In preparation for my message on July 10, I came across a very helpful book on depression from a pastoral perspective. I appreciate his pastoral (as opposed to academic) approach from a thoroughly biblical aspect. The book is called, "Christians Get Depressed Too" by David Murray. For twelve years the author pastored in a beautiful, but isolated, dark and wet part of the UK. He served in an area where depression is seemingly part of the landscape. He knows what he's talking about and provides help for Christians who struggle with depression.
Depression has many sources and this blog post cannot begin to enumerate them. However, they do seem to share a common element when it comes to the mind. When we face depression, our minds often are unclear and are vulnerable to doubt the present reality of things that we formerly knew with certainty. Our emotions can override our judgment and render us helpless against the internal onslaught of wrong thinking. It is that aspect (and it is only one aspect) of depression that I wanted to address from a biblical standpoint.
Psalm 77 is a biographical lament poem written by Asaph. It is fairly clear that he demonstrates many symptoms of depression – including the doubts that invade his thinking. As we face doubts (whether we are depressed or not) it is wise to turn to the pages of Scripture to allow God himself to remind us of his promises and to assure us tenderly of his grace towards us.
In your own journey I encourage you to write down your thoughts, fears, hopes, prayers, etc. in a personal journal. David Murray cites several journal questions in his book. I share them here with the hopes that they may help you (or a friend of yours) begin the long journey of healing and hope.
- My life situation (Time? Place? People? Events?)
- My feelings (Sum up your mood in one word if you can. Are you sad, worried, guilty, angry, ashamed, etc. You may want to rate the intensity of your feeling by determining what percentage of the time you feel that way.)
- My thoughts (What am I thinking of at this time? About myself? Others? The present? The future?)
- My analysis (Identify false or unhelpful thinking patterns such as false extremes, false generalizations, false filter, etc.)
- My behavior (Impact of 1-4 on me and my relations with others. Stopped helpful activities? Started unhelpful activities? Reduced activity? Hyper-activity?)
- My reasons (Why do I believe the thoughts I listed in step 3 are true? What evidence is there to support my conclusion?)
- My challenge (List evidence and reasons against the thoughts in step 3. Think of what God would point you to, to show you that your thoughts are not completely true.)
- My conclusion (Come to a balanced conclusion, which will also be truthful and helpful.)
- My new feelings (Copy some or all of the feelings from step 2 and rate them again.)
- My plan (How will I put the balanced conclusion into practice?)
God bless you as you work through these questions. "May the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him. And may you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13, NIV)