WARNING: Depressive Episode Ahead!

Two More Potential Dangers of Depression

 

After decades of experiencing chronic depression, I’m intimately acquainted with the potential pitfalls.  In my previous post, I identified two:

*Depression Spawns Self-Centeredness

*Depression Engenders Doubts About Beliefs

In today’s post I share two additional warnings. These are more sobering than the first two.

 

1.  Depression Increases Vulnerability To Temptation

Conditions that often accompany depression include adrenalin depletion, fatigue, apathy, hopelessness, self-condemnation, and sometimes, emotional numbness, or an incapacity to feel or experience pleasure.

A person who’s negative about the possibility of spiritual growth or achievements in life will more likely succumb to sins he has formerly resisted. A “What’s the use!?” attitude may envelop him.  It’s easier to rationalize sin because it seems as if past obedience hasn’t improved his lot, or it’s harder to trust the Holy Spirit for continued resistance while in a state of mental or emotional frailty.

When someone experiences a robotic incapacity to feel pleasure in things or people that normally evoke joy, the lure of sin that promises a quick fix–a titillation of the senses– becomes increasingly attractive. This is one explanation for sins in the sexual sphere.  For example, yielding to masturbation or pornography offers a temporary high,  a sense of being in control, of being attractive to someone of the opposite sex when one feels extremely unattractive to himself.

Of course, the fantasy is a type of false intimacy, an attempt to escape the pain.  Yielding to the sin actually spawns a downward spiral that exacerbates the depression, offering the opposite of what the lure originally promised.

Yet increased vulnerability doesn’t mean that yielding to temptation is inevitable. I haven’t won every battle over the years, but  here’s how I fight this kind of spiritual warfare.

*I preach to myself Bible verses that promise the Spirit’s help against temptation.  Verses I regularly employ include 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, and 1 John 4:4. I tell myself that yielding is not inevitable, or else God is a liar.

*I cry out to God for His strength, asking the Holy Spirit to fill me at that moment, when temptation is ramped up, so I don’t grieve Him.  I often pray Psalm 50:15 back to God:  “Call on Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

*I utilize an accountability partner to whom I’ve given permission to ask me hard questions. I report to him twice a month, disclosing what I’ve watched in the media, whether I’ve said or done anything in relation to another woman I wouldn’t want my wife to know, and describe the regularity of my personal time with the Lord.  In a call for accountability among Christians, Charles Swindoll wrote, “There is a grave danger in too much privacy.”

*Periodically, I meet with a trained Christian counselor who helps me identify when a depressive episode is starting, and offers ideas for tackling the symptoms.

*I confess any failure to the Lord (and to my accountability partner) as soon as possible.  I once read that a key to spiritual growth is keeping the time between sin and confession as short as possible, so the heart doesn’t have a chance to grow more callous toward sin.

The next potential danger of depression is the most serious of all…..

 

2.  Depression Increases the Likelihood of Suicide.

Perhaps this warning goes without saying, but I’d be remiss not to address it.

Hopelessness can permeate one’s mind until the will to live evaporates, and taking one’s life is viewed as a sure-fire way to end the pain.

In 2016, 44, 965 people took their lives in the United States.  Among all age groups,  during the period between 1999 and 2014, suicide occurred at a 24% higher rate.  Among teens, though only a small percentage succeeded, the data from a recent year revealed 575,000 attempts.

Christians with strong family ties aren’t immune.  Most of you have heard the story of Rick and Kay Warren’s son taking his life several years ago.  In recent years, I know three Christian couples whose young adult son took his own life.

I don’t think for a minute that suicide is an unpardonable sin.  If a person has put his faith in Christ, yet takes his life in a moment of anguish, what he did doesn’t negate the benefits of the cross for him.

Nonetheless, suicide is a tragedy.

Though I’ve never tried to take my own life, hundreds of times over the years I’ve yearned for death.  A number of times I’ve even asked the Lord to let me die in my sleep.  What keeps me from following through?  What things do I tell myself, or voice to others who come to me with thoughts of suicide?

*I remind myself that my body, my life, belongs to God.  Jesus’ blood purchased me on the cross (1 Pet. 1:18-19).  As Paul put it, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…that you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

If God owns me, I don’t have the right to destroy what is His.

*I tell myself that God is sovereign and has control over my affliction. If prayer, medicine,  counseling, and other means of grace haven’t alleviated my depression, perhaps I should trust Him to use it for a redemptive purpose:  to keep me clinging to Him out of desperation, or through it, to expand my sensitivity to and ministry to others. To take my own life is tantamount to unbelief in God’s authority and governance over my life.

*I tell myself not to model for others an easy way out of despair.  

There’s scientific evidence that up to 50% of persons with chronic depression inherited a genetic predisposition for it.  My sons and grandchild are more likely to have downward mood spirals than the average person.

By taking my own life, they might refer to me to justify the same thing. When they face a tragic loss, a financial crisis, the rejection of a loved one, I don’t want my example to increase the likelihood they’ll choose the same alternative.  I don’t want them to think, “Dad (or PaPaw) avoided more pain my killing himself.  Maybe that’s the only way out for me.”

This life isn’t about me, or choosing what will offer me the most comfort or pain avoidance. It’s about God and His call on my life.  He, not I, must decide when my life will end.  God doesn’t exist for my sake.  I exist for His sake (Isa. 43:7).

I know…following the counsel in this post is far easier said than done.  Today, pray for someone you know who struggles with depression.  If you ever hear a reference to suicide, do whatever it takes to get that person to a medical or psychological professional.  And if push comes to shove,  do the same for yourself.

 

What insight from today’s post most resonated with you?  Why?

Which means of handling temptation when depressed can you apply more often?

Which argument for resisting suicide do you consider the strongest?  Why?

 

 

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Comments

  1. Do you ever recommend medication for depression? Are you, yourself, on any anti-depressants. Someone very dear to me FEELS the way you described in this post.

    1. Author

      Hi Maria. Yes, I take a moderate dosage of Prozac, 20g. One can receive up to 40mg, but I have too many side effects at that dosage. I took 8-10 different meds over a 15 year period ending about a decade ago, then gradually weaned off them and did fairly well until 2 years ago, when struggles worsened and i started taking a med again. Prozac was the first one I ever took in early 1990s and did the most for me.

      See a post from the Fall of 2017 in my blog archives. It is titled “Answering Questions About Depression,” an interview with Dr. Steve Farra, a psychology prof and godly man. That interview covers how meds work in the brain to help many people. If you go to my home page and click BLOGS, all the posts since I started this blog in October 2017 can be found. Scroll down to the bottom and click on “2” because the ink to the interview with him is in the second set of the archives. Let me know if you find it and if it is helpful.

      You could google Dr John Piper as well…i respect him and though he is conservative about use of meds, he says they might be needed at times. I do not recall title of post i read last year, but google John Piper, “Should A Christian Take Anti-depressants?” and you might find it.

      Meds are more likely to work when there is a history of depressive episodes, or where the tendency for depression runs in a family’s history. That is a probable indicator of a genetic predisposition for it, an indication of a depletion of certain brain chemicals that we need (serotonin, for example). Dr. Farra briefly explains how this works in the brain…and though what you find online might not always be from a believer, you could google “How do anti-depressants work?” and get some data as well.

      Keep in touch. Terry on April 7.

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