Years ago I battled depression. This was more than discouraged feelings—it was a dark depression that hung on me for many weeks.
The worst time was early in college. I was a Pre-Med major and realized I hated biology and chemistry. My studies bored me and put me to sleep. I really knew I was in the wrong major when the pig dissection experiment made me sick to my stomach!
But my family and friends were so proud that I was going to be a doctor. I felt I had to trudge onward. It was like I was walking around in wet cement and could hardly move or smile at anyone. Everything seemed gloomy and I felt like a failure.
In my lowest days I identified with the darkness of Job’s despair in the Bible. I felt so miserable, alone, and trapped that I didn’t want to live (Job 3:2, 10:19).
I projected my depressive mood onto God. The Lord seemed distant and uncaring, like a cold stone statue (Job 30:20).
To cope I denied my emotions and needs, isolated, and overworked. Other people shop, read novels, overeat, or drink alcohol. These “escapes” make depression worse.
I got help for my depression when I broke down and was gut honest. I called my mother and told her how empty, sluggish, and stuck I felt. I was real and raw like the Psalmist in his Laments. She listened with a soft heart and comforted me. She asked me questions, including about what subject I wanted to study in school.
I dared to tell her that I had a secret desire to study Christian psychology and learn how to help people grow personally and spiritually. In the 1980s there weren’t many Christian therapists and my family and church did not understand or respect Christian counseling as a ministry.
Much to my surprise, my mother honored the desire of my heart. She prayed that I would know if this was indeed God’s call on my life. But my father was so upset I might not be a doctor that he wouldn’t speak with me for months. This reinforced my self-judgments and fears.
Like Jacob of old, I wrestled in prayer to hear the Lord’s voice and receive a blessing (Genesis 32:24-30). I picked up my Bible, closed my eyes, and trusted the first words to be God’s message for me:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters… Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:1-3, NIV).
This Scripture gave me hope and courage. (God can even speak through Bible roulette!) I dropped out of Pre-Med and changed my major to psychology. Eventually, my dad and others in my family came to understand and appreciate the value of me studying Christian psychology. I had turned a corner and my dark cloud of depression lifted.
In sum, here are 4 Steps to receive God’s help for depression:
1. Seek empathy from a soul friend
2. Keep wrestling in prayer for God’s blessing
3. Listen to your heart’s desires
4. Receive God’s words of life
“Souls who follow their hearts thrive” (Proverbs 13:19, MSG).
If these steps aren’t enough you probably need to also seek help from a psychotherapist and consider medication.
Listen to today’s SoulTalk: In this episode, Bill invites Pastor David to a vulnerable conversation about the struggles of depression. You’ll hear the story of Pastor David’s difficult season and the breakthroughs he experienced. God’s grace heals and restores! Let this story of God’s grace offer you fresh hope.