One of the most common illnesses to have plagued mankind is depression. It has resulted in broken families, loss of productivity in the workplace, and addictive behavior, among other problems. Those who suffer from depression often feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. Why?
This article should not be construed as a complete solution for any mental health problem, and it is not intended to discourage people who have a mental health condition from seeking appropriate counseling or treatment from an experienced mental health care provider.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states, “In any given 1-year period, 9.5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from a depressive illness. The economic cost for this disorder is high, but the cost in human suffering cannot be estimated. Depressive illnesses often interfere with normal functioning and cause pain and suffering not only to those who have a disorder, but also to those who care about them. Serious depression can destroy family life as well as the life of the ill person. But much of this suffering is unnecessary.”
”Most people with a depressive illness do not seek treatment.” (www.nimh.nih.gov).
The above article goes on to describe different treatments that are common in today’s society. But do any of these treatments actually help? Or are they merely treating the effects of depression without addressing the cause?
Depression is a psychological (mental/emotional) disorder, which involves the moods and thoughts of a person. There are different levels of severity, ranging from mild (feeling down after a mild disappointment) to severe (a lifelong debilitating illness, which can totally cripple a person).
Depression can affect several different areas of one’s life, including sleeping and eating habits, resulting in peripheral problems associated with improper diets and irregular sleep. It can also lead to the abuse of alcohol and the use of mind-altering drugs, persistent sadness, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, helplessness and worthlessness. There may be a loss of interest and pleasure in hobbies and activities. Many experience decreased energy, increased fatigue, difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decisions, restlessness and irritability. Some even suffer from persistent headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain.
These symptoms can eventually lead to the loss of employment, family and friends. But often, severe depression leads to thoughts of suicide. Feeling that he has come to the lowest point in his life, a person can conclude, “All is lost” and “Life is not worth living anymore.”
Depression is a universal problem, plaguing every human being at some point or another in life. Occasionally, everyone has a “blue” day. Feeling slightly discouraged about certain circumstances is normal in today’s society. It can be a response to a minor setback, the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job. Whatever the situation, most people will address the effect of their depression and not the CAUSE.
According to the NIMH, “Women experience depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women—particularly such factors as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, pre-menopause, and menopause. Many women also face additional stresses such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for children and for aging parents.”
The NIMH further states, “Although men are less likely to suffer from depression than women, 3 to 4 million men in the United States are affected by the illness. Men are less likely to admit to depression, and doctors are less likely to suspect it. The rate of suicide in men is four times that of women, though more women attempt it. In fact, after age 70, the rate of men’s suicide rises, reaching a peak after age 85.”
”Depression can also affect the physical health in men differently from women. A new study shows that, although depression is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease in both men and women, only men suffer a high death rate.”
Even children can suffer from depression. A child’s life should be without worries—carefree. But this is not the case in today’s society. With divorces increasing, rising peer pressure at school, etc., what appeared years ago as the carefree child’s life is no more.
”Only in the past two decades has depression in children been taken very seriously. The depressed child may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that the parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative, grouchy, and feel misunderstood. Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary ‘phase’ or is suffering from depression” (Ibid.).
How can one break free from the bonds of depression? Is there any hope?
As mentioned earlier, society treats the effects of depression in several different ways. The most common is through medication. Dozens of drugs are prescribed to those who need a “quick fix.” Often, as with so many others, these drugs cause side effects, for which are then prescribed other drugs to cover the side effects of those drugs—and the endless cycle continues.
Some drugs have such adverse side effects that they are blamed for even more bizarre behavior than that for which they were prescribed!
Depression has a very long history. The Bible records examples of extraordinary men who suffered bouts of depression. For example, carefully consider the following four men through whom God worked in Old Testament times.
Job was a perfect and upright man. After going through a series of trials, he asked God to take his life. Notice: “But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up...Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that He would let loose His hand, and cut me off! Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:1-3, 8-10).
Moses also experienced feelings of depression. When the people of Israel were constantly complaining about the manna, and wanted meat to eat, he said to God, “Wherefore have you afflicted Your servant? And wherefore have I not found favor in Your sight, that You lay the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that You should say unto me, Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child, unto the land which You swore unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? For they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if You deal thus with me, kill me, I pray You, out of hand, if I have found favor in Your sight; and let me not see my wretchedness” (Num. 11:11-15).
The prophet Elijah wanted God to take his life when the wicked Jezebel sought to kill him: “And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belonged to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (I Kgs. 19:1-4).
Then consider the prophet Jonah, who was angry that God had mercy on the people of Nineveh and changed His mind about destroying the city. This led to discouragement and depression on Jonah’s part: “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray you, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that You are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent You of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech You, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:1-3).
Each one of these men, having bouts of depression, asked God to take his life from him. But Hebrews 11:34 shows that they did go on to overcome their desire to die. God helped all of them through their depressed state. They “quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
Even some of the great men of our time have fought depression. Winston Churchill was one such individual. As war ravaged Europe, Mr. Churchill was powerless to do much about it. He admitted that many times he could not even get out of bed because the “depth of the depression” had overtaken him. His wife stated that “I thought he would die of grief.”
Mr. Churchill understood how important it was to not give up the fight during World War II. He understood how different the world would be if Nazi Germany defeated Britain, and that he had to remain strong in order to defeat Hitler. As the entire nation looked to him for strength, he knew that he could not appear discouraged. He forced himself out of the depths of depression, knowing that others were depending on him.
In the article “Churchill: The Man,” Anthony Storr wrote, “His own name for depression was the ‘black dog.’ In the course of his life he experienced many reverses. Disappointments which might have embittered and defeated even a man who was not afflicted by the black dog. Yet his dogged determination, his resilience and his courage enabled him, until old age, to conquer his own enemy, just as he defeated the foes of the country he loved so well.”
Typically, during the winter months, there is an increase in the number of people who suffer from depression. Why? Some may argue that it is the length of daylight in a day. Although studies have shown that people are affected by sunlight, is this the biggest reason?
Can the real answer lie in the fact that this world has separated itself from the true God—the God of the Bible? Think for a moment. The Christmas season has just ended. Many people will feel that their expectations went unfulfilled.
Many people exceeded their credit limits. Now, they have accumulated a considerable amount of debt, which will take months to pay off. They are living unbalanced lifestyles—trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” while going deeper into debt.
People who are constantly pursuing this life’s ideals have no idea of what is about to happen (very shortly now) in their lives. Too many things get in their way, such as toys, hobbies and the pursuit of pleasures. After all the “fun,” they have to deal with the hangover. And after the hangover has run its course, they realize that their problems have not disappeared, but are still there, and are even compounded.
But what is the true source of the problem?
Typically, when people experience depression, they do not realize why. Because they are focused on the “here and now,” and people and events in their “own little world,” they fail to realize or consider the big picture. Where do these attitudes, feelings, motives and impulses come from?
The Bible reveals the answer. It talks about one who is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), who deceives the whole world (Rev. 12:9) and stirs the spirits of humans, broadcasting attitudes, moods and impulses of selfishness, vanity, lust, greed, resentment, jealousy, envy, competition, strife, bitterness, violence, murder and war. People do not see Satan. They do not hear his voice. They do not know that these attitudes come from him. Unaware of Satan’s ability to broadcast his attitudes, people absorb them until they become their normal attitude.
Depression is a spiritual problem and thus demands a spiritual solution. God’s Word reveals the solutions to spiritual problems. Hosea 4:6 states, “My people are destroyed for LACK OF KNOWLEDGE: because you have REJECTED KNOWLEDGE, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to Me: seeing you have forgotten the LAW OF YOUR GOD, I will also forget your children.”
The reason so many suffer from depression is that the world has forgotten the true God. It has taken upon itself to decide right from wrong, rejecting God’s laws, statutes and judgments. And God’s Word shows that when His laws are broken, there are penalties.
Referenced earlier, Numbers 11:14 provides two keys points as to why people suffer from depression. Notice what Moses said to God: “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.”
The first indicator of Moses’ frame of mind is the term “I am not able”—in other words, “I can’t.” When someone says, “I can’t,” they are, in effect, saying, “I won’t.” This type of attitude limits one’s ability to overcome his fears and despair. For some, these feelings become so large in their minds that they are unable to even begin to address their fears.
The second point is summed up in the word “alone.” Those who suffer from depression often feel alone. Even with people all around them, they can feel left out.
However, one must have an attitude of more than just “I’ll try” or “I think I can” in order to be able to address and overcome depression. In order to overcome any obstacle—including feelings of depression—one must face it head-on, with the attitude reflected by the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Those who are trying to please God will be able to tap this power.
The Creator of the universe never intended human lives to be empty, depressed or unhappy. If you suffer from bouts of depression, turn to God for the answers to your problems. If you are unable to “see yourself out of this,” God can—and with His help, you can succeed! As with any caring and loving parent, God the Father is concerned about your well-being and happiness.
You may feel trapped by your feelings of depression—not knowing where to turn. Yet, Christ said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you FREE” (John 8:32). It is spiritually revealed knowledge that will set you free—free from depression and fear! Turn to God’s Word for answers to your depression.
Few people have suffered as much as the apostle Paul (see II Corinthians 11:23-33). Yet, he did not become depressed by his afflictions. Notice his reaction: “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (II Cor. 4:8-9, 16, NKJV).
Be prepared for setbacks and other trials along the road to recovery. But never forget that God will deliver you: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psa. 34:19). Paul also took comfort in this: “Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me” (II Tim. 3:11).
Jesus Christ came to earth with a message about the GOVERNMENT OF GOD, to be established at His Second Coming! At that time, God’s Way will be practiced by all, and fear and depression will at last be conquered.
While this magazine points toward that World to Come, you do not have to wait until then to address the depression you may be facing and to experience the joy that God intends for you. Christ said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Also, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (15:11).
Be determined to daily consider the following scripture: “This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa. 118:24). Also determine to apply the lesson that Paul learned: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).
Determine to turn yourself around and to allow God to fulfill His purpose for you in this life! He does not want your life to be full of despair and depression, but rather one filled with joy and supreme happiness. Our article “You Can Live the Abundant Life!” and our booklet The Laws to Success will show you how to achieve the success and happiness that God wants for every human being—including YOU!