Today I got a phone call from a lady getting evicted from her house. She is out of work, single mom with several children needs: money, food for her kids, a vehicle and now a place to stay. While on the phone I opened a letter from a local lady who is rehab, when she gets out she will have nothing. When I got off the phone, I had a voicemail from another needy family who is out of work and heard I was giving out food for Thanksgiving.
Depressing isn’t it.
Depression is something that everyone is supposed to understand or least have general knowledge of how to cope with. But the truth is that most really don’t know what do when depression hits them. Most people cave when it hits the fan. Some people become addicts and others lose it all together in times of despair. Detroit has a hovering cloud of negativity that seems to rain on every parade and kicks every person when their down.
This past weekend I talked about what to do when God seemingly isn’t there in your life. This is really common for most people and sadly something not talked about in church. We expect people to get their situation under control, but its not that easy. Life isn’t fair, times are tough and the church has done a horrible job of teaching people what to do when the blues turn to the bottle, and then the bottle runs out. Because of these truths and the constant bombardment of people in need, I talked about it for over an hour…people listened for the whole hour and afterwards many said they wanted more.
To help with understanding the basics of depression, I talked about what plagues most Christians before real, deep and heavy depression sets in…a feeling that God has abandoned them. There are times when God can be standing right in front of us and yet, we don’t see Him. In times of a loved one that overdoses, a daughter that gets gang raped and then turns to drugs, when a father becomes abusive, when selling yourself is the only way to survive…it seems like God isn’t just gone or missing, it seems as if He never existed. I talk to people who feel this everyday.
Before people get to the bottom of the bottle (where God seems to not exist), they seem to have some traits in common:
- Busy – so much happening, but nothing that matters
- Bored – almost a feeling of lost
- Bummed – bad things after bad things and then it gets worse
- Burdened – bad things in other peoples lives (often family) and the ripple effects that follow
To help people deal with this, I took them to Jesus, who is our chief example. He is our shepherd who guides us, our helper who loves us and our rock who we stand on. John 10 was the text, go read it. In it, Jesus reminds us of who we are (sheep needing help), reminds us who he is (a shepherd and door to salvation), and what we need (to come to him).
Take some of these and call me in the morning.
I’ve sat thru so many sermons that were basic one liners that felt like empty words. This was not gonna be one of those sermons. The difference would be me. I was open. I told the church that we as pastors get depressed. We get down. Phone calls turn into counseling calls, that turn into sleepless nights wondering if you did a good enough job. I expressed to the church that I too get busy, that I find myself bored at times. I’ve been bummed more than I care to remember, and there are more stories I could tell of burdens that would make the hardest person in the room cry. We have lost loved ones, I have seen death up close and personal. People I have spent days with helping to overcome bad habits have overdosed and died. I’ve seen more in my short life than some veterans have in war times.
So, what do I do? How do I deal with the really bad stuff? We have heard the verses, I’ve quoted them. We heard the sermons, I’ve preached ’em. But what does it look like? Here are a few first steps that help you right away that I have implemented into my own life. You will need counseling. I get coached and get counseling. These steps will help. They are not end-alls nor is this a magic pill that fixes everything immediately, but it starts the healing, the coping and breathes hope.
- Spend time, quality time with a Godly friend. For me this is my wife and sometimes some of my closest friends. I will pour everything out of the table, I can trust them. They will not tell others and they won’t give some quick fix. The other morning I had lunch with a local pastor friend Ben Rathburn. We sat, I talked, & he talked. We prayed and ate together. Not many people understand what I do, Ben does. Find that Christian friend (it can be a pastor or a life group leader) and sit down.
- Discipline yourself. This will look different for everyone but when moments of doubt come or the flesh starts to take over (which is often the case when dealing with depression), don’t give in to your inhibitions. This takes discipline and often requires help. This is where accountability comes into play. Most people I meet have bad stuff happen and then bad decisions follow. Many times you can’t stop the bad stuff from happening, but with discipline, you can stop yourself from doing things you regret.
- Find Jesus. Pray some, then read some, then listen to some music. Go to church and get your praise on. Most of the time when we feel like Jesus isn’t there, we need to go back to the place where we left Him. For me this is prayer time and meditation.
How do you deal with depression? What have you seen that helps? Would love to hear your thoughts.