The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 16.2 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2016. The global pandemic has just added to this mental health crisis. Depression is real. It can affect anyone at any time and for any number of reasons. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance, physiological changes, hypoglycemic conditions, physical illnesses and imbalances, blood chemistry, viral infections, flu, drug misuse, vitamin /mineral shortages, isolation, loneliness, and even fatigue, just to mention a few. If you are experiencing any these prolonged symptoms, please seek the attention of your primary care physician or mental health professional.
Depression can also be spiritually based. When you are hurt, divorced, widowed, unemployed, guilty, lonely, empty, angry, or you have lost a sense of belonging, lack of self-worth, lack of feeling essential to others, lack of intimacy with God, all these can contribute to discouragement that becomes depression.
The “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:13) is a description of our God. This verse leads us to the only permanent source of victory over spiritual depression, the LORD Himself.
Here are some practical steps to help us deal with the problem of discouragement and depression:
Believe God is greater than your challenges.
No matter what circumstance has gotten you down, there is always hope because of the risen Savior we serve. “Look Up!” God can help you.
Turn Your challenges over to God in prayer.
Pray specifically. Rather than praying for God to take every problem away, pray that God will give you an understanding of His perspective on the problem. Specifically call out the name of each issue and ask for God’s help, God’s answers, and God’s will.
Believe that God has a unique purpose for your life.
What is God trying to accomplish in your life through these hurtful circumstances? To resist the circumstance may be resisting God. Yes, God even has purposes for the pain He has allowed in your life. Ask God to give you His wisdom for this situation.
James, the New Testament writer, said this, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
Recognize that spiritual depression feeds on self-pity.
Don’t just put a band-aid on the surface, deal with the deeper problem. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, face your self-centered, self-reliance and confess it as sin. Turn your focus outward. Start looking for ways to serve others. Soon you will find your joy returning.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength,” Nehemiah 8:10. When your joy is missing, your strength is gone. God can and will restore your joy as you turn to Him.
Realize you cannot always have your own way.
Frustration and anxiety never solved anything. 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out, so you can stand up under it”. The antidote to frustration and anxiety is surrender to God’s will for my life.
Remember God’s Goodness.
The enemy of your soul wants you to believe that God has forgotten you, that He doesn’t care about you, that He is not good and powerful, and loving and kind. Remember that God is good, and He has ultimate good planned for your life and mine.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5
Embrace your experience with full confidence that when you come out of the fire, you will be better for having been through it.
Job 23:10 – “But he knows the way I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”
Pastors, you are not alone. If you are facing spiritual discouragement and depression, reach out to us at careforpastors.org We are here to help you navigate the unique challenges of pastoral ministry.