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One Weapon To Wield When Combating Depression

The Life-Changing Effects of Gratitude   A good book informs you. A great book forms you. Why do I consider Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth’s Choosing Gratitude a great book?  Because its content is wedging its way into my daily consciousness and is in the fetal stages of making an observable difference in my life. Typically, depression spawns negative thought patterns: self-condemnation over imperfections; hopelessness concerning the future; doubts about core beliefs, and a greater vulnerability to complaining about inconveniences and frustrating circumstances. Though we can’t always prevent the onset of depression, God has given us as Christians the capacity to manage our responses to despondency.   What Describes Choosing Gratitude? *Biblical   Every chapter teems with principles and specific verses from God’s Word. Some pages appear to have bloodstains because Nancy “bleeds Bible” and uses it for her primary insights on gratitude. *Anecdotal   Attention-grabbing stories, showing both a thankful spirit and ingratitude, dot the pages. *Applicable   Repeatedly, Nancy links a point she makes to typical daily experiences of her readers.  She understands the human heart and the obstacles that try to eclipse a thankful spirit. *Devotional   Nancy ends her book with a 55-page 30-day devotional guide.  Each day’s reading employs a different …

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How Can A Spouse Help with Depression?

What a husband or wife does or says in relation to a depressed spouse can either exacerbate the symptoms or help relieve them. Dolly, my bride of over 46 years, doesn’t understand depression experientially. She’s optimistic, outgoing. Her emotions stay on an even keel. She handles setbacks with simple faith in a loving God. Whether it’s in response to a comic strip, a humorous pet video someone sends her on social media, or part of a phone conversation, her laughter reverberates daily off the walls inside our house. What a priceless wife! And despite her inexperience with depression, she’s wise and sensitive in how she handles my bouts with the darkness. If you’re a spouse of a depression-prone person, learn from one or more of these four reactions that describe her.   1. She lets me know that she’s praying for me. When she knows I’ve had consecutive dark days, I often get a short but inspiring message on my phone at work. “Just want you to know I love you, Babe, and I’m praying for you today.” In his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster wrote, “Somtimes people have needs that we cannot personally meet. That’s …

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A DOGGONE GOOD IDEA FOR DEPRESSION-PRONE PEOPLE

The Value of a Dog in Coping with Depression The lot on which my house sits is relatively level, but some days, as I walk from the driveway to the entrance, it feels like I’m trudging uphill with a weight on my shoulders. The figurative weight of a depressed spirt seems real enough, causing a slower-than-normal gait. But the second I open the kitchen door, it happens. Farley, My 10-year-old dachshund, greets me with a high-pitched whine of pure elation, his tail thumping loudly and rapidly against the counter, his short legs trying to climb up to me. He’s never satisfied with warm words or a pat on the head. No, the required ritual is for me to hoist him to my eye level, snuggle our heads together, kiss his cheeks, then allowing him to give my face a fresh (?) bath with his tongue. If I don’t complete every phase of the ritual, he dogs my steps until I do. (I couldn’t resist the pun.) For at least a few minutes, his greeting assuages my despair. I know without a doubt I’m loved and treasured. How does a dog help with depression? Physical touch. Who doesn’t need to feel …

WRITING IN THE DARK

  WRITING IN THE DARK Poetic Descriptions of Depression   The purpose of my blogs on depression and faith is to beam rays of light to guide your walk in the dark. That purpose presupposes that faith in Christ engenders hope, and God’s Word offers truths to facilitate endurance despite despondency. Most of my  posts offer resources, practical coping tips that I (and others) have learned, and biblical perspectives. But not this one. I’m giving you four bleak poems, written over a 16-year period, describing depression. (But be sure you read the concluding paragraphs after the final poem.) It’s important to understand the dark thoughts that even a Christian—even a vocational Christian leader like myself—experiences when shrouded in depression.   Poem #1 When depression descends, one of two different emotional states dominate me: either extreme sensitivity and heartache that spawns bouts of weeping, or a numb, robotic condition when I don’t feel a thing, when I couldn’t laugh or cry if you paid me to do it. While on a teaching trip to Ukraine in January 2000, the parched, non-feeling state overwhelmed me, spawning this poem.   Mourning Song Mourn for them. They’re dead and gone, after living so long as …

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YOU CAN’T GO “SOLO” IN BATTLING DEPRESSION

 God Still Incarnates His Love One essential and Biblical strategy for battling depression is the love and support of friends in the body of Christ. Years ago, during a particularly rough week plagued by despondency, my wife thought I might be suicidal. She called two close friends of mine:  my pastor, and a good friend who was on the staff of a different church in the area.  My pastor took me to breakfast, reassured me of his love, prayed for me, and pleaded with me to seek medical intervention due to the chronic nature of my depression. The other friend showed up at my house that same evening after dinner. He announced, “I hear you’ve had a few rough days.  I don’t come with advice, but you need to know that I’m here for you.  If you want to talk and pray, I’m available.  But even if you’d rather read or watch TV, I’m not leaving your side for the next two hours!” On a different occasion, a colleague at the college where I teach saw how bleak my spirit was over lunch. After I returned to my office, where I lay in a fetal position, totally immobilized by my …

How Can Weakness Be A Strength?

The Outrageously Fruitful Ministry of a Depression-Prone Man        For almost 40 years, James “Buck” Hatch served on the faculty of Columbia Bible College in South Carolina, teaching courses in Bible, hermeneutics, psychology, and family life. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of alumni of what is now Columbia International University consider him their favorite and most influential professor. When he taught, students listened, riveted.  When he counseled, hurting people received a life-sustaining injection of hope. You’d think a dynamic personality and get-it-together psyche propelled such an enduring, respected ministry. That wasn’t the case. Buck demonstrated the truth of Psalm 50:15: “Call on Me in the day of trouble,” said the Lord, “I’ll rescue you, and you will honor me.” Buck’s life flashes in bold neon letters this truth: our need or weakness provides an opportunity for God to receive more glory. His son Nathan, now president of Wake Forest University, called Buck Hatch “a painfully shy person, always near the brink of depression…a soul not at home with itself.” Nathan added, “My father has come to radiate a deep and abiding joy. But you could not call him a happy person.  He has always wrestled with thorns in the flesh that drove him …

A Surrendered Spirit

  A response to depression far more difficult to experience than it is to write about   About 15 years ago, over a period of months, I begged the Lord to heal me of chronic depression. The initial benefit of anti-depressants had waned.  Counseling hadn’t alleviated my burden.  And God’s response to my pleading was silence. I recall the day in 2003 when my perspective shifted. I concluded that the sovereignty of God is either a sterile doctrine or a dynamic reality.  Could I trust Him with my propensity for despondency?  What were the implications of the fact that He had not heeded my cries for direct intervention, and that the more common means of grace weren’t working?  Was this my “thorn in the flesh” to keep me humble and dependent? Did I really believe Psalm 103:19: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all”? That’s when the slant of my prayers also changed. Through tears, I surrendered my desire to be more emotionally whole. I prayed words similar to these:  “Father, if You choose not to lift this veil of darkness, I accept that. I’m yours. You’re still good.  You know what …

SUFFERING SEEN THROUGH THE LENS OF SCRIPTURE

Vaneetha Risner’s The Scars That Have Shaped Me   I am not defined by what people have done or said to me. I am defined by who I am in Christ. God uses all of our suffering for our joy and for his glory. God’s refusals are always his mercies. When my life spins out of control, I need to remember God’s absolute sovereignty. It comes down to trust. Will I trust my circumstances that constantly change, or God who is unchanging? God sees our lowest moments as our spiritual highs because that’s when he is doing the deepest work in us. The most precious answer God can give is to wait. It makes me cling to him rather than to an outcome. Anything that makes me dependent on God is a good thing, perhaps the best thing.   Pious Platitudes or Timeless Truths? Often, when I read remarks of that sort, they come across as glib spirituality, unrealistic bromides offered by someone who hasn’t been burned by the flames of real affliction. But when these statements spring from the mind and heart of Vaneetha Risner, that’s patently not the case. Those are just a few of the sentences that …