us know a part of the body is not functioning as intended. It can be a sign that we need help.

BY Dr. Valencia Wiggins, PhD, L.P.C.

Valencia Wiggins grew up in Ohio and graduated from Wheaton College. She earned a Masters in Clinical Psychology at Wheaton Graduate School, and PhD in Clinical Psychology at Walden University. She has taught at Moody Seminary for four years. In addition, Dr. Wiggins works in private practice as a clinical psychologist. Her clinical work includes sexual abuse, trauma, grief and loss, eating disorders, family issues, depression, adolescents, and women’s issues.

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