Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Spending time on facebook I see folks struggling right now with colds, flu, and the blues. I am writing this as a template for how I deflect depression in hope something in it might prove helpful.
Many of these tactics were tried in my darkest hours and they were so effective I added them to my arsenal. Even if an exact implement I use might seem unweildy, perhaps just documenting it will suggest something to try.
Spiritual congestion is the primary reason for depression. I know there are those who have hormonal imbalances and brain tumors and other causes, but it is far more likely in most cases that what underlies depression is unresolved conflict with God and/or a human being. When I say underlying, I mean at the core or the base of the condition. There can be layers of sediment hiding the original source from view. Therefore, the best way I've found to dig down to the core, is to
1. VENT. First, before trying this at home, please read how NOT to do this. Experimenting will show that venting to a friend, spouse, pet, wall, ceiling, family member, pastor, or total stranger is not the most effective way to do this. In my experience, (and I've vented to all of those on the previous list), pastors, strangers, and pets will listen if you catch them at the right time. They do make good sounding boards. They don't tend to condemn, placate, defend, or evade as most people will. Still, putting anything or any creature between yourself and the LORD when you vent will impair open/honest expression. It obviously will cause you to consider the object or creature in how you do the venting (how loud, tone of voice, choice of words...); and that is not conducive since the purpose in venting is to pour out your guts without restraint or censure. David does this in the Psalms. That is where I got the idea and my model. The way I do this myself is to go outdoors, someplace out of hearing of anybody, and I literally spill/gush all that I am struggling with to my Father. I don't try to articulate it perfectly. I let it just come out as pus comes out of a lanced abscess. Or as projectile vomit comes out of a sour stomach. Or as mucous spouts as you sneeze and sneeze and sneeze uncontrollably. This is the sort of venting I'm advocating.
So often people sit down with their Bible and try to read scripture, and try to pray for His help with a matter, but they find themselves besieged with disturbances that keep interrupting their efforts. They grow weary trying to keep their prayer focused, correctly worded, formal, acceptable, while at the same time suppressing anger, bitterness, fear, doubt, resentment...some submerged emotion they believe should not be allowed to surface. Instead of sitting down to deal with the issue calmly and collectedly, they need to do something that physically purges their impaction of emotional congestion. In the Bible people cry out to the LORD, or throw themselves down flat on their face (I think that means on the tummy, but it always says on the face), or rend their garments: they express themselves physically. In our day, because we are taught to be quiet and polite, this sort of display does not come naturally to most of us. If we carry on like this around other people (or even pets), they are alarmed for us and may even be afraid of us. So, go apart to a place where no one will hear except Our Father in Heaven.
I have found that when I do this, it is immediately cathartic. It is a huge relief.
In telling Him exactly how I feel and what I believe is wrong, I recognize the truth in what I am saying, and I also see the falsehoods in what I would have said to myself or someone else. When I speak to Him openly, I speak truth because I know I can't fool Him. Just as David's psalms begin with his complaints and end with him coming around to God's perspective, so do my 'venting' prayers. I come away with His mind on the matter(s).
2. Acknowledge what He is doing. I tell Him all that I see He is doing for me at that hour, on that day, at this season. This itemizing of His provisions to me, of the evidences of His care for me, strengthens my awareness of His Presence.
how Joseph dealt with sibling rivalry, unfair treatment by his brothers, jealousy and false accusations...
how Noah completed an impossibly complex building project with no encouragement for decades and decades...
how David dealt with betrayal by his closest confidant, contempt from his sons, and grieved the loss of his best friend...
how Elijah showed severe weakness after God gave him an incredible victory...
Each story about an individual in the Bible reminds me God asked him/her to go through a longer, harder, fiercer, scarier trial than whatever I'm up against. I find instructive what these people did in similar straits to my own. It is human for us to compare ourselves to others. It is problematic when we do this with those still living. I'm not talking about being inspired by these characters; rather I'm saying our burden is not too much for us to carry and seeing what others have done with their own assignments puts mine into a proper perspective.
4. Ask for His guidance on how to lift my countenance and align my soul with His. I am always enlivened by being out in nature. Getting out of a man-made environment alleviates many factors that contribute to depression. Getting fresh air, sunlight, and seeing His creation is refreshing. Peace is so much harder to attain indoors where there is disorder, things needing to be done, temptations, remnants of unresolved conflicts... But, when I come back from a venting session with the LORD, and a walk in the woods, I am calmed and steadied and able to subsist in my workplace, home or human-engineered world in spite of what is still amiss there.
5. Care for others. The more I pray for others and let Father show me how to love them, the less I am concerned about myself. This is a simple statement but a profound substitution. It is the Christ-like mindset. Selflessness is a state in which one will not suffer depression.
7. Thank Him for everything that comes to mind! List all of them to Him! Thank Him!