Medical doctor and pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones insightfully asked, "Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is because you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?"
Ever heard yourself saying this? "You're not ready for today. You don't have what it takes. Just stay in bed!" Morning pep talks like this can ruin your day. Twenty years ago, those voices got the best of me, leaving me depressed.
Even though I was serving God, I felt like I was in a courtroom, wondering if I pleased God enough, waiting for His judgment. Over time, I learned how I handled life, and trials varied widely on my temperament.
So, I learned to pay special attention to my attitudes and tendencies. A proper perspective and a positive attitude helped me overcome my anxiety. But abiding in Jesus was my most significant weapon in battling depression. Here are 3 steps to help you find your way out of depression.
Step 1: Identify Your Temperament.
"Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it." Psalm 139:14 (NLT)
If your temperament is one of the keys to working out of depression, you must figure out how you are uniquely wired. Here are three ways to identify your makeup when battling depression:
- Know your personality tendencies. When I began to honestly examine my personality, I learned the extrovert in me overlooks things. At the same time, the introvert in me can be too analytical and morbid. This was a big epiphany for me, mainly since I blew off personality tests. Now, I find that different personality tests—like the Enneagram—simply help us navigate life better. In Matthew 10:38, Jesus says we are to die to our selfish desires and follow Him. Therefore, the better we know our strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies, the better equipped we will follow Jesus.
- Realize self-examination is proper, but some introspection is unhealthy. My inability to recognize THIS distinction was one of the reasons I got depressed. I was guilty of dissecting my soul and examining myself (1 Corinthians 11:28) without remembering the grace of God (Romans 5:20). This led to unhealthy introspection and discouragement.
- Remember God's grace. God's grace insulates us from unhealthy self-judgments. When we get bogged down in our own thoughts, we need to remember that Jesus knows us better than ourselves and loves us unconditionally. No matter what we've done, His grace is sufficient.
Because of God's grace, there is nothing you can do to make God love you any more than He does right now. So how does this truth help you grow in your life?
Step 2: Discover the Causes of Depression.
"Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you…" Psalm 42:6 (NLT)
Once we know our temperaments, we must recognize the four fundamental causes of depression:
- Cause #1 - Physical Conditions: My health affects my attitude. My wife can rightfully call me a "baby" when I'm sick. Have you seen your tendency to become discouraged when ill, injured, or unwell? The first cause of depression is physical. I find it easier to experience joy when I feel my best. Your physical health has a direct impact on how you think. History is full of people whose physical conditions contributed to their tendency toward depression. We are body, mind, and spirit, so we are more discouraged when some physical weakness overtakes our body. Let's be aware of this condition and keep ourselves as healthy as possible.
- Cause #2 – A Reaction: While on an overseas mission trip, I played fifty games of basketball. I had the time of my life! We used basketball as a means to share Jesus with thousands of people. However, the "high" I felt on the mission trip was over when I returned home, and I was tempted to get discouraged. I was experiencing a reaction. Recognize the "reactions" in your life. What triggers feelings of discouragement for you? Then, guard yourself against these triggers, and recognize them for what they are.
- Cause #3 – The Devil: The Bible says Satan is the adversary of our souls. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, "…He [the devil] prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." Discouragement and depression can be one of the devil's greatest weapons, so let's arm ourselves with God's Word—our greatest weapon.
- Cause #4 – Unbelief: Pastor and theologian Charles Spurgeon once wrote, "Unbelief is our chief weakness." This is why the psalms are full of honest laments. When we forget God, we lose power. So let's choose to believe in God and watch our faith move mountains.
Which cause of depression are you most susceptible to? How can you guard against these tendencies?
Step 3: Ways To Defeat Depression.
"Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God…." Psalm 42:5-6 (NLT)
While it's always a process, there are some tangible steps you can take to defeat depression:
1. Talk to yourself instead of allowing your thoughts to talk to you. Friends, don't let negative voices drown out the voice of God. Don't let anything be a louder megaphone than the Word of God. Notice how the psalmist talks to himself at the beginning of today's verse. Then, notice how he switches gears, reminding himself to praise God.
2. Build your view of God. We often get anxious and depressed because we don't know Jesus and His character well enough. Writer A.W. Tozer says, "Raise your view of God, and take care of a 1,000 lesser evils." So, friends, let's grow our view of God and live with the joy and confidence of that knowledge.
3. Enlarge your view of grace. God's grace is always bigger than you think it is. (Sin tells us God's grace is smaller than you think it is.) During my season of depression, I felt like a "second-class Christian." It has taken me years to even talk about it publicly for fear of public shame. But God uses everything, even our depression, for His purposes (Romans 8:28-30). If that isn't BIG grace, I don't know what is! Our misery and mess can be a conduit of comfort and grace. In fact, all of the thoughts in this devotional come out of the very guts of my experience.
If you find yourself in a season of depression, be encouraged. There is a way out. These feelings won't last forever. I promise God will use your depression to help others down the road. There will be a purpose for your pain.
- What Scriptures can you use to "talk to yourself" when feeling discouraged? (Here are a few I use: Philippians 4:4-9; 2 Timothy 1:7).
- What steps can you take this week to build your view of God?