Can We Call This "Self-Help Part 3"?
Recovery Part Three: Spiritual
Dr Grant Mullen (again!) says that for those that have been depressed for a while they lack the concentration needed to pray, to read their Bible and to worship. Furthermore, the last thing they want to do is meet with other Christians particularly when those Christians seem so happy and victorious and are wont to ask, “How are you?” (After a time you get tired of lying and saying “Good, thank you” and wonder what they’d say/look if you told them exactly how you are – if you’ve never been there, trust me on this!)
As I mentioned in the post on emotional recovery, these things feed back into the depression. The less able you are to pray or read your Bible, the more depressed you become, and the cycle becomes a very vicious one. Furthermore, you're cutting yourself off from the One you need most at this time but because of the illness you seem unable to reach out to Him at all and you end up feeling even more of a failure as a Christian - perhaps even begin to doubt your salvation.
If this is you, then it’s not because you’re a lousy Christian or lack faith or whatever. It’s part of the illness but if you have reached this point I strongly recommend you get professional help. Don't even bother reading any further. Get help now.
For me, these things were no more difficult than usual (i.e. wrestling with the desires of the flesh versus the desires of the spirit). I was still able to pray and read and worship although I struggled with meeting with other Christians and I certainly felt like a failure as a Christian. However these were symptoms of the illness and not the reason for the illness. I hope I’m making the distinction clear. If you are feeling the way I’ve described above – it’s the illness and it may take medication to right things. I certainly don’t want to add to anyone’s feelings of guilt or inadequacy as a Christian by what I am about to say.
There were several things that helped me in this area but I'll begin with the act of meditation. “God’s Psychiatry” by Charles Allen encouraged me to meditate daily. At first I was sceptical of his “prescription”: meditate on Psalm 23 on waking, after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner and before bedtime. It reeked a little of mindless chants but I see now that it was more a recipe for getting into the habit of regularly meditating on Scripture throughout the whole day. I started with Psalm 23, reading it and thinking on different aspects of it each time. Allen’s book also gives a 2-page explanation of each verse that paints a vivid picture for the reader. Recalling those pictures when meditating on the Psalm added to my understanding. From Psalm 23 I moved onto other passages and I’ll share some at the end of this post that have had special meaning for me during this time. (I've omitted the references because it's easier to read without them but if anyone wants the passage references just email me or leave a comment.)
Worship. The Bible says that God inherits the praises of His people. Whenever I was home I tried to remember to put on my favourite Christian CDs. I also found that playing praise and worship songs on the piano or flute would help me when I was feeling stressed (particularly on the piano because I didn’t have to be relaxed to start with). Whatever your ‘brand’ of worship music, put it on and listen to it. Have it going continually if it won't annoy others in the house. Even leave it on when you go out so that when you return it's the first thing you hear when you walk through the door. Find some restful tracks and use them at bed time to help you sleep (if this works for you).
Prayer. Often times I would just repeat a fragment of a verse over and over such as “You are my refuge and strength.” When the pain became great I didn't seem to be able to put any words together but because I'd worked hard at developing the habit of meditation, I could call on those verses and use them to cry out to God just as others had before me in the past. We're told that the Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we don't know what to pray and I certainly think this falls into that category. Furthermore, there is something powerful about claiming the promises of God in this way. It was also such a help to know that others were praying for me and there were times when I really felt those prayers holding me up. It took a long time before my husband and I were able to share with anyone my struggle but when we did the benefits from knowing that others cared and were praying were enormous. Learn from our mistake!
Claiming God's Promises. There are so many but we have to know where to find them. There are Bible helps that show where to turn when depressed, needing comfort, etc. There's also Biblegateway online which is easy to use to find verses on a particular theme. Or copy out the ones I've included below. Print them out multiple times and have them in places where you can easily find them when you need them: your wallet, the book you're reading, beside your bed, on the computer, in your knitting bag even! Use these verses to claim God's promises. Use them to remind yourself of who you are in Christ. For example, when I looked in the mirror and started to feel down I’d tell myself that I am precious in God’s sight; when the feelings seemed unbearable I’d remind myself that God is my strength and refuge; when panic threatened to overwhelm me, I'd repeat "God has not given us a spirit of fear".
These steps while sounding easy are possibly the hardest to do of any I've mentioned in these three posts. But they are also the most powerful and I believe have helped me on the path to recovery more than all the other strategies put together. Again I say, if you're in this place, if you're feeling depressed, if you're finding it hard to function on a daily basis due to your thoughts and feelings, please seek help. Please. Don't put it off.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’ You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day. For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Fear not, for [He] has redeemed you; [He] has called you by your name; you are [His]. You are precious in [His] sight. For God has not given [you] a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of affliction. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act!
There are many resources that can help. These are just a few that helped me but there are many more out there. Just a note of caution: for me, reading too much on depression was likely to make me feel worse. If this is you, then perhaps someone else can do the research for you, or just be aware and do something to lift your mood afterwards.
Dr Grant Mullen – books, DVDs, and his website
Now That You Are Back Australian Christian singer whose wife suffered with depression. Based on a book he wrote about the struggle he and his wife went through with depression.
Joyce Meyer “Battlefield of the Mind”
Charles Allen “God’s Psychiatry”