Lesson 7: Hope Against Depression
Ah, band camp. It was the summer of 1994 and about 200 of us, a mix of nervous freshmen and seasoned upperclassmen, milled around the the doors to the band hall. As freshmen, the complete lack of context heightened our anxiety. We knew that our summer, now focused with laser-like intensity into 6 hour days walking in circles on steaming asphalt, was effectively over. The upperclassmen looked so…big. Additionally, we had just learned that we would have to memorize all of the music for the halftime marching shows and for the tunes we played in the stands. “What are we doing here?!” The fear registered on all of our faces. Most of us could barely walk in a straight line, let alone make intricate formations on a field while dressed in a stuffy uniform and hauling expensive instruments. None of the angst of that first day was helped by the banner that hung above the band hall door: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!”
That’s it, we thought. We’re going to hell.
I survived band camp and came back for more each successive year until they had to drag me, kicking and screaming, off the field and onto my college campus. Though it’s true that voluntarily broiling in a Texan August does not compare to being clinically depressed, I do recall that sense of hopelessness and helplessness that almost drove many of us to quit. Depression is “extreme discouragement to the point of becoming disabled.” Hopelessness, as a symptom of depression, can cause the sufferer to feel defeated and paralyzed. While many of us may not be clinically depressed, a number of us have probably experienced something somewhere on the spectrum of depression. And while it’s easy to suggest that someone just “snap out of it”, getting to the heart of a despairing soul requires patience, compassion, and, above all, the help of the Holy Spirit.
King David, in the Psalms, reveals numerous manifestations of depression in his life. Read Ps. 42; 31:10; 39:2-7;77:4; 102:4,5. The Bible doesn’t stop there. God’s word offers an antidote to “catastrophic thinking” – negative thoughts that intensify and pull us down. We must remember:
- We are made in God’s image, and God doesn’t make junk. (Gen. 1:26, 27; 1 Peter 2:9)
- The world is a beautiful place, despite all the evil out there. (Philippians 4:8)
- There is hope for a wonderful, amazing future for God’s children. Don’t give up! (Ps. 37:39)
The Bible also addresses some basic strategies for dealing with a downcast heart. Communication with God brings about peace (Psalm 55:17). Further, talking about the things that are bothering us or getting us down (or worked up) can help to relieve tension or put things into perspective. If we have some unconfessed sin burning a hole in our hearts, it will benefit us to take those things to God’s throne (Psalm 32:1-5 and 1 John 1:9). Consider the alternative to holding on to our sins and struggling over the associated guilt. It’s no wonder that when Jesus healed, He also forgave (Luke 5:18 – 24). We can also focus on the hope of a new heaven and earth – creation made perfect at Christ’s return. (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:2-4).
When it all comes down to it, we serve a God that created us in His own image. Thus, we have His emotions. He felt sorrow, grief, despair…He is familiar with the gamut of our trials. We are not alone in this struggle and we must cling to the hope that the One who made us is also the One who feels what we feel and can help us navigate out of the straits of despair.
DISCLAIMER (from the Adult Quarterly):
Of course, when depression is severe, it’s important to get professional help,when possible. The Lord can work through therapists to help those who are in need of special care. After all, regardless of your relationship with God, were you physically ill you would seek the help of a doctor or health professional. It’s the same with those who are suffering from severe clinical depression, which often is caused by a genetic predisposition and chemical imbalance in the brain. Thus, even Christians, at times, might need the help of professionals.