Friday, June 29, 2012

Thoughts on Non-medical Ways to Handle Depression

"He brought them out of darkness and deepest gloom and broke away their chains" (Psalm 107:14).

This is not a typical devotional but I wanted to share this information.  Chronic health problems and life struggles in general can trigger depression, whether it's sporadic or ongoing.   I struggle with depression on a regular basis and am unable to take medication for it.  This has led me to continually seek God for other options in dealing with it.

Of course one of the biggest challenges with depression is that I don't feel like doing anything, so these suggestions do require that I make the effort even though I may not want to. But this is being obedient to God and He will reward the obedience. He never fails to bring comfort and help, although it may not always be immediate.

The plethora of books available on this subject can be overwhelming.  I believe the following suggestions are helping me in this battle, and I pray someone else may benefit from them as well.  Much of this information is taken from the book Depression:  Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness, by Edward Welch.  Putting even one of these suggestions in to practice can bring some victory.

Possible Contributing Factors to Depression

1.     Circumstantial
2.     Chemical
3.     Emotional
4.     Physical
5.     Spiritual

How Depression Can Be for My Good

1.     Teaches me to take every thought captive.
2.     Increases my faith and teaches me that faith can exist without feelings –     feelings don’t define faith.
3.     Helps me focus on eternity.

Non-medical Suggestions for Depression

1.     Read certain Psalms (22, 130) out loud and claim them as my  own. Speaking Scripture is “doing” faith and it becomes evidence of Christ in me.

2.     Evaluate why I am depressed (causes at that time) and see what I am saying to myself and how Satan is attacking God through it.

3.     Remember I am in a battle.  Put on the armor every day and claim God’s love for me every day, whether I feel it or not (speak Ephesians 6 and Psalm 90). 

4.     Learn more about Jesus and imitate Him. I imitate Jesus by doing the next thing – whatever that is at the moment: serving others when I don’t feel like it, loving others when I don’t feel loved or feel hurt, angry, or rejected, not looking for self-oriented purposes but rather God-oriented ones.

5.     Humble myself before God – acknowledge He loves me, knows what’s best for me, and has good plans for my life.  Be on guard against self-pity and complaining.

6.     Acknowledge and confess my sin – a desire to be loved rather than love, selfishness, envy, discontent, lack of faith, etc. Pray for my heart to be free from theses sins.  Keep at my confession until I have inklings of joy and hope.

7.     Remember my purpose.  I am called, forgiven, adopted, given gifts, given a mission, given a future.

8.     When I think, “Why bother?” say “because of Jesus”.  Persevere in fighting depression because God persevered with me.

9.     Talk to my depression.  Fight it rather than listen to it.  Speak God’s truth to it.  I can’t always change the way I feel but I can change the way I think. If I am thinking lies, say, “STOP!”

10.  Realize how much I have already persevered, be encouraged by that, and articulate my purpose and hope.  Pray for the ability to see and believe there is contentment and even joy in long-term, small steps of faith and obedience.

11.  Identify any fears I may have at the moment.  Confess them as unbelief, examine Scripture, and be confident in the love and faithfulness of Jesus.

12.  Remember God created and called me to trust Him and let that trust express itself in loving others.  Ways I can love others even when depressed: thank them, greet them, pray for them, listen to them.

Prayer:  God, Your Word says I have divine power for anything I need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3), and that includes battling depression and other problems.  Thank you that with You nothing is impossible.  Give me the strength to speak and act in Your power even when depressed.  Amen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Living Up to What We Have Already Attained in Our Walk with God

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained”
 (Philippians 3:16).

Each summer I have the same struggle.  As I see people enjoying more physical activities and travel, I want to mourn what I have lost. Ungrateful as it sounds, I feel I am missing out on what summer is all about.

The Holy Spirit brings conviction and truth about these negative thoughts.  I work through them and get over it – until the next time.  This verse in Philippians challenges me.

Paul talks about pressing on to receive the prize and then he tells us to live up to what we have already attained.  God’s Word translation says, “We should be guided by what we have learned so far”.  I need to remember what I have learned and the victories God has given me in this struggle before.

We build and move forward on what we learn through experience. In order to cook I must remember what I learned about boiling water, browning meat, etc.  If I had to start from square one with each meal, we wouldn’t eat much!  The same is true in my spiritual life. 

We are all at different stages in our walk with God, but we have all attained something on our journey.  God has taught me many things thanks to His patience, mercy, grace, and love.  When I forget those lessons, God brings opportunities for me to remember.  The sooner I remember, the more I can move on to a deeper spiritual growth and walk with Him.

Summer will never be what it once was for me.  But God reminds me of the truth that one day there will be no losses to grieve, and no temporary earthly pleasure can compare to what lies ahead with Him in eternity.  I want to be thankful for all the blessings I do have.  And as I keep moving forward, I know my heavenly prize far outweighs any loss here on earth.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for enabling us to learn and persevere in our walk with You.  Strengthen and encourage our hearts to remember and act on what we have learned, yielding our losses to You even as we push on toward what lies ahead.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Letting Go of the "Whys" of Our Pain

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?  The Lord is the everlasting God . . . and his understanding no one can fathom”
 (Isaiah 40:27,28).

One of my weaknesses is in wanting to understand the “whys” behind something before I accept it.  This need to know has created problems in many areas of my life including my relationship with God, particularly where my health problems are concerned.

In his book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby suggests that God’s refusal, silence, or doing something we don’t understand are not rejection.  They are opportunities for God to disclose to us more of Himself than we have ever known.

I experienced this truth before our recent vacation.  Two weeks before we left I had a bicycle accident which aggravated my back and fibro problems.  I questioned God.  He knew I was being careful and that we had been planning this trip for months.  But God used that experience to reveal more of Himself.  He enabled me to enjoy the trip despite pain and discomfort - an attitude adjustment which I am continually dealing with.  He also worked a huge miracle in allowing me to take a pain medication every day which normally causes severe depression but did not.  God revealed Himself in powerful ways and my faith grew.

On this vacation we were blessed to visit the Billy Graham library in Charlotte, North Carolina.  We saw Ruth Bell Graham’s grave, and I was reminded of something she wrote when questioning why.

“I lay my ‘whys’ before your cross in worship kneeling,
My mind too numb for thought, my heart beyond all feeling:
And worshiping, realize that I
In knowing You don’t need a ‘why’.” 

Rather than questioning God when I don’t understand something in my life, I pray that I will look for new ways He is revealing Himself and His great power through it, and maybe even be thankful that I don’t understand – because He is the Almighty God, and I am not.

Prayer:  Lord, I praise You for being beyond my human understanding.  Help me see my “whys” as opportunities to see new aspects of Your power and grace in my life.  Amen.