Talking about depression can often feel taboo, which causes many to struggle and suffer in silence. There’s no complete “cure” for it, but God has given us certain tools to help find healing. In this final therapy session, we learn a practical and biblical approach to depression by recognizing what it is, what causes it, and how to combat it.
Welcome, everybody who's tuning in from wherever you are joining us. I know Fort Worth is back live. So is Houston. I think Northwest Arkansas is, Southampton is, and wherever you are listening and watching. We are wrapping up the Therapy series, where for the last six weeks we've been looking at a huge issue in our culture right now. It was a huge issue before everything happened with COVID, specifically talking about mental health.
COVID and everything that has happened with the lockdowns and challenges in society have only made that worse. So, we have been jumping in. If you have missed this series, you can find all those on the Porch app. We covered four weeks on anxiety, we covered what it looks like to get healthy and deal with your baggage, and tonight, we are launching into a really big issue.
Hayden Browning, who's on our team (he's our worship leader), is going to help. Let me set up and frame it like this. My son is 4 years old, and during COVID, he mastered the art of using Alexa. So, he will find a song he really likes, and all day long he will drive his mother insane by going up and saying, "Alexa, play [this song]," and he'll have the same song play over and over and over again.
One of the songs we've been jamming to that I feel like most churches, Christians, people in general, were jamming to even before COVID is "Way Maker." It's a great song. "Way maker, promise keeper…" Hayden is going to do a much better job, because I have some sort of bacterial infection. Break it off a little bit for us, Hayden. Give the people what they want. For anybody who doesn't know this song, how does the chorus go?
Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper
Light in the darkness
[End of song]
My son will go up and have Alexa play this song over and over. If you've heard the live version of this song, it ends in a really interesting way. I don't know if you've heard the live version. At the end of the song, the singer will go off and begin to talk about how God's name is above X, Y, and Z, and it sounds a little bit like…
His name is above depression
His name is above loneliness […]
His name is above cancer
[End of song]
You killed it, dude! We have copyright laws, so we can't actually screen, so Hayden is the face and the beauty and the voice. But he'll go up and play that song, and at the end of the song, if you're not familiar with that, the live version includes that. As a 4-year-old, you don't know what depression is. You don't know what anxiety is. You don't know what loneliness is. But because he's a 4-year-old, he's a sponge, so anything he hears he repeats. It's locked in his mind.
When we're out in public, he begins singing songs in general all the time, but we'll be out at the Lego store or at the neighborhood pool or at the park with people around, and he will begin singing this song and just immediately skip the entire thing and go right into, "His name is above depression!" with total strangers everywhere around us. I'm not kidding. I'm saying in the middle of the mall, looking at the Lego thing… "His name is above loneliness! His name is above depression!"
Everyone's faces all of a sudden turn, because there's a 4-year-old singing about depression, and looking at his parents like, "What sort of parents are you right now? What is going on?" As weird as it is for anybody to talk about depression, especially out in public, it's for sure weird when a 4-year-old is doing it. He doesn't understand. He laughs, and he sees the reaction, and he's like, "What is depression?" and it's like, "We'll talk about that later."
It's one of those subjects that is a really weighty thing. It's unusual, and you don't hear a lot of people move into that conversation, yet it's also a really big issue in our world. The fact that not a lot of people talk about it openly and, even more tragically, not a lot of places in church talk about it openly is such a miss, because millions of people around the country are dealing with this issue of depression.
So, tonight, we're going to launch into a biblical framework on depression. When I say millions, I mean literally millions. And this was well before COVID had ever hit, and it has only gotten worse. According to the CDC, there has been a 47 percent increase in major depression diagnoses among young adults in the last 10 years. Among the generation right behind them, or college students graduating (this is from a couple of years ago, so, the average 24- or 25-year-old), they found there has been a doubling of rates of anxiety, suicide, and depression.
Americans consume three times more pills for anxiety and depression than the rest of the world combined. Hundreds of millions of prescriptions for antidepressants. The single most common prescription drug out there is in the category of antidepressants. It's everywhere, and it's an issue that not enough people have talked about, and it's leading to devastating consequences.
There has never been a generation more significantly impacted than young adults today, and as study after study is showing, it's higher than it has ever been because of corona. It is more common to die of suicide than of homicide in America. It's more common to die of taking your own life than of somebody murdering you. Think about that. It's two times as likely. It's crazy. That means you are a bigger danger to yourself than any person in your life, statistically speaking.
Generally speaking, the way people end up in that place is because of a battle with this depression that they feel like they can't escape, that leaves them without hope, yet it's not an issue that is a new issue. It feels new to us or it feels like heightened experiences of depression, but the Bible over and over talks about anxiety and depression. It talks about people experiencing tremendous levels of sorrow and pain.
This message is for anyone who has ever struggled with depression or anyone who has anyone in their life, because when you're in that moment or for anyone listening who has been there, it feels like there's no hope. It feels like God is done. It feels like I can't control it. It has been said it's an emotional issue, but in a lot of ways, people in depression feel like, "I don't have any emotions at all."
So, what I want to spend the next 30 minutes doing is not solving and giving a one-stop shop for everyone's depression. "Every time, it's going to fix it. Here's the one cure." Nobody can do that. I want to give us a framework, biblically, to understand what depression is, what some of the causes of depression are, and what some of the ways that we combat depression are.
I wanted to call it "The Cure for Depression," and I didn't think that was honest. I don't know that there is one cure that always works every single time, but I do know God knows more about depression, sorrow, and pain than any psychiatrist, any person in this world, and in his Word he talks about how we can have a framework to approach this subject. So, we're going to look, specifically, at what depression is, what causes it, and what combats it.
Let's first talk about what depression is. The Oxford dictionary says depression is "severe despondency and dejection (sadness) typically felt over a period of time, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy." It's related to the emotion of grief or sadness or sorrow, but those can be appropriate things and not necessarily bad things. There are times in life where it would be bizarre to not have grief. It would be bizarre to not grieve after a loved one dies.
It's not just grief, though. It's prolonged grief and sadness that doesn't go away. It's when sorrow stretches out for long periods of time. That's depression. It's when sorrow becomes a way of life. It's not just a phase. It can look like a lot of things, and there are a lot of different ways it plays out. Sometimes people say, "I go to bed sad. I wake up sad. I can't shake this. It's what I constantly feel." Other times, people describe it as "I just feel tired all the time. I don't even want to get out of bed."
People will feel like, "I don't know who I am. I'm not myself. Something is broken." Other times, you'll hear people describe, "I just have no motivation." Tragically, people will describe, "I don't know that I want to keep living anymore," and they'll have suicidal thoughts, like, "Maybe there's no point to it at all." It can take a lot of different forms.
In the Bible, we also are introduced to people who walk through what, today, we understand is depression…extended, prolonged series and phases of sadness. I'm just going to give a few of these biblical examples, because there are so many to list. We don't have time to go through them. But here's what I want you to hear: These were kings. These were prophets. These were men who knew God and saw him do amazing things.
These were men to whom God said, "I'm going to have you write a book of the Bible. I'm going to have you write many, many sections of the Bible." They saw God, as we'll see in a second, do incredible things, yet they walked through serious sorrow and depression in their lives. God included their stories, and one of the reasons, I think, is because he wants you to know, if you're in that place, you're not alone.
One of the people who experienced depression, based on his own description, was Job. If you don't know Job, it's the oldest book of the Bible. Job is a story all about suffering. Here's the big snapshot. Job was a guy who was a righteous man before God. Basically, he had a really blessed life. He had 10 kids, 7 sons and 3 daughters. He had an amazing business, essentially, set up, an operation. He had a great home. Everything was great.
One day, everything fell apart. In a matter of not even multiple days, his life collapsed. Somebody ran up and said, "Hey, these people just came from a foreign village and stole everything. They killed all of your servants and took all of the cattle and everything you own." It would be the equivalent of your business totally collapsing. Then somebody else runs up and says, "There was a great storm that came when you were out in the field, and it hit your house, and it collapsed and killed all of your children."
I read that, and it's like, "Oh, that's kind of a crazy story." It's not just a story; it happened. He goes and buries 10 kids in the ground. Then we're told that his body begins to war against him. He breaks out in boils, which are these painful lesions on his skin. He feels like God is punishing him and against him, and he writes out some really depressing poetry, in the midst of which he says this, something that I think some of us have felt or experienced and can relate to. Job 30:16:
"Depression haunts my days. At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly. With a strong hand, God grabs my shirt. He grips me by the collar of my coat. He has thrown me into the mud. I'm nothing more than dust and ashes. I cry to you, O God, but you don't answer. I stand before you, but you don't even look."
Job is not describing what's true; he's describing what he feels. He says, "It feels like God just grabbed me by the shirt and threw me into the mud." "Depression haunts all of my days." In other words, "Every single day is filled with nothing but depression. It feels like God is absent, he doesn't care, and he won't answer me."
Job wasn't alone. Elijah was a well-known prophet. I wish we had time to go into more of his story. He's a guy who saw God do incredible things. At one point, he basically places a bet with these false prophets, these men who worshiped a god that doesn't exist. He was like, "Yeah, your god is not real. Mine is. Let me show it to you." He calls down fire from heaven, and it consumes this altar. He just saw God do amazing things.
Then one day, he finds himself exhausted. He's not sure that God is going to act in the way that he wants him to. He's afraid for his life, and he takes off, and he just begins to experience suffering. In the midst of that suffering, he finds himself saying, "I don't want to live anymore." This is a guy who just called fire down from heaven, and then shortly after, despite having seen that, he's saying, "I don't even know that I want to live."
First Kings 19:4 says this: "'I have had enough, _ _ Lord ,' he said. 'Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.'" "God, I'm all alone. I can't take it anymore. I just don't want to live. There's no point." Some of you listening have felt that before, and you're not alone.
David was called a man after God's own heart. He's another man who battled with depression. David wrote most of the Psalms. If you read the Psalms, as you guys probably are familiar with, David is the most emo in the entire Bible. In one psalm he's like, "He's the greatest! God is the best!" and the next he's like, "Where are you, God?" Up and down and up and down, yet God calls him a man after his own heart.
He would pour out, "God, I feel like you've turned your back on me. My life is full of depression and sadness." In Psalm 6 he says, "I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. My vision is blurred by grief…" "I'm just overwhelmed. I'm lying in bed, and I'm sad and filled with depression and sorrow. I can't even sleep, because when I do, I just lie there, and I'm overwhelmed with sadness."
There's a guy most of you probably haven't heard of called Heman, son of Korah. (What a great name. How do we not know more about Heman?) Heman wrote Psalm 88. Psalm 88 would have been a psalm just like all of the other psalms. The book of Psalms is the Israelite Spotify list. They'd go into the temple and sing the psalms. This psalm he wrote has been described as one of the darkest, if not the darkest, words in the entire Bible.
He lays out how he feels like God has abandoned and betrayed him. He says, "I am forgotten, cut off from your care. You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths. Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me." He feels like, "Man, I'm in this life…" He does what so many of us do when we're in a bad place. We quickly turn and begin to point the finger at God.
He's just expressing how he feels. He says, "I'm already in the lowest place, and it's like one wave hits me, and another wave hits me, and another wave hits me." He ends the psalm by saying, "Darkness is my closest friend." That's in your Bible. I mean, this is well before Simon & Garfunkel with "Hello darkness, my old friend." That came straight out of this dude's mouth. Psalm 88:18. He says, "I feel alone and in darkness."
Jeremiah had a lifelong battle with depression. He was a prophet. We don't have time to go into his story either, but he wrote an entire book called Lamentations of his grief, his sorrow. The word Lamentations is from lament. "Here are the laments I have," and he just pours his heart out to God. At one point, in chapter 2, verse 11, he says, "I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken."
Jeremiah writes in the Bible, "I've cried so much there's nothing left to come out. My heart is broken." The Bible is not full of men who are immune to or unaware of what it looks like to experience sorrow and pain. God had these included in the Bible so that you wouldn't be alone and you would know you're not alone. It's one of those experiences that can come for anyone. God doesn't want you to experience it, but God also understands what you're walking through.
My wife is a counselor, and psychology is one of those fields that we're just, in the last 50 years, getting our arms around, trying to better understand, specifically things like depression, clinical anxiety, all of that stuff. As it relates to this topic, any doctor is essentially going in, and because we're still trying to learn it… It impacts people differently. The way it looks in different people's lives looks different.
They're practicing. There's a reason they call it "Here's my doctor's practice." They're just trying to understand and get their arms around it, but God fully understands it. It's like this. My son is really into dinosaurs right now. I mean, he's all about dinosaurs. It's all we talk about. It's all the videos we watch. Constantly, we're looking at dinosaurs. He has memorized dinosaurs I didn't even know existed, names that I'm like, "How in the world did you even know that?"
Because of this, on the weekends or just at times, he'll want to watch a YouTube dinosaur video, and I'll try to find one that's not straight off of Jurassic Park of ripping some guy's head so that his 2-year-old sister is scarred, but we'll find some video, and it's often telling us about dinosaurs. His favorite, of course, is the T. rex. It's everybody's favorite.
We watch these videos, and as I have continued to watch these with him, I am reminded of how little we actually know about these things. We're just kind of guessing. We're taking hypotheses. We could be right. We could be wrong. Who really knows? Nobody does. Why I say that is the video we watched this past weekend was related to the Tyrannosaurus rex. Here's a picture of a Tyrannosaurus rex. If you notice, he has very small arms.
People will begin to think, "Hey, why did he have such small arms?" They've proven he can't even scratch his face. If he has something stuck in his teeth, he's not getting it out with his hands. They're very tiny little arms that are there. So people hypothesize. "Why did the T. rex have such small arms? It just doesn't make sense." And they throw these hypotheses out.
The most recent one has clearly pulled a veil back of, "I don't know that you guys know what you're talking about here. You're clearly just guessing." Why do I say that? The most recent hypothesis is that the reason they had such small arms was not to hunt, was not to do anything with, was not to just scratch their stomach, which is about all they can do, but in order to attract a mate. Here's how. They would embrace tickling. I'm not kidding. You can Google it right now.
They're like, "We solved it. That's why they're so little." They would go up and tickle the dinosaur of the opposite sex, and that was to do something like, "Hey, girl. How you doing? Okay." That is the leading theory on Tyrannosaurus rex. That may be true. I don't know if it's true or not, but I at least know you don't know if it's true. You don't have a video of some dinosaur going up to somebody. It's totally a guess.
You even look at the hypothesis, and they're like, "We really don't know. We're just throwing stuff against the wall at this point." A lot of times, that can be the way, in terms of psychology… And it's an amazing field. I already said I'm married to a counselor. I believe in what she does. I'm just saying they're still figuring it out. They don't fully understand how all of it works, but God does. He knows what you're feeling. He knows better than you even know yourself the depths of the hurt, what you're walking through, and he wants you to know you're not alone.
So, if that's a snapshot of what depression can look like, what causes depression? Because here's the truth, whether you believe me or not. There's a reason you're depressed. There's a reason your mom is depressed. There's a reason someone in your life is walking through depression. Getting to the root of what is causing that is crucial to addressing not just the symptoms of what I feel but the source that's causing those feelings.
Psalm 42 is a really honest psalm written by David, and in it, three times, he asks the question, "Why are you downcast? Why are you depressed, oh my soul? Why are you disturbed? Or, what's wrong with you? Put your hope in God." He says it three times in less than 10 verses. He's asking the question that is the question, I think, for anybody who's battling depression or anybody who's walking through that. "What is going on? Why am I stressed? Why am I depressed? Why am I anxious? What am I feeling? What's causing this?"
There are a number of reasons, biblically, that could be behind it. One reason that oftentimes people can find themselves moving into depression… And I have so much sympathy, and like God, I hate that you are finding yourself there or that you are there in a place where you don't want to be, and neither does God want you to be, but asking the question, "What could be behind this? What is causing this?"
In Proverbs 12:25, Solomon says there's a cause behind some depression, and it's anxiety. Listen to this verse. This is a verse that only in the last 75 years psychologists have discovered, "Oh yeah, that's actually true. "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression…" Solomon knew what people today are just figuring out, that anxiety and depression often go together. Prolonged "I'm anxious, I'm anxious, I'm afraid, I'm afraid" leads to depression.
This was written 3,000 years ago, and any psychologist or anybody in that field will tell you today those are often linked. That can be a clear cause. If you don't believe me, think about it. If you know anybody who has walked through either of those issues, they're often diagnosed the same medication from a doctor. They're like, "Oh, you're anxious? Here. Take this pill. Oh, you're depressed? Here. Take the same pill." Even psychology knows there's a relationship between the two of those.
So, taking the step, if that's where you are, and going, "There's some fear that is buried really deep that I've been suppressing and holding back and not dealing with and I'm afraid of, and it's making me feel out of control and depressed." If you're going to experience freedom from that, you have to at least address what those fears are, what that anxiety is, and begin to work through that.
It can also be caused by circumstances, really hard, messed up, painful circumstances. Someone in your life died. Your mom got breast cancer. The chemo worked once and it went away, and then it came back, and she's not here anymore. She was supposed to be at your wedding. She was supposed to be in your life. It has spun you into a place where you're questioning everything.
It's stuff as simple as a breakup. You were dating the person, and you were like, "I thought we were going to be together for the rest of the rest, like, you and me, ride or die forever," and then the relationship ends up going in a different direction. Breakups are horrible, and it can lead to a discouragement that eventually turns into a depression. If you're going to experience freedom or moving out of that, identify what could be causing that. It could be circumstances that have caused it.
Maybe there's a diagnosis with an autoimmune disease that just feels like you're going crazy, because you talk to doctors, and they can't exactly pinpoint it, and you just have these symptoms. It makes you feel so overwhelmed. Life will never be the same, and you're depressed. Maybe it's just disappointment with where things are. Life is incredibly hard and sad. God is good, but this world is broken, and it's full of disappointments for everybody.
2019 was probably the hardest year of my life. Well, at least the last eight years. I'd been working in ministry for 10 years with one of my best friends, and then I'd been working in ministry for 5 years with another one of my best friends. We were as thick as thieves. One of them was named JP, who you've probably heard of if you've been around here at all. Another one was named Garrett.
Within six months, God called both of them to go lead at another place. Now, on the outside, a pastor should say, "And I was pumped. It was awesome. This is what God is doing. I'm so pumped." But that's not what I felt at all. These were guys that we were like, "We're going to do this forever. This is what we're going to do." We worked together every single day.
We spent more time together than anybody I know, and then in a moment, it was like my heart ripped apart. God called these men away, and I found myself wondering, "God, what are you doing? What am I doing with my life? Am I depressed right now?" Feeling like, "I'm surrounded by people, and God is good, and I'm teaching, but I feel so alone." Had there not been people in my life, that could easily have spun me into a depression.
It's not just caused by circumstances. It can be caused by unconfessed sin or undealt with sin. David says in Psalm 32, talking about hiding an affair, "When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long." "I was depressed." "Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me."
Unconfessed sin can lead to a depression in your life. You're sleeping with your boyfriend. You're doing something you kind of keep hidden to yourself, and God in his mercy allows… You're not going to experience joy in this life. It's going to get worse and worse and worse. It can lead to depression. I'm not saying that all depression or even most depression is the result of unconfessed sin. That's not at all what I'm saying. I'm saying it can be.
Sometimes it's guilt from a past abortion, past sexual sin, past something that you regret from your life, and you've never dealt with it or you've never accepted God's forgiveness. You've never actually walked in God's grace. "I'm forgiven. I'm not defined by those things. I'm a Christian, which means Jesus and what he did on the cross… I am forgiven. I will walk in that, and I will believe that, and I will embrace that." Guilt can lead to a place of depression.
The last category is struggles. I don't know how to put this. Not necessarily sin. Sometimes it's wiring, but this type of thing can lead to a depression. There are a few of them. One of those would be perfectionism. Perfectionism can be a wiring that leads to this place of "I'm depressed because I'm anxious, and I'm stressed, and things are not perfect, and I'm overwhelmed in this life."
If you live that way in that mindset, it's a recipe for depression, because we live in a broken world. Everybody, according to the Bible, has fallen short of the glory of God. Nobody is perfect, including you, and if you critique everything you do and constantly criticize and constantly beat yourself up, you're going to find yourself eventually depressed.
A Cornell study that came out a couple of years ago found that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. They found that they make hundreds of decisions as it relates to food and what they eat alone. Thirty-five thousand decisions on "Hey, this is when I'm going to go to bed. This is when I'm going to brush my teeth. This is when I'm going to take off my shoes," all of these different decisions.
Do you expect yourself, when it comes to those decisions, to be perfect every single time? That's crazy. Thirty-five thousand! You don't think you're going to miss once? You have to give yourself some grace. There's no perfect world. You can't expect heaven on earth. Perfectionism will lead to depression.
If you do expect yourself to be perfect all 35,000, you probably have the second struggle, which is narcissism, where you expect that you are going to be perfect every time or you're just focused on yourself and are self-obsessed. That can look two ways. It can be self-pity. "I'm so terrible. I'm so disappointing. No one cares about me." Or an arrogance that is "Look at me. I'm so great. These people don't even know how great I am." Both of those can lead to depression.
This is one of the most common causes, I think, in the last 10 years of working with young adults. Over and over, people… Not every person, but a focus, an obsession with self will make you depressed. You weren't made to live that way. Focusing on your job, your money, your car, "You hurt me; you don't care," "me, me, me," will lead to depression. In place of narcissism, the Bible says you and I are to walk in humility.
It says this in Philippians 2:3: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Humility, as we've said before, is not thinking bad about yourself, like, "I'm horrible. I'm a nobody." That's narcissism. Humility is not thinking of yourself at all. A humble person is focused on the needs of other people around them. Not lost thinking about themselves but lost in the needs of other people around them.
Today, somebody on my team was sharing about how one of the things that helped them in their anxiety was that they began to focus on the needs of other people around them and stopped being so worried about themselves. Narcissism is one of those things that, just like in that case with anxiety, will lead to depression.
Another one would be comparison. We've created this environment where we are set up to constantly be focused on other people, comparing ourselves to others. Social media has only made this worse. As I was thinking about it, it's not just that it has made it worse because I'm looking at the highlight reel of somebody else. It's because every time you look at social media, think about when you do.
When do you look at social media? When you're bored, when you're sitting at a light, when you're waiting for somebody to call you back, when you have nothing to do. Nobody looks on social media when they're surfing a wave in Maui. You look at it whenever you're bored. When do you post on social media? Whenever you're like, "Look at me, world! Woo! Look at how great my life is."
So we have two competing things, where the person looking is looking because they're bored and the person posting… Nobody posts like, "Just getting my Chipotle, sitting at this traffic light right here. Look at how awesome my life is." Unusual people post that. Most of us post, "I want to show you my highlight reel." So, we're comparing not just different stages but different moments. I'm literally seeing your highlight reel whenever I'm bored, and you're seeing my highlight reel whenever you're bored. It's a recipe for comparison and depression.
The last one would be burnout. This is not an exhaustive list of everything that causes depression, but burnout. If you run at a pace that is unsustainable, it will land you depressed where you're constantly going, constantly going, constantly going, from one thing to the next, from work to happy hour, from happy hour to some party to something else to checking your phone, staying up late. It'll burn you out and cause depression. In order to solve it, you have to address the roots.
When I started dating my wife, on my ring finger (this is such a weird illustration, but it's going somewhere), I had like four warts. I know; it's gross. There's a point to this story. I mean, it was bad. It was like, "I am not ever going to get married. Clearly, this is a sign from God, because I can't get rid of these things." You may be thinking, "Oh, just go to CVS and get some wart remover." I did that about 20 times, but these things just kept coming back with a vengeance.
Eventually, I had to go to multiple doctors who had to go in… I had to get on medicine. There's apparently wart medicine you can take that helps go in and kill it, and then they had to go in with some cryo freezing technology that drills all the way into your finger and gets out by the roots those warts in order for them to go away, because if you don't get them by the roots, they're only going to come back. A lot of times, they come back even worse.
When it comes to depression or anxiety, as we've talked about, if you don't get to the source, it's going to continue coming back and coming back. This is one of the qualifiers to know about medication. Medication doesn't help you get to the source of what's causing depression. It addresses the symptoms of how I feel in a moment, but it doesn't focus on getting to the source.
My point is not you should not take medication or no one should ever take medication or medication is wrong. No, that's not my point. There are appropriate times. God gave us Advil, and he gave us different antidepressants at different times. My point is that it doesn't treat the source, so if that's all you do, your recipe is going to lead you to continually need to have something to treat the symptoms, not the source of your depression.
As a believer and a Christian, as we've talked about before, there are times where it is appropriate to take medication, but not at the expense of or not without the two-pronged approach of God's Word, living authentically with God's people, seeking to walk with him, and dealing with that. Then there are times to supplement or be a part of that, but as a supplement, not a replacement for what God calls us to in Scripture.
All right. So, how do you combat depression? As people, your whole life is related to one another. In other words, there is a holistic approach in order to combat depression that we are to take as it relates to fighting and continuing to fight against depression. It's not just, "Hey, read more Bible verses, and that'll fix your problem every time."
There's a connectedness between your physical body, the decisions you make, how much sleep you're getting, what you're eating, your lifestyle in general. There's a spiritual dimension. There are all types of dimensions. So, I want to look at how we combat it physically, spiritually, communally, and patiently. I'm going to walk through all of those.
Physically. There's an aspect where you and I are to fight depression physically. In other words, your life is directly impacted by the physical choices you make. This is such a common thing. This is just young adult life. You stayed up late last night. You were watching Selling Sunset or The Umbrella Academy, or whatever it was, and you stayed up way too late, but, man, you just couldn't turn it off. All of a sudden, despite the fact you wanted to go to bed at 10:00, it's 11:45. You're up way too late.
So then this morning, rather than get up and have a quiet time, you overslept. You hit the thing. You get the sleep out of your eyes. You throw on your clothes. You run out the door. You drive through Starbucks. You get a latte and that little cake doughnut thing they have, and all of a sudden, you're jam-packed with caffeine and sugar. You're sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, rushing to work. You have music blaring from the radio in the car.
You finally get to your job. You run into your cubicle, you throw in your AirPods, and you sit there at the job you're not sure you really like until about 10:30. Then you go get a Monster from the vending machine. You're jam-packed with caffeine. You're stressed and overwhelmed. And you wonder why you're depressed? It's all connected. In other words, you can't separate those things.
Maybe that's not life for you at all because COVID has you locked up at home, and you sit at home every single day. You get up, and you don't go anywhere. You just go to the pantry and get Frosted Flakes and eat that. You sit on the couch and work in your pajamas all day long, and you never see any people. You don't go out and see the sun, and you're like, "Man, I just feel like I'm a little more depressed lately." Are you serious? There's an interconnectedness.
God created you as a human with a body and a soul that are deeply connected together. So, as it relates to physically, addressing things like sleep, exercise, and going outside. Sleep. God wants you to sleep. There are times where it is totally appropriate to get up at 4:00 in the morning, and there are times where it is appropriate to go to bed at 9:00 at night and turn off Netflix and get sleep. Psalm 127 says that God grants sleep to those he loves.
Exercise. There is a statistical, proven link between anxiety and depression being combated with exercise. The National Health Service in the UK revealed that aerobic exercise, like running, has the same effect on your body as antidepressants. That was published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience in 2007. God created Adam and Eve, and he put them in a garden in Genesis, chapter 2, and said, "Go out and work the garden." You and I were not created to sit in a cube for 12 hours a day staring at a screen. You have to move your body.
Even talking to a psychologist, or a therapist, for this series, he was like, "One of the things I always say… They have to make sure they're in community, they have to make sure they're doing this, and they have to make sure they're exercising. If they're not doing those things, they can take all the medication they want, but they're never going to get to a place where they're healthier."
So, sleep, exercise, all underneath the banner of physical. I already said go outside. Vitamin D. There's a reason Oregon and Alaska are two of the states in the country with the highest levels of depression and suicide. There's not a lot of sun for half the year in Alaska. Vitamin D is a part of that. These aren't just some tips and tricks. It is how you were created. You weren't created to live in a cave and sit in your underwear eating Frosted Flakes all day by yourself. There's a connectedness physically. Research has shown that there are strong links between exposure to natural light and the serotonin system. In other words, we need light to be happy.
All right. Not just physically. Even more important is spiritually, addressing at a mental, spiritual, soul, and heart level where we're believing lies and addressing them with God's Word and the truth. Second Corinthians 10:4-6 says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." Some of you feel like depression is a stronghold in your life.
One of the ways we combat that stronghold is with weapons God has given us. Not weapons like the world, like a sword and a spear and a bow, but weapons like the Word of God and prayer. "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought…" Every sad thought, every anxious thought, every happy thought, every mad thought. "…to make it obedient to Christ."
So, I take God's Word, and I take the thoughts I have, and I begin to go, "What would God's Word say about this thought?" I wake up in the morning, and I'm so depressed and sad, thinking, "Man, maybe I'll never get married for the rest of my life" or "Maybe I'm going to lose my job" or "What happens if they get COVID?" and "I can't believe that."
I have two options when those thoughts begin to come into my mind. I can take option one and go down that road and keep feeding those anxious thoughts, keep feeding those depressed thoughts, and I can run in that direction, or I have option two, and I can say, "Hey, what would God's Word say about this thought? I'm going to make this thought obedient to Christ.
Am I going to be single and alone for the rest of my life? No. God's Word would say I've never been alone. God will never leave me nor forsake me. I'm going to hold on to that. God's Word also says this life is a vapor, so even if I'm single for the rest of my life, I'm going to be with Christ for all of eternity, and I can handle it. I can face anything. God will not let me face more than I can handle."
I have two choices in those moments. I can take the thought and make it captive or I can feed the depression and the depressing thoughts and run in that direction. Part of combating spiritually is to begin to think about your thoughts. It has been said that the average person has 50,000 thoughts a day. Begin to diagnose what you are thinking about. I'm going to take those thoughts and say, "What would God say about these things?"
In Psalm 42, as we've already talked about, David begins to say, "Why are you downcast, oh my soul? Why are you so depressed? Why are you so discouraged?" At the end of that verse, he does something really bizarre. I'll read it again. "Why are you so downcast, my soul? Why are you so disturbed? Put your hope in God, for yet I will praise him."
The psalmist is asking these questions. He's like, "I'm so depressed, and I'm so discouraged," and he speaks to himself and says, "Put your hope in God. You're so depressed. Put your hope in God." He's talking to himself. Part of being a Christian, as we begin to have thoughts that flood our minds every day, is beginning to go, "What would God's Word say is true? I'm going to hold on to what is true. That's more important than what I feel."
A pastor named Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a British pastor who battled depression for decades. He said in this psalm we're confronted with the fact that there's a truth that a lot of us, by learning to do, will combat the battle that takes place in the mind.
He essentially says, "Have you not realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? The man's treatment in Psalm 42 was this. Instead of listening to himself when he woke up in the morning with all of the flood of thoughts that popped in that he didn't decide to have, he began to speak to himself. He stands up and says, 'Self, listen for a moment. I will speak to you. Put your hope in God.'"
So, the first part is by battling at a thought level with the truth, and the second part is involved in prayer. This is really important. Part of spiritually combating the issue of depression is prayer, talking to God. That's all that prayer is…spending time. Mindfulness… This is a huge deal, and now there are apps being created, and people are like, "Yeah, it's so crazy. You sit there. Meditation. You kind of pause, still, quiet." It's called prayer. You're just not talking to God. You're trying to avoid thinking thoughts, only prayer works more effectively.
You'll experience a directing of your mind and a peace that comes over. We've already talked about it in weeks past. There was a recent study done at a Baylor research center that found that a person who spends time consistently in prayer every day to a loving God… In other words, they said, if they pray to someone they don't believe is a loving God, it won't have the same effect, but if they pray consistently to a loving God every day, there's a dramatic…
It basically says, "Researchers from Baylor University found that people who pray to a loving and protective God are much less likely to experience anxiety-related disorders…fear, worry, self-consciousness, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and on…compared to people who really don't pray to receive any comfort or any protection from God."
In other words, those who spend time consistently praying, bringing the things you're afraid of, bringing the things you're scared of, waking up in the morning and saying, "God, this is everything on my plate. This is what I feel. I'm so alone right now. I'm so scared right now. I'm so sad right now. I'm anxious right now. I'm excited right now. I'm distracted right now. I feel shame right now, but I know you love me."
Research says brain scans showed it changes that person's brain. They begin to experience less anxiety and anxiety disorders, like depression, in their lives. So, spiritually combating it with God's Word, spending time in prayer honestly, and pouring out your heart to God. Some of you need to journal. You're not very good with your thoughts. You need to write them out in front of you. Talk to God and just say, "This is what I feel. This is what I'm thinking. This is what I'm afraid of. This is what I feel." Journaling and praying.
Then, finally, two more. Practicing things… I don't love this phrase, but things that stir your affections for God. In the midst of "I'm feeling sadness," go on a walk. Go outside. Go see whatever nature and beauty is around you. If you live in Dallas, find a lake. Do whatever makes you be like, "God is big. I love him, and I trust him." I can't tell you what all of those things are, but practicing those things, and also practicing gratitude.
Some of you are in a place where you're listening and you're like, "Gratitude? You have no idea. I can't even get myself out of bed right now." I want to challenge you. One thing. If you're in a great place, do a thousand things, but if you're like, "I can't do anything," do one thing. Say, "God, I'm thankful for this one thing."
If you're like, "I'm not thankful for…" Thank him that you're able to process what I'm saying to you right now. Thank him that you're still alive, because that means he's not done with you. Thank him for whatever you want. Thank him for the fact you have a tongue, an eye, whatever it is. There's an endless list. If you begin to practice that, it takes your eyes off of everything you don't have and puts them on gratefulness toward God. So, that's the spiritual dimension.
Then, finally, communally. You have to have people in your life. The worst thing you can be if you are depressed is alone and isolated. It's the thing you want to do most, and it's the thing you need to do least. You have to have people in your life who you can open up to, who you can call at 1:00 a.m. and say, "Man, I'm really struggling with these thoughts. I don't know that there's any point in keeping going." You have to have those people in your life. We all have to have them.
To walk through depression alone is a recipe to continue to walk through depression. In Galatians, chapter 6, verse 2, it says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." The Greek word for burdens is the word baros. It's a word for cargo or for luggage. He says, "There are things in your life that are too heavy for you to carry on your own. You have to have other people who can help you carry them."
This is why we hit on church membership, we hit on small groups. You have to have people, like I do, like everyone in this room does, like everybody on our staff does, who know where you're not okay. It's okay to not be okay. It's not okay to have people who don't know the places in your life you're not okay. If you don't have anybody in your life and, tonight, you're at a place where you don't know what to do, I'm going to give you an answer.
Somebody from our team is going to follow up with you. You can go to theporch.live/prayer. You didn't get in a small group. You don't have a church. You're totally isolated. I don't know what your story is, but you are not alone. Someone on our team will call you this week. Go to theporch.live/prayer. You're not alone. You're loved. You're cared for. God is not done with you. You can go fill out there any way we can pray for you. You can just say, "Talk," and someone will reach out, pray with, talk with, do anything we can to help.
Finally, dealing with the patiently. Healing takes time. We live in a microwave world with Instacart, Instagram, Uber Eats, insta- everything, and microwave. I wish there was a one-stop shop, because I know, and my heart breaks… You don't want to be depressed. You didn't ask for it. You can't even fully explain it. If there was a button you could push, you would push it.
We don't just combat it physically and spiritually and communally. We also do it patiently with the hope of eternity coming. Jesus is a great healer. He's called that in the Bible. You can bring those things to him and call out to him in prayer and ask him to take it away. I wish I could promise he always does or he always will, but I can't. I do know he has promised everything…
Romans 8 tells us he will work everything together for good. That means anxiety. That means depression. That means everything. In the meantime, he's saying, "You can trust me, and you can have hope." If you're depressed, hope is one of the few things that can help pull you out of that depression. Your story is not done.
Do you know as Christians…? Because of the hope we have of eternity, it puts everything we face in this life into perspective. We can handle it, because it's not worth comparing… As painful and as hard and as sad and as overwhelming and as broken as things feel, Paul would say, it's not even worth comparing to what awaits us in eternity. It feels really big right now, but that's just because of what you're comparing it to.
It's like this. This is the best illustration I could think of. This is a box, and if I were to ask, "Is this a big box?" most people would probably say, "No." Unless I was like, "Well, it really depends on what you compare it to." Compared to a nickel it's a pretty big box. If I was going to put a wedding ring in it, it would be like, "That's a little bit of a big box." It really depends on what you're comparing it to.
When you take it over here and compare it to this, it's clearly not a big box. The apostle Paul says in light of what awaits us in eternity… And it feels huge to you. It feels like "This is so big. It's so out of control. This is my life. This is my pain. This is my depression right now." Paul would say in light of eternity and what awaits us, as big as whatever it is feels to you right now, it doesn't even compare to what lies ahead for you and me.
He says in Romans 8:18, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." As big and as hard and as difficult and as painful as it is, as much as it feels like it has consumed life, he says it's not even worth comparing to what's going to happen for all of eternity, what is in front of all of us as believers, forever and ever and ever with God in perfect paradise where no depression will ever exist because God is going to heal it either in this life or the next. It's not even, as big as it is, worth comparing, because there's something way bigger that puts it in perspective.
In conclusion, you have to get to the cause of whatever is behind that depression, and then we combat day after day after day until Christ ultimately heals it. Sometimes it happens in this life, sometimes in the next. My heart breaks. Just in studying this, I told somebody it felt like I was going into Heath Ledger as the Joker. My heart breaks for so many people who are walking through depression. They can't explain it, and they don't want it, and they feel so alone. They feel unknown. They feel hopeless.
As much as my heart breaks for people who are listening, I know there are thousands who will hear this message who are in that place right now. As much as my heart breaks, here's something I know to be far more true: Jesus' heart breaks. He knows the pain you're walking through. He knows everything you're facing. He knows how overwhelmed you feel, and he cares about you far more than I do or anybody does or even you care about yourself.
Not just that. He also is someone who is well acquainted with sadness and depressing feelings and thoughts while he lived on this planet. If you read the story of Jesus, you'll discover he lived a really, really hard life. He didn't have a home. He had friends who betrayed him. He walked through this life in an incredibly painful fashion.
The Scripture tells us in Isaiah, chapter 53… Here's how it describes the Son of God when he lived on the planet. "He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief." In the garden of Gethsemane, hours before he would go be crucified on a cross, he's sitting there praying with his closest friends, and he says, "My soul is crushed." Mark 14:34: "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death."
He doesn't just care about you and love you and know. Hebrews, chapter 4, tells us he is a merciful High Priest who walked through and had an incredibly painful life. He's not immune to the pain. He knows what you feel. In that same section, Hebrews 4, it says because of that, we have a merciful High Priest. When you and I go to him and we are filled with sadness and filled with despair and don't know what to do, he is a priest who is merciful to our weaknesses.
You are not alone. God is not done. You have to get up. Your life is not over. You should not end it. God is not done with you. There are plans he has for you. You don't have to give in to that. There is hope, and you can find hope. Whatever you're facing does not compare to what awaits you in all of eternity.
That same God who experienced the deepest level of grief would later go die on a cross to defeat the depression inside of your life, to defeat depression inside of our world. He rose from the grave three days later, proving our hope is alive, he's alive. Depression is on an expiration date. Death has been defeated, and it's not over.
You have to listen to me. He's not done with you. Depression has been defeated. I'm not saying it'll always be easy in your life, but God is not done. You can get up. You have to get up. You have to start taking those steps. He's not done with you. He defeated it on the cross. He'll ultimately do away with it in all of eternity. The hope we have puts into perspective the pain you're walking through, because we have a living Savior. That means we have a living hope. Hope is the one thing that in the darkness, without it, things only get worse.
He's not done. If you're a Christian, he died on that cross for everything you've ever done, and he set on the calendar "This is when depression expires." I don't know when that day will be, but I know it will not plague his people forever. Though sorrow lasts for the night, joy is coming with the morning and our King when he returns. In the meantime, we combat, we find the cause, we fight, and we walk together. Let me pray.
Father, I know there are people listening who have a sibling who is depressed, who have a parent or a grandparent who is depressed, who knows someone who has taken their own life, who have wrestled with thoughts of taking their life, who have found themselves in a darkness where they feel like darkness is their only friend. There is no light around them. They can't see what you're doing.
I pray, God, right now, you would be bigger than the pain, bigger than the sorrow, bigger than the sadness; you would break through and flood the darkness with your light, that they would feel at a soul level your Spirit. You're not done with them. It's not over. There's hope, a hope that doesn't fail and a hope that is alive. You don't cast them away. You have mercy toward them. You've felt pain and deepest grief in this life.
They can bring their sorrows. They can bring their depression. They can bring all of that, because your name is above all of it. Like a 4-year-old child in the midst of a store, we can shout, knowing your name has defeated and will defeat and ultimately has done away with and is ending depression. I pray that would happen in the lives of people. Would we hold on if the story you write is different than that, and hold on to hope, a hope that's alive. In Christ's name, amen.