I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to fight depression. Although I’ve experienced times in my life when the days seemed darker than normal, I have always found my hope in Christ. (And that is a blessing!)
But I know that’s not the case for everyone, and I’m learning about darkness in its most extreme form–that is, depression–from John Piper’s book When the Darkness Will Not Lift (click that link for a free download). I hope that sharing what I’ve read so far will encourage someone out there today.
In the first chapter of the book, which is titled “The Darkness of Melancholy,” Piper lists some of the reasons why depression may occur, even in Christians.
“How can we help Christians who seem unable to break out of darkness into the light of joy?” Piper writes. “Yes, I call them Christians, and thus assume that such things happen to genuine believers. It happens because of sin, or because of Satanic assault, or because of distressing circumstances, or because of hereditary or other physical causes.”
After reading that, the question that follows naturally in my mind is, “So how does it get fixed?” And then I’m reminded of the many antidepressant commercials I’ve seen in my lifetime, but I love what Piper says next when he addresses medical solutions to depression.
“I do not want to give the impression that medication should be the ﬁrst or main solution to spiritual darkness,” writes Piper. “Of course, by itself medicine is never a solution to spiritual darkness. All the fundamental issues of life remain to be brought into proper relation to Christ when the medicine has done its work. Antidepressants are not the decisive savior. Christ is.” [Emphasis mine.]
A little later in the chapter, Piper quotes another author, Edward T. Welch, who suggests turning to Christ before turning to medicine.
“If the person is not taking medication but is considering it, I typically suggest that he or she postpone that decision for a period of time,” said Welch. “During that time, I consider possible causes, and together we ask God to teach us about both ourselves and him so that we can grow in faith in the midst of hardship. If the depression persists, I might let the person know that medication is an option to deal with some of the physical symptoms.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t it amazing to know that we can turn to Christ, even for needs that seem to need only medical attention? And, even if medication is considered necessary, God can use that to heal us, too?
I think this principle of turning to Christ before anything else also applies to those of us who haven’t exactly experienced “depression.” I love the story of Katie from Dashing Dish, my new favorite recipe blog, who shares that from age 14 to age 21 she battled eating disorders. The world told her that she had to be a size two, and she believed it for so long! But she discovered, by turning to Christ, that surrendering to God and his plans for her–body weight included!–was more important than following after the world’s standards, which had held her in bondage for ages.
“Day by day I was (and still continue to be) as persistent as a bulldog as I take ahold of God’s truths in His Word, and let them change the way I see myself on the inside, and claim them as God’s personal promises to me,” Katie wrote in her blog last week. “Satans only trick is to lie to us and deceive us….He tries to make us think that we will never feel pretty or break free in a certain area (such as issues with our weight), but he is nothing but a liar! Christ came to set us free from ALL bondage!”
If you’re struggling to find hope today, remember that our feelings are no match for God’s promises. God’s truth is still TRUTH, even when we don’t FEEL like it is. He still loves us, calls us his children, offers us the gift of salvation and eternal life, and builds our faith through trials…whether we feel like it or not! I don’t know about you, but when the bad days come, I plan on try Katie’s advice of feeding on scripture, which she mentions later on in the same blog post.
“Another important step to complete freedom and renewing your mind is writing down scripture on note cards and putting them where you can see them (in your house, in your car, etc.),” Katie writes. “Speak them out every day as you see them to remind yourself of who Jesus said you are in His Word! THAT is the ultimate truth that will never fail. It will take time…but eventually, just as a seed planted in the ground produces, as you ‘plant’ the Word in your heart and water it daily, it WILL produce! Don’t give up!”