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A Word About Depression

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

By Wes Raley

If you or someone you know is going through depression, you probably know that it is something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

People who have actually experienced depression know that it's not something to just "snap out of." Well-meaning people may try to cheer someone up or even make them feel guilty for their sadness, but the truth is, these people may have great motives but bad methodology as the Bible tells us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15 ESV).

We are not walking in the fullest Christian experience God has for us until we have learned to weep with those who weep.

So on that note: Please never try to guilt someone out of their depression!

At the same time, the Bible has a strong response and clear path for getting through the darkest times in our lives. Many of these passages are in the Psalms, and I'd like to highlight one of those today with a few concise thoughts about the application during hard times or depression.

Psalm 23 (ESV)

v.1-2 "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures."

1) There are times and seasons in our lives where God "makes us lie down."

Please don't misunderstand- God does not send us times of depression. However, there are times when our activities and choices can so run ourselves into the ground that God rescinds His invitation to lie down and instead sends a subpoena.

He may, at times, choose to allow us to feel a degree of the consequences of living as if WE are the shepherds of our own lives instead of Him...

2) There are times in life where the hardships and circumstances around you (and the painful choices of others) can weigh you down. It is passages like these that teach us how to properly deal with heavy situations.

These are clear times for grieving and lamenting before the LORD. But if these hard seasons are mishandled, it could lead to depression.

This is a hard subject to grasp because we are talking about depression and hard times specifically, but this is not meant to be a complete guide on dealing with all grief, nor an explanation of such. Truly, what we must see in the above verses is that there are times of lying down in life where we recognize God as our Shepherd - truly seeing that we need Him to carry us, protect us, and provide for us just like sheep.

v. 2-3 "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

3) There is a clear connection between times of stillness, beholding God's beauty in nature, and soul restoration.

v. 3 "He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

4) Doing great things for (with) God in our lives comes only from having a restored soul but is not a path to one.

In other words, you cannot work yourself into peace or rest. Sometimes the answer isn't doing more but doing less.

v. 4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."

5) The valley is a season of walking, not running.

If you try to simply just get out of the depression or run through the hard time, you may actually stay there longer.

There is a season for running, but now is not that season. This is not to be a time of busyness or productivity. Healing will come as you “be still and know that I He is God” (Psalm 46:10).

Some day the season will change and walking will turn to running again, but don’t rush the valley. Some days may feel like a complete standstill, but God is working silently in the background. Remember, His voice is often a whisper (1 Kings 19:12) and hearing Him may have less to do with how often He is speaking as much as you quieting yourself to hear what He is already saying.

This season is about the next STEP not the next LEAP.

v. 4 "...I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

6) The biggest threat to your faith in the valley is fear.

Fear of all kinds. From low grade anxiety to fear of bad things happening to the fear that God has failed you to the fear of sudden disaster or death. Fear is the enemy to your destiny. Don’t let the shadows in this valley make you fear. Jesus came to set us free from fear, which is slavery (Hebrews 2:15).

Remember, God's love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). So where you have a fear problem, you have a love problem. Something is off in your belief or view about God's love for you.

v. 4 "...I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

7) The antidote to fear and depression in the valley is God’s loving presence.

Nothing else will be the healing balm to your soul as God's loving presence. He’s not asking you to perform or pray more or do more. Rest with Him like a child would in their Father’s arms. He’s ok if you fall asleep on His chest and do nothing. In fact, that’s a very intimate act of faith. He will take care of it; you can rest.

v. 5 "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

8) One of God's lessons for you in this season is to learn how to feast in the presence of those who hate you.

That may seem like strong language, but isn't it true that some of the most depressing things in your life have been at the hands of those who mistreated you or even detested you, for no good reason?

God wants us to learn how to not just "barely get by" when we are in the presence of our enemies, but to look to Him to be our food and delight (Jeremiah 15:16). As you learn this discipline of "strengthening yourself in the LORD" (1 Samuel 30:6), you will experience the reality of God's favor, healing oil, and abundant provision - but this requires your ability to draw near to God (James 4:8) even when there's no way to make the people around you like you.

One added thing to note here is that God has paired eating and lying down as two appropriate responses to times in the valley. In fact, those are the very same things that God, through an angel, prescribed to the prophet Elijah during his deep (scholars suggest even suicidal) depression (1 Kings 19:4-8).

God treats us as a whole person, and He knows that our physical health can often affect our emotional health and vice versa (Proverbs 14:30).

v. 6 "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

9) Success in this season will be directly tied to your belief that God is good (Psalm 34:8), that He is for you and not against you (Romans 8:31), and has a great plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11) even when it looks like things are not going your way (Romans 8:28).

The truth is, unless you change your mind during this season, you will be stuck with more of the same (Romans 12:2). It's not an easy thing, but it is possible with God (Matthew 19:26).

We must lean into the reality that God is 100% good and stake all that we have on that reality, trusting Him to come through for us.

I love Eugene Peterson's rendering of the Hebrew here for this verse in The Message: "Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life" (Psalm 23:6 The Message).

The Hebrew language in this verse actually has the connotation that His goodness and mercy will relentlessly pursue you, not just trail behind you.

How sure are you that God's goodness and mercy will chase after you all the days of your life?

Renewing our minds to believe that God has our best in mind at all times will bring us peace and calmness in the midst of the storm.

v. 6 "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

10) As you walk through the valley, you have an opportunity to gain an eternal perspective.

Times of heaviness provide an opportunity for us to surrender and trust God like never before. It is times like these that the veil is lifted for a glimpse of the reality that is so often masked by our own relentless pursuits - that "unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1 ESV) and "such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it" (Psalm 139:6 ESV). We realize that unless God comes through for us, we are without hope.

We gain an eternal perspective and an appreciation for the larger story that we are in. It's not just an appreciation for the fact that someday, through Christ, we will one day go to Heaven, but that even today we can "dwell in the house of the Lord" (Psalm 23:6).

In other words, if the reality in Heaven is that our highest aim, privilege, and delight is dwelling in God's presence, shouldn't our earthly life prioritize that as well? Thankfully, because of Jesus, we now can have that same intimacy with God.

During the heavy times of life, we can choose to shift our focus off of the temporal hardships and on to the Eternal One who is with us and will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We will dwell in His presence both now and forevermore. Amen!

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'd like to reiterate that this is not meant to be a complete manual on handling depression, but just some guidance that Scripture offers us, to begin learning about God's heart and solution for times of lying down, beholding HIs beauty, and gaining a restored soul.

If this information was helpful to you, I invite you to purchase my new devotional, Words That Proceed.

God bless you,

Wes Raley

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